01.06.2018

History of the Chernobyl town

 

     Stretched along the river Pripyat Chernobyl town is an Administrative center of the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. Being famous for the accident on the same named Chernobyl NPP the town has an old and reach history.
The town first mentioned in a chronicle in 1193, where it was described as a market center in the north of Kiev Principality.

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     It turned to county town at the Grand Duchy of Lithuania period, when not far from it landlord Semen Fridrih Pronskiy built a castle, that was rebuilt at the beginning of the 17 century into the powerful tower. By 1596 Chernobyl had come into the Polish Kingdom and by decree of the Smolensk governor, Filon Kmita was populated by a huge number of Jews, according to colonization program of local orthodox peasants. In the second part of the 18th century, it became one of the Hasidism mainstays thanks to Hasid dynasty founder Menahem Nahum Tverskoy.
 

     In 1793 it became a part of Russian Empire and Catholicism and Hasidism had started to lose their positions to orthodox, but according to 1898census 7200 of 10.800 population were Jewish.
     Landlord Hodkevichy family owned Chernobyl castle till 1910, then it was sold to the state.
After October Manifesto of Emperor Nicholas II, which was supposed to put an end to the "Troubles", the 1905 revolution, the series of Jewish pogroms in the city began. The conservative majority did not accept the Manifesto and responded with more than 690 violent outbreaks in the southwestern provinces of the Empire. But the greatest disaster to Chernobyl brought the Civil War.
     Beginning in September 1917, soldiers returning from the fronts of the First World War began to rob the well-off representatives of the Jewish community of the city, but the real ethnic pogroms swept later, under the  rule of ataman Ilya Struk, who during the Civil War was virtually the dictator of the Chernobyl County and managed to fight under the flags of all war participants.
     Ilya Struk was born in 1896 in the Chernobyl district and after graduation, he worked as a village teacher until the outbreak of the First World War. He was drafted into the Imperial Army, but claimed that he first served on the royal yacht "Standard", was wounded three times, and then transferred to the infantry where he earned St. George Сross of all 4 degrees. In the summer of 1917, although the war was still going on, he was in Kiev for a conference of Ukrainian soldiers of the Western Front. After the February Revolution, the collapse of the state and anarchy in the rear, he never came back to the front and chose a risky rebel career, for which he gathered a group of two thousand "free Cossacks" and at the beginning of 1918 captured Chernobyl. Having captured many weapons in the city, Struk became the master of several counties and did not recognize the power of Hetman Skoropadsky, was involved in the offensive against Kiev on the side of the Directory of the UPR. In November, the First World War was over, the German troops supporting the hetman leave Ukraine, and into Kiev enters the army of the UPR and the free atamans who joined it, Struk among them. But in December 1918 the Directory issued a decree on the arrest of Ataman Struk for Jewish pogroms, robberies and disobeying orders. But the arrest did not happen, because in November, according to Lenin's order, the troops of the RSFSR were coming to Ukraine to seize the Left Bank.

 

     The attack on Kiev was not planned, but at a key moment, the defending Directory was betrayed by several rebel commanders: Terpilo (Green), Grigoriev, Danchenko, Angel, and Struk. In February 1919, the Ukrainian Red Army enters Kiev and Struk renames his group in the 20th Soviet Regiment of the Ukrainian Front and simulates military operations against UPR troops near the Borodyanka settlement. In March Struk riots and leaves the Red Army with the atamans Terpilo and Sokolovsky defending a number of small towns in the Volyn region from the Reds. In Chernobyl, he creates his own administration –“the Ukrainian civil government”, his detachment now calls the "First Insurgent Army of the UPR", but he does not recognize the UPR government and concludes an alliance with the Atamans Sokolovsky, Satan, Angel, and Green. He considers Jews as accomplices of the Bolsheviks and with new forces begins large-scale pogroms in the territory controlled by him in order to obtain funds to finance his troops.


     In April, he mobilizes the Chernobyl peasants promising them to give Kiev to plunder, the Atamans Union begins the offensive. The Red Army is busy beating off ataman Green at the south of the city and Struk's troops unhindered enter Kiev from the north. The advanced units reach Khreshchatyk, but can not go further, most of the fighters are engaged in the robbery of Jewish apartments in Podol.
     The main battle takes place at Zhitnoy market where Soviet officials, armed workers and a special detachment of the Kiev Security forces discard Struk rebels back outside the city. On August 30, the Volunteer Army of General Denikin enters Kiev, and on September 22, Ataman Struk arrives to Kiev from Chernobyl with a proposal of friendship. The treaty is concluded, the ataman is awarded the rank of colonel and in October the Struk’s forces help the "white" in the defense of Kiev, but the detachment is more noticed in the pogroms of the Jews, and not in battles. On December 16, the Bolsheviks, on the second attempt, enter Kiev and Struk with Denikin escape to Odessa.
     Red Army soldiers continue to move, and “white” officers are evacuated to Istanbul on steamships, the ataman with the detachment rushes towards the Romanian border. The Romanians are not happy with the guerrillas, but in exchange for the treasury of the detachment and the property robbed from the Odessa Jews let them pass back to Ukraine bypassing the "reds", the detachment fights back into Chernobyl with battles. In early 1920, Struk acted as a guerilla in the Kiev province, and when the Polish army with the remnants of the forces of the UPR captures Kiev, the ataman joins the army of Simon Petliura.the


     In response to the demand to send the fighters to the regular army of the UPR, the ataman refuses to fight, and after the "reds" knocked Poles out of Kiev, he returns to the Chernobyl forests. In 1921 the thinned out Struk squad engaged in river piracy and robbery in the Kiev region, but the strengthening of Soviet power in the province leaves no room for partisans. The last Jewish pogrom of Ataman Struk was recorded in October 1922, after which his tracks are lost. His activities led to the fact that the Hasidic dynasty of the Tversky Tsadiki left Chernobyl in the 1920s and the town lost the status of the spiritual center of Hasidism.

 

     After the establishment of Soviet power, the city was transformed into the center of the Chernobyl district, and in order to increase the loyalty of the population, the remained Polish community was deported to Kazakhstan. A few Chernobyl Jews survived the period of Stalin's terror, but were finally destroyed by the authorities of the Reichskommissariat Ukraine in 1941-43. After the liberation of the city from Hitler's troops in November 1943 and until 1970, Chernobyl remained a small quiet district center, known only as a shipyard.

     The situation changed in 1969, when the site for the construction of the state district power plant (SDPP) was selected near the Semyhody village in Chernobyl district. January 1, 1970, the management of the Chernobyl SDPP was organized. The nuclear power plant was called so for conspiracy purposes. January 18, 1972, in the midst of a dense forest, 10 kilometers from the city, the construction of a secret military camp Chernobyl-2 for the needs of the over-the-horizon radar "Duga-1", whose only street was formally part of the city of Chernobyl, began.

 

     At the time of the accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, the city's population was 13.5 thousand people and was evacuated after the inhabitants of Pripyat on April 29, 1986. In the first months the headquarters of the Government Commission for the Elimination of the Consequences of the Accident was located in the building of the Chernobyl City Communist Party Committee, later this office was occupied by the Administration of the newly formed Chernobyl zone of compulsory and unconditional resettlement. In the city there located management of the construction of the Shelter, major repair and mechanical workshops, a helicopter aerodrome, a medical unit (at the premises of the former city school No. 2), and many other organizations and enterprises involved in the liquidation of the consequences of the accident.
     After the evacuation of 76,000 residents from the Chernobyl nuclear power plant Exclusion Zone, 1,200 people returned to their native places and formally illegally reside there until now, having received the unofficial name of "self-settlers", some of them residing in the town. Today, Chernobyl is considered to be a city without a population, but it is an administrative center for the management of radiation-hazardous areas, and about 2,000 people live and work there on a rotational basis (for 15 days). Employees of the Zone live in dormitories remodeled from former Chernobyl apartments, fully provided with overalls, foodand transport.
The cultural leisure of modern Chernobyl residents is represented by a culture house, a swimming pool (now closed), two equipped gyms (now only one is open) and a library. However, shift workers prefer to spend their free time in cafe-bars "Eternal Call" and "Steklyashka".

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