Chernobyl: Unlikely Tourist Attraction

Stalking Chernobyl: Exploration After Apocalypse

Cultures of Resistance (2020)

Film Review

This documentary is about the transformation of the abandoned Chernobyl nuclear power plant and Pripyat, the nearest city, into post-apocalyptic-culture tourist destinations.

At preset, Chernobyl is the most popular tourist destination in Ukraine – with 40,000 visitors  in 2019. Owing to chronic financial difficulties, the government promotes the nuclear disaster site as a tourist attraction, using the revenues to pay the salaries of Exclusion Zone workers. All tourist guides carry Geiger counters and avoid sites with high radiation levels.

Many Japanese tourists and officials take the tour, eager to transform Fukushima into a tourist hotspot.

Over the past two decades, Chernobyl has also experienced a big increase in illegal visitors – known as “stalkers. They scavenge scrap metal from heritage sites, as well as stealing abandoned books and other memorabilia. One group of stalkers bizarrely placed large dolls in the abandoned beds at the Pripyat hospital.

Stalkers also engage in freerunning,* abseiling,** and bungee jumping off the abandoned buildings, as well as cross country bicycle and motorbike races. And drink a lot of vodka.

Most of the airborne radiation in the Exclusion Area has settled into the soil. This makes for minimal radiation exposure, unless visitors consume food or burn firewood grown there. In fast moving streams, most of the surface water is safe to drink.

The exclusion zone is patrolled by police, military, and special forces. If caught, stalkers face stiff fines and/or lengthy imprisonment.


*Freerunning is best described as a form of “urban acrobatics” in which participants (free runners) use the city and rural landscape to perform acrobatic movements in order to get from point A to point B.

**Abseiling, also known as rappelling, involves a controlled descent off a vertical drop, such as a rock face, using a rope