The town of Pripyat is in northern Ukraine, near the border with Belarus. It is situated on the bank of the Pripyat which flows into Dnieper. The town itself is young, yet the territory it was built on is very old., known as Polesie (literally : forest land). This endless terrain of woodlands and marshes stretches across the south-east of Belarus and Northern Ukraine.
Some scholars believe that it was in Polesie that the eastern Slavs appeared as the distinctive, ethnic and cultural group. More than a 1000 years ago, this territory was a part of Kievan Russia, the early medieval forerunner of the modern states of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus. The adjoining areas are rich in archaeological and historical sites, ranging from the Stone Age to the later Middle Ages.
The nearby town of Chernoboyle , whose name was first given to the power plant, and later, became a synonym of the greatest ecological catastrophe humankind has ever seen, possesses the history of many centuries. From the Middle Ages, it had a strong Jewish population, whose religious leaders are still venerated by the Jews.
Pripyat was officially called ATOMOGRAD (the town of the atomic scientists and workers), the 9th settlement of its kind in the USSR. The town was far from being a mere industrial settlement. The existing railway station of Yanov was close to the city. The newly-built river port immediately extended the river Pripyat fairway that amounted to 591km in 1976. The convenient highway network made it suitable for the passenger bus operation between the adjacent villages and towns. For instance, the time-table fro May 21, 1982 lists 52 departures and arrivals of the 14 daily services.
By November 1985, the town of Pripyat had 47,500 citizens of 25 ethnic groups. The annual increase in population was more than 1,500. Half of them were babies born to the citizens, the rest being the settlers who moved to Pripyat from various parts of the Soviet Union. It was natural that the people aimed to settle in Pripyat. Designed as the exemplary socialist town, it had all the commodities and attractions a Soviet city could dream of.
It was frequently visited by the excursions and official delegations of similar new-built settlements and cities, who studied Pripyat’s experience and styled themselves after her. The streets and avenues received the traditional Soviet names. Apart from the high street, which was to bear the name of Lenin, one would find People’s Friendship Street and Stalingrad Heroes’ Street. There were the Embankment Street and the Prospects of Builders and Enthusiasts. One of the main streets was named after Lesya Ukrainka, the 19th century Ukranian poet. Las, but not the least, the nuclear theme was not forgotten. The city had Kurchatov Street for Igor Kurchatov who was the founding Father of the Soviet Nuclear Program.
Pripyat is a “mono-centric” town. The administrative buildings such as the Gorsovet (Town’s Council) and Gorkom (Town’s Committee of the Communist Party) are situated in the centre of the city along with the cultural and recreational facilities, namely Prometheus Cinema, Energetic Cultural Centre, which housed the Theatre, the Library, dancing and meeting halls and various hobby clubs. The department stores and supermarkets were built next to them.
The city planning of Pripyat followed the “Triangle Principle”, which is based on an apt combination of the living towers and the standard blocks of flats. It saves much land, which, in its own turn, may be turned into the green areas and gardens. Free spaces between the structures make the urban area less visually dense. The Soviet architects aimed to make life more comfortable with the use of extensive spaces between the blocks and equiangular thoroughfare planning.
Soviet Leader, Leonid Breznev paid considerable interest to the city planning and used to give personal advice to the architects. Therefore the “Equiangular Principle” of the street layout was employed as a standard rule of the Soviet City Planning. Pripyat and 10 other new cities, which were styled after her, were made “traffic-jam-safe”. Indeed towns like Volgodonsk and Togliatti are never jammed during the rush hours even today.
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