Nuclear Steppe

In August 2013, I traveled with a small group of media professionals to Kazakhstan as an International Reporting Project fellow. Over 10 days, we met with dozens of officials, activists, scientists, businessmen, and everyday Kazakhstanis, but the highlight was touring the “polygon” — a massive expanse of steppe where the USSR conducted many of its nuclear tests between 1949 and 1989.

I published a short photo essay on the polygon on New Eurasia. For even more photos, check out my Flickr set.

A local museum preserves the history of the test site. Exhibits chart the history of the Soviet nuclear program, including the stages of testing that took place in the polygon. The first Soviet atomic bomb was detonated here in 1949, and atmospheric testing continued until 1962. Underground tests continued until 1989.

One of several concrete structures, long abandoned, that Soviet scientists built to test blast effects at varying distances from ground zero.