The place where one of the most disastrous nuclear accidents occurred has become a hot attraction for tourists who are looking for something different from the usual destinations.
In 1986, Chernobyl became the setting for one of the most devastating nuclear catastrophes ever, when a reactor exploded and pushed out radiation across a massive area, forcing the entire city of Pripyat to be evacuated.
Today, tourists explore the ghost-town to witness abandoned nurseries, shops, schools, and the iconic funfair, as trace amounts of radiation still remain. Chernobyl is a prime example of dark tourism, a phenomenon where tourists visit areas that hosted tragic events, such as Nazi concentration camps or the 9/11 Memorial and Museum.
“It’s living on the edge almost if you go to a place where people have really died,” says Karel Werdler, a lecturer in history at InHolland University. “It also confronts you with your own mortality.”
The need to ensure respectful dark tourism
Such experiences can be educational and can make a person realize the tragedies that humans are capable of, but dark tourism has opened questions pertaining to what type of behavior is appropriate in such areas. “Before visiting places that are associated with death and tragedy, it’s important to reflect upon your intention,” says Rebekah Stewart, communications and outreach manager at the Center for Responsible Travel. “Are you visiting to deepen your understanding and pay your respects, or are you going to check a box or take a selfie?”
Earlier this month, Twitter user Bruno Zupan allegedly shared pictures of individuals at the Chernobyl site. One photo which caused an uproar showed a woman in an unzipped hazmat suit revealing her underwear. Some of the people involved with those photos have since stated that the context of the pictures have been distorted, and supposedly, the pictures weren’t even taken in Chernobyl at all.