Chernobyl, located within the restricted Chernobyl Exclusion Zone in the Ivankiv Raion in Kiev Oblast, Ukraine, near the Belarus border, is located about 55 miles outside of Kiev.
The city is infamous for the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant disaster in 1986. 30 hours after the incident, the entire city was evacuated.
As of today, the city of Chernobyl is mainly a ghost town. There are still a small number of people residing in the town, however, and workers on watch and administrative personnel of the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone are stationed in the city on a long term basis.
As of 2019, Chernobyl had a population of 500.
A growing number of people are voluntarily choosing to return to Chernobyl and live in the crumbling architecture along the edge of the exclusion zone around the power plant. Many of them do so fleeing war and violence.
Some people never left the region after the disaster, despite the evacuation order. It's still illegal to remain in the exclusion zone but about 130 to 150 people do. Most of these residents are women in their 70s and 80s.
The first known mention of Chernobyl comes from a charter entry in 1193, describing it as a hunting lodge. By the 13th century, it had become a crown village of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.
The province in which Chernobyl is located was transferred in 1569 to the Kingdom of Poland, and was later annexed by the Russian Empire in 1739. Prior to the 20th century, Chernobyl was home to Polish, Ukrainians, and a large number of Jews.
By 1898, Chernobyl had a population of nearly 11,000, over 7,000 of which were Jews. During World War I, Bolsheviks and Ukrainians fought over the city, and in the Polish Soviet war of 1919 to 1920, the Polish Army occupied Chernobyl, only then to lose it to the Russians. It was incorporated into Soviet Ukraine from 1921 onwards. World War II saw Chernobyl occupied by Nazi Germany from 1941 until 1944.
April of 1986 saw an explosion at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant seal the city’s fate and it’s future reputation to this day. As a result of this, the city had to be evacuated, with almost nobody ever returning. Today, the city is mostly an overgrown ghost town, with a thriving wildlife, and despite the city being uninhabitable for thousands of years to come due to the elevated levels of background radiation, guided tours of the exclusion zone do run, and there are approximately 500 people residing in the area today.
The United Nations Development Programme launched a project in 2003, called the Chernobyl Recovery and Development Programme, with the aim of recovering the affected areas.
Before the Chernobyl disaster, the city had a thriving population of 14,000. Pripyat, a city of more than 50,000, was located even closer to the power plant than the city of Chernobyl and was also evacuated. The city of Slavutych was built for the people who were evacuated from Chernobyl and Pripyat.
Radiation levels have been continuously monitored around Chernobyl and there is no longer a risk in the atmosphere but some areas have high levels of soil contamination. Even cow's milk in some regions outside the exclusion zone can contain dangerously high levels of caesium-137 which was absorbed by grass roots and consumed by cattle.
A small number of people have begun moving to the area around Chernoybl but Chernobyl's population is not growing by any means.