Chernobyl or Chornobyl (IPA /tʃɜːrˈnoʊbᵻl/; Ukrainian: Чорнобиль, [tʃɔrˈnɔbɪlʲ]; Russian: Чернобыль, [tɕɪrˈnobɨlʲ], Polish: Czarnobyl [tʂarˈnɔbɨl], Yiddish: טשערנאבל [tʃɛrnɔbl]) is a city in the restricted Chernobyl Exclusion Zone situated in Ivankiv Raion of northern Kiev Oblast, Ukraine, near the border with Belarus. The city was the administrative center of Chernobyl Raion (district) from 1923 until it was disestablished in 1988. The city currently has 704 inhabitants.
Chernobyl is about 90 kilometres (56 mi) northeast of Kiev, and approximately 140 kilometres (87 mi) southwest of the Belarusian city of Gomel.
The city was evacuated on April 27, 1986, one day after the Chernobyl disaster at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, located 14.5 kilometres (9.0 mi) north-northwest, the most disastrous single nuclear accident in history. The power plant was within Chernobyl Raion, but the city was not the residence of the power plant workers. When the power plant was under construction, Pripyat, a city larger and closer to the power plant, had been built as home for the power plant workers.
After the accident the Chernobyl Raion administration was transferred to the neighboring Ivankiv Raion. Though the city today is mostly a ghost town, a small number of people reside in houses marked with signs stating that the "Owner of this house lives here". Workers on watch and administrative personnel of the Zone of Alienation are stationed in the city on a long-term basis. There are two general stores and a hotel for tourists. Before its evacuation, the city had about 14,000 residents. The city of Slavutych, specifically built for those evacuated from Pripyat, also received the population relocated from Chernobyl.
The city's name is the same as a local Ukrainian name for Artemisia vulgaris (mugwort or common wormwood, which is чорнобиль or "chornobyl"). An alternative etymology holds that it is a combination of the words chorniy (чорний, black) and byllia (билля, grass blades or stalks), hence it would literally mean black grass or black stalks.
Originally part of the land of Kievan Rus′, Chernobyl first appeared in a charter of 1193, described as a hunting-lodge of Knyaz Rurik Rostislavich. It was a crown village of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania in the 13th century. The village was granted as a fiefdom to Filon Kmita, a captain of the royal cavalry, in 1566. The province containing Chernobyl was transferred to the Kingdom of Poland in 1569, and then annexed by the Russian Empire in 1793. Prior to the 20th century, Chernobyl was inhabited by Ukrainian and some Polish peasants, and a relatively large number of Jewish people.
Chernobyl had a rich religious history. The Jews were brought by Filon Kmita, during the Polish campaign of colonization. The traditionally Christian Eastern Orthodox Ukrainian peasantry of the district was largely forced, by Poland, to convert to the Greek Catholic Uniate religion after 1596. Yet the vast majority returned to Eastern Orthodoxy after the Partitions of Poland.
The Dominican church and monastery were founded in 1626 by Lukasz Sapieha, at the height of the Counter-reformation. There was a group of Old Catholics, who opposed the decrees of the Council of Trent. The Dominican monastery was sequestrated in 1832, following the failed Polish November Uprising, and the church of the Old Catholics was disbanded in 1852.
In the second half of the 18th century, Chernobyl became one of the major centers of Hasidic Judaism. The Chernobyl Hasidic dynasty had been founded by Rabbi Menachem Nachum Twersky. The Jewish population suffered greatly from pogroms in October 1905 and in March–April 1919, when many Jews were killed and others were robbed, at the instigation of the Russian nationalist Black Hundreds. In 1920, the Twersky dynasty left Chernobyl, and it ceased to exist as a Hasidic centre.
Since the 1880s, Chernobyl has seen many changes of fortune. In 1898 Chernobyl had a population of 10,800, including 7,200 Jews. In World War I the village was occupied, and in the ensuing Civil War, Chernobyl was fought over by Bolsheviks and Ukrainians. In the Polish–Soviet War of 1919–20, it was taken first by the Polish Army and then by cavalry of the Red Army. From 1921, it was incorporated into the Ukrainian SSR.
During the period 1929–33, Chernobyl suffered from killings during Stalin's collectivization campaign, and in the Holodomor (famine) that followed. The Polish community of Chernobyl was deported to Kazakhstan in 1936 during the Frontier Clearances. During World War II, Chernobyl was occupied by the German Army from 25 August 1941 to 17 November 1943. The Jewish community was murdered during the Nazi occupation of 1941–44.
Twenty years later, the area was chosen as the site of the first nuclear power station on Ukrainian soil. The Duga-3 over-the-horizon radar array several miles out of Chernobyl was the origin of the infamous Russian Woodpecker, designed as part of an anti-ballistic missile early warning radar network. With the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, Chernobyl remained part of Ukraine, now an independent State.
On 26 April 1986, Reactor No. 4 at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant exploded.
Chernobyl city was evacuated soon after the disaster. The base of operations for the administration and monitoring of the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone was moved from Pripyat to Chernobyl. Chernobyl currently contains offices for the State Agency of Ukraine on the Exclusion Zone Management and accommodation for visitors. Apartment blocks have been re-purposed as accommodation for employees of the State Agency. Because of regulations implemented to limit exposure, workers in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone are limited in the number of days per week or weeks per month they stay in Chernobyl. Many types of animals live there now and the city has become overgrown. In fact, according to a census that was done over a long period of time, it is estimated that more mammals live there now than before the disaster.
In 2003, the United Nations Development Programme launched a project called the Chernobyl Recovery and Development Programme (CRDP) for the recovery of the affected areas. The program launched its activities based on the Human Consequences of the Chernobyl Nuclear Accident report recommendations and was initiated in February 2002. The main goal of the CRDP's activities is supporting the Government of Ukraine to mitigate long-term social, economic, and ecological consequences of the Chernobyl catastrophe, among others. CRDP works in the four most Chernobyl-affected areas in Ukraine: Kiev Oblast, Zhytomyrska Oblast, partially Kiev, Chernihivska Oblast, and Rivne Oblast.
Chernobylite is the name cited by two media sources for highly radioactive, unusual and potentially novel crystalline formations found at the Chernobyl power plant after the meltdown. These formations were found in the basement below Reactor No. 4 during an investigation into missing reactor fuel.Alexander Krasnoshchyokov (1880–1937), politician
Vladimir Pravik (1962–1986), firefighter and liquidator
Aaron Twersky of Chernobyl (1784–1871), rabbi