Statue outside of the National Chernobyl Museum in Kyiv

National Chernobyl Museum in Kyiv, Ukraine

Published: December 4, 2017

A Small Glimpse of the 1986 Nuclear Catastrophe
Excursion included in the PCON Program Fall, 2017

While studying in Kyiv, I have visited a handful of museums around the city, and it’s safe to say the National Chernobyl Museum is one of my favorites. The well-known 1986 Chernobyl disaster is one that I had heard quite a bit about, but not studied closely. With this being said, my tour of the National Chernobyl Museum was as educating as it was heartbreaking.

The excursion was included in the PCON program, but if you find yourself visiting the museum by yourself, be sure to request a guided tour in either Russian or English. There are very few descriptions given to the displays, so following the flow of the museum could be difficult without a guide.

The museum itself is fairly small, but it is literally covered ceiling to floor in photographs, documents, and information from the Chernobyl crisis presented in a very modern style, with bright colors and moody, directional lighting. Our amazing tour guide explain the significance behind all of the artifacts including uniforms used during the clean-up, pictures of the victims affected by the radiation, documents and newspapers describing the event, and several models explaining what exactly happened on April 26th, 1986.

New York Times article from April 29th, 1986

After the fourth generator of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant ignited, fumes from the explosion started spreading across the Soviet Union and Europe. It wasn’t until 36 hours after the meltdown when officials decided to evacuate surrounding areas. The closest town to the Chernobyl Power Plant, Pripyat, evacuated 49,000 people, while the town of Chernobyl evacuated an additional 68,000 people. Both towns remain predominantly vacant to this day, excluding a handful of older families who returned to their homeland in the past years.

Model of the fourth generator at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant

Over 500,000 workers were assigned to the cleanup and shut down of Chernobyl. Many workers were given small radiation detectors to monitor their exposure throughout their work shifts. As the cleanup process began, countries from around the world stepped in to assist. The UN also played a key role in humanitarian aid and medical assistance to those harmed from the radiation. Shortly after the disaster, 50 employees passed away from acute radiation syndrome, and 15 children passed from thyroid cancer. The Chernobyl Forum, a group of nine UN-sponsored organizations that assesses the medical and environmental effects surrounding Chernobyl, believes close to 4,000 people have since passed from radiation-induced cancer and leukemia.

A small portion of the hundreds of photographs honoring the workers and civilians affected by the disaster

The Chernobyl Museum doesn’t just focus on remembering the disaster of 1986, but it makes a strong effort to remind the public of those affected by the aftermath. The museum houses a memorial specifically for the children who battled cancer caused from the disaster, as well as a memorial for all those who fell ill after assisting in the cleanup. The museum also brings light to the strength and charitable assistance of all those who fought through the crisis. The museum, through exceptional memorials and commemorations, found an excellent way to honor those affected, as well as show supreme gratitude for all of the helping hands that came from across the globe. In my opinion, the National Chernobyl Museum is one of the most impactful and resonating exhibits in Kyiv.

Painting dedicated to the victims of Chernobyl

Note: Tours to Chernobyl and to the abandoned city of Pripyat can be arranged through various venders in Kyiv. The museum even lists one as a partner. The all-day tours include train rides to and from the locations, and cost around $100. Most services require a minimum party of 2.

National Chernobyl Museum in Kyiv, Ukraine
Khoryv Lane, 1, (Metro “Kontraktova Plosha”)
Monday – Saturday 10:00 а.m. – 6:00 p.m.
CLOSED Sundays and last Monday of each month
Length of tour: 1.5 hours
Museum Website

About the author

Charlie Bacsik

Charlie Bacsik is a third-year International Relations and Global Studies major at the University of Texas at Austin. She is minoring in Russian, Eastern European and Eurasian Studies, with a focus on international security and energy development. Charlie will be spending two semesters with SRAS in Kiev, Ukraine and St. Petersburg, Russia. Following graduation, she intends on attending graduate school for a Masters in International Relations.

View all posts by: Charlie Bacsik

Museum Studies Abroad