Slavutych

Slavutych

Slavutych (Славутич) is a city in northern Ukraine, named after the Old Slavic name of the near-by Dnieper River. Slavutych is situated on the left bank of the river, 40 kilometers from Chernihiv, 45 kilometers from Pripyat and 200 kilometers from Kiev. While geographically Slavutych is located in Chernihiv Oblast, administratively it belongs to Kiev Oblast, being an administrative exclave.

The city was purposefully built shortly after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster to host personnel of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant and their families, evacuated from the abandoned city of Pripyat. As of 2005 Slavutych has about 25,000 inhabitants. The economic and social situation of the city is still heavily influenced by the power plant and other Chernobyl zone installations because most of the residents worked or still work there.

Overview

In an interview with Pravda published on October 10, 1986, Erik Pozdyshev, the newly appointed Director of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, officially announced that a new city was to be built. Construction of the town started shortly thereafter, and the first inhabitants settled in during October 1988. The city was intended to replace Pripyat which became a ghost town after it was evacuated thirty-six hours after the nuclear disaster due to the nuclear fallout. There is a memorial in Slavutych to remember the victims of the disaster, especially those who lost their life immediately after the event from radiation-related diseases.

The city is mostly home to survivors of the disaster who had to be relocated from the evacuation zone around the reactor, among them about 8,000 people who were children in 1986. As a result, the number of people who have some radiation-related illness is rather high. Many inhabitants still work at the site of the former plant for monitoring, maintenance or scientific purposes. They commute to the zone on a regular basis, and a railroad line (twice crossing international border with Belarus) runs directly from the city to the site of the plant.

Slavutych is located about 50 kilometres east of the former plant. The site had to be well outside the Chernobyl zone to ensure the workers' health, but other factors that contributed to choosing this site was the availability of a ready railroad infrastructure due to a "forgotten railroad station" called Nerefa, and the vicinity of the Dnieper River to bring in supplies over water. In order to build the city, the ground was covered with a two-metre layer of uncontaminated soil.

From the start, Slavutych was planned to become a "21st century city". Compared to other cities in Ukraine, Slavutych has a modern architecture with pleasant surroundings, and the standard of living in the city is much higher than in most other cities in Ukraine. During the construction of the city, workers and architects from eight former soviet republics became involved: Armenian SSR, Azerbaijan SSR, Estonian SSR, Georgian SSR, Latvian SSR, Lithuanian SSR, Russian SFSR and Ukrainian SSR. As a result, the city is divided into eight districts, each with its own unique style and atmosphere. All eight kindergartens are equipped with an indoor swimming pool. In addition, the city has a youth center, a modern community center, a town hall, an Internet cafe, numerous sports facilities, modern clinics, and a hotel. About 80 percent of the apartments were constructed as houses with four to six floors while the remaining 20 percent are small one- or two-family houses, some terraced and some detached. The population of the city has a uniquely high birth rate as well as surprisingly low mortality. As a result, the average age in Slavutych is by far the lowest of any city in Ukraine. More than one third of its inhabitants are children.

The infrastructure and public facilities of the city are mostly paid for by the company which operated the plant. Because the remaining units of the nuclear power plant were shut down in 2001, the city faces significant social problems and an uncertain future. Until then, approximately 9,000 people or about half of the adult population worked at the plant. Since the shutdown, this number has dropped to about 3,000, who mostly work on monitoring and maintenance. Also, about 85 percent of the city budget was funded by the operator of the plant. In order to support the settlement and establishment of new companies, Slavutych was declared a Special Economic Zone. In addition, substantial vocational retraining programs are provided by the government to improve the occupational outlook of those who lost jobs. Despite these efforts, about 1,500 people have already left the city, a trend which is predicted to continue for the foreseeable future.

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