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'Left To Die As Guinea Pigs': Tatar Village Struggles On, 60 Years After Nuclear Catastrophe

An explosion at a Soviet nuclear plant 1,400 kilometers east of Moscow remains the world's third-largest nuclear disaster, after Chernobyl and Fukushima. At the time, in 1957, it was the worst ever. Sixty years on, nearby Tatar villagers are still struggling for official recognition of their plight. (RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service)
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Only Muslims are buried here. Following their beliefs, some relatives prevent autopsies being performed. This can prevent some deaths being classified as cancer-related.
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Only Muslims are buried here. Following their beliefs, some relatives prevent autopsies being performed. This can prevent some deaths being classified as cancer-related.

The sign says "Danger Zone." An explosion on September 29, 1957, contaminated an area of 23,000 square kilometers and exposed more than 270,000 people to significant levels of radiation.  
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The sign says "Danger Zone." An explosion on September 29, 1957, contaminated an area of 23,000 square kilometers and exposed more than 270,000 people to significant levels of radiation.
 

The village of Karabolka is 30 kilometers from the Mayak nuclear plant, where the explosion occurred. For decades afterwards, it did not appear on maps, only reappearing 20 years ago. But life there continued.
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The village of Karabolka is 30 kilometers from the Mayak nuclear plant, where the explosion occurred. For decades afterwards, it did not appear on maps, only reappearing 20 years ago. But life there continued.

Gulshara Ismagilova has lived in Karabolka all her life. She is campaigning for official recognition for the suffering of the villagers. Rates of cancer and genetic abnormalities here are significantly higher than the national average. "We are all handicapped here," she says.  
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Gulshara Ismagilova has lived in Karabolka all her life. She is campaigning for official recognition for the suffering of the villagers. Rates of cancer and genetic abnormalities here are significantly higher than the national average. "We are all handicapped here," she says.




 

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