Friday, 31 March 2023 to Sunday, 2 April 2023

Filming Utopia: Soviet Ukrainian Atomohrads Before Chornobyl Accident

Fri31  Mar12:45pm(15 mins)
McIntyre Room 208


Stanislav Menzelevskyi1
1 Indiana University, United States


On April 28, 1986, reactor #4 of the Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant exploded in the UkrSSR. Just as fast as the radioactive cloud was moving towards Western Europe, international media and politicians turned a seemingly local issue into a global one. In Soviet Ukraine, “Chornobyl” became an event of a tremendous socio-political amplitude, clearing the way for anti-imperial agendas, anti-Soviet protests, and, to some extent, state independence in 1991. 

From a cinematic perspective, “Chornobyl” became one of the most intense events and extensive chapters in Ukrainian film history. The accident provoked an unprecedented outburst of documentary film production in the republic. Between 1986 and 1998, three Ukrainian non-fiction film studios and private enterprises produced up to 40 documentary films on the topic, creating eventually a coherent body of films which I would call “Chornobyl Filmography”. Maybe the last time when we could witness an enthusiasm and synchronized collective effort of a similar scale among Ukrainian cinematographers was the period during and after WWII.  

At the same time, post-Chornobyl commemorative culture tends to ignore a relatively modest, but emblematic corpus of films (made between 1973-1984) that depict the construction of the Chornobyl NPP in Soviet Ukraine and Prypiat atomic town (atomohrads) attached to it. Made before the accident, they were subsequently overshadowed by the technophobic and dystopian consensus of