Life in Chernobyl after tragedy: what happened to the people

How do people live in Chernobyl? Is it possible?

How do people live in Chernobyl? Is it possible, Is it dangerous for health? And are there any mutants?

People really live in Chernobyl. After the Chernobyl accident, all people were evacuated from the Chernobyl zone. But more than 3,000 people did not want to leave their homes. Despite the radiation, people continued to live in the exclusion zone.

People live in Chernobyl

How do people live in Chernobyl

About 150 people live in Chernobyl nowdays. These are old people – Most settlers are of old age. They bring food and water from a clean area. But all these people grow vegetables on radioactive ground. And people do not have health problems. 

People who live in Chernobyl are not mutants

Chernobyl inhabitants are not mutants. Though there are many legends and rumors about mutations, that’s really not true.

People lived in this house a year ago, Chernobyl

Who lives in Chernobyl? Or who are “self-settlers” (“samosel”)

After the Chernobyl accident, not all people left home. Some people stayed in Chernobyl, despite the high level of radiation. People in Chernobyl, bypassing the laws, were not evacuated. They stayed at home and continued to work radioactive land, growing vegetables. They were called self-settlers (‘samosyol’ in Ukrainian and Russian). They live in Chernobyl.

The police brought food for samosel

From where the term came from samosel

During late 1980s, journalists started using the word ‘samosyol’. Scientists, members of historical and ethnographic expeditions to the exclusion zone, as well as poetess Lina Kostenko, consider this name incorrect:
“I would like to ask at once that no one would call those people self-reliant: it’s insulting, because their motherland is there. They grew up there and live after the accident in their homes – albeit forgotten by God and the state”.

People living in Chernobyl

How many people live in Chernobyl now?

Despite the existing legislative restrictions on the residence of civilians in the exclusion zone, a significant number of evacuated people returned to their homes after the resettlement of 1986.

According to various sources, the total population returning to the exclusion zone in 1986 is about 1,200 people (out of a hundred thousand evacuees). As of the beginning of 2007, their number was 314 people.

The number of people living in the exclusion zone since 1987 has the following tendency:

1987-1200 people
1992-1000 people
1995-820 people
1998-750 people
1999-612 people
2001-487 people
2005-328 people
2007-314 people

2017-180 people

In home of samosel

Why did people return to radioactive Chernobyl?

The decisions of the Kyiv Regional Executive Committee and the Government Commission for 1986 referred to a temporary (up to 3 months) evacuation of residents of the Chernobyl District (except for Pripyat). This prompted some of the evacuees to return home in the autumn of 1986, and most of them returned in the spring of 1987, before the field works began. What was provided to the evacuees did not satisfy the settlers for many reasons: several families were inhabited in one house, because housing was built at a rapid pace, it was of poor quality and sometimes unsuitable for living; they used to live in wooden houses (especially the elderly) and could not live in brick-and-concrete houses; not fully taken into account the peculiarities of the Poleschuk household – they could not conduct traditional farming for them, engage in fishing, picking mushrooms and berries in the forests; in places of resettlement the indigenous population met hostilely the evacuees, believing that they had taken away their housing and jobs. From the autumn of 1986 until the spring of 1987, more than 1,200 people returned to the exclusion zone. They occupied their own homes and farmed their personal plots. Most of them left (handed over to local authorities) housing, which was given to them after the evacuation.

A group of Poles helps to samosel


To the inhabitants of Chernobyl often come tourists

In the photo the grandmother from the Chernobyl zone, the village Kupovatе is preparing a dinner with a tourist from Poland Alexandra. Young people often come to samosel and help them with groceries or household chores.

Can you live in chernobyl ?

No. In Chernobyl can live only those people who lived there before the accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant

Life of samosel

The main source of existence of these people is homestead farming, as well as the collection of mushrooms, berries, fishing, and sometimes hunting.

Enterprises of the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone are sometimes helped by the Samoil. Perform repair of buildings, serve transport, conduct medical examinations and treatment. Also “Ecocenter” conducts control of food products, which are grown “samosely” on their personal plots. From time to time humanitarian aid is received from other regions of the country.

(photo by Aleksandra Bojanowska)


People live in Chernobyl zone

Legal Status

After the unauthorized return of some residents in the exclusion zone, related social and legal problems arose: the Chernobyl District, executive authorities and local councils were liquidated. Residents were beyond the influence of existing government. It was necessary to grant them the status and register with local authorities, as required by the legislation in force at that time, to provide work, etc.; the infrastructure was evacuated from the settlements and the infrastructure was partially destroyed, the need arose to set up trade, medical, transport, social services, the civil registration system. It was unclear who should perform these functions in the exclusion zone. The task of the production complex formed for the implementation of measures to eliminate the consequences of the Chernobyl disaster did not include the servicing of residents, the budget of the Ivankov district also did not provide for the maintenance of persons who returned to the exclusion zone.

How many people were affected by Chernobyl?

The total number of people who died as a result of the Chernobyl accident or those who may die in the future during the lifespan of emergency workers and those living in the most polluted areas is about 4,000 people. This number includes approximately 50 emergency workers who died from acute radiation sickness and 9 children who died of thyroid cancer and approximately 3,940 people who are estimated to die from cancer and leukemia as a result of radiation exposure from the total number 200,000 emergency workers who participated in the work from 1986 to 1987, 116,000 evacuees and 270,000 inhabitants of the most contaminated areas (totaling approximately 600,000). These three main groups received higher doses of radiation among all people exposed to radiation as a result of the Chernobyl accident.

When will people be able to live in Chernobyl?

To date, some of the radioactive substances have already disintegrated, but still the zone remains infected.

If you compare with the contamination of the territory of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it can be noted that as a result of the bombing in these cities, a wave was formed that spread harmful substances.

Some of them were burned at the time of the explosion, and the distribution across the territory was one-stage. As for the Chernobyl NPP, its power exceeded the Hiroshima bomb hundreds of times, and the emissions of substances occurred over 30 days. The disintegration of americium will go very long, the half-life of americium is 23,000 years. All this time the radioactive element will be in the land of the exclusion zone and it will not be possible to live there.

What Pripyat looks like today, look further on our website:

Pripyat 2017. Very beautiful photo

Evacuation of Pripyat. How it was