Instagrammers chastized for taking ‘insensitive’ photos at Chernobyl

A visitor takes photos of a wrecked car at the Chernobyl exclusion zone in the abandoned city of Pripyat. Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Following the success of HBO miniseries Chernobyl, which provided an in-depth look at the 1986 nuclear disaster that took place at the Russian facility, interest in the site’s current state has skyrocketed.

Since 2011, tourists have been able to visit Chernobyl and the abandoned neighbouring town of Pripyat. Now, because of the immense popularity of the HBO show, tourism to the power plant has jumped approximately 35 per cent from the same time in 2018.

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With this renewed fascination comes a smattering of “influencers” — social media users with many followers who try to promote certain products, places or things by recommending them online — and an influx of regular travellers who have posted photos to Instagram.

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Many Instagrammers have come under fire for their tasteless photos at the site: some have posed in scanty outfits while others smile in front of damaged, rusted equipment. Of course, it’s one thing to pose respectfully at a tourist destination, but it’s quite another to post flippant images at the site of the world’s worst nuclear disaster, which left at least 4,000 people dead (that’s not counting the countless others who died of radiation exposure or other illnesses).

Here is a sample of some of the photos causing a stir, some of them geotagged at “Chernobyl disaster” and “Chernobyl exclusion”:

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Chernobyl screenwriter Craig Mazin responded on Wednesday morning to the backlash against the photo-takers.

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“It’s wonderful that #ChernobylHBO has inspired a wave of tourism to the Zone of Exclusion,” he tweeted. “But yes, I’ve seen the photos going around. If you visit, please remember that a terrible tragedy occurred there. Comport yourselves with respect for all who suffered and sacrificed.”

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This isn’t the first time travellers have been insensitive to history. The museum at Auschwitz, the location of one of several Jewish concentration camps run by the Nazis during the Second World War, frequently has to deal with tourists taking selfies along the railroad tracks where more than one million Jews were transported to a place where they met horrific deaths.

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The museum even tweeted a plea to visitors in March, showing examples of people “balancing” on the tracks.

Last week, many European outlets reported that Russian authorities weren’t pleased with HBO’s miniseries and were in the process of shooting their own TV show, focusing instead on the conspiracy theory that the CIA infiltrated the plant.

“Many historians do not deny that, on the day of the explosion, an agent of the enemy’s intelligence services was present at the station,” said the show’s proposed director, Alexei Muradov, to the Moscow Times.

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