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Pripyat stalkers. Who are they?

Several years after the tragic blast of the CheNPP, the prohibited zone started to attract strange people started to appear. Many called them stalkers. Stalkers of Chernobyl appeared recently. This is how we usually call people who decided to journey through the territory. We named them after heroes of books Strugatsky siblings.

The evolution of modern stalkers is quite amazing. The title was given exclusively to individuals who decided to venture in Chernobyl’s dead lands to get a kick of adrenalin or to collect loot and sell it. Later on, people started to arrive in order to find serenity, scout the surroundings, and search for mysteries. This is how “true stalkers” started to appear.

Strangely the very peek of the “stalker” movement coincided with the release and the commercial success of the FPS for PC S.T.A.L.K.E.R. that made millions of gamers curious is the region actually crawling with bounty hunters and desperados. Gamer-stalkers started to arrive in masses in order to see the territory through their own eyes. These stalkers were here only for sightseeing. Many arrived to the border, made a couple of photos, and left.

However, there were also true ideological stalkers who wanted to turn the very exploration of the region into a kind of fine art. These people are relaxing here while their bodies are exposed to very dangerous environments. Each stalker must have an iron will as hiking through Chernobyl is not a word to . There is no water or food out there. There are no inhabited places. Everything you need burdens your back during the trip. Some stalkers have to bring up to 6 liters of water just avoid dehydration during their 2 days stays. There were brave ones who spend up to 7-8 days in the emptiness of infamous zone of exclusion.

Ideological stalkers scout deep inside the territory and go 5-10 kilometers deep. Some even visit Pripyat.

Many are very careful since only crazy actively seek to be caught by local militia that oversees the territory. Being watched or chased is definitely not something that even the bravest of stalkers want to experience constantly. Avoiding such contacts is what usually recommended.

Despite all sorts of danger, stalkers of Pripyat regularly visit the exclusion zone. They can rest easily a big city or stay for hours in wild nature.

The main difference between real stalkers and those gamers who just feel curious about the place is that latter exist as huge armies. There are 20-30 real ideological stalkers who explore, scout, and experience the Chernobyl region. All other people who wonder around the territory are curious gamers. There are popular in the internet real stalkers who regularly make long expeditions in the depth of the territory to make photos to share with other people. This slowly grows into a very dangerous thing since Ukrainian authorities decided to make the punishment for entering the prohibited zone much more severe.

A small fee or even a short term at a local jail – these were legal consequences for stalkers. Now, one may face a much longer term in the prison. Despite such dangers, the amount of daring stalkers continues to grow persistently. Everyone wants to experience the drive of an extreme situation and feel the mysteriousness of Pripyat.

Some may meet yet another type of stalkers – people who live near the zone in small towns and villages nearby. Many sneak in to loot for materials and tools that could be useful. Looting is quite a common thing in Chernobyl.

Large areas of the excluded territories, which about a quarter-century are in isolation from the pervasive and destructive human activity have become a unique and attractive world in many respects.

Chernobyl Exclusion Zone is gradually turning into one of the most interesting natural systems of Ukraine and gradually becomes a noticeable tourist attraction in our country. Public interest in the excluded territories increases by the abundance of quality resources on Chernobyl on the Internet. Also a number of successful computer games was issued with well-visualized plot line, which harmoniously unites world and the fictional world of the real Zone. The formation of interest from average citizen to the Chernobyl Zone is contributed by significant softening of the crossing regime.

However, the growth of Chernobyl in the surrounding information space and its transition into the category of mass culture, interest in the Exclusion Zone is increasing for people who are tired of hateful routine and yearning for a temporary retreat. Some of them, having tourist experience, find comfort in entering the territory of the Chernobyl Zone. Another reason for the growth of stalkers in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone is the desire of young people feel “a real stalker” – to run through the Zone not on the computer screen, but in reality.

Big amounts of reports on the penetration into the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, which the Internet has become saturated nearly, drew attention to the phenomenon of stalkers.

It became curious to analyze, as already published reports on the Internet, and talk (if possible) directly with the authors of published materials. Most of my appeals to contributors of penetration into the Exclusion Zone have been ignored, but some people still agreed to slightly increase the knowledge about the life of stalkers.

Surprisingly, the sentence issued in the epigraph of text belongs to a police colonel, the man takes many years protecting the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone – Alexander Naumov. This former Chernobyl worker, whose journalists are often called “Stalker”, is a frequent subject of journalistic materials about the Chernobyl Zone. Naumov has its own, in many ways unique, look at the form of visits to the Zone.

Strictly for the sake of this phrase, mentioning this man was worth, though, who was not lazy and check the Internet, he will find many interesting things about this man and his relation to tourism and other activities in the Exclusion Zone.

The term “Stalker” was entered by Soviet science fiction writers Strugatsky brothers in the story “Roadside Picnic”. It was a criminal profession in the story: “So we call in Harmont the thieves, who at their own risk enter the Zone to drag out everything they can find.” The penetration was of quite pragmatic – to drag out area artifact (“swag” [habar]) and sell it for money. However, entering the Zone had a strong effect to the individual – every hike is staying in the border situation, where every action means the choice between life and death, where there is always a complex moral dilemma, where intuition is more important than reason.

Furthermore, the image of the stalker was popularized and filled with new content by the same name movie by Tarkovsky. This stalker is fewer pragmatists, but more people of the Zone. He understands and accepts the Zone – “He had a meeting with the Zone” – Professor says when the Stalker leaves to be alone. And all the problems that he has, is not a money, but stay in the area, where another would not have lived five minutes, where there are a lots of wonders beyond human experience. Hike in the Zone is a test of you, finding inner values. Note that all this was in 1972 and 1979, respectively.

The image of the stalker went beyond artistic works and it is not surprising. A man has always had an unknown area, and this gave rise to a whole system of related concepts and images: “the border and border area” as the edge of the inhabited world and understandable; “guardian” – one who protects the world from aliens; “scout / guide / contactor” – the one who is familiar with other world. The latter may include Charon, shamans, etc. The problem is that “unknown” in the 20th century became very narrow – geographical white spots left, non-material things capitulated to a science – so there’s no need in guides. However, having victory in a fight with traditional mythology, industrial civilization began to build their one. And at the beginning she brought a new end of the world – a total war of global scale with weapons of mass destruction. Civil Defense Textbooks colorfully described this reality – the impact Zones and the Zones of contamination (radioactive, chemical, biological). There are only ruins and the place with no people, but only danger. Again boundaries and guides to the unknown are appeared.[1]

Guide of the industrial era in the mass consciousness has been called a stalker.

It is worth to note that there are some fundamental differences in people coming to the Exclusion Zone. There is fairly clear distinction of Chernobyl stalkers into two camps – the two categories. Differences between categories are big enough – it shows how the quality of reports prepared, used slang, photos, as well as the appearance of stalkers.

First, I would call them – curious gamers. Second – ideological. Regarding these two categories of stalkers it can say the following:

The first – young people having the “basic” knowledge of the Exclusion Zone from the computer games, and subsequently from the Internet. Game mania and desire to force sensory understanding of gameplays are the reasons for entry into the Exclusion Zone. Typically, the average age of this category of stalkers is about 20 years, but not older than 22-24 years. Most of these people make just one – two entering into the Zone and by this they calm their ambitions.

The vast majority of gamers do not even cross the borders of the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. They are satisfied by the view of abandoned buildings of obligatory resettlement Zone (area of Narodichi, Polesie, and Vilcha), received pictures and videos have not less apocalyptic view than photos from thirty and ten kilometers areas.

In fact, these areas do not have a security perimeter and arrange of their visit is relatively simple – but not “safe”. For example, in 2008 four stalker-gamers were detained by guardians of the Exclusion Zone. The detainees were tried, as well as one stalker at the beginning of 2009.

The second caste is ideological. Rather unique category of stalker brethren. Representatives of this category enter the thirty-kilometer Zone, and occasionally enter the ten-kilometer Zone. Ideological stalkers carry lengthy visits to the Zone, which take usually a few days, and in some cases reach the week.

[1] During the preparation of the article were used the materials of the site http://chornobyl.in.ua/en/real-stalker.html