“Chernobyl 87” is the latest addition to my collection. This photo album was created by a group of liquidators and dedicated to one of their colleagues – Vyacheslav Fedorovich Simakov. Among multiple never before published photographs of the liquidators and the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, are several diplomas and blank passes allowing access to the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone for liquidators and vehicles.
It arrived from a small town about 400 miles East from Moscow thanks to a friend, and for nearly two weeks I’ve been eagerly checking parcel tracking status until it landed in my local post office ready for collection. While I never had an issue with deliveries from Russia or Ukraine, issues happen and losing such unique piece of history would be an irreparable loss. Sadly more details about or Comrade Simakov and his colleagues remain unknown, at least for now.
The book appears to be mass-produced at least to some extent, with professionally made foil transfer cover, and yet this is only one of this kind I have ever came across over the years. Foil transfer was a relatively inexpensive and easily accessible method of producing book covers in the USSR, so it is possible that those albums have been ordered by the CHNPP or party officials and given to senior liquidators to document their time spent in Chernobyl.
Conscription was compulsory in the Soviet Union and with over 500,000 liquidators involved in the Chernobyl Disaster clean-up operation over the years, both active and reserve units were called to work in the Exclusion Zone and beyond.
While trying to find any more information I found a similar album titled Chernobyl 86 featured in a Russian TV channel, containing historical newspaper clippings about the Chernobyl disaster:
You can watch the report here:
Digging further I came across this interview with a former Chernobyl Liquidator on a Kazakh site. Here Valery Pavlov appears to be holding one of those red albums under another book.
Unfortunately that’s all I could find, even with help of few much more knowledgeable friends.
Now let’s take a closer look at the album. The inside cover contains signatures of a group of liquidators and a hand-written dedication on the first page: “To Simakov Vyacheslav Fedorovich in memory of the joint work in Chernobyl”
With the album came three diplomas awarded to Comrade Simakov. All of them contain a quote by V. I. Lenin on the first page: “Patriotism is one of the deepest feelings, lasting centuries and millenniums”
The first diploma reads: “For conscientious work and high political activity shown during the liquidation of the consequences of the Chernobyl accident.” and it is signed by the Secretary of the Pripyat City Committee of the Communist Party of Ukraine, and chairman of the executive committee of the Pripyat City Council:
The second diploma was awarded to comrade Simakov in 1988. It is signed by Lev Dmitrievich Ryabev, Minister of Medium Machine Building of the USSR. who later became Deputy Chairman of the USSR Council of Ministers and Prime Minister of the USSR between 1989 and 1991.
It reads “Awarded to Vyacheslav Fedorovich Simakov for valiant and selfless work when performing responsible tasks at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant and manifesting high professional skills, courage, and loyalty to duty”.
Below are blank entry passes to the restricted zones of Chernobyl and Pripyat. The large yellow card would be placed behind a windscreen of a vehicle:
One of the pages contains a hand-written poem titled “Sarcophagus”. I am extremely grateful to Vladimir Peretolchin, who translated it to English. I assume that it was written by one of the authors of the album.
Trivia fact – on few photos the men are holding cameras, one of them looks like a Zenith SLR, the other is probably FED-5 rangefinder.