Kazakhstan’s steppe was ground zero for the Soviet Union’s atomic bomb. What does a nuclear wasteland look like? Wyoming.<quoted text>
They just can't seem to get into the 21st Century.
It's often reminded me of the Communist holdouts in Russia who could never accept that the Soviet Union had fallen. They simply couldn't let go of the past.
From 1949 to 1989, the Soviet Union conducted 456 nuclear tests here, 116 of them above-ground.(Surface testing was eventually banned in 1963.) Strilchuk recounts this history dispassionately. But after fielding questions, he reveals a twinge of patriotism.
“The Soviet Union had to do this,” he says.“The United States was the possible enemy of the Soviet Union. The buildup of nuclear weapons on one side led to the buildup on the other side.”
He bends to pick three obsidian-like pebbles from the ground, soil chunks that lifted into the air in a mushroom cloud and metamorphosed into glass by the ferocious power of splitting atoms.“Drops of melted earth,” Strilchuk says.
He shouldn’t be touching them. In addition to our shoe protection and face masks, he told us not to touch the ground. We are supposed to keep our skin covered and breathe through our noses. But he shrugs off the danger for himself.“I’ll wash my hands afterwards,” he says.“Don’t worry about me.”