Life Inside Russia’s Secret Nuclear City

Sign posted outside of City 40. Vice

City 40 is a place that Russia never wanted anyone to know about. The people who lived there were sworn to absolute secrecy and sometimes they hardly knew why themselves. Those who lived in City 40 had their movements highly restricted, contact with the outside world was regulated, and in return the residents felt they had a home of relative peace in a turbulent Russia.

This city is located deep within the forests of the Ural Mountains. It was named Ozersk, but its code name was City 40. It was never located on any map and was surrounded by heavily guarded gates and towering barbed wire fences. Those that chose to live in the city had their existence erased and they were never recorded on any Soviet census. To their families and friends, they had not simply moved to another city, they were missing altogether.

Construction for City 40 began in 1946, and the plans and building of the city was done in complete secrecy. The city would be built around the massive Mayak nuclear plant that rested on the shores of Lake Irtyash. Workers and scientists came from all over Russia in order to lead and be a part of the Soviet nuclear weapons program. They were all brought there to build the atomic bomb and to never speak of any of it to anyone, ever.

Picture of City 40 taken in 2008. The World Weekly

The city took its inspiration from Richland, Washington. Richland was the city that had given birth to the United States’ own atomic bomb “Fat Man.” Being modeled after an American city (and determined to be even better), the city was something of a paradise in the middle of a struggling Soviet Union. Those who were re-located to the city and forced to give up many freedoms were not nearly as upset when they realized what they would get in return.

Those who lived in City 40 had more than most Russians could ever dream of. Security from the dangers of the outside world, a city without crime, an excellent education system for their children, very well-paying jobs, and housing that was far beyond what could be found for regular people in the rest of the country. Those within the city had their freedoms taken away, but the Russian government still wanted to keep them happy in order to reduce the chance that any of them would try to escape and tell the outside world what they knew. It was believed that if they gave the people of City 40 a literal paradise ,then the people of City 40 would be grateful and even willing to give up those freedoms…and for the most part the Soviet Union was right.

Read on to see what life is life for people who still live in this secretive city.