Travel | April 23, 2021 3:50 pm

What’s It Like to Party in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone?

One journalist takes in a rave in an unusual location

Pripyat
A ferris wheel in an abandoned amusement park in the ghost town of Pripyat near the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant.
SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP via Getty Images

Cue up your preferred “nature is healing” memes. It hasn’t been too many years since tour groups first started venturing into the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone — which, it turns out, is a lot safer than it sounds, provided you follow certain safety precautions. (Something we’re all a lot more familiar with now.)

What’s the next logical step after taking a tour of the zone in question? For some enterprising souls, the answer is to throw a rave there.

Journalist Darmon Richter covered the phenomenon in his recent book Chernobyl: A Stalkers’ Guide. (Which gets bonus points for referencing one of the best films ever made in its title.) Literary Hub recently published an excerpt from Richter’s book, which makes for gripping reading — and might either inspire future travel plans or leave you satisfied to live vicariously.

The excerpt finds Richter in the town of Hubyn, on the edge of the Exclusion Zone. The scene includes a relatively diverse group of partygoers, drinks dubbed the “Black Stalker” and an atmosphere that, location aside, seems relatively similar to countless other raves across the world.

Richter spoke with one DJ who offered a relatively even-keeled take on the phenomenon. “It’s like the Kyiv rave scene, taking over the Zone. I thought it was strange at first, when they asked me to play here,” the DJ recalled. “But then I thought, why not? Chernobyl is ours, it’s our history. I think it’s good to bring life back here, to express new emotions in this place.”

As methods of urban revival go, it’s an especially surreal one — though over the years, there have certainly been stranger methods as well.