stories

A former city on a former island Behold the ruins of Aralsk-7, the site of a long-abandoned top-secret Soviet biological weapons lab

Meduza
Elyor Nematov

Until the 1940s, the only thing on Vozrozhdeniya Island in the Aral Sea was a small fish processing plant. That changed when the Soviet government decided to open a top-secret biological weapons research and test site, transforming the quiet town of Kantubek into the closed military city Aralsk-7. From the 1960s to the late 1980s, the island was home to roughly 1,500 people — mostly scientists working at the laboratory, testing different viruses and bacteria on animals. In 1992, Moscow decided to relocate the entire “Barkhan” complex to Kirov, inside the new Russian Federation. Since then, Kantubek has been a ghost town, and the shrinking Aral Sea (once the fourth-largest lake in the world, drained by Soviet irrigation projects) has receded so dramatically that Vozrozhdeniya Island is now a peninsula connected to modern-day Uzbekistan. Meduza presents photographs by Elyor Nematov from the ruins of Aralsk-7.

Elyor Nematov
Elyor Nematov
Elyor Nematov
Elyor Nematov
Elyor Nematov
Elyor Nematov
Elyor Nematov
Elyor Nematov
Elyor Nematov
Elyor Nematov
Elyor Nematov
Elyor Nematov
Elyor Nematov
Elyor Nematov
Elyor Nematov