Nuclear disasters usually occur by virtue of the failure of scientific environments or a lapse in scientific judgement. Now, I am become death, the destroyer of worlds. These lapses erode public trust in the only experts qualified to help in the crisis that follows.
Confronted by the invisible menace of radiation, popular fear is so keen that it crosses the line in the common consciousness, entering the realm of myths. Radiation spawns fantasies of superbeings: normal humans are either granted superpowers or transformed into mutants. The video game S.T.A.L.K.E.R. involved the emergence of a collective psi-entity in the Chernobyl #4 reactor. For some, the terrifying, intangible menace of radiation is only accessible through primal visions of humans rendered inhuman.
Consider the rumours of an alien discovered in the town of Kyshtym in 1996. This strange mystery followed in the wake of the Kyshtym nuclear disaster at the Mayak reactor site in the USSR, 29 September 1957.
Video Source: Youtube.
Authorities in the Soviet Union, desperate to catch up with the expertise of the United States after World War II, rushed nuclear experiments ahead without proper knowledge or precautions. Poorly stored waste overheated and exploded, spewing radioactive material into the atmosphere. A cool summary at Wiki belies the disaster's gravity: "A failed cooling system at a military nuclear waste reprocessing facility caused a steam explosion that released 70–80 tons of highly radioactive material into the environment." Authorities only began evacuating some 10,000 people from the fallout zone a week after the accident, and locals "grew hysterical with fear with the incidence of unknown 'mysterious' diseases breaking out. Victims were seen with skin 'sloughing off' their faces, hands and other exposed parts of their bodies."
An area of more than 15,000 square kilometres was contaminated. The disaster is rated at level 6. But speculation in some quarters suggests that it may in fact have been far worse than Chernobyl (and now, Fukushima). In 1978-1979, Russian biologist and dissident, Zhores Medvedev, exposed the Kyshtym case in a book entitled The Nuclear Disaster in the Urals (New York: W.W. Norton, 1979). In 1989, R. Jeffrey Smith reported in The Washington Post on Medvedev's claims:
Dissident Soviet biologist Zhores Medvedev, who has investigated the blast, estimates that hundreds may have died from the radiation effects. He says that the accident disseminated a larger quantity of the long-term radioactive substance Strontium-90 than Chernobyl, prompting him to term the 1957 incident the worst nuclear accident in history.In fact, prior to the 1957 crisis, the Soviets had already dumped an alarming 76 million cubic metres of nuclear waste into the Techa River at Kyshtym during the period 1949 to 1956. When radioactive waste turned up in the Arctic Circle, they turned to dumping in nearby Lake Karachay. To make matters worse, in 1968, Lake Karachay evaporated during a drought; the lakebed was then hit by a windstorm, possibly a tornado, churning up tonnes of dried radioactive sludge. TED Case Studies describes the resultant additional fallout:
It is unclear exactly how much radiation was released into the lake. Estimates made by the Natural Resources Defense Council during a trip to the U.S.S.R. in 1989 state that there is approximately 120 million Ci of radiation present in the lake. In fact, it holds more than 100 times the amount of Strontium 90 and Cesium 137 than was released at Chernobyl. When the storage facility was taken into use at Mayak, low and medium level waste continued to be dumped into the lake.
In 1967, the third major nuclear incident occurred at Mayak. The previous two years in the region were unusually dry. The spring of 1967 saw the surrounding low level areas of the lake evaporate revealing radioactive sediments. This region of the southern [Urals] is known for extreme wind storms. Facts are not certain, but at some point either a tornado or violent wind storm swept through the region and the MCC facility. The winds picked up the previously submerged radiation and spread it across an area roughly the size of Maryland. Recently revealed, according to a Russian official, is that no less than 400,000 people were affected by what is believed to be almost 5 million Ci of radiation, the same amount released by the Hiroshima nuclear explosion.(Hertsgaard 1992, 14)
This wind storm had many disastrous affects on the region. One problem was that many of the people affected by this fallout were those who were irradiated by the 1957 explosion. Second, the fallout worsened the already unhealthy food-chain. Finally, though 400,000 people were affected, only 180,000 were evacuated.In 1990, the last of five reactors at the site was shut down. Wiki cites a report from the Eesti Ekspress (2 May 2009), that it "was estimated in 1990 that at this time, around 10,000 people lived in areas where the level of ambient radiation was more than quadruple that of the average in Chernobyl's restricted area after 1986." Even after these exposés, and documents on the Kyshtym becoming declassified in 1990, an aura of secrecy surrounds the region. The radiated area was sealed off as the East-Ural Nature Reserve (EURT). The city of Ozyorsk, which was built around the reactors, is still a closed town.
The Cursed Alien of Kyshym - Alioshenka
In the summer of 1996, rumours arose that an elderly woman discovered a tiny humanoid creature by the side of a road near Kyshtym. She assumed it was an abandoned baby and began taking care of it. After that account, the legend becomes impossibly murky. According to the most detailed online description of the creature:
The dwarf was reportedly found near the village of Kaolinovy by Tamara Prosvirina. She told her neighbors that she had found a “handsome boy called Alioshenka.” The neighbors believed the old woman was raving again. The point is she had been previously treated for a mental disorder. The neighbors called an ambulance, which took the woman to hospital. One of the paramedics later described the object lying in bed in the woman’s apartment as a “cat wrapped up in rags.”Alioshenka died of cold, but was later thought to have been killed by the townsfolk. A local coroner by the name of Stanislav Samoshkin performed an autopsy and declared that the creature was not human: “The human skull consists of six bones. The skull of that creature was made up of four bones."
The woman was admitted to a mental hospital. Meanwhile, her relatives leased the apartment to one Vladimir Nurtdinov. He came across the dead body the size of a cat while cleaning up the apartment one day.
“I was about to throw it away like a piece of trash. But that thing looked like a real alien, I kind of liked it. Finally, I put it on the garage roof,” Nurtdinov said. The sun desiccated and tanned the body of Alioshenka to the utmost. Then Nurtdinov hid the body in a garage. Later Nurtdinov was taken into police custody under suspicion of stealing electrical wire. He promptly told the police about the strange object hidden in the garage.
Below is an account by Tamara, the old woman’s daughter-in-law, who claims to have seen Alioshenka while he was still alive:
“I used to visit my mother-in-law twice a week. She was living on her own. On that day I brought her foodstuffs just like I did before. I was about to leave when she told me: ‘We’d better give some food to the baby too.’ Then she showed me to the bed. I took a closer look at it and saw him. He was on top the bed, squeaking some funny sounds. I could see his mouth shaped like a small pipe. His tiny scarlet tongue was moving. I also spotted two teeth inside. In a way, he looked like a little baby. His head was brown, and his body looked gray. I didn’t see any eyelids. He didn’t have any genitals either. His head looked like an onion. And the pupils of his eyes were widening and narrowing just like the cat’s eyes do when you turn on the light and turn it off again several times in a row. The fingers on his hands and feet were pretty long. I only bothered to ask my mother-in-law where on earth she’d got the monster from. She told me she’d found him in the forest. She kept calling him ‘Alioshenka.’ She gave him a candy and he started sucking on it. I thought it was some kind of animal.”
Researchers believe that Tamara’s account is a true story. She has been repeating it word by word for years without adding up any new details.
“He was giving off that smell, you know, one of a kind. You can’t take it for any other smell. Actually, the smell was pretty agreeable yet somewhat nauseous at the same time. And he didn’t pass any liquid or solid waste matter. He was sweating, and that was all. I saw the mother-in-law wipe the sweat off his face with a rag,” Tamara added.
The body was videotaped by police (theoretically producing footage that was later sensationally televised during the alien craze of the mid-late 1990s). There are suggestions that the body's DNA was tested, which supposedly proved that the creature was inhuman:
The latest study conducted by a Moscow-based Institute of Forensic Medicine produced sensational results. “A gene discovered in the DNA samples doesn’t correspond with any genes pertaining to humans or anthropoid apes,” said Vadim Chernobrov, a coordinator with the public research center Kosmopoisk. “No gene samples available at the laboratory match the gene. The experts in DNA research haven’t come across any creatures with such an elongated DNA molecule,” Chernobrov added.Then the body of the creature disappeared, apparently mistakenly handed over to imposter UFO-ologists. Add to this mix a Japanese film crew who supposedly offered money to the locals for information and the remains. The old woman who discovered Alioshenka is rumoured to have died in a hit-and-run accident in August, 1999. Locals believe the old woman was murdered, darkly hinting that researchers from Moscow showed up in the area a few days later.
Finally, there are hints that many of the people who have been connected to this case or investigated it have died of mysterious illnesses. Of course, their symptoms reflect the effects of radiation poisoning and sickness. The 'alien' could obviously be explained as an abandoned baby, born mutated due to the impact of radiation on his mother. The elements of this mystery all add up to one thing - fear of the environment and distrust of the authorities - and in this case, not without good cause.
A view of Kyshtym in 2006 from one of the bridges, with a mosque and Sugomak mountain at the background. Image Source: Anthony Ivanoff via Wiki.See all my posts on nuclear topics.
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