Ukraine

  
NOTE: despite the severe troubles in eastern Ukraine, most sites covered here are not affected (except those in Crimea). 
 
Ukraine is the second largest Eastern European country (after Russia), and was formerly an important constituent part of the Soviet Union, before becoming independent again after the latter's collapse.
 
Ukraine may not offer the widest range of dark tourist attractions but amongst them is one of the very top dark destinations in the whole world: Chernobyl.
   
The country's capital city, Kiev, serves as a base for tours to Chernobyl – and also offers several dark sites of its own.
 
Furthermore, halfway between Kiev and Odessa on the Black Sea there's a decommissioned strategic missile base with old ICBMs as museum pieces and a chance to go down into the former missile launch command unit – ultra cool! Tours to that extraordinary site also run as day excursions from Kiev.    
 
   Chernobyl
   (Pripyat, Chernobyl NPP, Duga)
 
   Kiev
  
   (  Balaklava  in Russian-annexed Crimea  )
  
  
UPDATE 2014/2015: and yet again the country has gone through a "revolution" ... this time escalating in a really nasty way ... But for now the war-zone-like scenes from Kiev that made the international headline news seem to be over and a new government is in place. The whole crisis, however, is not over. Far from it ... the east of the country has been slipping into a nasty, potentially prolonged civil war or at least a so-called "frozen conflict" (cf. Nagorno-Karabakh or Transistria).
 
Yet again the whole thing's been largely about which general direction the country should be heading politically, in a more European (and NATO) direction or rather looking towards Russia.
  
The government under the now ousted president Yanukovych swung in the latter direction, while the protesters in Kiev and western parts of Ukraine demanded the former. Once the protesters seemed to have won in Kiev, eastern and southern parts quickly raised the possibility of splitting the country rather than recognizing the new powers that be in Kiev.
 
Separatist militias have pretty much taken control of the eastern parts of Ukraine, including the coal-mining areas of the Donbas with its regional capital Donesk. Despite initial denial, these rebels have been and probably still are receiving help from Russia. A particularly tragic case of "collateral damage" was the shooting down (most likely by a hi-tech surface to-air guided missile) of a Malaysian civilian aircraft over eastern Ukraine, killing all on board. But even that high-profile incident aside, the situation for the local civilian population on the ground in these lands is of course dire in any case.
 
We'll see what will come out of the whole quagmire in the longer run. What moves Russia may or may not take seems to be crucial factor in all this. At times it looks like a new Cold War is looming large ... but at others it looks like diplomatic sanity may prevail after all. Keep your fingers crossed, whichever side you may be on, that it doesn't get any worse than it already is.  
 
The Crimean peninsula in the south was already annexed by Russia in March 2014 - in a rather dodgy way, using special forces without military markings while Moscow denied it had anything to do with it at first, then coaxing the local population into a referendum to "legalize" the annexation, and then later admitting it had all been a heroically patriotic cunning plan all along after all.
 
True, a large majority of the population there are Russians and the peninsula had historically and culturally rather been Russian anyway ... and was only made part of the Ukrainian SSR in 1954, i.e. at the end of the Stalin era (cf. again Nagorno-Karabakh!). But is military force the answer to reversing such things?
 
In any case, and no matter whether you think this annexation was justifiable or not, this means Balaklava is currently no longer accessible via Ukraine for tourists. 
    
Otherwise, in practical terms relevant to the readers of this website, the other dark tourism sites covered here shouldn't be too badly affected by all this at this point in time ... Chernobyl tours, for instance, continue to run as normal. But it is advisable to check ahead carefully what the current situation may be before setting off to Kiev or other places that may be affected by these troubles. 
   
Before the annexation of the Crimean peninsula by Russia (after all: the first territory taken by force within Europe since WWII!!) this fabled part of the world would also have been of interest to the dark tourist for reasons other than Balaklava. For one thing, that old submaribe base is not the only Cold-War relic in these parts (cf. this external link - opens in a new window).
 
It would also have been cool to see the current remnants of the Cold War (representations of a new one?) such as the naval port of Sevastopol. This served as the main base for the Soviet Navy, and in particular its Black Sea Fleet nuclear submarines. And even after the official end of the (first) Cold War, the port remained the home (through a lease contract) to the what is now the Russian Black Sea Fleet. This lease, and whether it might come to an end, had long been one of the many bones of contention between the two countries … now Russia appears to have "solved" the issue through force. 
 
This also makes it questionable if, or how, other historical sites on the Crimean peninsula may or may not be accessible to (Western/non-Russian) tourists for the forseeable future. One of these that may have been of interest to dark tourist as well would have been Yalta, where the fate of post-WWII Germany (and much of Central Europe) after the defeat of the Nazis was decided upon by the leaders of the USSR (Stalin), USA (Roosevelt) and Britain (Churchill).
 
For the time being, through, travel to Crimea – let alone to eastern Ukraine – cannot be recommended. But the rest of Ukraine should be pretty safe for now. Just stick to Kiev and the rest of the country west of Kiev. The former Polish city of Lviv is supposed to be nice too ... 
  
  
 
  • Ukraine 01 - which way to turnUkraine 01 - which way to turn
  • Ukraine 02 - flag and shieldUkraine 02 - flag and shield
  • Ukraine 03 - stork in nestUkraine 03 - stork in nest
  • Ukraine 04 - rural war memorialUkraine 04 - rural war memorial
  • Ukraine 05 - rural churchUkraine 05 - rural church
  • Ukraine 06 - rural shopUkraine 06 - rural shop
  • Ukraine 07 - really ruralUkraine 07 - really rural
  • Ukraine 08 - firewoodUkraine 08 - firewood
  • Ukraine 09 - rustic folklore interior designUkraine 09 - rustic folklore interior design
  • Ukraine 10 - national dish - varenkiUkraine 10 - national dish - varenki
  • Ukraine 11 - borschtsch - the green varietyUkraine 11 - borschtsch - the green variety
  • Ukraine 12 - heavy stodgeUkraine 12 - heavy stodge
  • Ukraine 13 - garlic cheese tomatoesUkraine 13 - garlic cheese tomatoes
  • Ukraine 15 - pickled gherkins galoreUkraine 15 - pickled gherkins galore
  • Ukraine 16 - national lard obsession - saloUkraine 16 - national lard obsession - salo
  • Ukraine 17 - folklore-y Ukrainian coloursUkraine 17 - folklore-y Ukrainian colours
  • UkraineUkraine
  
  

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