Maybe it’s the sliver of Russian ancestry in my blood, but I saw a Vice mini-series about a Russian road trip scheduled to end at a nuclear testing center and could not resist a quick peek. Here are some of the explosive fast facts (pun intended).
We like to think of nuclear fallout as a concept of the past, or a plot in a horror movie we wouldn’t pay to see in theatres. Yet, citizens living outside of what was known as the Polygon incurred the effects of radioactive poisoning until they got cancer, or died from the severity of radiation itself. The Polygon is a disbanded government-militarized program that launched 400 nuclear weapons in the surrounding countryside during the Soviet Union’s reign to catalogue the effects. Supposedly, the soldiers were told that any villagers inhabiting the surrounding land had been evacuated. However, in truth, the villagers were told to evacuate their homes only to the outdoors for an alleged earthquake warning. Once outside, these unaware citizens were saturated in a rotisserie of radiation to serve as guinea pigs for scientific discovery. Scientists intended to observe the effects nuclear radiation would have on these people and at what rate their bodies would decompose.
Those living outside the Polygon prior to its termination were not the sole citizens affected by the radiation. One of the soldiers interviewed said he realized they were all “fools” when he saw every fifth or tenth child in the surrounding village was born with abnormal birth defects. The negative impacts radiation has on their health has not escaped these citizens, either. A local woman interviewed was aware of the chemical danger her family was in, yet she simply said there was no money to move elsewhere. Once the government program had been disbanded, the military personnel were extracted without any consideration for the non-military citizens, even those who worked at the compound—like the woman interviewed had. Not all the responses to radiation threats were so passive (granted, citizen passivity was due to lack of resource).
Two noteworthy reactions to the impending threat of nuclear warfare warrant mention. One channel resides in an alternative medical treatment. The second options involves adopting a separatist mentality from society and forming self-sustainable villages.
I’m just going to say it. Antler blood. That is the answer to our questions about how to curb some of the effects of nuclear radiation. The Vice staff visited an antler blood farm to learn about how the blood was used in special healing baths. This technique originated in China and has been used for centuries. The process is somewhat sickening for the faint of heart. The deer itself doesn’t die, but the deer is tied down, tranquilized, and the antlers amputated without anesthesia—the animal is clearly in pain. However, before becoming too self-righteous about this process, let’s reflect on a predominant reason this method is used. Apparently, it isn’t very reassuring when we as Americans drop atom bombs on China’s neighboring countries. The destruction Hiroshima and Nagasaki experienced both during the bomb raids of WWll, and the radioactive consequences following the raid, have justified this type of medical response. Anyways, deer antler blood helps the body adapt and recover from radiation, boosts the immune system, and even functions as a “natural Viagra.” The Vice staff sampled some and described the taste as salty and pungent, yet the blood had immediate effects as one of the staff said he could feel the blood “firing up” his brain at that very moment. While definitely an alternative method in some definitions, this traditional medicine is effective for its intention.
Now we move on to another form of response. Konstantin Petrova is an environmental survivalist the Vice staff interviewed. He built a village untethered to society in which his family and he could continue to live in should a nuclear apocalypse wipe out the rest of society. While there are no types of manufactured deterrents to the radioactive chemicals that would spread aerially, his village is completely self-sustainable. He describes it as a natural village, they view their presence as a co-working part of nature that aids in renewing the biosphere. Aside from the threat of nuclear war, part of his reasoning lies in the idea that he expects civilization to turn on itself in one way or another. His view towards cities is that they as a system are good for themselves, but not for people or nature. He continues to describe a system of hegemony in which people who “have been brought up in schemes of how to think” dictate the rules of society. This small group calls the shots but we are under the impression that we are a democracy, or some other system of free choice. Essentially, his philosophy rests on the idea that “humanity is not conscious right now” in its current state of affairs….which I personally don’t disagree with.
This mini-series gives the watcher significant new considerations to mull over. As I began watching with disbelief I had a chain of thoughts about crazy Russians and their doomsday plans. Yet, as a person that has always lived in the United States and never been a victim to the types of chemical warfare we impose on other counties, I must say the responses seem appropriate upon further consideration. While I think the potent bodily after-shock of nuclear technology outweighs the momentary sense of victory, I find some comfort in the idea that the people of this region are adapting.