City 40 Russia

‘The graveyard of the Earth’: inside City 40, Russia’s deadly nuclear secret

Ozersk, codenamed City 40, was the birthplace of the Soviet nuclear weapons programme. Now it is one of the most contaminated places on the planet – so why do so many residents still view it as a fenced-in paradise?

Deep in the vast forests of Russia’s Ural mountains lies the forbidden city of Ozersk. Behind guarded gates and barbed wire fences stands a beautiful enigma – a hypnotic place that seems to exist in a different dimension.

Codenamed City 40, Ozersk was the birthplace of the Soviet nuclear weapons programme after the second world war. For decades, this city of 100,000 people did not appear on any maps, and its inhabitants’ identities were erased from the Soviet census.

Today, with its beautiful lakes, perfumed flowers and picturesque tree-lined streets, Ozersk resembles a suburban 1950s American town – like one of those too-perfect places depicted in The Twilight Zone.