Chernobyl: A Stalkers' Guide
Darmon Richter (Fuel, 2020)
Available Now

Drawing on unprecedented access to the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone ― including insights gained while working as a tour guide and during an illegal 'stalker' hike ― Darmon Richter creates an entirely new portrait of Chernobyl’s forgotten ghost towns, monuments and more.

Since the first atomic bomb was dropped, humankind has been haunted by the idea of nuclear apocalypse. That nightmare almost became reality in 1986, when an accident at the USSR’s Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant triggered the world’s worst radiological crisis. The events of that night are well documented – but history didn’t stop there. Chernobyl, as a place, remains very much alive today.

In Chernobyl: A Stalkers’ Guide, researcher Darmon Richter journeys into the contemporary Exclusion Zone, venturing deeper than any previously published account. While thousands of foreign visitors congregate around a handful of curated sites, beyond the tourist hotspots lies a wild and mysterious land the size of a small country. In the forests of Chernobyl, historic village settlements and Soviet-era utopianism have lain abandoned since the time of the disaster – overshadowed by vast, unearthly mega-structures designed to win the Cold War.

Richter combines photographs of discoveries made during his numerous visits to the Zone with the voices of those who witnessed history – engineers, scientists, police and evacuees. He explores evacuated regions in both Ukraine and Belarus, finding forgotten ghost towns and Soviet monuments lost deep in irradiated forests. He gains exclusive access inside the most secure areas of the power plant itself, and joins the ‘stalkers’ of Chernobyl as he sets out on a high-stakes illegal hike to the heart of the Exclusion Zone.


“An eerie record of disaster, absence, the power of nature and frozen time.”

- Edwin Heathcote, in “Best Books of 2020,” Financial Times.

“In Chernobyl: A Stalkers' Guide, Darmon Richter—an expert in Soviet architecture who has spent years photographing and gathering information about the buildings and monuments of the former USSR—tells the amazing story of the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone from the inside. Combining his evocative imagery with a series of acute and well-researched essays, Richter takes us beyond the now-familiar iconography of the abandoned city of Pripyat, into untracked reaches of the Zone—and inside the abandoned power plant itself—to unravel the myths of Chernobyl and reveal rarely-seen glimpses of the radioactive lost world and the men and women who live and work there.”

- Adam Higginbotham, author of Midnight in Chernobyl.

“Richter’s evocative, theoretically astute, and beautifully illustrated account of the Zone is drawn from a rich wellspring of passion and adventure. The depth of historical research, backed up by on-the-ground experience, makes A Stalkers’ Guide a one-of-a-kind contribution to the Chernobyl archive. No other author has achieved such a comprehensive investigation of the Exclusion Zone.”

- Bradley Garrett, author of Explore Everything and Bunker.

Chernobyl: A Stalkers’ Guide is an impressive hybrid... The book weaves together the numerous strands of history, mythology, and ecology that intersect at Chernobyl, from Prometheus as an atomic Marxist saint, to pop-cultural references like the Fallout games and HBO’s Chernobyl, to mushrooms as a potential solution to the problem of nuclear waste. Author Darmon Richter does an impressive job of unifying these numerous trajectories into a highly focused study of a fundamentally misunderstood place.”

- John Peck, Degraded Orbit.


© Darmon Richter 2020