2019/11/09

Post Nuclear Identity

Nuclear Identity is on – going photo project by Lithuanian photographer Neringa Rekasiute. It focuses on a small town in Lithuania, experiencing identity crisis after the closure of the nuclear power plant.

Visaginas was built in 1975 as a planned town to accommodate workers from all over Soviet Union, coming specifically to work in a newly built atomic reactor. The town became a unique phenomena – residents were almost the same age, with university degrees predominantly in engineering, but dif-ferent in ethnicities, languages and religions. The town was a “Soviet Utopia come true” – rich, high-ly educated and modern town, surrounded by forests and lakes.

The nuclear power plant was a source of identity and pride for newly arrived residents. Most of the town inhabitants were one way or another related to the atomic reactor. Unsurprisingly, the closure of the plant came at a great economic and psychological cost to the town residents.

Today Visaginas has an image of a Russian speaking town, alien and unknown to most of the Lith-uanians. The town’s remote location, multicultural fabric and language difference adds up to the alienation. In Lithuanian mass media, Visaginas often is portrayed as pro-Russian town with sepa-ratist moods, which enforces already existing stereotypes and deepens social differentiation.

Lithuania’s transition from communist to capitalist country had strong effects inside the towns such as Visaginas, where one factory or power plant sustained the whole settlement. Today relicts of the past are lingering, anger of the “greatness lost” simmers in the background, nostalgia flourishes, but the new generation of Visaginians are trying to find new, post-nuclear identities and move forward completely.

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