One of the things that surprised me about Pripyat Ukraine and the other areas around Chernobyl was all the gas masks laying around. They were in the schools, day care centers, businesses, homes, etc… And of course, gas mask won’t protect humans from radiation, so why are they there? The answer, according to our Polish and Ukrainian guides, the Russians thought the United States was going to bomb the area with chemical weapons at any time, so they issued and trained everyone on how to use the masks.
The entire area was never officially on any map at that time. They were trying to keep it a secret. The city of Pripyat was created to house the scientists, professionals and support staff (and their families) who worked at the nuclear power plant. As residents of Pripyat, if you wanted to travel outside the zone (to visit family, shop in Kiev, etc..), you needed advanced approval from the Soviets. All of this was to protect the Pripyat citizens from the United States and probably to prevent the professionals from defecting to the “West”. Regardless of your perspective on that part of world history, it is clear the Soviets worried about the U.S., thus the hundreds and hundreds of gas masks.
I took this photo inside a pre-school. These two masks were laying on the floor with lots of other junk. I loved how the late day sun was shining through the scene.
To view a larger version, click HERE