«We need to look into the past in order to understand the present and foresee the future»

The Nevada-Semei anti-nuclear movement

The Nevada-Semei anti-nuclear movement
On February 26, 1989 the decision on the creation of the International anti-nuclear movement “Nevada-Semei” was made. The movement was legally registered in October of the same year.

The movement which was supported by the people of the Republic of Kazakhstan maintained resistance to nuclear explosions and achieved abolishment of nuclear tests at the Semipalatinsk Nuclear Test Site. In 1989 the activity of the movement led to the reduction in the number of explosions. Only 11 out of 18 planned tests were carried out. The last one took place on October 19, 1989.


Active members of the movement

It is should be noted that both young and old generation participated in the activity of the movement. And only thanks to them the territory that had been the center of epidemic over half a century was closed.


130 thousand miners from Karaganda who were members of the movement adopted the following resolution: in case of continuation of tests to begin termless strike.


They were supported by workers from Semipalatinsk, Pavlodar, Ust-Kamenogorsk and Dzhezkazgan. At the same time the Supreme Soviet came over to workers’ side

Professor of the Semipalatinsk Medical University, the first Chairman of the Semipalatinsk branch of the Nevada-Semei movement (1989-2000) Marat Mauytkanovich Orazalin recalls first days of the Nevada-Semei movement:

“On February 12-18, 1989 the military without any notifications conducted atomic bomb test. During the test inert gases came out through cracks on the ground. At the very beginning toxic gas covered Shagan city located near Kurchatov city, afterwards the wind arose and removed the gas to Altai outskirts. When the first Secretary of the Semipalatinsk Regional Committee of the Communist Party of the Kazakh SSR Keshirim Boztayev heard about it he sent telegram in code to the Central Committee of the USSR and asked to stop the tests and to help dwellers of that area. This was one of the first measures against atomic weapons tests which was made in opened form. Then on February 28, 1989 O. Suleimenov who was the representative of the Semipalatinsk region on the 1st meeting of the Deputies of the USSR proposed creation of anti-nuclear movement ‘Nevada-Semei’. We, i.e. inhabitants of Semei could not sit idly. Right away we met at the bureau of the Party of the Semipalatinsk Medical University and established Regional branch of anti-nuclear movement ‘Nevada-Semei’. I was elected the Chairman of the branch. The goal of the movement is to arose people, close the test site and achieve adoption of a law on help to victims.

On August 29, 1991 by the Decree of the President N. Nazarbayev was closed. Later this day was proclaimed as International Day against Nuclear Tests. Kazakhstan officially abolished nuclear weapons”.


Mass-meeting in Semei city,1991. Olzhas Suleimenov (second from right)

On February 25, 1989 at the meeting in Almaty Olzhas Suleimenov red his address to all people, creative and religious organizations, soviet committee for the world protection, Greenpeace international organization, committee of the International Fund “Preserve mankind”, members of the movement against nuclear tests in Nevada (USA) and demanded to stop nuclear tests in Kazakhstan.


For the first time the Government of the USSR made a decision to abolish nuclear weapon tests and adopted moratorium by the initiative of people. The Declaration on Sovereignty of the Republic of Kazakhstan proclaimed the territory of the states as nuclear-free zone. The Decree of the President of Kazakhstan N.A. Nazarbayev on the closure of the test site was adopted on August 29, 1991. Thus, Kazakh nation demonstrated persistence and achieved its goals.


Offices of the organization were opened in many other cities and regions of Kazakhstan, Russia, the USA, Italy, Japan, Turkey and so on.


Thanks to the active work of the movement the 53rd UN General Assembly adopted the resolution “International Cooperation and Coordination of Activities to Rehabilitate the Population and Environment and to Ensure Economic Development of the Semipalatinsk Region in Kazakhstan”.


Karipbek Kuyukov, famous artist, Honorary Ambassador of the ATOM Project, is one of many victims of nuclear tests. Despite the happened misfortune, he took brush and started embodying his ideas into the picture. Within the frameworks of the ATOM Project he had several exhibitions in the USA, Netherlands, Norway, Germany, Austria and Switzerland. According to him, he wants to show consequences of nuclear tests to the foreign countries and become the last victim.

For the present by the initiative of the President Nursultan Nazarbayev August 29 proclaimed as the International Day against Nuclear Tests. The ATOM Project is another initiative of the President. Its mission is to create the nuclear-free world.

More information on the Project: http://www.theatomproject.org/kz 

Olzhas Berkinbayev

The article was prepared with support from the Press Office of the MFA of the Republic of Kazakhstan and historical museum of the Semipalatinsk region.