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For forty-five years, Chelyabinsk province of Russia was closed to all foreigners.Only in January of 1992 did President Boris Yeltsin sign a decree changing that. Shortly afterwards, I made my first trip to this region, which later Western scientists declared to be the most polluted spot on earth.
In the late 1940’s, about 80 kilometers north of the city of Chelyabinsk, an atomic weapons complex called “Mayak” was built. Its existence has only recently been acknowledged by Russian officials, though, in fact, the complex, bordered to the west by the Ural Mountains, and to the north by Siberia, was the goal of Gary Powers’s surveillance flight in May of 1960.