Memory, Trauma, and the Maternal: Post-Apocalyptic View of the Chernobyl/Chornobyl/Charnobyl Nuclear Disaster


  • Hanna Chuchvaha University of Calgary



Chornobyl/Chernobyl/Charnobyl has a symbolic meaning for several generations of east Europeans. It is a city that experienced a disastrous nuclear explosion in 1986 that bequeathed a post-apocalyptic landscape and an eloquent demonstration of the Anthropocene. The epistemological crisis for humanity provoked by the Chornobyl nuclear disaster led to the emergence of post-Chornobyl art, an art of acceptance and denial, an art of physical and emotional trauma, an art that symbolized humanity’s responsibility for the future.

This paper focuses on art works produced in the first two decades after the explosion at the Chornobyl nuclear plant. The range of art pieces examined in this paper is diverse, from representational art to conceptual installations. The article is an attempt to analyze the trend of post-Chornobyl art created by witnesses of the tragedy. They are Belarusian and Ukrainian artists for whom Chornobyl epitomizes the point of non-return, the overwhelming tragedy of their people, and the devastation of their land; and for whom Chornobyl is an inverted metaphor of the legitimacy of peaceful atom and the results of the Anthropocene. The paper employs Griselda Pollock’s theoretical approach to trauma and focuses on the art of the maternal created by artists of both genders.


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Author Biography

Hanna Chuchvaha, University of Calgary

Adjunct Assistant Professor.