The Polygon reveals the untold legacy of the Soviet Union’s
extensive Cold War nuclear testing program at the Semipalatinsk Test
Site in Kazakhstan. Over 600 nuclear bombs were detonated at the
formerly secret site, known as “The Polygon”, from 1949 to 1991,
including 116 above ground explosions.
The massive mushroom
clouds were witnessed by hundreds of thousands of nearby unprotected
Kazakh villagers, unaware that nuclear fallout was raining down on them,
their land and water.
More than 18,000 square kilometers remain
heavily contaminated. The radiation silently devastated three
generations who have suffered serious health problems, including thyroid
disease, cancer, birth defects, and more. Life expectancy in the
region is seven years less than the national average in Kazakhstan.
full impact of radiation exposure was hidden by Soviet authorities, and
only came to light after the test site was closed in 1991 after major
The tragic story is told in part by the villagers
themselves, including Bolat Baltabek, a teacher and town leader, who
lost his sister, brother, son, and countless neighbors to
Shot over 3 years, The Polygon
revisits the history of these tragic Cold War experiments, and profiles
the unfortunate victims that remain today, still suffering with little
or no compensation, or global recognition of their plight.
Reviews and Festivals"Highly Recommended. The complete veil of secrecy that enveloped Soviet weapons testing, encouraged extreme disregard for the human and environmental costs of nuclear weapons testing. This moving and disturbing documentary retells the story of those experiments and of the human guinea pigs unwittingly subjected to damaging and lethal dosages of radiation."
– Educational Media Reviews Online
“Recommended. Eye-opening documentary sheds light on a Soviet state program that resulted in debilitating aftershocks. Telling a tragic cautionary story…the filmmakers conclude with some practical ideas for making life more livable for these neglected people.”
– Video Librarian
"Highly Recommended. Highlights some of the tragic side-effects of the testing in the region and the impacts that it has had on the populace’s offspring."
Gold Coast International Film Festival
Idyllwild International Festival of Cinema