The Soviet Union tested their first nuclear bomb at the Semipalatinsk Test Site, also known as “The Polygon,” in Kazakhstan on August 29, 1949.
The area consisted of around 18,000 square kilometres of open grassland on the Kazakh Steppe.
The Polygon was also home to around 1.5 million people.
See video footage below of the Soviets testing their first hydrogen bomb at The Polygon on August 12, 1953:
According to the ABC, the site was officially closed for testing in 1991. Not long after that, scientists from Russia, the U.S., and the newly independent nation of Kazakhstan carried out a secretive $150 million cleanup of the highly radioactive materials that the Soviet nuclear program had left behind.
It wasn’t until 2012 that the test area was completely cleared of nuclear material.
The area’s ecology is now being further studied to understand the amount of damage the testing did, and it’s also even open for tours.
But the rivers and other water sources remain contaminated, and much of the farmland has been tainted.
See this video for the effects that the tests have had on the local population:
Cancer rates are extraordinarily high among the population, who also suffer higher than usual rates for mental disabilities, infertility, and depression. Harrowing birth defects continue, with 1 in 20 children suffering from some type of deformity. The suicide rate is also four times higher than the national average.
In total, it is believed that 200,000 people have suffered directly from radiation in The Polygon.