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Mom and the Bomb

This is my favorite memorial I’ve seen in a long time, dedicated broadly to the threat of nuclear weapons. It’s in a semi-remote park on an island in the Irtysh River in Semipalatinsk, the city in northern Kazakhstan closed during the USSR due to its location as headquarters for the Soviets’ nuclear testing program, going all the way back to 1949.

The centerpiece is this grand structure of a mushroom cloud surrounding a metal model of an atom and above the figure of a woman trying to protect her baby. One of the things I like best is that the mother’s arms actually look mutated and melded into her knees. She also appears to be wearing a headband like a Native American or hippie.

There’s also a wee pyramid placed by the “Mayors for Peace,” and a spire with two awkward, large-lipped girls at the base releasing what one visitor described as “white pigeons, the symbol of peace. “

The whole thing would lose some of its flair if it were crisply clean, but the cheap, imperfect tile work  and poorly manicured lawn hammer home the impact of the threat of maintaining a nuclear arsenal in an inevitably fallible and flawed system that is entirely capable of failing (which certainly isn’t exclusive to the Soviet Union).

At least that’s what I took away from it, but then I was pretty high.

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