Confrontation with the West gave rise to a special type of territorial formation in the Soviet Union — closed cities (ZATO). They served the state’s science and defense needs as sites of nuclear weapons development (Arzamas-16) or disposal (Sverdlovsk-45), and as bases for the navy and missile forces. These cities did not appear on any maps, had encrypted names, and were called "mailboxes" – much like the secret manufacturing facilities located within these cities that had no specific address, but rather a mailbox number where all post was sent. The inhabitants of these cities were instructed not to refer to their place of residence, but rather to use name of the nearest major city (for example, Krasnoyarsk instead of Krasnoyarsk-26).
Along with the collapse of the Soviet state, a different life started up in the closed cities — they ceased to be secret. Nevertheless the borders remained closed for outsiders, as the relative prosperity that these cities enjoyed (budget subsidies, low crime rates, high-end medicine and social services) made residents wary of the first, tentative attempts to address the question of retaining the barriers.
There are 41 closed cities in modern-day Russia, which are home to 1.2 million people. To enter one of these cities you will need a pass, typically an invitation from a close relative who lives there. Polls carried out in these "mailbox" cities show that the majority of residents are still against radical changes in the territorial policy. They envisage crowds of homeless people, criminals, and a withdrawal of support from the federal budget as the most likely consequences of removing the protective barriers.
Project ZATO is a visualization of the memories of residents of closed cities and my own experience of visiting these places, inspired by discussions on web forums, announcements by municipal authorities, and publications on social media sites. The photographs are staged, and the project does not contain any photos that I took myself in the closed cities. The only exceptions are several images of municipal infrastructure that I commissioned from local photographers for the print edition of the project, in order to show how these cities look from the inside.
2014-2016

Противостояние с Западом породило в Советском Союзе особый вид территориального образования - закрытые города (ЗАТО). Они встали на службу науке и обороне государства, являясь местами разработки (Арзамас-16) или утилизации (Свердловск-45) ядерного оружия, местами базирования военно-морского флота и ракетных войск. Такие города не были нанесены на карты, носили зашифрованные имена, их называли почтовыми ящиками по аналогии с расположенными в них засекреченными предприятиями, которые не имели конкретного адреса, а только номер почтового ящика, на который и отсылалась вся корреспонденция. Жителям этих городов было велено не упоминать своего места жительства, ограничиваясь названием ближайшего крупного города (например, Красноярск вместо Красноярск-26).
Вместе с распадом советского государства в закрытых городах началась другая жизнь-они перестали быть секретными. Границы остались закрытыми для "чужих", относительное благополучие- государственные дотации, помноженные на низкий уровень преступности и повышенный-медицины и сферы обслуживания заставляли жителей с недоверием относиться к первым робким попыткам поднять вопрос о целесообразности сохранения барьеров.
В настоящее время в России остаются закрытыми 41 город, в них живет 1,2 млн. человек. Для попадания в город необходим пропуск, чаще всего- приглашение от близкого родственника, проживающего в нем. Опросы в "почтовых ящиках" показывают, что большинство жителей все еще против радикальных изменений территориальной политики. Наиболее вероятными последствиями демонтажа оградительных сооружений они видят поток бездомных, преступников, лишение поддержки из бюджета.
Проект "ЗАТО"- это визуализация воспоминаний жителей закрытых городов, собственного опыта посещения этих мест, обсуждений на веб-форумах, заявлений городских властей, публикаций, касающихся исследуемой темы, в соцсетях. Сцены- постановочные. В проекте нет кадров, сделанных мной в закрытых городах. Единственное исключение- для книжной версии проекта я заказал местным фотографам сделать несколько снимков городской инфраструктуры, чтобы знать, как выглядят такие города изнутри.
2014-2016

 Zheleznogorsk (Krasnoyarsk-26) is a closed town that was built for the purpose of producing weapons-grade plutonium. Later they began processing irradiant uranium here. The best nuclear scientists in Russia lived in this sealed-off utopia. The city
Zheleznogorsk (Krasnoyarsk-26) is a closed town that was built for the purpose of producing weapons-grade plutonium. Later they began processing irradiant uranium here. The best nuclear scientists in Russia lived in this sealed-off utopia. The city's coat of arms is a bear splitting an atom.
  Trips abroad remain a pipe dream for a large number of residents of closed cities. Working at a secret enterprise means that having an international passport is forbidden, even years after being discharged.
Trips abroad remain a pipe dream for a large number of residents of closed cities. Working at a secret enterprise means that having an international passport is forbidden, even years after being discharged.
 Canned drinking water. GOST 15-242-80.
The canned drinking water is ready for consumption. It is meant for individual use on board lifeboats and life-rafts, as well as in the absence of a central supply of drinking water, in dangerous epidemiological environments, and in emergency situations etc.
Canned drinking water. GOST 15-242-80. The canned drinking water is ready for consumption. It is meant for individual use on board lifeboats and life-rafts, as well as in the absence of a central supply of drinking water, in dangerous epidemiological environments, and in emergency situations etc.
 Japanese in a secret town (after Ruth Orkin).
Foreign nationals are restricted from entering onto the territory of closed cities on personal matters. In the majority of cases, it may be permitted only if they are visiting close relatives, upon the illness or death of their close relatives, visiting their burial place, or registering property as inheritance. This is carried out with the consent of the local branch of the FSB.
Japanese in a secret town (after Ruth Orkin). Foreign nationals are restricted from entering onto the territory of closed cities on personal matters. In the majority of cases, it may be permitted only if they are visiting close relatives, upon the illness or death of their close relatives, visiting their burial place, or registering property as inheritance. This is carried out with the consent of the local branch of the FSB.
  In Soviet times, enterprises working in the defense sector were called “mailboxes.” These factories had no address. Instead, there was just a mailbox: “Mailbox No
In Soviet times, enterprises working in the defense sector were called “mailboxes.” These factories had no address. Instead, there was just a mailbox: “Mailbox No'...” Closed cities were also classified under a mailbox number.
  It is possible to drive into some of the closed cities by hiding in the trunk of a car, as only the vehicle
It is possible to drive into some of the closed cities by hiding in the trunk of a car, as only the vehicle's interior is inspected closely at the checkpoint.
 Public order squad. The last fair day of autumn 2015.
Public order squad. The last fair day of autumn 2015.
 The AN602 hydrogen bomb aka the Tsar Bomb or Kuz
The AN602 hydrogen bomb aka the Tsar Bomb or Kuz'kina Mat' is the most powerful nuclear weapon ever detonated (in 1961). A replica is kept at the Museum of Nuclear Weapons in the closed town of Sarov (Arzamas-16), where the bomb's components were designed by a team of nuclear physicists headed by academic Yulii Khariton
 The third most serious nuclear accident ever recorded, behind the Fukushima and Chernobyl, occurred on 29 September 1957 at "Mayak", a plutonium production site for nuclear weapons in the closed town Ozyorsk, Chelyabinsk region, that was built around the plant. Because of the secrecy surrounding "Mayak", the populations of affected areas were not initially informed of the accident. Starting in 1989 the Soviet government gradually declassified documents pertaining to the disaster. The level of radiation in Ozyorsk now is claimed to be safe for humans, but the area of the East-Ural Radioactive Trace is still heavily contaminated with radioactivity.
The third most serious nuclear accident ever recorded, behind the Fukushima and Chernobyl, occurred on 29 September 1957 at "Mayak", a plutonium production site for nuclear weapons in the closed town Ozyorsk, Chelyabinsk region, that was built around the plant. Because of the secrecy surrounding "Mayak", the populations of affected areas were not initially informed of the accident. Starting in 1989 the Soviet government gradually declassified documents pertaining to the disaster. The level of radiation in Ozyorsk now is claimed to be safe for humans, but the area of the East-Ural Radioactive Trace is still heavily contaminated with radioactivity.
 Most of the secret atomic cities were built by prisoners, in particular, Novouralsk. Locals know unmarked burial place of these builders, a small grove in the center of the town. There was a case when during one of the floods human remains were washed from the graveyard and one guy compiled a skeleton from the bones and put it on a concrete table tennis table near his house. However, the official version of the history of the city a little different- town was built by Komsomol members. There is huge commemorative monument, immortalized this fact,  by the central square.
Most of the secret atomic cities were built by prisoners, in particular, Novouralsk. Locals know unmarked burial place of these builders, a small grove in the center of the town. There was a case when during one of the floods human remains were washed from the graveyard and one guy compiled a skeleton from the bones and put it on a concrete table tennis table near his house. However, the official version of the history of the city a little different- town was built by Komsomol members. There is huge commemorative monument, immortalized this fact, by the central square.
  5.10. At the request of a checkpoint security officer, persons entering (leaving) the territory of the closed city or located in the closed city must present a passport or another identity document, as well as a document that provides the right of entry (stay) in the city.
5.10. At the request of a checkpoint security officer, persons entering (leaving) the territory of the closed city or located in the closed city must present a passport or another identity document, as well as a document that provides the right of entry (stay) in the city.
 An entrance road sign to the closed city of Raduzhny (Vladimir-30). Photograph made by local photographer at the commission of the author.
An entrance road sign to the closed city of Raduzhny (Vladimir-30). Photograph made by local photographer at the commission of the author.
 For the project I delegated some work to local photographers, who live in "closed" cities. They took pictures of ordinary urban functionalities to show how these places look from the inside.
For the project I delegated some work to local photographers, who live in "closed" cities. They took pictures of ordinary urban functionalities to show how these places look from the inside.
 There is a legend among children in ZATO Seversk, Tomsk region, that a tremendous treasure of candies is kept in the secret room in the right heel of the huge town Lenin
There is a legend among children in ZATO Seversk, Tomsk region, that a tremendous treasure of candies is kept in the secret room in the right heel of the huge town Lenin's statue.
 The Wall fragment.
The Wall fragment.
 Triazavirin (TZV) is a broad-spectrum antiviral drug developed in the closed town of Novouralsk. Triazavrin is effective against 15 types of influenza, including the A/H1N1 (swine flu) and H5N1 (bird flu) viruses, at any stage of the disease. Furthermore, the Russian Minister of Health Veronika Skvortsova has said there is a suggestion from scientists that Triazivirin could save the world from Ebola fever.
Triazavirin (TZV) is a broad-spectrum antiviral drug developed in the closed town of Novouralsk. Triazavrin is effective against 15 types of influenza, including the A/H1N1 (swine flu) and H5N1 (bird flu) viruses, at any stage of the disease. Furthermore, the Russian Minister of Health Veronika Skvortsova has said there is a suggestion from scientists that Triazivirin could save the world from Ebola fever.
 To designate a regional identity, a deputy of the City Council offered to brand clothes of Novouralsk city residents traveling outside
To designate a regional identity, a deputy of the City Council offered to brand clothes of Novouralsk city residents traveling outside
 A Ship Modeler.
A Ship Modeler.
 The real estate market in closed cities has no criminal flavor. People feel unafraid when buying and selling their apartments, placing advertisements in the local press or on television.
The real estate market in closed cities has no criminal flavor. People feel unafraid when buying and selling their apartments, placing advertisements in the local press or on television.
 The Zelyonogorsk (Krasnoyarsk-45) electrochemical factory specializes in the production of enriched uranium. From 1994 to 2007 it produced video and audio cassettes in order to keep the highly skilled specialists busy during the years of economic crisis.
The Zelyonogorsk (Krasnoyarsk-45) electrochemical factory specializes in the production of enriched uranium. From 1994 to 2007 it produced video and audio cassettes in order to keep the highly skilled specialists busy during the years of economic crisis.
 From 1987 to 1994, 12 specially constructed trains traveled along Russia
From 1987 to 1994, 12 specially constructed trains traveled along Russia's railroads with strategic intercontinental missiles fixed to their cars. They were disguised as normal trains and were branded with the symbol “Train Number Zero.” In accordance with the START II treaty signed in 1993, Russia removed the weapons and destroyed the missile complexes. However, in 2013 the deputy minister of the Ministry of Defense, Yury Borisov, spoke about resuming the work to create a new generation of railroad missile complexes.