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The Polygon: The Untold Secret of the Soviet Union's Nuclear Testing Program in Kazakhstan

"The Polygon examines the village of Sarzhal in Kazakhstan, adjacent to the former Semipalatinsk Test Site, where the USSR detonated 116 nuclear bombs over 42 years. Mushroom clouds were witnessed by thousands of Kazakh villagers unaware that nuclear fallout was raining down on them. The Polygon takes us on a journey from the twisted Cold War experiments to those victims who remain today."
Adam SchomerKimberley Hawryluk
Kimberley Joseph
DocumentarySpecial Interest
English [CC]
Audio Languages
Rentals include 30 days to start watching this video and 48 hours to finish once started.
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Kimberley Hawryluk
Janson Media
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Prime Video (streaming online video)
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3.5 out of 5 stars

12 global ratings

  1. 30% of reviews have 5 stars
  2. 22% of reviews have 4 stars
  3. 33% of reviews have 3 stars
  4. 0% of reviews have 2 stars
  5. 15% of reviews have 1 stars
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Top reviews from the United Kingdom

RaymondieuReviewed in the United Kingdom on 08 January 2018
3.0 out of 5 stars
An equally hit & miss film on the Soviet Nuclear Test Facility, its legacy on those who saw it and those yet to feel its impact.
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The Polygon was to the СССР what Nevada and New Mexico - or perhaps more appropriately the island atolls of the Pacific - was to the United States of America - sizeable, sparsely populated and a usefully expendable places in which to test the first practical application of nuclear physics and observe their immediate and not so immediate after-effects. As such it is a remarkable film as much for the opportunities it give to tell the true legacy of the nascent nuclear age as it it is the equal number of opportunities missed to make a truly nuanced film about the full scale impacts of nuclear weapons on the world. Personal stories and stock footage can tell only half the story of the effects that splitting the atom have has on the 20th Century because in the 260th Century we will still only be halfway through the legacy of Plutonium on individuals, peoples, animals, and all organisms on this planet. Similarly such filmmaking only tells half a tale, missing as it does the part that Озерск plays in this sad and catastrophic tale (that being the site of an unplanned criticality that is as darkly tragicomic as they come). Nor can such a story be told without the comparison to the activities of the USA, British and French on the peoples of Micronesia, or effects of Richland/Hanford on the Colorado basin. Halves lives and half truths feature prominently in nuclear physics both theoretical and experimental. This story misses half of everything, which is a shame. But then again where it succeeds it does so both credibly and convincingly.
4 people found this helpful
A. HarrisReviewed in the United Kingdom on 31 January 2020
3.0 out of 5 stars
Ignore the inaccurate history and third-rate sources, but the current day struggle is told well
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From the start, it can be seen little effort was put into the history and research of the area, like using wikipedia/google translate for the shortened name of the area, which in this context actually means testing ground, not a polygon.
Followed by inaccurate narration on the start of the Soviet nuclear programme and the cold war, taken most likely from a wikipedia summary.

I have no idea why the producers of this programme could only scrape together some Scottish MEP as an expert on Soviet history! His input was as basic and simplistic as reading out a wikipedia page. But more worrying are his own embellishments.
I was about to stop watching this awful attempt at a documentary, but after 15-20 minutes it begins to tell the current day story of the people still affected. This is interesting and it can be seen more effort was put into this aspect.

Still, not sure what the point of this westerner crowd funded film is meant to achieve for the local people. Better the money from the crowdfunding campaign of this film was spent locally to support those affected - because unfortunately this programme is unlikely to have an impact.
metalbucketReviewed in the United Kingdom on 15 December 2020
3.0 out of 5 stars
Interesting then fizzled
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There's quite a bit of stock footage of Soviet nuclear testing which is really interesting. When it comes to the plight of people today in the villages around the testing sight, it's quite an unenviable life. You can imagine the scenario, life is grim, no-one really wants to help. The film spends a certain amount of time, way too much time, filming parts of a conference where the film maker was expecting to take the bull by the horns, grill the officials and solve everyone's problems. I won't reveal the result, suffice to say that's about the point the film really drops off a cliff.
Instant_mashReviewed in the United Kingdom on 07 June 2019
4.0 out of 5 stars
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The focus is on the human impact of nuclear testing from 1 test site. It doesn't really look at the bigger picture of nuclear weapons etc but it does clearly show the difference from what the government say to the actual reality for the residents.
I enjoyed the documentary but it won't be for everyone.
JimReviewed in the United Kingdom on 05 December 2017
5.0 out of 5 stars
How documentaries are meant to be made
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Eye-opening and extremely well approached and put together.
A must for people looking to gain as much knowledge on the subjects and occurences that our respective home nations are actively sweeping under the carpet.
2 people found this helpful
EjayReviewed in the United Kingdom on 22 July 2017
5.0 out of 5 stars
Must-see documentary about the lasting effects of nuclear tests
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A remarkable insight into a very remarkable people, who still live with the effects of Soviet nuclear bomb tests.
2 people found this helpful
Pete McDonaldReviewed in the United Kingdom on 13 June 2018
4.0 out of 5 stars
what an amazing country but what a legacy to have
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Another view of such a vast country I wasn't aware of. Having visited Karlag, basically a vast working prison, itself covering an area of over 17,000, what an amazing country but what a legacy to have.
Amazon KundeReviewed in the United Kingdom on 10 September 2020
5.0 out of 5 stars
Study of the Human Heart
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How can we help and support each other?
Watch from the poeple of Kazakhstan, that live with the enigma of nuclear poisoning.
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