Дом культуры “ЭНЕРГЕТИК” (House of Culture Energetik) in Pripyat cared for the bodies and souls of the residents, offering a gym hall, boxing ring, a swimming pool, a theatre hall, a telephone exchange* and the local propaganda office.
The Russian term Дом культуры (pronounced dom cooltory) is often translated as “Palace of Culture”, even though Дом literally means a “house”. Both terms were used in the Soviet Union however the House was often simply smaller, located in a lesser town or village.
Palace of Culture is the Eastern European equivalent of a Community Centre and you’ll find them in almost every city and town east from the German border. Subsidised by local councils and often the state it was a centre of the social life in the Soviet Union, with gyms, art classes, chess clubs and some compulsory propaganda thrown in since The Party membership was pretty much a requirement for the job.
Two memorable reminders of the long gone empire stands today in the theatre hall. Mikhail Gorbachev’s portrait and the “CCCP 60” canvas installed there in 1982 to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.
The time in the Energetik hasn’t stopped in April 1986 like it has in many other public places in the Chernobyl Zone. The final major event in the Palace was the trial of the plant operators and managers. Shift engineers became the scapegoats for the poorly designed, documented and managed power plant while designers and politicians who approved a inherently flawed and potentially deadly reactor were left without any charges.
*phone lines in the Soviet states were scarce, ordinary citizens often had to wait for many years to have a one installed in their house (if at all). During the most intense political turmoils all calls were monitored by the political police and any long-distance or international calls had to be booked in advance. The request would be processed at the local exchange and if approved, you’d receive a call-back with the operator manually connecting connecting you to the right number. I highly recommend watching the brilliant movie “The Lives of Others” if you’re interested in this subject.