HIROSHIMA — One of Kazakhstan’s leading singers hopes the power of music will help Japan’s antinuclear movement spread, just as her signature song became the symbol of a movement that forced the shutdown of a former Soviet nuclear test site in 1991.
The Soviet Union secretly conducted more than 450 nuclear tests over four decades from 1949 at its primary test site near Rymbayeva’s hometown of Semipalatinsk, now known as Semey, in northeastern Kazakhstan.
The singer says more than 1 million Kazakhs have been afflicted with various illnesses and disorders thought to have been caused by radiation exposure, including many of her relatives.
Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who shut down the Semipalatinsk test site in 1991, estimates that more than 1.5 million people have developed health problems as a result of radioactive contamination.
Rymbayeva was only a schoolgirl when the Soviets were testing their nuclear weapons at the Semipalatinsk facility.
“Nobody had any idea what was really happening” at the test site, she said. “So I was astonished to find out (later) that there was a closed facility where the military conducted nuclear tests.”
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◇ Music video of this song with Japanese subtitles (日本語の字幕スーパー付き）