A Mysterious Wasteland

One day in 1960, Lev Tumerman, a Soviet scientist who later emigrated to Israel, set off for home after visiting his brother. As he drove through a deserted region in the southern Ural Mountains, he passed a road sign warning motorists not to stop for the next 20 miles and to proceed as fast as possible. A little farther on he saw why. "To the right and to the left, as far as the eye could see," he later wrote, "there was empty land. The land was dead: no villages, no towns, only chimneys of destroyed homes, no cultivated fields or...

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