During the early morning on April 26, 1986, one of the most significant and influential moments of the last 40 years occurred at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. During a test, the plant’s no. 4 reactor completely exploded, allowing radiation to escape and spread across northern Ukraine along with the rest of Europe.
Following the explosion, many around the world, both in and out of the Soviet Union, wanted to know who was responsible for the disaster. The blame, at least legally speaking, was placed upon three individuals: deputy chief engineer Anatoly Dyatlov, chief Chernobyl engineer Nikolai Fomin, and plant manager Viktor Bryukhanov (Doyle). Each was convicted and sentenced to 10 years in prison, but Dylatov received the majority of the blame as he was directly responsible for overseeing the test on the night of the disaster (Doyle). Moreover, he scared the workers into completing their tasks by threatening to fire them and dismissing any of their concerns. While these three individuals were directly liable for the disaster occurring, they were not the only people who received blame as many within the Soviet government faced accusations about the coverup and delayed response. The fact that Pripyat, the closest major city to Chernobyl, was not immediately evacuated is a travesty that most likely cost hundreds of thousands of lives. Off of this, it also took Mikhail Gorbachev three weeks to finally appear on television to report to the public about what had happened (Siegelbaum). The most obvious example of the government’s cover-up, at least in my opinion, is the fact that they never really bothered to keep track of how many people died as a result of this disaster. Officially, only 50 people can be directly attributed to the reactor’s explosion, however, estimations put the deaths in the thousands (Gray).
Ultimately, the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl had far greater ramifications than the Soviet government may have initially lead on. It can be directly credited as one of the main reasons for Gorbachev’s desire to “reverse the nuclear arms race” (Freeze, 457) along with his support for genuine glasnost (Siegelbaum). Furthermore, it has forever tarnished nuclear power as many countries and leaders around the world point towards this event as to why this energy source should not be trusted. Lastly, if you want to watch a short, but great, mini-series, I highly recommend HBO’s Chernobyl.
Cole, Brendan. “Chernobyl Engineer Says HBO Show Is Full of Russian ‘‘Vodka’ and ‘KGB’ Stereotypes.” Newsweek, Newsweek, 15 June 2019, www.newsweek.com/blatant-lie-chernobyl-engineer-says-hbo-show-full-russian-vodka-kgb-stereotypes-1443547.
Dobbs, Michael. “CHERNOBYL’S ‘SHAMELESS LIES’.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 27 Apr. 1992, www.washingtonpost.com/archive/politics/1992/04/27/chernobyls-shameless-lies/96230408-084a-48dd-9236-e3e61cbe41da/.
Doyle, Liam. “Chernobyl Disaster: Who Was to Blame for Chernobyl?” Express.co.uk, Express.co.uk, 24 June 2019, www.express.co.uk/news/science/1144072/chernobyl-disaster-explained-who-was-to-blame-for-chernobyl.
Freeze, Gregory L. Russia: a History. Oxford University Press, 2009.
Gray, Richard. “The True Toll of the Chernobyl Disaster.” BBC Future, BBC, 26 July 2019, www.bbc.com/future/article/20190725-will-we-ever-know-chernobyls-true-death-toll.
Siegelbaum, Lewis. Meltdown in Chernobyl. 2 Sept. 2015, soviethistory.msu.edu/1985-2/meltdown-in-chernobyl/.