In April of 1986, the people of Chernobyl, Ukraine begun an era irreversible suffering. On the 26th of the month, the local nuclear power reactor experienced an extreme explosion as a result of a power surge. The event, to this day, is considered the worst nuclear accident to ever occur worldwide.
As radioactive dust quickly spread throughout the neighboring territories, the Kremlin offered no official announcement or warning of the accident. It wasn’t until 3 weeks after that Gorbachev addressed the public (Siegelbaum). “Authorities evacuated some forty thousand people from the town of Pripyat closest to the accident. Thirty-eight people were killed instantly as a result of the accident, and it has been claimed — though not confirmed — that as many as 100,000 subsequently died or suffered severe harms to their health from radiation” (Siegelbaum).
The nuclear science of the time may not have been what it is today, but the ignorance with which even the press “informed” the public is astonishing. In May of 1986, the Russian press had released an article claiming that, “the nuclear reaction as such ended immediately, and there has been no resumption of it. Now it’s only a matter of a residual and extremely insignificant heat release from the nuclear fuel.”
For them to be making such bold statements only 1 month after the accident truly shows how desperate Gorbachev was to grab on to any sort of order/control of the people as he could. Especially considering it is now roughly 30 years since the incident and the few people that still live in the area are documenting radiation and the accompanying symptoms. The communist regime was falling and this extreme accident only assisted the momentum with which it fell.