Chernobyl: The Worst Case Scenario

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.

Memorial event on the 30th anniversary of the Chernobyl accident held in Kiev (source)


10 thoughts on “Chernobyl: The Worst Case Scenario

  1. Brittany, I enjoyed learning about Chernobyl by reading your post. I did not know that the press reacted so slowly to warn the people. Did the government not release the information sooner out of fear? It is easily understandable as to why such an incident only decreased the people’s faith in the USSR, and increased the rate of its fall. Nice post.


  2. I liked reading your post on Chernobyl since the film we have been watching in class gives us an inside glimpse into the lives of the people who are illegally living within the evacuation zone. Chernobyl has always been an interesting case to me because of its implications for what could happen if a nuclear exchange between two countries ever does occur; the explosion was relatively minor compared to if a nuclear device went off, and I cannot begin to comprehend the level of destruction and decay that will occur when hundreds of bombs are used at once. The most we can do is pray that that time never comes! Thanks for writing on this topic!


  3. I still think it’s amazing that it took 3 weeks for the Soviet people to find out about this disaster. The film we’ve been watching in class really highlights the extent of the damage this incident caused at the ground level on top of the political level.


  4. I found this post interesting because it’s very interesting to consider all the separate happenings that eventually led to the demise of the Soviet Union. There are so many separate instances that one could consider (this being one of them) and it just goes to show that the Soviet Union was on a clear path to destruction.


  5. Your post shows us a reoccurring theme in Soviet politics of the government’s inability to inform the public of things happening in throughout the USSR. It should not have taken three weeks for a pubic statement, especially when something so devastating happens, that effects many lives. You also made a good point when you talked about how the government tried to play down how serious the event was, when the area is still dangerous to this day.


  6. I really enjoyed your post and I think you did a great job of highlighting how Gorbachev was unable to properly handle this situation. The article that you used from the Russian Press really shows how much the government wanted to “brush this under the rug.” Great post!


  7. I think you touched on a lot of good points, especially the Soviet government’s public response to the accident. I’ve always wondered how or if they were able to deceive most of the USSR, considering that there were so many witnesses who knew otherwise. You made a good point that it really shows the desperation that the government was in, that it couldn’t own up to its mistakes.


  8. I also chose to write about Chernobyl and like you had mentioned it was astonishing the level at which the media presented the disaster as well as how long it took for Gorbachev to address the nation. Gorbachev’s credibility took a major blow when he then had to back pedal from his statements about the severity and the efforts being made to correct them.


  9. I completely agree with your conclusion that the incident at Chernobyl was a contributing factor to the fall of the Soviet Union. It showed weakness, lack of control, and lack of organization among many things. I feel for the people who were victims of the Chernobyl explosion, and only time and research will bring light to the dangers of exposure to nuclear radiation. Great post!


  10. Good Post! I think that this event definitely contributed to the fall of the Soviet Union. It wasn’t just the accident and the damages that hindered the USSR, but it was the lack of trust that resulted. The authorities lied to the public for weeks and when the truth came out, they fundamentally lost the trust that is necessary between a government and the people for a country to function.


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