Television

HBO's Chernobyl Presents Catastrophic History as Horror

A miniseries about the deadly nuclear disaster that marked the doom of the Soviet Union

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Chernobyl. HBO. Monday, May 6, 9 p.m.

In the sepulchral darkness underneath the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, where poisoned water from the wrecked water-cooling tanks swirls madly to and fro and radioactive steam has burned out the lights, three technicians wade through the basement. They've volunteered to manually open water pipes that may—may—keep the plant's reactor from a complete meltdown, but they can barely see where they're going amid the superheated detritus of the nuclear core. When the killer radiation burns out the last of their flashlights, the darkness turns total and suffocating, broken only by the sound of their Geiger counters, rising from a clickety-clack to a hellish roar.

That scene from HBO's Chernobyl miniseries is more terrifying than anything I've seen in a horror movie in decades. Or maybe not, because Chernobyl really is a horror movie: not just about errant technology, but also a maleficent portrait of an ideology that denies the existence of error.

As scary as the scene in the waters under the reactor is, the signature moment in Chernobyl may be a meeting among Communist Party bosses in the hours immediately after the explosion. One of the bureaucrats expresses doubt about the official insistence that radiation from the shattered plant is contained, even though outside, firemen and medical workers are writhing in their own blood and vomit. A senior apparatchik glares him down.

"Our faith in Soviet socialism will always be rewarded," says the party elder. "Have faith, comrades." It is not a suggestion.

The explosion of the Chernobyl reactor on April 26, 1986, was the start of one of the greatest man-made calamities in the history of the planet. The explosion of the reactor spewed so much radioactive fallout that more than a thousand square miles of the former Soviet Union remains abandoned to this day.

Somewhere between 4,000 and 93,000 people, depending on whose estimate you accept, died as a result of Chernobyl. (Except in the official annals of Soviet doublespeak, where the death toll is just 31.) Some Russian leaders—among them Mikhail Gorbachev, the last Soviet president—say the casualty list should include the Soviet Union itself, which within five years had vanished from the planet.

Producer and screenwriter Craig Mazin's remarkable script doesn't go quite that far in terms of either chronology or political implication. But it's a chillingly powerful mosaic of the catastrophe, from its technical origins in pathological Soviet secrecy to the exorbitant toll it continued to exact on innocent people all over the country long after the reactor was contained.

That mosaic is assembled from the interlocking stories of about a dozen (mostly real; many doomed) characters, ranging from techs to physicists, firemen to soldiers. The backbone of the narrative is the tale of nuclear engineer Valery Legaslov (Jared Harris, The Crown) and deputy prime minister Boris Shcherbina (Stellan Skarsgard, River), an unlikely duo paired as investigators in the first hours after the explosion.

Legaslov is already skeptical about the official line that things in Chernobyl are under control; Shcherbina, like most senior party officials, believes the company line. "I prefer my opinion to yours," he sneers to Legaslov, who retorts: "I'm a nuclear physicist. Before your present position, you worked in a show factory."

Surprisingly, they wind up working well together, and Shcherbina swings around to become an effective advocate within the party for drastic action to mute the effects of the reactor.

By the time they learn that some Soviet scientists were aware of the defect that caused the Chernobyl explosion but were silenced by the government Shcherbina isn't even surprised, just worried that the increasingly unhinged Legaslov will get them jailed or shot. "That went surprisingly well," he tells Legaslov after one confrontation with party bosses. "You came off like a naive idiot. Naive idiots are not a threat."

Legaslov, Shcherbina, and another physicist, Ula Khomyuk (a composite character played by Emily Watson, Angela's Ashes) are heroic in their defiance of the Soviet government's willful blindness.

But Mazin's script finds courage in his other story threads, too: firefighters who charge on to the surface of the reactor even though their shoes are melting; a wife of a victim of radiation poisoning, committing slow-motion suicide by refusing to leave him to die alone.

There's a group of coal miners who know their mission—they've been ordered to tunnel into the reactor to help clean it up—will have a lethal conclusion but press on anyway. When they're not stripped naked to wield their shovels in the fierce underground heat, they're cracking mordant anti-communist jokes:

"What's as big as a house, burns 20 meters of fuel every hour, puts out a shitload of smoke and noise, and cuts an apple into three pieces? A Soviet machine made to cut apples into four pieces."

Mazin's script treats the Soviet state with a scalding, contemptuous rage not seen in Hollywood productions since the early days of the Cold War. After decades of systematic starvation, forced relocations and bloody purges, ordinary citizens are so cynical about their government that they assume the order to evacuate the diseased farmland around Chernobyl is just one more mindless act of repression.

Yet their fear of the West is real enough as well. More than once, in the moments after the explosion, somebody asks: "The Americans?" Chernobyl the TV show is a painful reminder that Chernobyl the cataclysm could have been inflicted thousands of times around the world, not accidentally but on purpose. And the surreal scenes of Soviet conscripts fitting themselves with lead diapers to protect their testicles from radiation as they roamed the vast quarantined area with rifles, shooting abandoned, contaminated family pets, could have happened here, too, the world ending with a bang and a whimper.

NEXT: Facebook Has Every Right To Ban Louis Farrakhan and Alex Jones. But It's Still a Bad Idea.

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  1. Any idea how much is this is actual true facts? Dialog, specific incidents, actions, etc?

    1. There’s a part in Slaughterhouse-Five, where a retired general is in a hospital bed going over the notes for his biography in which he’s defending his order to firebomb Dresden. The facts are all precise (in the real world), and his arguments are clear and persuasive. Laying in the next hospital bed over is someone who was actually on the ground as an American POW during the bombing of Dresden. He becomes unstuck in time and goes back to when he was in a forced work detail cleaning up the bodies in the aftermath of the bombing–a completely fictional account. It’s hard to miss the observation that if the firebombing of Dresden was wrong, it was wrong for reasons that accurate statistics can’t fully express.

      I was thinking about that, again, in the Civil War thread, about slavery. How why slavery was wrong or what it felt like for a non-slavery owner to have his farm burned to the ground by Sheridan’s troops in the Shenandoah Valley can’t really be completely conveyed by numbers and arguments. Add people living in the shadow of Chernobyl. I remember when it finally hit the news that radioactive smoke had been pouring out of the building for days before the Soviets would even admit there had been an accident.

      Talk about life imitating art! It was like the people who died of asphyxiation in the train tunnel in Atlas Shrugged come to life. It felt like one of Ayn Rand’s nightmares come to life. Same kind of thing is happening in Venezuela right now. We won’t fully understand why what Venezuela did to its people was so wrong until somebody captures it in fiction. Animal Farm has references to real people and real events, but the pure fiction of 1984 makes us more than feel the wrongness of totalitarianism.

      1. I remember that scene vividly. Colonel Rumfoord keeps talking about Dresden, and Billy Pilgrim (whom Rumfoord describes to his 23-year-old girlfriend as a “vegetable”) keeps repeating “I was there.” At first Rumfoord, a Harvard professor, accuses Billy of having echolalia. When he finally determines that Billy isn’t simply repeating what he hears, Rumfoord discounts him anyway because Billy was only a grunt soldier rather than an officer or an academic. However, I’m not sure what you mean by “a completely fictional account.” Kurt Vonnegut was a POW in Dresden at the time of the firebombing. The book’s horrible details definitely aren’t fictional. Also, I don’t believe Vonnegut has any doubt that the firebombing of Dresden was wrong. Billy Pilgrim may, but that’s because the character doesn’t consistently speak for Vonnegut any more than Huckleberry Finn consistently speaks for Mark Twain.

        1. I was just going from memory, and my point was that Slaughterhouse-Five is fiction. I appreciate that the horrible things he describes in his fictional account of the aftermath were truly horrible. However, I believe he really is contrasting his fictional account of why the bombing was was awful with the numbers and facts of the guy in the hospital bed next to him. The sense of horror and depersonalization one feels in 1984 (another fictional account of something that really happened in the Soviet Union) is an integral part of what is wrong with totalitarianism.

          I couldn’t help but think of that when I read someone asking about whether the stuff in the series really happened at Chernobyl. A dry documentary with the facts and statistics couldn’t convey the truth if the truth is couched in hopelessness, powerlessness, dread, horror, and living in a system where speaking the truth could get you sent to the gulag and not speaking the truth means that thousands more will die horrible deaths. There’s a paradox in there somewhere about how only giving people the facts gives people only part of the truth–maybe the less important part.

          Isn’t Stalin supposed to have said something once about how a single death is a tragedy, but a million is a statistic? That’s bullshit of course, but that’s the way it comes across when we restrict ourselves to statistics. To get the tragedy of of a million single deaths across, we probably need to go to fiction.

  2. The explosion of the Chernobyl reactor on April 26, 1986, was the start of one of the greatest man-made calamities in the history of the planet.

    Only if you don’t count the Soviet Union itself as one of the greatest man-made calamities in the history of the planet. Along with dozens and dozens of other failed experiments in the theory of We Know Better Than You What’s For Your Own Good. You start including government and Chernobyl doesn’t even make the Top 100.

    1. I think the point is that Chernobyl itself wouldn’t have been possible without the Soviet Union. I remember the news telling us at the time that Soviet nuclear plants don’t require those big round containment structures we put around our reactors–because Soviet reactors are so safe! In the Soviet Union, they don’t run reactors for profit, so they don’t have to worry about what happens when the reactor fails. They can design the reactors so that they will never fail without having to worry about cost!

      They didn’t move people out of Chernobyl for more than a day after the accident because no one wanted to admit there was a problem.

      That’s the Soviet Union.

      That culture outlasted the Cold War to some extent.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kursk_submarine_disaster

      Putin left 118 sailors to die in a submarine rather than ask the west for help. He finally took the Norwegians up on their offer after five days, but it was too late.

      That is soooooooooo against American culture. Rmember during the Gulf Oil Spill? People were so pissed off at Obama because they just couldn’t get the fucking thing closed. The response to Katrina was seen like that, too. Nobody cares what the proper procedure is for declaring a state of emergency, President Bush. Get those people in the dome out of there.

      1. I seem to recall learning Chernobyl was graphite-cooled rather than water-cooled. The design was flawed in the sense it was inherently less safe.

        And yet Chernobyl is still often brought up as an argument for why it’s best not to even consider modern nuclear power these days. You might was well argue against driving a brand new Tesla by citing the track record of 1950s Ford Edsels.

        1. To some extent, people are putting too much faith in regulators and government to protect them. I’ve heard Fukushima blamed on an inadequate risk assessment.

          Locals are trusting government and safety regulators not to be colonized by rent seekers–and that’s a bad bet. We’re taking experts at their word, whether they’re for or against any particular plan. I’m not about to become an expert on the risks of nuclear power.

          Last I checked, the plant at San Onofre is still closed. I know California is riddled with earthquake faults all along its coast, but I don’t really know whether the risk is substantial or whether the electricity output and cost savings justify the risk.

          We’re not as bad as the Soviets were during the Cold War, but I don’t know that I trust something is safe over the long run just because our bureaucrats say so either. Actually, the fact that some serious environmentalists are now pushing nuclear as a solution to global warming makes me even less confident in the bureaucrats than I used to be. Now they’re looking at the risk of a disaster relative to their certainty of disaster by climate change?

          I have more faith in markets to find better and cheaper ways to make and store electricity in a capitalist system than I do in government bureaucrats to make the right decisions about whether reactors are safe, whether they’re well located properly, etc.

          I was listening to the CEO of Beyond Meat the other day talking about how his vegetable based product uses a fraction of the water necessary to make a pound of hamburger and 93% less land. Farmers originally swapped to tractors because before tractors, they had to devote a large portion of their land to hay in order to feed horses and oxen. Buying a tractor meant you could grow cash crops on the land instead of hay. Those are the kinds of innovations we get with capitalism.

          Finding ways to do the same thing with less energy is like that. That’s one of the reasons why capitalism is the solution to global warming. It isn’t just about finding new ways to make electricity. It’s also about finding ways to do the same thing using less resources (like energy) than we did before. There must be some point where energy demand drops to the point where the benefits of a nuclear power plant no longer justify the risk of a nuclear disaster.

          That’s the legitimate anti-nuke policy to me. If we want to get rid of nuclear power, we should embrace capitalism.

          1. “capitalism is the solution to global warming.”

            Nope.
            It may be the solution to pollution, or other forms of environmental degradation, but humans aren’t “solving” global warming or climate change or whatever you want to call it.
            The way you talk, you’ve already lost.

            1. IF IF IF climate change due to our use of fossil fuels were, in fact, a catastrophic threat to our well being, then finding better ways to do the same things with less energy would be a legitimate part of the solution–and capitalism really is the best way to achieve that outcome. I don’t see any good reason to believe that isn’t true, and I don’t see why a capitalist would want to believe it isn’t true.

              1. It seems you deliberately missed the point there.
                Sure, capitalism is the best route toward finding alternatives and is laudable.
                But your “IF IF IF…” needs to be thrown right the f out in this case.
                The climate change hoax (not theory, hoax) doesn’t pass tests of logic or basic physics.
                If you cede ground there, you’ve already lost to global socialism. It’s then just a matter of time.

                1. Feel free to substitute the words ‘scam’ or ‘excuse’ for ‘hoax’ if you’d like

                2. Oh look, a flat earther in the wild. No one with two brain cells to rub together believes your nonsense, just like they don’t believe actual flat earthers claiming to be backed up by “tests of logic” or “basic physics”.
                  All you guys have to do is disprove the mountain of data and research that has been collected over more than a century. Instead you hold up claims the science never made as examples of the science being wrong, attribute climate scientist status to people who aren’t even any kind of scientist, fabricate scandals, manipulate or outright fabricate quotes, make absurd claims about the science after reading no further than the title of a paper, and all sorts of other dishonest and scientifically illiterate shenanigans.
                  And you demonstrate your own mental failings by being unable to separate insane non-solutions from the problem they ostensibly intend to solve. A proposal to put out a house fire with gasoline or a mime routine doesn’t make the house fire a hoax.

      2. They actually kept them in Pripyat for about three days. It was not a universally supported decision and Gorbachev made plenty of idiotic decisions when given the chance to do so.

        Ironically, it was actually the best move as, for most of that time, they were in a bubble where most of the radiation had either shot over them or hadn’t reached them yet. They were radioactive, to say the least, but they were in a bubble of less radiation than other places.

        The fear of a second, far worse explosion was a much bigger concern and they kept that shit under wraps tight as hell for a long time. Or that it was spewing out radiation about as badly as the initial explosion for weeks. Or that people like the firefighters called had no idea what was wrong and would kick the GRAPHITE PARTS OF THE CORE out of the way while doing they’re job.

        Terrifying thought: The amount of time elapsed between when they realized they had a real problem and the reactor blew up was about 40 seconds. It happened really damned quick.

    2. OK, one of the greatest localized calamities.

  3. Somewhere between 4,000 and 93,000 people, depending on whose estimate you accept, died as a result of Chernobyl. (Except in the official annals of Soviet doublespeak, where the death toll is just 31.)

    Since the estimates claiming 4k-93K deaths are all dependent on estimates of increases in cancer deaths many of which haven’t even happened yet, and wont be directly attributable to the Chernobyl incident when/if they do happen, I’ll take the 31 as the most reliable estimate. 2 deaths directly from the immediate blast and 31 confirmed deaths from radiation sickness.

    While many things can be statistically shown to be cancer risks, turning that around and positively determining the specific cause of any specific cancerous tumor remains an impossibility.

    1. I don’t think there is anything wrong with making an estimate of how many people’s lives were likely shortened because of it. But it should be made clear when citing such a number that it is a statistical estimate and not an actual death toll.

      1. Good point. But none of the people who throw those numbers out, do not explain that they are “projections”. Not provable or falsifiable. At all.

        They just want to terrify as many people as they can.

    2. “Since the estimates claiming 4k-93K deaths are all dependent on estimates of increases in cancer deaths many of which haven’t even happened yet, and wont be directly attributable to the Chernobyl incident when/if they do happen, I’ll take the 31 as the most reliable estimate. 2 deaths directly from the immediate blast and 31 confirmed deaths from radiation sickness.
      While many things can be statistically shown to be cancer risks, turning that around and positively determining the specific cause of any specific cancerous tumor remains an impossibility.”

      Shame on me for not keeping the cite on file, but the ‘projected cancer deaths’ are based on a formula with and actual proper name; plug in the number actually dead and some other data, and out comes the ‘projected cancer deaths’.
      Great, except, like the predicted temperature increases in climate change, it has never once produced numbers anywhere close to the results, and whoever wrote the critique used Chernoble as one of the examples.
      Somebody here recommended the book “Factfulness”; it is important (and horribly written). The author points out that at Fukushima something like hundreds of people died, and not a one of them from radiation.

    3. And then there is this- https://thebabushkasofchernobyl.com/ . Why are these relatively healthy people (estimates are abut 300) living to a ripe, old age living and eating food caught and grown there?

    4. I think pretending that radiation exposure shouldn’t be correlated with an increased risk of cancer is taking denialism too far. I’m not sure why you’d want to pretend such a thing. Is it because you oppose anything environmentalists support so you just question everything they say–no matter what?

      Because the precise magnitude of the results is hard to establish doesn’t mean that a direct relationship between radiation exposure and cancer can’t be established. I don’t know precisely how many people who will die of cancer will die because of the radiation exposure, but being exposed to that amount of radiation is positively correlated with higher cancer rates anyway.

      People do survive bullet wounds. It’s a statistic that’s easier to quantify. If it were harder to quantify, like cancer rates, would you pretend that being shot isn’t positively correlated with more death? Let’s not miss the forest for the trees.

      1. Ken, here’s the issue:

        At some level, increased exposure to ionizing radiation increases cancer risk. However, the exact nature of that relationship is highly debatable. The so-called linear dose response models take data primarily from Hiroshima and Nagasaki and extrapolate linearly down to low doses; but there’s a fair amount of evidence that the body’s response to ionizing radiation is far from linear, and the linear dose response models drastically overestimate the incidence of radiation-induced cancer at relatively low dose levels.

        As an example, airline pilots and flight attendants have no higher incidence of cancer than the population at large; same for the people living in the Rockies. Both populations get significantly more exposure to ionizing radiation due to spending substantial time with less atmospheric attenuation of cosmic rays, but it doesn’t seem to make a discernible difference.

        I’m disappointed with Garvin for including that wide range of numbers, especially considering that the wilder estimates are almost certainly way wrong and politically motivated. Amazingly enough, Slate actually has a reasonably good treatment that Gravin should have linked to: https://slate.com/technology/2013/04/chernobyl-death-toll-how-many-cancer-cases-are-caused-by-low-level-radiation.html

        1. I appreciate that the correlation may not be linear. I hope you appreciate that 31 deaths from Chernobyl is probably not the most reliable estimate. Incidentally, if you plan to be out in the sun for an extended period of time, it’s a good idea to use sunscreen.

          I think sometimes our disgust with the left for using “science” as a justification for socialism and elitists using experts to justify micromanaging our lives can tempt us to question some really basic stuff that, maybe, doesn’t really need to be questioned. That radiation exposure should be avoided because of the risk of cancer seems a likely candidate.

      2. “I think pretending that radiation exposure shouldn’t be correlated with an increased risk of cancer is taking denialism too far.”

        My comment had nothing to with pretending that radiation exposure shouldn’t be correlated with an increased risk of cancer.

        However:

        1. There is not one person on the Earth, including the 29 who died of radiation sickness at Chernobyl whose only radiation exposure is from Chernobyl.
        2. There will never be 1 single instance of cancer that can be attributed specifically to radiation postmortem, much less specifically to radiation from Chernobyl.
        3. The computer models that are used to generate increases in cancer rates from singular, localized radiation events like Chernobyl are wholly untested, and in point of fact are untestable. We will never be able to know for sure if they have any basis in reality or are simply exercises in confirmation bias. In my opinion, the numbers they generate are pure fantasy with zero credibility.

        1. I forgot.
          4. Even if someone gets cancer specifically from the Chernobyl radiation, that doesn’t equate to the cancer being their cause of death. Even someone with an untreatable terminal cancer could manage to die from an unrelated cause before the cancer kills them.

          1. Everything we learn from the scientific method is limited by the quality of available evidence. Making generalizations and testing them from incomplete data isn’t a violation of the scientific method. It’s what the scientific method is all about.

            Sure, question the quality of the data. No one is saying that there isn’t any uncertainty at all in this or any other conclusions derived from the scientific method. As more data of better quality becomes available, more of that uncertainty will fade–but it will never go away entirely because the possibility that new data will become available in the future that conflicts with the conclusions we drew from the data we had before will never go away. Science isn’t truth. It’s a method to minimize uncertainty as much as is reasonably possible given the limitations of the data.

            Of course, none of this means that scientific conclusions from limited data amid uncertainty are unreasonable. The question is what the available data reasonably suggests–given its limitations.

            From the available evidence, even if the magnitude of the correlation is uncertain, there is no good reason to doubt that radiation exposure is positively correlated with cancer. The fact that any one instance isn’t necessarily attributable to a specific incident of radiation exposure doesn’t bring the positive correlation between radiation exposure and death into doubt either–not if the entire population taken as a whole shows a correlation.

            If someone dies of cancer prematurely (from the statistical standpoint given demographics, epidemiology statistics, etc.), then, given the positive correlation between radiation exposure and cancer, surely it would be unreasonable to presume that the huge dose of radiation they received courtesy of Chernobyl wasn’t a contributing factor.

            Meanwhile, like I said, if you plan to be out in the sun for long periods of time, using sunscreen is a good idea. Isn’t it?

            1. Matthew is only here to disagree with all the articles.

              I admire your effort to cure him of his problems with denial, but you’re wasting your time.

  4. “Mazin’s script treats the Soviet state with a scalding, contemptuous rage not seen in Hollywood productions since the early days of the Cold War.”

    Which is really surprising to anyone who listens to the Scriptnotes podcast he does with John August where he frequently howls his utter contempt for anyone to the left of Marx. Apparently he was a college roommate of Ted Cruz’s and would rage endlessly on Twitter about it, even bashing Cruz’s wife in a tirade relating running into him at a reunion. (Of course he considers himself not to be a hard Leftist ideologue because Leftist ideologues never do.)

    Coincidentally, I was just catching up on my Scriptnotes backlog not an hour ago and in an episode from Nov. 2018 they were doing their “How Is This A Movie” segment and two of the stories were specifically bashing Trump supporters and they gleefully laughed at how silly those dummies are, one being from Talking Points Memo lead hack Josh Marshall. They even had a mini-podcast the day after the Election to weep about Bad Orange Man winning with August mournfully talking about how he and his husband woke their daughter up to watch the returns from their temporary home in Paris because Hillary was about to Make History, only to have to console her that Bad Orange Man had won and now she was endangered because she was a female.

    So for Mazin to be showing the Communists in a bad light while he’s probably lining his silk boxers with photos of Bernie Sanders is pretty weird.

  5. One of the bureaucrats expresses doubt about the official insistence that radiation from the shattered plant is contained, even though outside, firemen and medical workers are writhing in their own blood and vomit. A senior apparatchik glares him down.

    “Our faith in Soviet socialism will always be rewarded,” says the party elder. “Have faith, comrades.” It is not a suggestion.

    There’s no faith like socialist faith.

    1. I’ve read plenty on Chernobyl and, from what I’ve read, nobody denied that radiation leaked. They definitely vastly understated how MUCH was released (a massive understatement as the amount released was more than significant). And they changed the reporting requirements for radiation exposure to partially reduce death counts.

  6. Well, I guess I should watch it as long as I have HBO to watch stupid Game Of Thrones.

    1. Watch Veep.
      Still haven’t watched Death of Stalin, definitely on my list, but Armando Ianucci knows how to skewer progressives.
      I’m catching up on season 6 of Veep now. Its amazing.

      1. If you like Veep, try ‘The Thick of It’. It’s british, and is the show Veep is based on.

  7. The technology wasn’t errant. Human beings purposely pushed the reactor beyond it’s limits knowing full well that there could be a melt down. The government didn’t care about the people or the environment. All those Greenies and neo-socialists who think this type of government who will safe Mother Earth need to know that.

    1. The reactor they used in Chernobyl actually had a massive flaw where an attempt to shut it down could generate a positive reaction increasing the power being generated. There’s a reason nobody outside of Eastern Europe used that design for reactors.

      Even if the people running the turbine test did it perfectly — good chance the result would have been identical.

  8. Some Russian leaders—among them Mikhail Gorbachev, the last Soviet president—say the casualty list should include the Soviet Union itself, which within five years had vanished from the planet.

    Any Ukrainian of a certain age will tell that the day Moscow made the children of Kyiv march in the May Day parade knowing that there was a cloud of radioactivity passing through the city was the day that they decided they had had enough of the Soviet Union. It was definitely the beginning of the end.

    1. The leader of the Ukrainian Communist Party was livid that Gorbachev forced him to do the parade.

  9. Socialists in Russia, Ukraine, and the USA always seek to minimize the horrors of Socialism.

    Much of the Western World was not even aware of the Chernobyl meltdown until radiation detectors in Sweden went off like mad.

    Then years later, the Socialists of Russia left Ukraine to deal with the problem and now have invaded the Eastern part of the Ukraine.

    1. I believe Ukraine left the Socialists.

  10. Sort of an inconvenient truth for the Green commies — letting the government run everything leads to environmental catastrophe.

    1. I believe a lot of China’s environmental problems are due to a lack of property rights on land and people’s inability to protect their property against party and army interests. If a corporation pollutes your property in the U.S., the courts will make the company in question compensate you, and companies bend over backwards to avoid polluting other people’s property for fear of the liability. In China, if a company owned and operated by former members of the CCP or PLA pollutes your property, you get an invitation to go fuck yourself. I defy anyone on the left to show that there’s a better defense against standard pollution than private property and a court system that protects it.

    2. It’s obvious when you travel around eastern Europe. A government system that doesn’t respect human life isn’t going to respect the environment.

  11. […] Adds Reason.com’s Glenn Garvin: “Producer and screenwriter Craig Mazin’s remarkable script doesn’t go quite that far in terms of either chronology or political implication. But it’s a chillingly powerful mosaic of the catastrophe, from its technical origins in pathological Soviet secrecy to the exorbitant toll it continued to exact on innocent people all over the country long after the reactor was contained.” […]

  12. […] Adds Reason.com’s Glenn Garvin: “Producer and screenwriter Craig Mazin’s remarkable script doesn’t go quite that far in terms of either chronology or political implication. But it’s a chillingly powerful mosaic of the catastrophe, from its technical origins in pathological Soviet secrecy to the exorbitant toll it continued to exact on innocent people all over the country long after the reactor was contained.” […]

  13. And the surreal scenes of Soviet conscripts fitting themselves with lead diapers to protect their testicles from radiation as they roamed the vast quarantined area with rifles, shooting abandoned, contaminated family pets, could have happened here, too

    What!? No, it couldn’t. Could there have been nuclear accident here? Sure. If one happened could it have been as severe and badly handled? Extremely unlikely because…you know…we don’t have a repressive communist regime that silences and imprisons its critics. There would have no U.S. conscripts in makeshift lead diapers because A) we don’t actually have conscripts and, B) for all it’s faults, the U.S. military certainly isn’t known for scrimping on military hardware. And remind me — were there conscripts in lead diapers wandering about shooting dogs around Fukushima?

    Or…wait…was this (now seemingly obligatory) ‘to be sure’ paragraph a sly bit of retro ‘moral equivalence’?

    1. Right. This isn’t a show about the dangers of nuclear power. It’s a show about the dangers of statism.

  14. […] be sure, The Federalist and Reason published reviews highlighting the overt theme of the work. “Chernobyl” is an indictment of a […]

  15. […] be sure, The Federalist and Reason published reviews highlighting the overt theme of the work. “Chernobyl” is an indictment of a […]

  16. Holy fuck this article is inaccurate.

    “Legaslov is already skeptical about the official line that things in Chernobyl are under control; Shcherbina, like most senior party officials, believes the company line. “I prefer my opinion to yours,” he sneers to Legaslov, who retorts: “I’m a nuclear physicist. Before your present position, you worked in a show factory.””

    Those aren’t even the right characters in the scene you moron!

    All of that dialog was between the fictional character Ulana Khomyuk and some party official named Garanin.

    1. “They’ve volunteered to manually open water pipes that may—may—keep the plant’s reactor from a complete meltdown, but they can barely see where they’re going amid the superheated detritus of the nuclear core.”

      No.

      They went down to manually open the sluice gates to drain the ~7000m3 of water that had collected underneath the melting core, because had the core hit that water, it would’ve created a devastatingly massive explosion by instantly vaporizing that water.

      It had nothing to do with preventing a meltdown, because the core was already in meltdown status.

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