Excuse me while I have a quick meltdown

While I may be experiencing some quick meltdowns as graduation rapidly approaches….that’s not the meltdown I’m talking about today. I suppose it wasn’t quick either. The meltdown at the Chernobyl nuclear reactor in 1986 is still affecting life in Russia today.

A surge of power caused the number 4 reactor at the nuclear facility to explode and remains the worst nuclear accident in world history (Siegelbaum). As many as 100,000 citizens may have died or suffered severely due to the effects of radiation (Siegelbaum). A political commenter, for the Russian newspaper Izvestia, wrote in 1986,

“On our television screens, we have seen only a small part of the pictures that they will keep in their memories for the rest of their lives. Shots taken from a helicopter — the deserted settlement near the atomic power station, the bright new homes, the straight streets, the absence of people” (Kondrashov).

This quote made me think of 9/11 and other disasters the US has faced, as a nation we watched through television screens and felt the pain as one. The meltdown at Chernobyl was an ache in the heart of Russia. Not only was Chernobyl an emotional wound for Russia though, it would have its impact in economics and politics.

These deaths were not only impactful to the family members of the lost, but also to Russia at large. Cleaning up the mess cost Russia billions of rubles….which was not great for the faltering Soviet economy (Siegelbaum). Another large impact was the distrust that it created in the Russian public towards the Kremlin and the government. After the disaster it was nearly impossible to find out what was going on, Gorbachev did not address the situation until 3 weeks after the disaster (Siegelbaum).

Imagine if our country had not been given information on 9/11 or a similar disaster…imagine the rumors…the chaos…the call for new politicians. Five years later the Soviet Union would collapse and the financial, political and social implications of the Chernobyl disaster certainly played their part in the fall.

Kondrashov, Stanislav. (1986). “Thinking About Chernobyl”. Izvestia. https://dlib.eastview.com/browse/doc/19991354 Accessed April 29, 2018

Photo: Unknown Artist. (1986) “Chernobyl Blast Zone”. http://soviethistory.msu.edu/1985-2/meltdown-in-chernobyl/meltdown-in-chernobyl-images/#bwg206/1016  Accessed April 29, 2018

Siegelbaum, Lewis. “Meltdown in Chernobyl”  Soviethistory.MSU.edu  http://soviethistory.msu.edu/1985-2/meltdown-in-chernobyl/ Accessed April 29, 2018


15 Comments Add yours

  1. cnritchey says:

    Grace, great work! The parallels you made between this catastrophic event and 9-11, in terms of public memory, was interesting — especially when you mentioned that it was not broadcasted until 3 weeks after! Why do you think Gorbachev waited this long to announce it, and do you think this made the situation more negative in the eyes of the people?


  2. I found your post very interesting! This meltdown has been one of the most infamous and devastating in history so far and it is sometimes difficult to fully conceptualize, but you break down the situation very well. I do wonder how they even began to clean up after the melt down? What is the process for dealing with this kind of nuclear material and what state if the area in now?


  3. I like the way you wrote your post Grace. It made it much more interesting to read. I especially like how you connected it to if the United States kept 9/11 from us for 3 weeks. We would’ve been appalled and probably taken to the streets. Were there any protests after the public found out?


  4. A. Nelson says:

    I agree, you have a really engaging approach to this post! And the comparative framework is also really suggestive. Shifting back to nuclear power accidents — they are actually much more common (and less deadly) than you might think: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_nuclear_power_accidents_by_country
    I’m also reminded of cover-ups in this country (by industry, rather than the government), such as the famous case led by Karen Silkwood. Also, I love the title to this post. No meltdowns before graduation, please!


  5. A. Nelson says:

    P.S. Check out Brett’s post where he discusses Gorbachev’s reference to the delay notifying people in the US about 3 mile island.: https://bmester.wordpress.com/2018/04/29/the-elephants-foot-in-the-room/#comment-42


  6. mauramcd says:

    I thought the comparison between Chernobyl and 9/11 was very impactful. It really put the incident into a new perspective for me, as I could imagine the pain that the citizens felt in losing loved ones and the anger of having information on the incident being withheld.


  7. The lack of communication between government and the people definitely would have played a role in the declining trust towards the government. While I don’t have any questions, this post reminds me of the short clip we watched on Thursday, towards the end of class. The Chernobyl disaster was detrimental to some individuals who called the surrounding area home. It’s sad to know that some people choose to live here knowing the effects.


  8. ethanr1949 says:

    Love the title, very appropriate especially while we enter finals week here at school. I think your comparison to 9/11 and the impact it had on people was very interesting. Especially how it took Soviet leadership 3 weeks to respond to the crisis. Your comment about how American’s felt in the wake of 9/11, was also important, there would have been a tremendous uproar and the questioning of government if the President of the United States had waited so long to speak up. It does really show the impact that this event had on the collapse of the Soviet Union.


  9. Katelyn says:

    Over here about to have a meltdown myself at the end of the semester. I liked the comparison between 9/11 and Chernobyl I feel as though it really resonates with American audiences.


  10. zaneg96 says:

    I really enjoyed your post, especially how you put it into a perspective that many (if not all of us) can understand. The meltdown at Chernobyl is one of the more overlooked events in the latter half of the Cold War, yet is among one of the most important- not just for the Soviet Union either. Outside of the physical toll that the meltdown has taken, does the meltdown still continue to have social and economic effects on Russia and Ukraine?


  11. A.Anthony says:

    I can’t even imagine how difficult it must have been for the people who were forced to leave everything behind. It is so awful that they were kept so in the dark, especially about such an impactful and traumatic event.


  12. Elysia Budu says:

    Is it a shock that Gorbachev did not address the country for 3 weeks? I believe that the leader should always speak up about an incident in a timely manner but 3 weeks is to long, however, I wrote on this topic also and found a site that stated the government put out a 15 second blurb on the situation stating that they were investigation the situation.


  13. thensoviet says:

    Another really interesting part of the Chernobyl disaster is its effect on wildlife! Drinking the water and eating the vegetation created animals with radioactive material in their makeup and I wonder how that has spread throughout the Soviet Union if it has at all. The dramatic change this disaster created was unprecedented and likely, without it, things would have been much different.


  14. Nick Umana says:

    Your introduction and title to this post is a good attention grabber and made me chuckle. Comparing Chernobyl to the US 911 incident is a great way to put this situation into perspective. The severity of this incident was something I was really never aware of before this and seeing how this post correlates with the video we watched in class was a good way to put everything together.


  15. eclaybrook says:

    Grace, this post is awesome! Lots of people have noted this, but your comparison to 9/11 provides a really good image for readers to catch on to. I feel this also could be compared to the Three Mile Island incident in the 80s which rocked the environment and produced a huge environmentalist movement. Great post!


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