My wife and I watched the 5-episode mini-series, “Chernobyl” two evenings this past weekend.
It was better than good, and has as much relevance today as it would have had had anyone actually known what went on back in the USSR in 1986.
Mikhail Gorbachev said, after he left office, that the Chernobyl accident was largely responsible for the collapse of the Soviet Union. That could be true, for while Russia remained untouched by its nuclear fallout, Ukraine, Byelorussia and the Baltics, plus parts of Germany and Poland, all downwind, were never alerted until it was much too late, and the central government had lost much of its credibility with the people. Although the people of the Soviet Union almost never believed the central government for years, Chernobyl was the first time it had ever been caught.
As the key player in the Chernobyl drama, Valery Khodemchuk, stated at the trial that would ensue from these events:
Every lie incurs a debt with the truth,
Sooner or later that debt must be paid.
And the Soviet Union would pay for those lies in a big way.
Whatever grand bargain the Soviet government thought they had with the people, it went up in smoke. And the Central Committee knew it. This is why our friend Alexandria Ocasio-Cortes can never admit she’s ever seen this film, for to do so would be an admission that she really is as dumb as a rock, or, that her belief in a “good socialism” is a total fraud and her true purposes lie elsewhere. The same with the aging barn owl, Bernie Sanders.
Neither wants to have to pay their debt to the truth.
“Chernobyl” is a tough watch for the naïve aspiring-socialist. Too many questions, easily presented here, and too few tools to know how to assess them.
I was in Kharkov and Kiev in ’91 and ’92, just 200-250 miles away from Chernobyl, only south, so unaffected by the carrying winds. I never heard a mention of it. I did find a single article about how a scheduled children’s parade in Kiev was never cancelled just 3 days after the explosion, for no citizen had been notified, although the dignitary’s viewing stand was empty.
The film-as-film is interesting in that it introduces the “hero” of the story in the first few minutes, just before he hangs himself. You don’t know who he is during this first episode, before the accident, then he emerges as the nuclear scientist who will be in charge of first, the assessment, then the clean-up. and finally in the last episode, who will present evidence that will condemn both the plant managers and apparatchiks who caused this accident, but also reveal to a Soviet court that part of the failure of the nuclear plant was in its design, a flaw that had been known for years, but never fixed, due to state secrecy.
In Act I, Scene I, the hero hangs himself. Then the next five hours details how he arrived at that place.
The same for Act 1, Scene 2, which was the conduct of the plant control room team, headed by an insufferable boss, and several irrational actions he ordered his team to do as the reactor went off the rails. An engineer, he was the sort of line boss many workers in America would recognize, one who thought thet everyone beneath him was an idiot. (The Russian military is still set up this way.)
Between the yelling, cursing and British accents, I was totally befuddled as to what was going on, so when the reactor finally blew, I wasn’t sure who was at fault…only that the screenwriters wanted us to dislike one more the others.
The good news is that in the final episode 5 we got a complete rerun of this control room scene, only with a running explanation of what happened, complete with courtroom bullet points. And it would be narrated by the hero-nuclear scientist Khodemchuk, so even AOC could tell who had caused Reactor #4 to explode.
The rest of the episodes detailed the efforts by the two men, one a politician and the other this nuclear scientist, Khodemchuk who would design and organize the stopping of the meltdown, clean up and evacuation, plus do a detailed analysis of why the accident occurred, i.e, who was to blame.
Over weeks and month the clean-up would involve tens of thousands of troops, almost all under-protected because the state did not want to exaggerate their risks. They had to force-evacuate all the surrounding towns which housed the reactors’ workers involving hundreds of busses, and thousands of soldiers. Some soldiers were assigned to go apartment-to-apartment and shoot every pet, so that they could be gathered and buried in a concrete encased pit. (This is when my wife put her hands over her face.) The same for wild animals of the forest. The land had to be dug up, and turned over, and buried under fresh dirt and sand. An Exclusion Zone was declared for over 1600 sq miles, where people were not allowed entry, and all the vehicles used in the clean-up were then left where they stopped and never moved, thousands of trucks and busses and other heavy equipment vehicles. This will probably remain this way for centuries, FYI
As to heroes who undertook several tasks that had to be done, such as going underneath the reactor and opening water sluice gates, or having 90-seconds to pick graphite off the roof, requiring 3700 men in sorties of a dozen at a time, all were “sort-of” volunteers. The firemen who answered the first fire alarm, all died in hospital within days, their bodies blistered beyond recognition before painfully dying, then buried in a mass grave under 10 feet of poured concrete. Miners were ordered to volunteer to dig underneath the floor of the reactor to pump in liquid nitrogen to keep the concrete floors from collapsing and sinking into the water table. 400 of them “volunteered” to dig that hole then went home. 100 of them died before they were age 40.
The official death toil of Chernobyl is still reported as 31. It is at least several thousand.
Were it not for this film we would never even know the name of the man who exposed this fraud. Valery Khodemchuk. He was erased by the KGB right after the trial where he named the state to be partly to blame for the accident. It was a simple matter to take all his prior achievements, his resume, and simply credit them to someone else. (I’ve warned you about this only recently. This is an evil we confront now in America.).
Vladimir Putin was KGB in those days, and the Russian government still has a KGB, only by another name. But the same function; to protect the ruling elites, who also go by a different name these days, and who can erase from all memory people who threaten their existence.
It will be interesting to see how the Hollywood awards treats this expose of one of their love interests, socialism.