The bitter Chernobyl bells do not stop. No one came to terms with this date, no one got used to it, neither in Ukraine, nor in the whole world. The alarm bells of the Chernobyl disaster warn and remind: “Do not ask for whom the Chernobyl bell rings.”
It calls those whom the catastrophe destroyed immediately, and those whom it subsequently destroyed, and those whom it is slowly destroying to this day. Liquidators, migrants, people with disabilities, adults and children, even those children who were born after the “accident” – all these people still drink the wormwood cup of Chernobyl.
… Only five years after the Chernobyl tragedy, residents of the tragic “thirty-kilometer zone” first visited the graves of their relatives. Ten years after the accident, materials began to appear for the first time revealing the truth about how everything was actually happening. Ten years later, Viktor Bryukhanov, the former director of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, was released from prison, who said in the press his famous phrase: “We will not know the truth” …
33 years have passed since the disaster. After almost a third of a century, there were significantly more facts made public, but, unfortunately, people who could add something else were significantly fewer. However, even today one cannot say for sure that we have learned the truth. The original chroniclers of the Chernobyl tragedy were Ukrainian writers.
Many works on the theme of Chernobyl appeared immediately after the accident. On the one hand, it was a natural reaction to the event from writers. Almost everything was written in the then Soviet Union, to which Ukraine belonged together with Chernobyl.
The party, sung by the nation-builder of communism, was once again glorified. Otherwise, the history of the disaster at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant was distorted and shown in the crooked mirror of socialist realism.
The theme of Chernobyl was very fresh, besides, tragic, terrible, painful and, of course, too attractive for many. Therefore, works on this topic appeared regularly. It would be unfair to say that Ukrainian writers suddenly, from the singers of “beautiful Soviet reality” turned into the literary mouthpiece of realists.
The acuteness of the Chernobyl theme remained untouched at that time. No one really knew about the causes of the accident, and about the consequences. Writers, emphasizing well-known facts in their works, repeated what was already available through avaricious newspaper reports. Nevertheless, writers, poets, journalists did an excellent deed: they reminded humanity of the main thing – the pain and memory of Chernobyl.
There was no pity for people in a dustpan
The Chernobyl catastrophe is not accepted to be a crime of Soviet power. It took place already on the verge of perestroika, and how many man-made disasters are happening all over the world? Well, they brought the children to the parade, under the radiation. So, they never spared people “in the dustpan”… But not everything is so simple.
There is such a thing as a “criminal mistake” – when a person knows about the fallacy of his actions, understands that this can lead to disaster, but still continues to do what he is doing. The use in Chernobyl of the reactor that exploded during the experiment is a classic example of such a criminal error.
It was known about the shortcomings of the reactor inherent in its design even before the start of the construction of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. First of all, we are talking about the fact that the so-called feedback occurs at low reactor operation capacities.
The main consequence of this is a sharp increase in power, as soon as the reactor began to “accelerate” again. The second problem was the design of graphite rods. As a result, the attempt to save the area of the reactor rooms has led to what is called the “final effect” in nuclear power: at the time of emergency protection, the reactor capacity sharply increased instead of falling. It was these shortcomings that worked on the night of the explosion. The chain reaction gave a tremendous destructive effect.
The use of a reactor with a high degree of danger was the first link in the chain of subsequent terrible events. Most of the other links arose not so much from a conscious concrete malice, as already as a result of established traditions of the system, the way of thinking characteristic for the “dustpan”.
Indeed, mainly people who did not know that it was possible to do otherwise were in power at that time. So, the accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant and the mechanism for further measures to eliminate the consequences of the accident is a demonstration of the essence of the “dustpan” and its quintessence.
Silence about the true facts was the first reaction to the disaster.
They did not say a word in the newspapers, on the radio or on television, in the first days after the Chernobyl accident. The image of the ideal superpower continued, in which “not only hunger does not occur, but natural disasters are impossible”. Real losses, primarily human, as a result of the explosion and radioactive infection, as well as financial, did not interest anyone. Image is our everything, human lives are nothing.
A continuation of the propaganda struggle for the image was the holding of a festive parade in Kiev on May 1, 1986. There were no safety measures, thousands of children were among the participants in the parade. Until mid-May, doctors were forbidden to tell people about the radiation hazard and how to avoid infection.
But the instinct of self-preservation existing in a person, like in any living creature, cannot be eradicated – panic could not be avoided. Many people stormed the stations, tried to leave Kiev, others were sitting in enclosed spaces, tried to get a dosimeter and at least somehow measure the level of radiation.
The first liquidators were firemen on duty, who came to the call. Men worked without protective equipment. The consequence of that tragic vigil is acute radiation sickness and death in terrible agony, when radiation begins to corrode the human body even during the life of the patient.
Chernobyl or Afghanistan?
Starting in May, young conscripts were sent to the 4th Chernobyl power unit to dismantle the rubble. And first of all, they were from the “problem” regions – Western Ukraine, the Baltic countries … Many conscripts faced the only choice – Chernobyl or Afghanistan?
Those who preferred the Chernobyl nuclear power plant did not have any special privileges; they were not even given sufficient means of protection. Here, two features of the “dustpan” appeared immediately – a firm belief that proper “revolutionary confidence” compensates for the lack of professionalism and systemicity, as well as the chronic use of absolutely any means to achieve the goal.
The “besieged fortress syndrome” proved itself in full force. It was not possible to hush up the fact of the radiation release after the Swedish reports. It was the Swedes who first recorded the content of radioactive plutonium-239 in the atmosphere on the border with the USSR.
But throughout the union, in all republics, the search has already begun for saboteurs and pests, “distributors of panic,” which included almost everyone who tried to find out at least something about the real situation.
The result was only an increase in the number of victims of the accident – they included “servants of the empire” who scoured the territory of the Chernobyl zone in search of saboteurs. The words of the song remained the bitter, ironic evidence of that search operation in folklore: “A reactor is burning on a mountain, a tractor plows under a mountain, if the Swedes hadn’t said, we would still plow.”
“… all are equal, but there are more equal”
The facts that testify to the privilege of the nomenclature began to appear sharply. George Orwell’s principle of “all are equal, but there are more equal” in this situation proved to be quite bright. The families of party leaders were overwhelmingly absent, both at the May Day demonstration and during the measures to eliminate the consequences of the accident.
The rest of the population was considered in the best traditions of Soviet totalitarianism, as expendable, it was assigned to become an instrument in the game of nomenclature leaders, a link in the chain of “ensuring a bright future.”
It was this “bright future” that was the only priority of the system – achieving results in any way, no matter what. The truth about the “bright future” was strategic planning and foresight.
Should a tragedy similar to the Chernobyl accident occur in any civilized state, then for its leadership, concerned about the health of its own people, cancer prevention would come to the fore. A sharp increase in cases of oncology was inevitable, and in the future it should have resulted in irreversible losses among the population, and, as a result, in growing government spending. But not in the USSR.
For the Soviet leadership, the priority was the fastest, on the verge of human resources, “overwriting” traces of the disaster. The main thing is that everything should happen quickly, according to the plan, and not be damaged by political goals and priorities.
Therefore, they received a massive, albeit forced, heroism of thousands of liquidators. But the mass character of heroism in this case is a sign of not so much a high quality of society, but an extremely low quality of power and its institutions, as well as the standard of living in general.
“Tricks” with a radiation dosimeter
… At the end of each shift, all participants in the liquidation of the consequences of the Chernobyl disaster underwent dosimetric control. It was possible to “leave the zone” only after this procedure. The dosimeter almost constantly signaled that the norm of radioactive contamination was exceeded.
Generally, the device stopped searching for an increased radiation field only after repeated and thorough washing. Then the controllers thought of “tweaking” dosimeters, like the speedometer in a car. It is logical that dosimeters suddenly became “extremely tolerant” to contamination. But if the “twist” of the speedometer did NOT have any tragic consequences, then it will not be possible to find out how many people died prematurely as a result of the “tricks” with dosimeters.
Before the Chernobyl accident, not a single technogenic catastrophe in the USSR touched the immediate life of millions of people, did not tear them from the usual rhythm of life. Chernobyl has changed the lifestyle of every family.
Everything had to be taken into account after the Chernobyl accident – what kind of food you use, where you get the berries, fruits, vegetables, mushrooms that you buy from the market, what kind of fabric your clothes are from, how much you were in the sun, how well you washed yourself.
And the inhabitants of the former Union remembered this very well, the Union itself survived this memory. When the news appeared in the mid-90s that somewhere in the Czech Republic a malfunction was detected in the reactor of a local nuclear power plant, their parents were reluctant to leave Soviet children for several days in a row – God forbid, Chernobyl will happen again, and then what?
Soviet rationalism – “we’ll catch up and overtake”
It became clear after Chernobyl that the Soviet system by its very nature was not fit for life. It is objectively capable of destruction only. In total, there were human souls and lives, technology, culture, nature. After the accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, the question “to be or not to be the USSR” from the political plane turned into a question of physical survival.
Perhaps even more than after the Holodomor of 1932-1933, which to some extent did not cover the entire territory of modern Ukraine. It is quite obvious that the citizens of a country cannot feel safe, for the government of which all rational considerations are nothing compared to the universal political goal of “catching up and overtaking the USA”.
Also, citizens of countries neighboring the USSR could not feel safe: at best, they were doomed to live in oppressive obscurity. Due to the total political intrigue on the part of the USSR, the neighboring states would have been forced to speculate — is it possible that something terrible is happening in the Union again, and we were just unlucky to find out in advance?
In the event of crisis situations, the USSR did not have to count on adequate international cooperation. The question remained open: what can be expected from the USSR if a similar explosion occurs again, or if an accident occurs at some other Soviet enterprise? The statistics did not add optimism – there were 29 emergency stops only from 1977 to 1981 at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant.
5 accidents and 63 failures of the main equipment occurred over the following years, 1983–1985. With such indicators, the suspicion crept in that the effect of the famous Soviet frauds was added to the design flaws of the reactor.
If a state cannot maintain its strategic enterprises in proper technical condition and cannot protect its own citizens, such a state cannot be taken too seriously.
Therefore, 1986 was the beginning of the end for the USSR.