The USSR has long gone into the history. Over 70 years of its existence, it left various memories in the consciousness of Soviet citizens, of which the victory in the Second World War, the flight of the first man into space, and the accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant remain to this day.
Each of these events is a whole era. Time, events, circumstances make us move forward, leaving behind historical and life experience. The universal task is to draw the appropriate lessons from our own history, first of all from those events in which human life is the price.
USSR nuclear disasters
Few people know that for the entire seventy-year history in the USSR there was not one nuclear disaster, but three.
The first occurred in the fall of 1957 in Chelyabinsk-40, now it is Ozersk. Then there was a container explosion at the radioactive waste storage, as a result of which about 20,000 km2 were covered with a radioactive cloud. A part of this territory remains unsuitable for human life until now.
The second catastrophe was the K-431 nuclear submarine exploded in August 1985, which was located 30-40 kilometers from Vladivostok, in the Chazhma Bay. This nuclear accident is considered one of the largest in the history of the Soviet Navy. Apparently, the “stamp of strict secrecy” did not allow drawing lessons from it.
The third was after just over six months, another sinister atomic disaster happened at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, which is destined to become the largest environmental and man-made disaster of the twentieth century. According to the international scale of nuclear incidents, it is assigned to the seventh, maximum level of danger.
As you know, a chain of design flaws in the design of the reactor itself and a number of errors by the operators on duty at the time of the tragedy led to the explosion of the 4th power unit at the Chernobyl nuclear power station.
A series of events, involving operator actions, is known to the nearest second. It caused a spontaneous chain reaction, which led to the explosion. A cloud of radioactive substances, flying into the atmosphere, covered not only almost the whole of Europe, but also reached America ten days later.
For decades, measures to eliminate the consequences of the Chernobyl disaster have stretched over time. Today, some materials about the accident, previously classified by special services, have become available to the world. We can safely say on their basis that in addition to the huge amount of radioactive substances released into the atmosphere, there was another harmful isotope in Chernobyl that escaped from the throat of the reactor – a lie that was the main source of the representatives of the then Soviet leadership.
Only two days later, the USSR was forced to admit the fact of the Chernobyl accident, and even that, thanks to persistent Swedish diplomacy, whose representatives threatened the Soviet state with an act of “public execution within the framework of international isolation”.
Sweden did not know and did not understand the real scale of the Chernobyl disaster. Therefore, fearing for the lives of its employees, it was forced to evacuate more than 600 of its employees from the Forsmar NP. And this is against the background of the fact that the inhabitants of Pripyat walked safely through the streets, breathed radioactive air at that moment, and were evacuated only two days after the tragedy.
The real deal is for real people
Today, the history of Chernobyl is not only a chronologically built chain of events that led to disaster. This, in particular, is the fate of the liquidators, who gave the most precious thing at the military post — their life.
These are the stories of doctors and medical personnel, who are at risk every minute, stories of migrants from Pripyat and the nearest villages, towns, stories of photojournalists and journalists filming the historical chronicle of the accident, and, by experience, also received large doses of radiation. But how else could you film the necessary documentary shots then if you were not in the midst of the tragic events?
Not many reporters visited Chernobyl for the first time after the explosion. They thought little about what awaited them upon returning home flying around among the scientists and specialists in the tract of the exploded reactor.
Then the editors’ priority was to take pictures that would become history and reflect the real picture of what happened. The reporters of leading Soviet publications allowed for such an operation – people are not simple, courageous, desperate, because here you need character while hanging in a helicopter just 25 meters above the poisonous mouth of the reactor.
Vladimir Itkin, Vladimir Repik, Valery Zufarov, Valery Demidetsky were just that. Even realizing that they “picked up” a huge dose of radiation, they still did photo reports, continued to shoot. Today their professional work is a photographic record of the Chernobyl tragedy. It’s their photos that circled the whole world, they own the first headlines of the official media – “Most people are striking at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, they are all real heroes.”
Doctors and medical staff were also at the forefront. Professor Angelina Guskova recalled that just an hour after the accident, she had already realized that an incredible disaster had happened. The first symptoms of the manifestation of radiation sickness in those who were urgently brought to the medical unit served as a signal for this. “These are not just burns from a fire, as we all were told at the beginning, not just chemical poisoning,” A. Guskova recalls.
“Doctors sounded the alarm, observing a typical reaction similar to radiation exposure – vomiting, weakness, redness, diarrhea. First, 20 people were brought, then 80 – and all had the same symptoms… Then they learned that it was decided to turn to the chemical defense forces for help. It was necessary to evaluate the radiation situation. Helicopter pilots arrived to assist in extinguishing a fire at a nuclear power plant. To the question – how many people are currently at the station, they said a figure of several thousand people. I was scared. They were doomed”.
…Doctors helped everyone, they carried out the necessary complex of medical and preventive measures with everybody. They managed to save a lot of people. And although they themselves do not consider heroes, stating that the real heroes are not they, but the liquidators. Those who, at the risk of their lives, plunged into the shaft of an exploding reactor, who cleared radioactive graphite, who walked through burning rubble, hoping to find people there to save their lives.
There were involved at different stages of the aftermath of the accident:
• from 16 to 30 thousand people from various departments with the goal of decontamination;
• More than 210 military units and divisions with a total number of 340 thousand military personnel, of which more than 90 thousand military personnel in the most acute period from April to December 1986;
• 18.5 thousand internal affairs officers;
• over 7 thousand radiological laboratories and sanitary and epidemiological stations;
• In total, about 600 thousand liquidators took part in extinguishing fires and clearing from all over the former USSR.