The course embarked on adjustment and publicity, announced with the advent of M. Gorbachev in the Soviet Union, had serious reasons to remain so only on paper. There is evidence of this. The country’s leadership chose to hide, both from the international community and from its own citizens, the details and scope of the Chernobyl tragedy that occurred on the night of April 26, 1986.
Not a single printed publication in the USSR, up to April 29, published a single word about the disaster at the nuclear power plant. The first official government message was broadcast three days later, in the evening in the “TIME” program, it lasted only 14 seconds.
It was done to a greater extent under pressure from the international community, which called for the USSR to provide arguments and facts that made it possible to understand the reason for the increase in radiation levels in the countries neighboring the USSR. Sweden was the first to sound the alarm. Forsmac NPP is located in the north of Stockholm, the safety system of which began to give an alarm signal about increased radiation pollution.
The Swedes urgently organized relevant work to find out the causes of pollution. They were obvious – everything is in order at the station. The source of pollution was from the outside. The nearest nuclear power station, from which, in principle, a similar threat was possible was Chernobyl.
A long formal diplomatic correspondence had begun, which did not lead to anything. Soviet diplomats flatly refused to comment on the tragedy. Forcing the IAEA to report on the situation, the Swedish government nevertheless forced the Soviet leadership to provide clarification.
No, not a word was added to the official 14-seconds message, it simply turned into three lines of text that were disseminated in all Ukrainian newspapers. By the way – it wasn`t on the front page in bold, but on the third pages of newspapers, after sports news related to the results of recent football matches and the world bicycle race, which was planned to be held in Kiev at that time.
The message consisted of six sentences: “From the Council of Ministers of the USSR. An accident occurred at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. One of the nuclear reactors is damaged. Measures are being taken to eliminate the consequences of the accident. Help is provided to the injured. A government commission has been established”.
Foreign journalists who worked in the USSR, representatives of the diplomatic missions of leading foreign powers immediately began to try to get at least some detailed, real-life information about the Chernobyl disaster. But these efforts were in vain. Moreover, under the pressure of the SSC, ostensibly in order to prevent the leakage of distorted information, representatives of travel agencies were recommended to conduct “explanatory conversations” with foreigners.
Those of them who lived in Kiev, realizing that the situation was becoming tense, began to demand from their diplomatic missions their urgent return to their homeland. The embassies were overwhelmed by those who wanted to interrupt business trips ahead of schedule and to return home urgently in order to avoid a deterioration in well-being.
The Day of International Solidarity of Workers
May holidays were coming, one of the main celebrations in the Soviet state. The evacuation of Pripyat and the nearest villages was almost completed. The Government of the USSR, descending vertically its orders, demanded that the media comprehensively cover exclusively festive celebrations, about the disaster in Chernobyl – or nothing at all, or according to the residual principle, in the shortest possible form.
May 1, Kiev celebrated the Day of International Solidarity of Workers. Thousands of people, adults and children, walked along Khreschatyk, demonstrating to the whole world the well-being, joy and prosperity of Soviet society. They walked, exposing themselves to mortal danger. The level of radioactive air pollution due to the excess of the natural radiation background in Kiev was 550-1200 microroentgen per hour, and in a number of other areas 20-2000 microroentgen per hour.
Reference: normal natural radiation background in the city is in the range of 10-20 mcr/h. This means that staying in this background for 1 hour, you will receive a dose of radiation of 10 or 20 microroentgen. 1 x-ray is one millionth of an x-ray. Radiation-hazardous levels of radiation are measured in milli-roentgen (thousandths of an x-ray) and in x-rays. A single dose of 10-20 x-rays will certainly not pass without health consequences, a dose of 150 x-rays causes radiation sickness, and a dose of 400 x-rays is fatal. The background in the city of Pripyat on April 26, 1986, was 1 x-ray (one million micro-roentgen) per hour, radiation around the destroyed fourth power unit reached 50-100 x-rays per hour, and the levels around the collapse of the burning reactor reached 10,000 x-rays and higher.
Only 16 days after the disaster, Mikhail Gorbachev made an official appeal. As the leader of the state, he said that for the first time, society was faced with a problem such as out-of-control nuclear energy. All forces were directed at eliminating the consequences of the Chernobyl accident. He also warned against the accumulation of lies that some Western media outlets eject on their pages. He stated that the situation at the nuclear power station has stabilized and is already fully controlled by the relevant authorities.
After Gorbachev’s speech, the official press began to actively cover the work of Soviet nuclear scientists. Almost every prestigious publication considered it necessary for itself to make in-depth analytical material about the weekdays and holidays of nuclear engineers. Be sure to attach a photo report: “…who passed the ship of workers at a nuclear power plant, playing billiards, studying the public press, playing the piano”.
And few knew that at that time thousands of liquidators of the largest ecological disaster on the Earth manually spilled sand over the crater of the destroyed reactor in Chernobyl, few knew what titanic efforts it cost Chernobyl workers to resume the work of the surviving power units of the station. These were other everyday life, the details of which will be of interest to another generation.