Mark Joseph Stern: Did Chernobyl Cause the Soviet Union To Explode?Roundup: Talking About History
tags: Communism, Slate, Soviet Union, Mark Joseph Stern, Chernobyl
Mark Joseph Stern is a Slate intern.
At 1:23 a.m. on April 26, 1986, Reactor 4 of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant exploded, following a disastrously ill-judged systems test by undertrained technicians. As surplus energy surged through the reactor, its core combusted, immediately killing nearby workers and exposing others to deadly levels of radiation. In the nearby town of Prypiat, Ukraine, people woke up to respiratory distress and nausea. Emergency response workers encased the reactor in a concrete sarcophagus and, unprepared for exposure to radioactivity, became stricken with severe symptoms of radiation poisoning. Tens of thousands of Soviet citizens filed into Chernobyl to help, considering it their patriotic duty; all were exposed to dangerous levels of radiation with no warning from the government. It took two days for the explosion to be announced, in vague terms, on the national news; not until Sweden discovered a radiation cloud that had drifted across Europe was the true extent of the Chernobyl explosion revealed.
Reactor 4 may not have been the only thing that exploded that day. Fewer than six years elapsed between the meltdown at Chernobyl and the formal dissolution of the Soviet Union—six years marked by suspicion of government, dissatisfaction with public safety, and demands for greater transparency. Could Chernobyl have caused the first, most fundamental crack in the Soviet state and led to its collapse?...
comments powered by Disqus
- Obama May Create Monument to Gay Rights Movement
- China to release last prisoner jailed over Tiananmen Square protests
- Marine Corps investigating photo of iconic flag-raising on Iwo Jima
- Scholars Blast New Study Tracing Ashkenazi Jews to Khazars of Ancient Turkey
- Legendary Explorer’s Long-Lost Ship May Have Been Found Off Rhode Island
- The Historian Whitewashing Ukraine’s Past
- Andrew Roberts wins $250,000 prize from the conservative Bradley Foundation
- Daniel Aaron, Critic and Historian Who Pioneered American Studies, Dies at 103
- Liz Covart's amazingly popular podcast helps her audience understand early American history
- Justus Rosenberg is still teaching at age 95