Wry & Dry

What will be Putin's Chernobyl?

Last Tuesday marked the 30th anniversary of the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl (in what was then the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic of the Soviet Union).  And with it the creation of a monument to the extinction of any remnant of civilisation within the Soviet Union.

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Firstly, the disaster (in brief).  The explosion was the worst nuclear power plant accident in history.  Radioactive particles (400 times larger than arising from Hiroshima) spread over much of the then western USSR (principally Belarus, Ukraine and Russia) and Europe (Sweden, Finland and Austria).

Whilst there were 31 deaths directly arising from the accident, it is estimated that some 4,000 people will die from cancer directly attributed to the radiation.  But the real effect (including birth defects, increased incidence of cancers, etc) on some 3.5 million people will never be fully known. 


Secondly, the cover-up (in brief). Soviet officials did not report the accident: the first information came from sensors in Sweden that detected a dramatic rise in local radioactivity.  It wasn't until the following day that the local town was evacuated, but the rest of the world was kept in the dark.  

Finally, three days later, Moscow made a 15 second news release, "there has been an accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant".  And then denounced the cries of a cover-up from Western media as, “a premeditated and well-orchestrated campaign aiming to cover up criminal acts of militarism by the USA and NATO against peace and security.”

It took Chernobyl to propel Premier Gorbachev's glasnost ('open-ness') to a higher level.  But it took another five years for the Soviet Union to collapse under the morbid weight of its own flab, corruption, cover-ups and media control, as its people finally shook themselves free from the chains so glaringly exposed by Chernobyl.

So, what has that got to do with today's Tsar Putin?

Well, it's clear that Putin is returning Russia to an era of autocracy.  And not to the time of the communists, but back to the time of the Romanovs.  Still, it's all the same: autocratic rule and all that goes with it but also now with a modicum of free enterprise underneath, holding up a corrupt oligarchy of latter-day boyars [2].

Each of the Romanovs and Soviet Communism were destroyed by the peoples rebelling.  The catalyst for each was 'a shot heard around the world' [3], as it were.  The Romanovs had 'Bloody Sunday' (1905), Soviet Communism had Chernobyl.  

What will be Putin's Chernobyl?