HBO's series Chernobyl was perceived with great interest in Russia - and other post-Soviet countries - and generated very emotional reactions. People watched each episode carefully and then rushed to social networks to discuss the artistic value, the balance of myths versus truth and the detailed authenticity of Soviet life.
But what everyone agreed on is the well-picked cast. (WARNING: SPOILER ALERT!)
The chemistry scientist and first deputy director of the Kurchatov Institute of Atomic Energy. Right after the accident, he was called to Chernobyl to liquidate the aftermath of the exposure. It was him who decided to pour a mix of boron and sand onto the burning reactor. He took his own life two years after the accident, leaving audiotapes with previously unknown details of the investigation and liquidation.
Read more about Legasov in our article.
A wife of a fireman called to extinguish the fire. She was pregnant but still went to the Moscow’s hospital where he was transferred to and spent his last days by his side. She didn’t know this exposure was dangerous and, consequently, her baby died shortly after birth. Ignatenko still lives in Kiev and eventually managed to have another, healthy child.
Interestingly, actress Jessie Buckley has also recently played Russian aristocrat Maria Bolkonskaya in the BBC adaptation of ‘War and Peace’.
Lyudmila’s husband took a day off on April 26, 1986 - they planned to have a picnic in the countryside. However, during that fateful night, he was called to put out the fire at Chernobyl and never came back home. Lyudmila held her husband’s shoes at the funeral, because it wasn’t possible to put them on his swollen feet.
When the Chernobyl catastrophe happened, Shcherbina was a Deputy Chairman of the Soviet government and was sent to arrange the liquidation of the accident aftermath. He organized the evacuation of people from the city of Pripyat and managed many other things, from the firefighting to the decontamination of the area.
During WWII, Shcherbina managed railway supplies for the army, but soon after he received a great carrier boost: he was appointed manager of the Communist Party in Siberia, overseeing the construction of the Irkutsk and Bratsk dam, the construction of whole cities in the region, as well as many other duties.
After Chernobyl, he also led the liquidation of the consequences of the massive earthquake that struck Armenia in 1988. He passed away in 1990.
According to the official investigation and court decision, deputy chief-engineer of the Chernobyl plant, Anatoly Dyatlov, was one of those guilty of the Chernobyl tragedy, which happened due to unsafe tests conducted by him. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison, but due to having a radiation syndrome and multiple letters penned by human rights protectors, including academic Andrei Sakharov, he was released earlier. He died in 1995.
People who witnessed the accident first-hand criticized the series for showing Bryukhanov one-sided - namely, as a jerk. The real Bryukhanov didn’t understand the scale of the tragedy. It was the first nuclear disaster in Soviet history and nobody knew how to act. Then again, Bryukhanov was clearly afraid to report the true circumstances of the catastrophe to the party bosses - he could have immediately lost his job.
Alongside with Dyatlov, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison. He now lives in Kiev.
According to one of his subordinates, head engineer Fomin was not a ‘thief’ at all (which was how he was portrayed in the series). Still, he was also sentenced to 10 years in prison, like Dyatlov and Bryukhanov. During the investigation, he was taken to a pretrial detention center where, according to media, he tried to commit suicide.
He is still alive, but doesn’t appear in public. One of his quotes was widely used by the media. “I blame myself for just one thing: I used to think that machines are the most important part of the plant's work. But it appears that people are the most important. I underestimated their value.”
This senior reactor control engineer was in the control panel room when the first blast rocked the building. He was the one who tried to object to Dyatlov proceeding with the testing, because the reactor was not ready. While trying to restart the feedwater flow into the reactor, he was exposed to a deadly dose of radiation and died several weeks after the accident in a Moscow hospital.
Gorbachev’s portrayal in the show was one of the most criticized topics in the Russian media - mostly for being one-sided and grotesque. Some commenters said he looked more like Stalin in the series, a comparison he was far from (just to remind you - the Chernobyl catastrophe happened on the eve of glasnost and perestroika, initiated by Gorbachev).
Gorbachev was the first to admit that the Chernobyl disaster was one of the reasons for the collapse of the USSR. He told the media he was going to watch the series and have his say on it - but so far, he hasn’t.
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