Chernobyl was a disastrous event that holds name recognition no matter who you talk to. When diving a bit deeper into the conflict and analyzing the competing perceptions of the Soviet Union and the West, it develops into something even more interesting. When looking at the New York Times Moscow’s Silence On Disaster Assailed In Europe, they state that Chernobyl is the “worst nuclear-power disaster in history” and go on to talk about the horrible conditions that would follow the region. In contrast, the Russian Press’ article Chernobyl Warns, Vice President of the USSR Academy of Sciences met with foreign journalists in order to assure the public that this meltdown was being dramatized in the west. For instance, the Vice President says that people in the west are taking too much of an “emotional approach in assessing what happened” and that Chernobyl was a “tiny incident compared to a thermonuclear catastrophe.” It is interesting to look at the differences with these two articles, and how the Russian scientists is downplaying the disaster by comparing it to a thermonuclear war.
This tragedy, with the obvious risk that accompanied it, also brought economic and social consequences to the Soviet Union. In Lewis Siegelbaum’s essay “Meltdown in Chernobyl” he goes on to talk about the cost of cleanup and relocation for thousands of people, which would cost billions of ruble. For the social aspect, Gorbachev took a major hit to his popularity domestically and internationally due to him not reporting the meltdown officially for almost three weeks. This hurt him, especially when glasnost was a key part of the Soviet Union moving forward. As many as 100,000 people died from this incident alone, and this just added to the sense of victimization due to the famine of 1932-1933.
Seventeen Moments in Soviet History. (Subject Essay and Pictures)