The Horror of Russian Cowardice and Lies
It immediately generated a cloud of radioactive vapor ten times more toxic than the Hiroshima nuclear bombing.
But the 50,000 residents of the neighboring town of Pripyat, USSR, were not told to take protective measures, such as staying indoors with the windows shut, for a full twelve hours following the blast, when it was announced that they faced “an unfavorable radioactive atmosphere.” Unfavorable indeed! They were not told they would be evacuated until late in the evening the next day, Saturday April 26, and they were not actually evacuated until 2 pm on Sunday, April 27. By that time, many had incurred lethal or life-altering doses of radioactivity.
Residents were not permitted to take their personal property with them. Patriotic Soviet citizens soon swarmed in and looted them to the bare walls. Today, Pripyat is a ghost town.
It would be slightly comforting, at least, if one could believe that today’s Russia had at least moved on from the darkness and horror of its Soviet past, maybe even made reparations to the people of Pripyat. But, of course, Russia has done no such thing.
Today, Russia is governed by a man who is a proud relic of the Soviet era, Vladimir Putin, former KGB spymaster. Putin has filled the Kremlin with fellow spooks, and he has engaged in a ruthless crackdown on civil society. He has obliterated local government, he has liquidated independent television, he has wiped out opposition political parties and jailed political rivals. If another Chernobyl is brewing today, the people of Russia will not know it because no political challenger will mention it and no TV news report will cover it. Russia is the USSR, different in name only.
In fact, it can be argued that today’s Russia is worse than the USSR. The KGB never wielded such direct and sweeping power in Soviet times as they do today, and the USSR never attempted to pretend it was a democracy. Today’s Russia lacks all the same freedoms as people lacked in Soviet times, but it also lacks the benefits of dictatorship, such as safe streets and timely trains. Russia has the worst of all possible worlds.
And worst of all is Russia’s absolute refusal, under Putin, to tell the truth about its own sordid history. Russian students simply won’t learn about what happened in Pripyat, not unless they learn English and read it in the Moscow Times, as we did. But most of them won’t do that, instead they’ll speak Russian and listen to their Russian teachers tell them that the evil foreigners and Russian Uncle Toms who write for the Moscow Times are just telling them lies to destroy Russia out of jealousy.
What that means is simple: There is another Pripyat waiting to happen, probably many of them. It’s just a matter of vremya.