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Chernobyl: The History of a Nuclear Catastrophe Audio CD – May 15, 2018
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Plokhy is an excellent researcher and writer. I felt that while reading this book, I was also gaining an understanding of the immense power of the aging directors of many of the important ministries in the USSR, who were in their 80s. The book shows how the blame is ultimately placed on hte operators of the Chernobyl plant itself. Belarus, with a population of 10 million, sustained the worst exposure to deadly radiation emitted by a type of reactor that is deemed so dangerous that it is not used in the U.S. In the U.S. all reactors have concrete "containers" yet the Chernobyl nuclear plant did not even have this rudimentary safety design. Ukrainians came to the conclusion that the USSR was using Ukraine for its most dangerous construction, giving more hope and confidence to Ukrainian nationalists. The assignation of blame to the operating personnel, and not the planners of the reactor that spewed amazing amounts of radiation into the atmosphere, measurable even in Sweden, went to three men who received 10 year prison sentences. No one in Moscow would take the blame--the man designated to present an account of the disaster to the Internation Atomic Energy Commision in Vienna, succeeded on his 2nd suicide attempt. It was clear that he presented the most honest account possible, highly lauded internationally, but considered "too much" by the minsters in Moscow. In reading the book, I felt the tension for those who knew what actually happened who wished to tell the truth, and the bureaucrats in Moscow who were committed to NOT revealing weaknesses in the Soviet system. Mikhail Gorbachev had hoped to lead the USSR into an economic recovery. Instead, he presided over the ultimate decline of a government that accepted no new ideas, and those who actually had met Lenin had inordinate power. In addition, there was a strong effort afoot to rewrite history and rehabilitate the national and international image of Josef Stalin.
When I visited some of the "new" republics after 2000, I was amazed at how much still looked like the collection of Soviet states from the 1960s to the 1980s, with collapsing infrastructure. It was necessary even in major cities to watch where you stepped because there were holes in the sidewalks that were not marked. One could easily fall into a deep black hole. While these new countries have tried to keep their own cultures intact, the whole system shows lack of investment and upgrading going back 30 to 70 years. The disaster of the type at Chernobyl was inevitable.
We see how Soviet "justice" is manipulated by someone who obviously knows it intimaately. This book is an excellent read, especially if you lived through the time of Chernobyl, and the following collapse of the Soviet system that could not keep up wiwth American productivity in any way.