Saturday, June 15, 2019

Chernoybyl Accident Forever Divided Soviet Citizens and Regime into ‘Us’ and ‘Them,’ Pastukhov Recalls

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 15 – The recent controversy over a new film about the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986 has prompted many who were alive at that time to recall what is meant for them. Vladimir Pastukhov, a London-based analyst of Russian affairs, says that for him and many others, it was a turning point to led to the end of the USSR.

            Mikhail Gorbachev has said that Chernobyl contributed to the demise of the Soviet Union by its impact on the economy, Pastukhov says; but that is not the case. Instead, it did so by destroying the trust between the population and the regime and dividing them permanently between “us” and “them” (

            “With Chernobyl,” the historian says, “began my alienation from everything that was in any way connected with the state and with those who worked for it. From that moment to the last day of the existence of this system as only ‘I’ and ‘they’ – and the two things were always separate and in opposition to each other.

            Consequently, when the regime began to disintegrate, Pastukhov continues, he looked on without any desire to get involved in saving it.  Trust, he points out, is something that can dissipate overnight and that is what happened because of Chernobyl, a development that many underrate.

            “Regimes die in the last analysis not from wars, catastrophes or even more from economc difficulties. All of those things in fact may help them unite and survive if there is trust. Instead, regimes die from actions that cause a large part of their populations to be politically alienated” – and that is something one must always remember and look for.

            The American film about Chernobyl has pluses and minuses, Pastukhov says. “But from my point of view, the main thing in it is that it captures the atmosphere of lives which surrounded us then.”

            In an appearance via Skype on Ekho Mosvky’s “2019” program, the London-based analyst suggests that what is going in Russia today in many ways represents a slow-moving Chernobyl in which any remaining trust between the population and the regime is being destroyed (

            As a result, when the crisis comes as it must, the regime will not be able to count on the people, not because of economic problems or political failures but because like its Soviet predecessors, it has lost the trust of the people. They are thus highly unlikely to come to its defense. 

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