A dramatic, minute-by-minute account of one of the most shattering events of the Cold War, from an award-winning writer and historian
On 26 April 1986 at 1.23am a reactor at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Soviet Ukraine exploded. While the authorities scrambled to understand what was occurring, workers, engineers, firefighters and those living in the area were abandoned to their fate. The blast put the world on the brink of nuclear annihilation, contaminating over half of Europe with radioactive fallout.
In Chernobyl, award-winning historian Serhii Plokhy draws on recently opened archives to recreate these events in all their drama, telling the stories of the scientists, workers, soldiers, and policemen who found themselves caught in a nuclear nightmare. While the immediate cause of the accident was a turbine test gone wrong, he shows how its deeper roots lay in the nature of the Soviet political system and the ingrained flaws of its nuclear industry. A little more than five years later, the Soviet Union would fall apart, destroyed from within by its unsustainable ideology and the dysfunctional systems laid bare in the wake of the disaster.
A moment by moment account of the heroes, perpetrators and victims of a tragedy, Chernobyl is the first full account of a gripping, unforgettable Cold War story.
An insightful and important book, that often reads like a good thriller, and that exposes the danger of mixing powerful technology with irresponsible politics -- Yuval Noah Harari, author of Sapiens
The first comprehensive history of the Chernobyl disaster. . . here at last is the monumental history the disaster deserves -- Julie McDowall * The Times *
A work of deep scholarship and powerful stroytelling. Plokhy is the master of the telling detail -- Victor Sebestyen * Sunday Times *
This history reads like an academic thriller written by Malcolm Gladwell. Without losing any detail or nuance, Plokhy has a knack for making complicated things simple while still profound. As moving as it is painstakingly researched, this book is a tour de force and a cracking read -- Viv Groskop * Observer *
A compelling history of the 1986 disaster and its aftermath. . . Plokhy's well-paced narrative plunges the reader into the sweaty, nervous tension of the Chernobyl control room -- Daniel Beer * Guardian *
Plokhy's range, from scene-setting and character-sketching to hard science and political analysis, is near-Tolstoyan. His voice is humane and inflected with nostalgia -- Roland Elliott Brown * Spectator *
Plokhy, a Harvard professor of Ukrainian background, is ideally placed to tell the harrowing story of Chernobyl. . . he has an immense knowledge of Russian and Ukrainian history and maintains the highest standards of scholarship -- Tony Barber * Financial Times *
An important work that offers a clear-eyed assessment of the disaster and its consequences. . . Plokhy tells the story with great assurance and style, and the majority of his material appears here for the first time in English -- Tobie Mathew * Literary Review *
Serhii Plokhy is uniquely qualified to tell this tragic story: he writes not only as a major historian, but also as someone who was living with his family under the cloud of the Chernobyl disaster at the time. The result is as riveting as a novel -- Mary Elise Sarotte, author of The Collapse: The Accidental Opening of the Berlin Wall