Chernobyl: The Not So Symbolic End Of The Peoples Union.

In U.S history I was told that the falling of the Berlin Wall in 1989 was the symbolic end of the Soviet Union. This appears to be the common consensus among politicians of the time as well as historians. President Ronald Reagan is even championed for helping bring down this great wall as well as for brining down the Soviet Union itself. In reality the Soviet Union true collapse was in April of 1986, when reactor four of the Chernobyl nuclear facility over heated causing the worlds worst nuclear accident. This historic tragedy would be such a burden that the already collapsing economy of the Union would cave in just like the reactor that started it all. That night would begin the chain of events that would leave the United States as the worlds official lone super power of the era.

First we need to know what went wrong? A normal exercise that tested an emergency water cooling system in the result of a power loss happened, in a matter if seconds a reaction took place that caused pressure to build up inside the reactor and like a water bottle that’s twisted over and over the steam blasted the roof off the reactor. But unlike a water bottle which has simple vapor steaming out. Radiation poured out and chunks of material flew out on fire with even more radiation. All of this happened in seconds leading to another explosion in reactor three. They had shut down their automatic safety systems that normally could of prevented this to run their safety test. However they initially refused to shut down reactors one through three even though there was an explosion and fire was running rampant allowing for more radiation to become exposed to the air.

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The Soviet government took action on April 26th mobilizing troops and firefighters to try and cool down the exposed reactor. Unfortunately most of them they would die because of the lack of protection against radiation. Not that any real gear would of helped in all honestly considering this was an open core just spewing unprecedented amount of this stuff. These firefighters were exposed to more radiation then those who died during the Hiroshima bombing. They would die within a hour and nobody in human history had been so exposed to radiation then those men who climbed the roof to fight the fire. To give you an idea since this is all quite a lot to understand. People today still can’t venture to Chernobyl without extensive protection. Its been over 30 years and its still hazordess

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So why is this event the undoing of this super power? Well despite their best attempts to keep in under the radar they couldn’t. This disaster could poison and kill millions of people if a solution was not found. Now they did find a solution without any help from a foreign government but the world knew what happened. They had tried every possible thing to keep the this out of the worlds eyes. Killing those who knew about it or imprisoning’s them. They had just lost a expensive war in Afghanistan and their economy could not handle this monstrosity of a accident. The world knew they were a corrupted government but now they couldn’t even hide it. They had spent so capital fighting this that they could never recover especially after war. When news of this event hit and streets people in the Union started to protest and with their new freedom of speech they made sure that their voices were heard. Political instability was rampant especially in the satellite states. The motherland simply didn’t have the resources to stamp out this threat. The final nail in the coffin comes from Gorbachev himself the last leader of the Soviet Union who said that “Chernobyl was perhaps the real cause of the collapse of the Soviet Union.”


Chyrnobyl . Editors. “Chernobyl.”, A&E Television Networks, 24 Apr. 2018,

“Meltdown in Chernobyl.” Seventeen Moments in Soviet History, 2 Sept. 2015,

Pai, Akshay. “First Firemen at Chernobyl Site Were Exposed to 5,600 Years-Worth of Radiation in 48 Seconds.” MEAWW, 27 Feb. 2020,

12 thoughts on “Chernobyl: The Not So Symbolic End Of The Peoples Union.

  1. The Chernobyl disaster is so horrific and complicated, and I appreciate the reminder that we should not credit Reagan with bringing down the Berlin Wall or the Soviet Union.
    I’m a bit confused by the last paragraph though. What “solution” did the Soviets find to Chernobyl? It seems that it’s an ongoing disaster, the damages from which will be with the land and people who live there fore generations to come. I agree that the Soviets’ response was misguided, inadequate, and often made things worse rather than better. And Chernobyl is definitely a factor in the collapse of the Soviet Union, but I think there are other elements we should take into account as well, right?


    1. Maybe solution was a bit of a stretch but I’m referring to their all around effort of sanding the exposed reactor which did help. Granted they should of immediately evacuated citizens as soon as the reactor blew and not been so secretive. There was also some misguided efforts by those who were managing the facility. The collapsing of the Soviet Union had several layer’s to it. Political instability, war, abiding by international realism, all around failed centralization, and of course Chernobyl. It’s my opinion that after Chernobyl there was no recovering perhaps the same could be said about all of those things above though. However I can’t help but feel this just showed the world and all of the people living within the Soviet Union how fractured their system really was.


  2. Hi Kellan! I really enjoyed reading your post, and I like the stance you take on the role the Chernobyl disaster played in the fall of the Soviet Union. I agree with your reply above, that the collapse had multiple layers to it, and a nuclear disaster as extensive as Chernobyl would take a lot of fluid capital to come back from (which they didn’t have), much less hide it from the rest of the world. I know they’re still struggling to maintain the effects of the disaster, including creating a new mega tomb to contain the radiation from the reactors that the original tomb couldn’t contain. What I got from your post is that Chernobyl was a disaster that the USSR completely fumbled, and each move they made to fix or contain the disaster was only a temporary fix, which did not combine well with their unpreparedness in understanding the effects a disaster like this would have.


  3. Really interesting perspective. Despite Soviet efforts, there was little that could be done to contain such a massive mistake. And I agree that this event really sparked the downfall of the Soviet Union. Do you think the Soviet Union would have lasted a little longer if this did not transpire?


  4. Hey Kellan ,I really enjoyed reading your perspective and contrasting it from my own. This meltdown was such a big deal and for the Soviet Union to attempt to fly it under the radar was left me in awe and their complete disregard to the population and the effects that it would have on them.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi Kellan, i also wrote about the Chernobyl disaster for this week’s post. I found it insane how much radiation the first responders were exposed to in the immediate aftermath. Its crazy to think how brave these people were to willingly run straight into their death for the greater cause. I also agree that this event was really the last straw for the Soviet Union, and directly led to their collapse.


  6. Hi Kellan, great blog post! I never knew about this particular nuclear accident but after reading you post I can see why, no one wants to remember this horrific tragedy. It is unbelievable how quickly first respondents were exposed to radiation and how it cost many of their lives. I agree that his event was the reason of the collapse of the Soviet Union.


  7. Kellan, I have never seen an argument that the Chernobyl meltdown marked the end of the USSR. It is interesting how you highlighted how aside from further hampering an already struggling economy, the disaster destroyed what little was left of the international renown of the USSR. Your post is an interesting perspective on the meltdown and I agree with it. Well done!


  8. Kellan, I very much agree with the idea that Chernobyl was where the Soviet Union truly began to unravel. In 1986, Gorbachev had only recently taken power and this disaster I believe greatly affected the rest of his time in power. The fact that the Soviet Union went to great lengths to conceal what happened is also very telling, as the Soviets wanted to maintain their reputation as one of the world’s leading superpowers. Great post!


  9. Interesting perspective, Kellan! While I certainly think Chernobyl contributed greatly to the fall of the Soviet Union, there were so many events during this time period that led to the economic downfall they saw that should be taken into account as well (failed anti-alcohol movement, etc). I definitely found your post interesting and reading more about this devastating event, it is truly shocking to read how many lives were effected, and continue to be effected, because of this disaster.


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