The gripping story of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, from an acclaimed historian and writer. Serhii Plokhy’s book Chernobyl won the Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction in 2018 and now it is shortlisted for the 2019 Pushkin House Russian Book Prize.
On the morning of 26 April 1986 Europe witnessed the worst nuclear disaster in history: the explosion of a reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Soviet Ukraine. The outburst put the world on the brink of nuclear annihilation. In the end, less than five percent of the reactor's fuel escaped, but that was enough to contaminate over half of Europe with radioactive fallout.
In Chernobyl, Serhii Plokhy recreates these events in all of their drama, telling the stories of the firefighters, scientists, engineers, workers, soldiers, and policemen who found themselves caught in a nuclear Armageddon and succeeded in doing the seemingly impossible: extinguishing the nuclear inferno and putting the reactor to sleep. While it is clear that the immediate cause of the accident was a turbine test gone wrong, Plokhy shows how the deeper roots of Chernobyl lay in the nature of the Soviet political system and the flaws of its nuclear industry. A little more than five years later, the Soviet Union would fall apart, destroyed from within by its unsustainable communist ideology and the dysfunctional managerial and economic systems laid bare in the wake of the disaster.
A poignant, fast paced account of the drama of heroes, perpetrators, and victims, Chernobyl is the definitive history of the world's worst nuclear disaster.
'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
'As moving as it is painstakingly researched. . . a cracking read' - Viv Groskop, Observer
A compelling history of the 1986 disaster and its aftermath . . . plunges the reader into the sweaty, nervous tension of the Chernobyl control room on that fateful night when human frailty and design flaws combined to such devastating effect' Daniel Beer, Guardian
'Haunting ... near-Tolstoyan. His voice is humane and inflected with nostalgia' Roland Elliott Brown, Spectator
'Extraordinary, vividly written, powerful storytelling ... the first full-scale history of the world's worst nuclear disaster, one of the defining moments in the Cold War, told minute by minute' Victor Sebestyen Sunday Times
'Plays out like a classical tragedy ... fascinating' Julian Evans, Daily Telegraph
'Here at last is the monumental history the disaster deserves' Julie McDowall, The Times
Serhii Plokhy is Professor of History at Harvard University and a leading authority on Eastern Europe. His previous books include Lost Kingdom, The Gates of Europe and The Last Empire. The Last Empire won the 2015 Pushkin House Russian Book Prize.