Political Fallout: The Failure of Emergency Management at Chernobyl

SLAVIC REVIEW 74.1 (2015): 104-126

Ever since the accident at Chernobyl on April 26, 1986 became public knowledge, the Soviet government’s response to this catastrophe has been the subject of bewilderment and withering criticism. While the USSR’s civil defense organization urged prompt and decisive measures to inform the population of the accident and move people out of harm’s way, other Soviet institutions, such as the Communist Party and the KGB, feared the accident’s threat to their legitimacy more than its implications for public health. This article explores the political and institutional logic that prevented the USSR from acting appropriately to protect citizens from the consequences of the nuclear accident.