: Exclusion zone
Vitaly Portnikov Vitaly Portnikov Ukrainian journalist

16:50 Apr. 27, 2016

Exclusion zone

Pictured in this file image is the Polissya Hotel in the abandoned town of Pripyat near the Chornobyl power station. On April 26, 1986, the fourth reactor of the Chornobyl nuclear power plant exploded causing the world's worst nuclear disaster (Photo

This was not a socialism, but Russian empire with disregard for ordinary people

Vitaliy Portnikov for Newsru.ua

When we remember the 30th anniversary of the Chornobyl disaster, we usually start with personal feelings, technological and medical problems. This is because the state in which the Chornobyl tragedy occurred, remained in the distant past, with all its follies. Or - to be more precise - shifted, shrank to the Russian Federation and its occupied territories.

Learn more about this tragedy wth Ukraine Today's special project 

That is why we almost do not remember today that the main consequence of Chornobyl was the final break-off between a person and the state itself. Because after the disaster, the Soviet Union's propaganda machine - and it was already under Gorbachev and perestroika - continued to operate in its usual mode. Telling nothing, explaining nothing, not helping people, counting on a miracle, trying to give an impression that nothing has happened at all. May Day demonstration in Kyiv was the best illustration of that.


A utility worker arranges festive illumination before the May Day demonstration in Kyiv, on April 30, 1986 (UNIAN file photo) 

As a result, residents of Kyiv and other cities affected by the accident had to receive at least some reliable information from the Western radio programmes, hated by the Soviet propagandists. It turned out that when a real, not invented, catastrophe happened only Radio Liberty and the BBC could help people, and Soviet central television was only able to keep silent.

Why was it important? Yes, the Soviet people had already become accustomed to the two-faced treatment: we are saying one thing, thinking another and doing the third. Things reported by the television did not matter. Well, let them talk about the successes of the food industry, but we are still standing in lines for products, who cares? Well, they say that the most outstanding contemporary writer is Georgi Markov, but we are still reading Mikhail Bulgakov. All these TV talks had absolutely no value. But at the same time, there was an amazing confidence that the state remains strong, and can help its citizens "in case of something."

And when this "something" happened, the Soviet Union turned out to be just a deceitful clown. People who liquidated the consequences of the Chornobyl accident had to act at their own peril and risk - and it was a real peril and a real risk. Residents of Kyiv had to make decisions on their own, realizing from a certain moment that they were being deceived. Everyone was being deceived - from party activists to dissidents. Nobody was important, it was important to save face.


Measuring radiation level in an abandoned school building in the village of Tulgovichi, Belarus, located in 30 km from the Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant (Getty Images photo)

Watch also Chornobyl: Thirty years later

I would not even claim that the socialism was to blame. In the neighboring socialist countries, the same Central Committee decided to inform people about the route of the radioactive cloud and precipitation; and the same lying TV channels reported the news about what was going on after the disaster.

No, it was not the socialism. It was the Russian Empire, with its deep-rooted disregard for the "ordinary people."
Since then a real exclusion zone appeared between the Soviet state and the people, and not only in Ukraine.


In this photo taken on March 23, 2016, a crucifix and a radiation sign at the entrance to the out-of-bounds town Pripyat close to the Chernobyl nuclear power station are seen through a bus window (AP photo)

The fate of the Empire was sealed, it perished five years on after Chornobyl. But the same lying, indifferent to its own people state was replicated on its main territory, the state where the common truth remains its arch-enemy.

Vitaly Portnikov is a Ukrainian journalist and political expert. This article originally appeared in Russian in Newsru.ua

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