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Chernobyl: before and after


Objects left in Pripyat, a ghost city in Northern Ukraine.

The weekly magazine Literaturna Ukrayina was not part of the clandestine press and does not date from the age of perestroika. It was founded in 1927, but it remained virtually unknown in the West until 26 April 1986, the date of the explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant.

Vassil Plioutch
Deputy Editor of Literaturna Ukrayina, Kiev.

A month before the accident, Literaturna Ukrayina had published a highly-critical article on the faults of the plant and the lack of respect paid to technical standards during its construction. The author of the article and the editorial staff were inundated with indignant complaints. They were accused of malice and of trying to undermine the reputation of hardworking engineers. What saved them from the serious consequences which might have followed publication of this article was… the catastrophe itself! The same cannot be said, alas, of the thousands of Ukrainians, Byelorussians and Russians who were bombarded with radioactive dust. But today the whole world knows that story.

We can now see how cramped our common European home is, and how fragile and vulnerable are the peace and happiness within it. There is no need to erect a barrier of medium-range missiles to see it go up in smoke. A moment of carelessness in the supposedly peaceful use of the atom is enough. What is the point, in a country like France, of painstakingly equipping nuclear plants with a double or triple security system, when the slightest act of negligence committed elsewhere is enough to spark off a general catastrophe? Take it from me, as a man working at Kiev, 120 km from the plant, who receives a daily dose of radiation : I have first-hand knowledge of the tragedy of the sick children for whom Canada sent a second plane-load of medication, and of the incredible difficulties in certain districts of Kiev and Jitomir which were not included in the security zone around the plant and which, four years later, are having to be urgently evacuated. 

In such circumstances, journalists' courage and public-spiritedness will never be sufficiently appreciated. We know from personal experience what they can accomplish. After the Chernobyl catastrophe, our magazine was so successful in mobilizing opinion on ecological problems that we managed to bring about the closure of a nuclear power plant built on a tectonic fault in the Crimea, as well as have work stopped on the Chiguirinsk plant on the banks of the Dnieper River, the source of water for 35 million people. 

Extract from a contribution to the Informal East-West Press Meeting held at Unesco Headquarters, Paris, 27-28 February1990.

Read more: 

Chernobyl todayThe UNESCO Courier, April 1996

Chernobyl: the political fall-out continuesThe UNESCO Courier, October 2000

Belarus: Facing the disaster aloneThe UNESCO Courier, October 2000


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