Chernobyl: The History of a Nuclear Catastrophe

First published in 2018

Serhii Plokhy (New York: Basic Books, 2018)

Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction, 2018

 

On the morning of April 26, 1986, Europe witnessed the worst nuclear disaster in history: the explosion of a reactor at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Soviet Ukraine. Dozens died of radiation poisoning, fallout contaminated half the continent, and thousands fell ill. In Chernobyl, Serhii Plokhy draws on new sources to tell the dramatic stories of the firefighters, scientists, and soldiers who heroically extinguished the nuclear inferno. He lays bare the flaws of the Soviet nuclear industry, tracing the disaster to the authoritarian character of Communist party rule, the regime’s control of scientific information, and its emphasis on economic development over all else. Today, the risk of another Chernobyl looms in the mismanagement of nuclear power in the developing world. A moving and definitive account, Chernobyl is also an urgent call to action.

Serhii Plokhy is the Mykhailo Hrushevsky Professor of Ukrainian History at Harvard and the director of the university’s Ukrainian Research Institute.His research interests include the intellectual, cultural, and international history of Eastern Europe, with an emphasis on Ukraine.