Consider: what do radiation and information have in common? Why should we talk about this with our children today?
Radiation, as well as information:
- exists everywhere
- used by us daily
- can be safe and useful
- may be DANGEROUS
- is invisible, it is difficult to believe in such an enemy
We live in the age of information, and we consume it every second. What kind of world we build depends on the quality of data. Today, knowledge about radiation is used in all spheres of human life: science, archaeology, palaeontology, medicine, aviation, food and technical industries. At the same time, many fakes have been created about it, which creates misconceptions, frivolous attitudes, or even fear in society.
Radiation in 1986 -> Coronavirus today -> Misinformation is constant
Silencing the scale of radiation pollution has led to the loss of lives and territory. The Chornobyl case demonstrates the victims of propaganda, misrepresentation and fake news.
Although the leadership of the Soviet Union proclaimed publicity and openness, the emergency at the Chornobyl nuclear power plant proved the falsity of these slogans. Realizing that an ecological catastrophe of this magnitude would have negative consequences for the communist regime, the Soviet leadership chose to remain silent, and information about the human-made disaster caused by the explosion and subsequent destruction of the 4th Chornobyl unit was immediately classified as secret.
According to archival documents, the secret service of the USSR - the KGB immediately began to develop and implement a set of special measures to classify information about the accident at the regime facility. This was in line with the totalitarian regime. In one of the first such messages. The KGB Department for Kyiv and Kyiv Oblast, sent to the USSR KGB on April 26, 1986, stated:
The first official local report of the Chornobyl accident appeared only 36 hours later - at noon on April 27, when the Pripyat radio announced the "temporary evacuation" of the inhabitants of Pripyat - the nearest city to the Chornobyl nuclear power plant with a population of about 50 thousand. The evacuation was previously planned for April 26 but was detained by the decision of the USSR government and the Central Committee of the CPSU and began only on April 27, 1986, at 14:00. This message was local and was not broadcast to the whole country or for the entire world. In addition, to reduce the amount of luggage and not cause a stir, people were told that they would be able to return home in three days.
In the first days after the accident, instead of informing the population about the environmental consequences of the nuclear disaster, the leadership of the Ukrainian SSR was more concerned with "checking the version of a possible subversive intent." Sixty-seven special agents and 56 proxies were looking for the culprits.
The first news
Information policy in the first weeks after the disaster sowed great distrust of the authorities. The central and republican press remained silent on television about the accident until people talked about it abroad. It became clear that it was impossible to hide the accident. Many Soviet people first heard of the emergency from "hostile voices" from London, Washington, and Munich.
The first official announcement in the USSR under pressure from the international community was made on April 28. Then the main TV news program "Vremya" at 21:00 succinctly reported: "There was an accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. One of the nuclear reactors was damaged. Measures are being taken to eliminate the consequences of the accident. Victims are being assisted. A government commission has been set up. "It was challenging to understand the accurate scale of the tragedy from this message.
For comparison, the headlines in the world media on the same day looked like this: "A serious accident occurred at a nuclear power plant in the Soviet Union", Financial Times, "Radioactive Russian dust cloud flies out of the Soviet Union", The Guardian, "The horror of the atomic cloud ", The Star," Cloud of Death from Russia ", The Mirror," Catastrophe of Red Nuclear Weapons ", The Sun.
The USSR government understood that the population should still be informed, but it had all the tools to do so manipulatively in the spirit of a totalitarian state. Issuing orders "to intensify work" to stop ". Thus, in late April-May 1986, operatives of the regional departments of the KGB of the USSR searched for "gossip" and "panickers" - people who collected information and spread "gossip" about the Chernobyl events. However, these people saved the lives of others.
International Workers' Day demonstration
In the evening of May 1, the wind from Chernobyl returned to Kyiv. When all foreign media were reporting a threat to human life, and a map of air flows in Central and Eastern Europe was shown on television screens, demonstrations and celebrations dedicated to International Workers' Day were held in Kyiv and other cities in Ukraine and Belarus. A national holiday celebrated all over the country.
Those responsible for withholding information later explained their decision by the need to prevent panic among the population. Although the level of radiation, for example, in Kyiv, according to declassified documents, exceeded the background tens or hundreds of times. In the first days of May, the wind blew in the direction of Kyiv.
On May 1, at 11:00, the USSR Academy of Sciences X-ray meter recorded a value of about 2,500 μR / h. During the day, the values varied from 400 to 2500 μR / h with the average background value in the city - 15 μR / h. With all that, the parade took place. However, the next day the Soviet leadership decided to evacuate the population from the 30-kilometre zone around the Chernobyl nuclear power plant - on the 6th day after the accident. By May 6, more than 115,000 people had been evacuated from the 30-kilometre zone around the Chernobyl nuclear power plant.
Helpless without information
However, the first piece of advice on human self-protection from radiation appeared in the "Pravda Ukrainy" newspaper only on May 9.
The article "Recommended safety measures" transcribed a radio interview with the then Minister of Health Anatoly Romanenko, the most impractical and even dangerous for everyone. "Our main enemy is dust, as a possible carrier of radioactive substances… In recent days, there have been fewer children playing in the streets and yards. And rightly so. Although there is almost no direct danger of radiation today, let's protect them from dust in the first place. "
Meanwhile, myths about the benefits of alcohol and other "improvised" means of combating radiation spread among the population. An ambiguous image of evacuees was created - the majority of the population considered them contagious and tried to limit their contact with such persons.
Official statement of the first person of the USSR
Mikhail Gorbachev, General Secretary of the CPSU Central Committee, addressed the people with a speech on the Chernobyl accident only on May 14.
How much the truth could save people told about Chernobyl at the right time, we can only imagine today. However, Ukraine still feels the consequences of silence: 60% of Ukrainians do not know the date of the Chernobyl accident, 92% - do not know the radiation standards today, 47% - still believe the Soviet fakes about Chernobyl. And this is 35 years since the accident.
The Chernobyl tragedy clearly shows the world what an information catastrophe is and what repercussions can cause propaganda, distortion of information and fake news today.