Chernobyl, HBO’s five-part miniseries, has been lauded as one of the best television dramas ever made since it was released in early May 2019. Written by Craig Mazin (The Hangover Parts II & III), Chernobyl depicts the Chernobyl nuclear disaster that shook the USSR back in the ’80s.
On April 26, 1986, workers performed tests that caused the system to overheat, resulting in three explosions that blew the top right off one of the plant’s 1,000-megawatt reactors. A fireball shot into the sky with flames reaching 1,000 feet into the air for a total of two days as the reactor began melting down. 31 people died immediately, while approximately 200 people were directly exposed.
To make matters worse, the Soviet government failed to alert its own people and neighboring countries of the incident right away. Firefighting efforts were futile, while radioactive material was continuously spewed into the air. The fires and lethal rain ravaged on for a subsequent eight days. The 40,000 residents of Pripyat, where the Chernobyl plant was located, weren’t even evacuated until three days after the explosion occurred. Clean-up efforts proved to be even more deadly, as an estimated 4,000 people died from radiation poisoning.
To this day, the full toll of this disaster is still being calculated but what we do know is that in addition to the thousands of fatalities, as many as 70,000 people suffered from radiation poisoning. The long-term effects of the incident were seen in birth defects and thyroid cancer among people living in the surrounding areas. 150,000 people who lived within an 18-mile radius of the incident had to be permanently relocated, while the land where the disaster took place will likely not be livable for another 150 years.
American and British critics have praised HBO’s Chernobyl for its cinematic depiction of real-life events and the series has even become the highest-rated series on IMDb. Despite this, Russian citizens are not pleased. This has led to Russia’s NTV channel producing its own version of the events, inserting American spies into the narrative.