With support from the University of Richmond

History News Network

History News Network puts current events into historical perspective. Subscribe to our newsletter for new perspectives on the ways history continues to resonate in the present. Explore our archive of thousands of original op-eds and curated stories from around the web. Join us to learn more about the past, now.

National Security Archive Releases New Briefing Book on Chernobyl through the Eyes of the Soviet Politburo, KGB, and U.S. Intelligence

Edited by Svetlana Savranskaya, Sarah Dunn, Brooke Lennox with Alla Yaroshinskaya

Documents from the highest levels of the Soviet Union, including notes, protocols and diaries of Politburo sessions in the immediate aftermath of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986, detail a sequence of cover-up, revelation, shock, mobilization, individual bravery, and bureaucratic turf battles in the Soviet reaction, according to the “Top Secret Chernobyl” e-book published today by the National Security Archive.

Key sources include protocols of the Politburo Operational Group on Chernobyl that were published in Russian by the journalist and former Supreme Soviet deputy Alla Yaroshinskaya in 1992.  The posting today begins with Yaroshinskaya’s essay (written exclusively for this publication) reviewing the Chernobyl story and her own efforts dating back to 1986 to document and expose the lies and the secrecy that surrounded the disaster. 

Also included are excerpts from the diary of Politburo member Vitaly Vorotnikov, notes on Politburo sessions by Anatoly Chernyaev, and excerpts from rare “official working copies” of Politburo sessions that were published in Russian by former Rosarchiv director Rudolf Pikhoia in 2000.  Today’s publication also contains declassified reactions from the U.S. State Department’s intelligence bureau, the CIA, and the National Security Council’s Jack Matlock, as well as reporting from the Ukrainian KGB.

“Top Secret Chernobyl” is the first part of a two-volume documentary publication, taking the Chernobyl story through July 1986.  The second part will include Soviet military reporting on the radiation contamination, the process of “liquidation” of the consequences, and more foreign reactions to the disaster.   

Read entire article at National Security Archive