‘Voices from Chernobyl’
To my discredit, I haven’t contributed anything to this burgeoning, impressive, and award-winning blog in many moons. I only surface now to briefly draw this page’s well-intellectually-heeled readership’s attention to one of the saddest and more remarkable documents I have read in recent memory. The piece is called ‘Voices From Chernobyl’ and it’s just that: stark, merciless, and deeply affecting first-person accounts of the nuclear disaster in
Belarus present-day Ukraine in 1986, published by the Paris Review in 2004 (I came across it via Long Reads). I can’t recommend it highly enough, though I suppose a caveat lector is in order that it’s not for the faint of heart (especially, not that this needs saying, given present-day events).
The testimonies also offer, in pieces, the makings of a superb “everyday” history (as this is a grad history blog I feel it behooves me to drop the original German for this term: Alltagsgeschichte) of Soviet bureaucratic communism in its period of terminal senescence. The testimony from Chernobyl is an extraordinary supplement to the work of historians looking at the “interior” (half) life of Soviet communism (what did people believe, and why, and when and how did that begin to change) such as Sheila Fitzpatrick, Thomas Lahusen, and Jochen Hellbeck.
UPDATE: From the Times‘s Sunday Week in Review portrait of Chernobyl today, ‘Entering The Dead Zone‘: ‘The death of a nuclear reactor has a beginning… But it doesn’t have an end… It is a problem that does not exist on a human time frame… “Nobody knows what to do with what is inside,” he said.’