Valery Legasov was the chief investigator of the Chernobyl accident. The case of Valery is mysterious and unsettling to this day. HBO’s latest drama series Chernobyl paints a rather accurate picture of Legasov, with only a few anomalies.
Valery legasov was a nuclear physicist. He was appointed by the Soviet Government to investigate the Chernobyl disaster less than 24 hours after it occurred. Legasov was the one who pushed for honesty and evacuation of the town of Pripyat, at a time Soviet officials were trying to cover up the causes of the disaster. With that in mind, here are some facts about Valery, and some of his memorable quotes.
Legasov pushed for evacuation
It is strange and impossible to imagine, how nobody thought about evacuation of the nearby city of Pripyat. According to his daughter, Inga Legasova, Valery was the one who ordered and organized the mass exodus of Pripyat, but also Ukraine and surrounding towns. At the time, Soviet Union officials denied the threat to the public.
It took more than 36 hours for officials to agree to the evacuation. Legasov was the one that brought in buses and trains for the people. He told people it was temporary, even though he knew the evacuation is permanent.
In his memoirs, Legasov wrote “I knew that the town had been evacuated forever, but I couldn’t find the moral strength to tell it to the people. Besides, if we told them that they were leaving forever, it would take quite a long time to pack their bags”.
Legasov also tried to stop the May Day Parade in Ukraine, but officials did not cancel it. Instead, thousands of people came to Kiev, on May 1 to celebrate International Workers Day. Kiev is less than 400 miles from Chernobyl, and the parade took place just days after the explosion.
He suffered radiation poisoning
Just hours after he reported to the Chernobyl disaster site, he became very tan and weak. He could barely walk. According to his daughter Inga, he knew from his first day on the scene he would eventually die.
He was hospitalized with severe radiation poisoning, and he was barely eating or sleeping. He was eventually released and returned to work.
This was one of the biggest challenges for the creators of the show. They thought for days how to address the fact that the main character commits real-life suicide.
He died one day after the second anniversary of the Chernobyl explosion. While nobody knows exactly the right reason for his suicide, his daughter said he “had an excessive sense of responsibility”.
After his death, radiation was found on his belongings. They were destroyed.
Wanted to prevent future nuclear disasters
Legasov wrote a report to prevent a future nuclear disaster. His report was 400-pages long, and he presented it during a five-hour presentation to the International Atomic Energy Agency.
He was praised for his openness in discussing the causes and effects of the Chernobyl accident. In his testament, he described the disaster as an inevitable apotheosis of the USSR’s economic system.
Popular quotes by Legasov
- I know who I am, and I know what I’ve done. In a just world, I’d be shot for my lies, but not for this, not for the truth
- When one considers the chain of events leading up to the Chernobyl accident, why one person behaved in such a way and why another person behaved in another, etc., it is impossible to find a single culprit, a single initiator of events, because it was like a closed circle
- To be a scientist is to be naive. We are so focused on our search for truth we fail to consider how few actually want us to find it. But it is always there whether we see it or not, whether we choose to or not. The truth doesn’t care about our needs or wants – it doesn’t care about our governments, our ideologies, our religions – to lie in wait for all time. This at last is the gift of Chernobyl. Where I once would fear the cost of truth, now I only ask what is the cost of lies
- What is the cost of lies? It’s not that we’ll make mistake them for the truth. The real danger is what if we hear enough lies, then we no longer recognize the truth at all. What can we do then? What else is left to abandon even the hope of truth and content ourselves instead with stories? In these stories, it doesn’t matter who the heroes are. All we to know is “Who is to blame”