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Digital Archive International History Declassified

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Chernobyl Nuclear Accident, 1986

The disastrous meltdown in the 4th reactor of the Chernobyl (Chornobyl) Atomic Electrical Station occurred on April 26th, 1986. This collection contains Ukrainian and national KGB reports, Communist Party directives, and Ukrainian Academy of Science measurements which discuss technical issues with the plant, details of the accident, and emergency responses across the republic. It shows that updates from the construction site and first few years of plant operation were dire as early as the 1970s. The collection also demonstrates that the government failed to inform the public of the true scope of radiation damage for years after the accident. Adam Higgonbotham, author of Midnight in Chernobyl, introduces parts of the collection in an essay for Sources & Methods. See also the Digital Archive collection on Ukrainian Nuclear History. (Image: A helicopter sprays a decontamination liquid nearby the Chernobyl reactor in 1986. Source: IAEA Imagebank #02790036, via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 2.0.)

  • April 28, 1986

    Untitled report by Lt. Col. V.P. Alekseyev and Major V.D. Kohan on Radiation Levels

    Info on radiactive fallout, and that Kiev is currently safe and being observed by experts, while Pripyat has 30-160 micro roentgens/sec, and Rivne Oblast has 820 micro roentgens per hour. From emergency 91 hospitalized people sent to Moscow, and 54 to Kiev and Kiev Oblast.

  • April 29, 1986

    Telegram Sent from 6th Clinical Hospital, Moscow, to Vera Sergeyevna Toptunovoa

    A telegram Leonid Toptunov sent to his mother with the address of the hospital in Moscow where he was located.

  • April 29, 1986

    A. Serdyuk, 'Some First Priority Questions in connection with the Situation in the Region of the Chernobyl AEhS'

    The report covers the issue of radiactive fallout following the accident, evacuation procedure, and number of hospitalized.

  • April 30, 1986

    Deputy Head of the 6th Department of the KGB Administration Lieut. Col. Aksenov, 'Notice of Emergency Incident'

    This document relays data received from chemical protection troops on radioactivity levels in Pripyat.

  • April 30, 1986

    Seventh Directorate of the MIA of the USSR to the Minister of Internal Affairs of the Ukrainian SSR, Colonel-General Gladush I.D., 'Report on the Results of the Study of Public Opinion in connection with the Accident at the Chernobyl AEhS'

    The report notifies the MIA about the public opinion and rumors regarding the Chernobyl accident in several Ukraininan cities.

  • April 30, 1986

    Deputy Minister of Health to the Council of Ministers of the Ukrainian SSR, 'Concerning Measures being carried out to Provide Medical Aid to the Population during the Elimination of the Consequences of the Accident at Chernobyl AEhS'

    Kasyanenko writes about the gamma radiation levels in Kiev, Kiev Oblast and other regions of Ukraine. In the end he suggest sanitation and decide on the issue of informing the public.

  • May, 1986

    Radiation Conditions in Kyiv, Borodianka, Polesskoe, and Ivankov

    This undated report shows levels of radioactivity of air and water in Kyiv, Borodyanka, Polyesskoe, and Ivankov

  • May, 1986

    Background Radiation in the Institute of Atomic Research of the Ukr. SSR Academy of Sciences

    The paper shows a graph of background radiation levels from April 30th-May 2nd, 1986 within the IAR in Kyiv.

  • May 02, 1986

    Deputy Head of the 6th Department of the KGB Administration Lieut. Col. Aksenov, 'Notice of Emergency Incident'

    The document describes levels of radiation in the immediate area, populations which may have been affected, and steps which have been taken in the first few days following the incident.

  • May 03, 1986

    Deputy Head of the 6th Department of the KGB Administration Lieut. Col. Aksenov, 'Notice of Emergency Incident'

    This note explains the processes of localizing the effects of the accident, lead deposits in the area, and the evacuation of collective farms and the city of Chernobyl.

  • May 07, 1986

    Minutes of Meeting of the Operative Group of the Kiev Party City Committee Office, 7 May 1986

    This document details the various forms of radiation protection undertaken in and around the city of Kiev following the Chernobyl disaster.

  • May 08, 1986

    Notice: Information from Places of Evacuation

    Two weeks after the accident, an unnamed KGB officer from the Ukrainian SSR reports on the situation in evacuation sites, the sentiment of local people, the situation in transportation hubs and at key industrial facilities in Kyiv, as well as about the measures taken to prevent foreign journalists from gathering information about the case.

  • May 12, 1986

    Untitled notice on public attitudes toward the Chernobyl accident

    The document lists public responses to Chernobyl, citing a Ukrainian professor who attributed the accident to a Russian desire to exterminate Ukrainians, former members of underground Ukrainian Nationalist movements (OUN) expressing sympathy to those affected, and how several truck drivers refused to drive in area of the plant, choosing to quit their jobs instead.

  • May 21, 1986

    VCh Message from Moscow, dated 18:20, 21 May 1986

    Sent by Deputy Minister Shchepin, the telegram states that those who are under observation for radiation exposure, but who do not show signs of serious radiation sickness, will be discharged with a diagnosis of “vegetative-vascular dystonia”. Those who have been diagnosed with radiation poisoning of higher degrees will be given the diagnosis “serious radiation sickness from associated exposure to radiation” with notes on its level of severity and specific details of complications, including radiation burns.

  • June 11, 1986

    The Situation and Measures to Eliminate the Consequences of the Accident at the Chernobyl AEhS as of 12 June 1986

    The report covers the radiation conditions in Kiev Oblast as of 12th June 1986. In addition, it covers decontamination process, public security and well-being, transportation and calls for speed up building of sarcophagus.

  • July 03, 1986

    Gordienko, 'Notice on "OS" [Environmental Conditions]'

    This note explains the levels of radiation around the reactor, decontamination techniques, the number of troops involved in the cleanup process.

  • July 08, 1986

    Inventory of Information Subject to Classification on Issues related to the Accident in Block # 4 of the Chernobyl Atomic Energy Station (ChAES)

    The document lists extent to which various information related to Chernobyl which should be classified, and for what reasons certain items may be shared.

  • July 28, 1986

    List of Information Subject to Classification concerning Questions Associated with the Accident at Unit Nº 4 of the Chernobyl AEhS (ChAEhS)

    An archival summary of the level of secrecy attached to various types of information about the Chernobyl NPP accident, the vast majority of which are classified as "Secret."

  • August, 1986

    Lieutenant-General S. N. Mukha to Army General V. M. Chebrikov, 'On Inadequacies in the Organization of the Use of Military Personnel involved in the Elimination of the Consequences of the Accident at the Chernobyl Atomic Energy Station'

    A report on how military personnel involved in the response to the Chernobyl accident are being improperly managed at the site, leading to inefficiencies in the cleanup process.

  • August 15, 1986

    Report Memo from S. Mukha to Comrade A.P. Liashko, 'On the Reliability of Measures taken for Dosimetric Inspection of Contaminated Environment and Food Products'

    The document refers to the multifaceted work of ministries and departments of the USSR in the aftermath of the Chernobyl accident and recommends numerous new to reduce environmental, food, and water contamination.