No Breathing Room: The Aftermath of Chernobyl

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No Breathing Room: The Aftermath of Chernobyl

By Grigori Medvedev
Basic Books, 1993
213 pp. $20.00

Medvedev is a nuclear engineer and a former senior figure in the Soviet nuclear power establishment. He helped design the Chernobyl plant, and he was among those sent in to assess the damage when it blew up. He wrote a chilling account based on what he found, published as The Truth about Chernobyl. This book is quite different. More than anything it is a case study of censorship in the former Soviet Union. Long before the explosion at Chernobyl, an alarmed Medvedev had written four short stories, warning a Russian audience in fictionalized form of the dangers awaiting them. Here he recounts in exquisite detail the blockheaded resistance of censors to their publication from 1979 until well after Chernobyl. Sadly, in the end, they were protecting nothing but misguided principle and the ineptitude of ministries and other parts of the bureaucracy responsible.

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