Boris Shcherbina

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Boris Yevdokimovich Shcherbina
Boris Shcherbina.jpeg
Born(1919-10-05)5 October 1919
Died22 August 1990(1990-08-22) (aged 70)
NationalityUkrainian, Soviet
OccupationSecretary of the Irkutsk Regional Party Committee (1951–61)
First Secretary of the Tyumen Regional Party Committee (1961–73)
Minister of Constructions for Oil & Gas Industry (1973–84)
Deputy Chairman of the USSR Council of Ministers (1984–89)
Known forCrisis management following the Chernobyl disaster and the Spitak earthquake

Boris Yevdokimovich Shcherbina (Russian: Борис Евдокимович Щербина, Ukrainian: Борис Євдокимович Щербина; 5 October 1919 – 22 August 1990) was a Soviet politician who served as a vice-chairman of the Council of Ministers in 1984–1989. During this period he supervised Soviet crisis management following two major catastrophes: the 1986 Chernobyl disaster and the 1988 Armenian earthquake.[1][2]


Shcherbina was born in Debaltsevo, South Russia on October 5, 1919 to the family of a Ukrainian[3] railroad worker.[4] He joined the CPSU in 1939 and volunteered for army service during the Winter War with Finland.[citation needed]

Shcherbina is credited with co-founding the oil and gas industry in Western Siberia while serving as the CPSU first secretary in Tyumen Oblast and later as the Minister of Construction of Oil and Gas Industries (1973–1984).[citation needed] In 1976, Shcherbina had become a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and kept the position until his death.[citation needed]

In 1984, he became a vice-chairman of the Council of Ministers and as such was in charge of dealing with the Chernobyl disaster outcome in 1986. Shcherbina served in a similar role after the catastrophic 1988 Armenian earthquake.[5] He proposed inviting international rescuers – from Austria and Czechoslovakia – who had thermal imagers and specially trained dogs at their disposal to search for living people.[6]

In 1990, he opposed the election of Boris Yeltsin to the chairmanship of the Supreme Soviet of the RSFSR, describing him as "a man of low moral qualities", whose election would "pave the way for the darkest period in our country's history".[7] However, Yeltsin was elected and later became the first President of the Russian Federation.


Shcherbina died in Moscow in 1990, aged 70.[1][2] General Nikolai Tarakanov, who worked with Shcherbina during the clean-up operation, stated that he knew Shcherbina "very well" and that he "exposed himself to large doses of radiation" at Chernobyl.[8] It is unclear if his death was related to radiation as a 1988 decree prevented Soviet doctors from citing radiation as a cause of death or illness.[9]

Honours and awards[edit]

In his position of Minister of Oil & Gas, he was awarded the honourary title of Hero of Socialist Labor for major contributions to the development of the country's oil and gas industry, which was the highest award for achievements within the national economy. During his life, he was also awarded four Orders of Lenin, the Order of the October Revolution and two Orders of the Red Banner of Labour.[10]

In Gyumri, Armenia, a street was named after him in his honour. On 10 November, 2004, a bust of Shcherbina was erected in Nikolai Nemtsov Square in Tyumen, Tyumen Oblast.[10]

In popular culture[edit]

Shcherbina is portrayed by Stellan Skarsgård in the Sky/HBO miniseries Chernobyl (2019) and Vernon Dobtcheff in the BBC docudrama Surviving Disaster.[11]

Commemorative plaque in Debaltsevo, Ukraine


  1. ^ a b Hewitt, Ed A.; Winston, Victor H. (1 December 2010). Milestones in Glasnost and Perestroyka: Politics and People. Brookings Institution Press. pp. 20–. ISBN 978-0-8157-1914-4.
  2. ^ a b Plokhy, Serhii (15 May 2018). Chernobyl: The History of a Nuclear Catastrophe. Basic Books. pp. 299–. ISBN 978-1-5416-1708-7.
  3. ^ Burke, Patrick (1988). The Nuclear Weapons World: Who, how & where. Greenwood Press. p. 163. ISBN 0313265909.
  4. ^ "Shcherbina, Boris Evdokimovich". The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979).
  5. ^ Schmid, Sonja D. (6 February 2015). Producing Power: The Pre-Chernobyl History of the Soviet Nuclear Industry. MIT Press. pp. 133–. ISBN 978-0-262-02827-1.
  6. ^ Sputnik. "Десять Хиросим Спитака – воспоминания казахстанца о страшном землетрясении". Sputnik Казахстан (in Russian). Retrieved 2019-05-31.
  7. ^ "Борис Евдокимович ЩЕРБИНА". Губкинская неделя (in Russian). Retrieved 2019-05-31.
  8. ^ "What HBO got wrong: Chernobyl general gives hit TV show a reality check". RT. 7 June 2019. Retrieved 2019-06-11. The commission arrived the day after the explosion, led by [vice-chairman of the USSR’s Council of Ministers] Boris Shcherbina. I knew him very well in person. And I believe that Boris Shcherbina is personally responsible for all that – and I say it responsibly as I knew him well, may he rest in peace, he passed away ten years ago. He exposed himself to large doses of radiation, being the head of the government commission.
  9. ^ "Boris Shcherbina". Yahoo UK. 29 April 2019. He died in 1990 at age 70, and it's not clear if he died of radiation or not, given that he ordered the construction of a new town in the highly contaminated area. In a secret 1988 decree that he helped form, Soviet doctors could not cite radiation as a cause of death or illness.
  10. ^ a b "Щербина Борис Евдокимович".
  11. ^ Surviving Disaster. BBC.