Cultural impact of the Chernobyl disaster

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This article is about the Chernobyl disaster, which occurred on April 26, 1986, and was the world's largest nuclear accident.


  • The disaster is the plot-driving device in the 1988 Marvel Comics miniseries Meltdown, featuring Wolverine and Havok.
  • Martin Cruz Smith's 2005 novel, Wolves Eat Dogs, is set mostly in Chernobyl, when Moscow detective Arkady Renko investigates the murder of a powerful businessman in that area, after the businessman's partner has died in Moscow of radiation poisoning. Both victims are found to have had some involvement with the accident, twenty years earlier.
  • The novel Party Headquarters by Bulgarian author Georgi Tenev deals with Chernobyl impact on the integrity of the former Communist block in the late 80's. Large episode of the book is set as an exchange of letters between the protagonist and “little unknown Soviet and Ukrainian comrade” describing the catastrophe.
  • The Gesellschaft für deutsche Sprache chose the term Chernobyl (German: Tschernobyl) as German Word of the Year 1986.[3]
  • Christa Wolf's 1987 novel Accident (German: Störfall) narrates, from the perspective of a female first-person narrator, the thoughts and events of the day on which the news about the Chernobyl accident have reached her and amounts to a criticism of utopian visions that ignore the human side of social progress.[4]
  • The 1987 novel Chernobyl by Frederik Pohl tells about the disaster from the viewpoint of individuals involve in it.
  • In 2004, photographer Elena Filatova published a photo-essay on her website of her solo motorcycle rides through Pripyat and the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone.[5] The website was later revealed to be a hoax,[6] with the photos taken while on a guided tour or taken uncredited from other sources.
  • The 2007 short story "The Zero Meter Diving Team" by Jim Shepard is about the disaster. It is told in the first person by narrator Boris Yakovlevich Prushinsky, chief engineer of the Soviet Department of Nuclear Energy. The story first appeared in BOMB magazine and later appeared in Shepard's short story collection, "Like You'd Understand, Anyway" (2007), Vintage Books.
  • Darragh McKeon's 2014 novel All That is Solid Melts into Air uses the disaster as the backdrop for chronicling the end of the Soviet Union.[7]
  • In the Mort and Phil album Chernobil... ¡Qué cuchitril! the titular characters have to investigate mysterious things happening in Chernobyl 25 years after the disaster.
  • In The Fall by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan, the second volume of their The Strain trilogy, corrupt businessman Eldritch Palmer meets with "The Master", the leader of the rogue vampires, in Pripyat, to plan the vampires' takeover of the world. In the first volume, The Strain, Professor Abraham Setrakian explains that the Master is naturally drawn to the sites of humanity's greatest disasters and atrocities.


  • David Bowie's 1987 song "Time Will Crawl" was inspired by the disaster.
  • Paul Simon's 1990 song "Can't Run But," found on Rhythm of the Saints contains references to the disaster.
  • Polish singer Jacek Kaczmarski wrote a song titled "Dzień Gniewu II (Czarnobyl)" (Day of Wrath II (Chernobyl), written in May 1986 and released a year later), about the day of the disaster in Pripyat, its citizens unaware of the unfolding tragedy. The song juxtaposes calm, ballada-like music with the perspective of imminent death (such as "Around the well in the backyard / wet, smiley faces / a child chases wheel / it is being killed as well"), serving as a protest song against the Soviet handling of the disaster and the secrecy that surrounded it.
  • English heavy metal band Saxon describe their personal experiences of the disaster in the track "Red Alert" on their 1988 album, Destiny.
  • The Japanese punk band The Blue Hearts' song "Chernobyl", on their 1988 single "Blue Hearts Theme", was written in protest of nuclear power. The band's record label at the time had ties to the nuclear industry, thus the group left the label to release the song.
  • "Mayday in Kiev", a song by Watchtower on their 1989 album Control and Resistance. The song title is a pun on the May Day celebrations, which were held in the Ukrainian capital Kiev only days after the explosion as if nothing had happened, and the emergency signal Mayday.
  • The German electronic band Kraftwerk mentions Chernobyl at the beginning of their 1991 remix of their song "Radioactivity", released on the album The Mix. Chernobyl is mentioned along with other places of nuclear incidents and accidents, such as Harrisburg, Sellafield and Hiroshima. The names were included in the remix of the song because some critics had found the original version of the song to be too optimistic towards nuclear energy.
  • Canadian composer Larysa Kuzmenko composed the piano piece "In memoriam: to the Victims of Chernobyl" in 1997. Within the piece is represented, by musical motives, the explosions, the radioactive particles, and a chant for the dead.
  • The music video for the 2007 song "What We Made" by British rapper Example is shot on location at Pripyat, focusing on some parts of the city that has been greatly affected by the disaster.
  • The song "Spam" by the band Save Ferris claims that the product is made in Chernobyl, to rhyme with the line, "It's pink and it's oval."
  • Crossover thrash band Municipal Waste wrote a song entitled "Wolves of Chernobyl," which was about the effects of the fallout, on their 2009 album Massive Aggressive.
  • The Catalan neo-classical band "Der Blaue Reiter" have dedicated an entire album "Nuclear Sun - Chronicle Of A Nuclear Disaster" to the Chernobyl disaster.
  • "Colony Collapse" by British band Architects makes reference to the disaster.
  • German death metal band Cytotoxin draws many of their lyrical themes from the Chernobyl Disaster.
  • The music video for Sweet People, performed by Ukraine's Eurovision Song Contest 2010 entry Alyosha, was filmed in Pripyat.
  • The song "Jijiji" by Patricio Rey y sus Redonditos de Ricota was inspired by this incident
  • German Thrash Metal band "Traitor" deal with the nuclear catastrophe of 1986 in their 2015 song "Reactor 4".
  • The song "Kiev" by French singer Armande Altai
  • Alexander Yakovchuk "Symphony No.1 ~ Chernobyl"
  • Brazilian musician Fredi Endres (of the band Comunidade Nin-Jitsu) calls himself "DJ Chernobyl" in a solo project. The nickname comes from the MTV Brasil Rockgol football championship, where the comedian hosts likened his haircut to the nuclear accident.[8]
  • Swedish black metal band Craft has a song referring to the disaster called "Reaktor 4" on their second album, "Terror Propaganda", released in 2002.

Fiction films[edit]

  • The 1991 film Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country begins with an analogous disaster of an exploding moon, an event which stresses the alien Klingon Empire, who are in part an allegory for the Soviet Union.
  • In the 1993 film Naked starring David Thewlis, the eccentric protagonist Johnny quotes the Book of Revelation and remarks that the Russian translation of Chernobyl is 'wormwood.' This quote is also used as a sample in the 1997 album Orblivion.
  • In 1995 Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki wrote and directed "On Your Mark", a music video for Japanese pop duo Chage & Aska. This was essentially an animated music video lasting almost seven minutes. The opening scene shows a clean, old-fashioned and apparently deserted small village which is dominated by a huge, asymmetrical version of the Chernobyl "sarcophagus." In an interview in "Animage" magazine in 1995, Miyazaki compared the sarcophagus in the video to Chernobyl, noting the survival of plant life.[9]
  • In the 2005 comedy film Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo, the character Deuce Bigalow meets Svetlana, a woman who was born in Chernobyl, and, as a result of the disaster, has a penis instead of a nose.
  • The 2008 short The Door tells of a man breaking into the deserted Pripyat to take the door of his old home - to use as a bier for his daughter's funeral.
  • In the 2010 time travel comedy film Hot Tub Time Machine, the hot tub is converted to a time machine when an illegal Russian energy drink, "Chernobly", is spilled on its controls. The protagonists are transported to 1986, only a few weeks before the real-life Chernobyl disaster.
  • In 2011, the Russian-Ukrainian-German co-produced film В субботу (international title Innocent Saturday) was released that dramatizes the events in the town of Pripyat during the hours and days after the disaster before the Soviet authorities decided to evacuate. The film was entered into the 61st Berlin International Film Festival.
  • In the 2011 film Transformers: Dark of the Moon, the Autobots and NEST travel to Chernobyl to retrieve ancient Cybertronian technology (initially, they were supposed to discover the source of a radiation leak). However, once it was retrieved, Shockwave suddenly appeared and ravaged the plant in attempting to get to the technology.
  • The 2012 horror film Chernobyl Diaries revolves around a group of college students who take an extreme tour into Prypiat, only to find themselves being stalked and hunted by a group of mysterious creatures.
  • The final 20 minutes in the fifth film of the Die Hard series, A Good Day to Die Hard (2013), are set in Chernobyl

Television series[edit]

  • In the second-season episode "The Host" of The X-Files, the episode's main antagonist, a mutant creature dubbed "Fluke-Man" is traced to a Russian freighter that was carrying radioactive sewage away from Chernobyl.
  • In the television series Millennium, the first season episode "Maranatha" sees the hero, Frank Black, tracking a Russian anti christ figure who caused the Chernobyl disaster.
  • In the television series The Event, the character Thomas is said to have been responsible for the disaster at Chernobyl after attempting to transport the fuel rods from the site using alien technology.
  • In Season 5 Episode 9 of "The Simpsons", "The Last Temptation of Homer", Homer and new colleague Mindy Simmons represent the Nuclear Power Plant at The National Energy convention in Capital City. Many passers-bys are shouting at the nuclear power stand, culminating in one shouting "No more Chernobyls", prompting Homer to throw a brick at him.
  • In Season 7 Episode 7 of The Simpsons ("King-Size Homer"), Homer receives a medal and the promise to be thin again by his boss Mr. Burns when he saves the town by "turning a potential Chernobyl into a mere Three Mile Island."
  • In the British sitcom Only Fools and Horses the disaster is referenced in the episode "The Sky's the Limit", where Del quotes "You look as though you've just come back from a club 1830 trip to Chernobyl." where Rodney replies "Chernobyl pretty much describes my life at the moment."
  • On the British show Top Gear, presenters Jeremy Clarkson and James May had to drive past the reactor as a part of a challenge. Clarkson ran out of fuel and was made to stop not far from the reactor.
  • On an episode of the Canadian television comedyThe New Red Green Show, after Red Green decides to bring nuclear power to the Possum Lodge Area and asks where else but Possum Lodge could one find great nuclear energy, his nephew Harold worriedly responds, "Chernobyl comes to mind."
  • On September 30, 2009, Destination Truth, a reality television series on Syfy, aired an episode that features a paranormal investigation located at the site.
  • In Season 2 Episode 23 Of Scorpion (April 18, 2016) titled Chernobyl Intentions, the team worked on an issue with the Chernobyl sarcophagus.

Documentary films[edit]

  • The Bell of Chernobyl, a 1987 documentary film directed by Russian filmmaker, Rollan Sergienko.
  • Chernobyl: The Final Warning, a 1991 film exploring the disaster.
  • Black Wind White Land, a 1993 documentary film exploring the disaster and its consequences for the people of Belarus, Russia and Ukraine.
  • Chernobyl Heart, a 2003 documentary film observing the effects of the disaster on the health of children in the area.
  • The Unnamed Zone, a 2006 Spanish documentary film three young Ukrainian children directly affected by the disaster.
  • White Horse, a short documentary about a man returning to his Ukraine home for the first time in twenty years.
  • Surviving Disaster: Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster,[10] a BBC docudrama about the events at the Chernobyl plant during the accident and the immediate aftermath, focusing on the role of Valery Legasov.
  • The Battle of Chernobyl (Documentary 2006) A documentary with live footage at the time of the situation in Pripyat and the powerplant.
  • Klitschko, a documentary about the World Heavyweight Champions Vitali Klitschko and Wladimir Klitschko makes reference that their late father Wladimir Rodanovich Klitschko who died in 2011 and whom was a senior ranking Red Air Force officer was involved in the cleanup operation following the disaster.
  • The Russian Woodpecker, a 2015 documentary film which investigates the events leading to the Chernobyl disaster.


  • A series of thirty paintings "Pripyat Lights, or Chernobyl Shadows"[11] was created of Kyrgyz and Ukrainian painter Roman Gumanyuk. The series was dedicated to the Chernobyl disaster. In 2012 the artist paid a visit to Ukraine, toured the polluted areas and the abandoned town of Pripyat, the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant itself. Impressions from what the artist saw made the basis for his artworks.

Video games[edit]

  • In the 1987 home computer game Maniac Mansion, the player can find a hidden nuclear reactor described as "made in Chernobyl."
  • The 1988 arcade game Chelnov was named after the events at Chernobyl.[12]
  • The 1988 video game Snatcher features a horrific disaster in its backstory known as The Catastrophe involving an explosion at a nuclear facility in Chernoton, Russia, releasing a biotoxin called Lucifer-Alpha into the atmosphere which kills a large percent of the world's populace. Said Catastrophe bears similarities to the Chernobyl disaster.
  • A hidden Codec conversation in the 1998 video game Metal Gear Solid reveals that supporting character Nastasha Romanenko was born in Pripyat and lived three kilometres north of there. The disaster occurred when she was 10 years old, leading to the deaths of her parents by radiation sickness some years later as well as her hard-line stance against nuclear weapons.
  • The 2007 computer game S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl and its prequel S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky and sequel S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat, are based on the Chernobyl plant, disaster, and the surrounding areas, and in the first two games the power plant is the setting of the final stages. The games are also substantially influenced by the novel Roadside Picnic and Tarkovsky's film "Stalker". The games are set in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone; although the Zone is not replicated exactly, various landmarks, geographic features and overall geography of the Zone are similar and is based upon fieldtrips to the Zone. The power plant is guarded by a fanatical cult called the "Monolith", who worship an alien crystal which resides in Reactor #4.
  • The 2007 video game Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare features mission 11, "All Ghillied Up", and mission 12 "One Shot One Kill", and a multiplayer map, "Bloc", taking place in buildings and streets of abandoned Pripyat and the surrounding area, with the danger of radiation and feral dogs being an element to the gameplay.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Tchernobyl 30 ans après : au coeur de la zone interdite". L'Obs (in French). Retrieved 2017-10-02.
  2. ^ "Culture Sélection de mai - Monaco Hebdo". Monaco Hebdo (in French). 2016-05-12. Retrieved 2017-10-02.
  3. ^ [1]Spiegel Online: Ein Jahr, ein (Un-)Wort! (in German) Archived March 15, 2012, at the Wayback Machine.
  4. ^ Arata Takeda (2015), "Towards global awareness of nuclear threat: Literary responses to nuclear disasters in Christa Wolf's Accident: A Day's News (1987) and Daniel de Roulet's You Didn't See Anything at Fukushima (2011)", in The Impact of Disaster: Social and Cultural Approaches to Fukushima and Chernobyl, eds. Thomas M. Bohn, Thomas Feldhoff, Lisette Gebhardt, and Arndt Graf (Berlin: EB-Publishers), pp. 195–214, here pp. 199–205.
  5. ^ Staff (2006-04-15). "Nuclear ghosts shadow victims". The Advertiser (Adelaide). Retrieved 2008-09-05.[dead link]
  6. ^ Mycio, Mary (2004-07-06). "The World; Account of Chernobyl Trip Takes Web Surfers for a Ride". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2008-09-05.
  7. ^[permanent dead link]
  8. ^[permanent dead link]
  9. ^ "Interview: Miyazaki on On Your Mark // Hayao Miyazaki Web". Retrieved 2010-07-31.
  10. ^ Surviving Disaster: Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster Archived May 13, 2016, at the Wayback Machine.BBC
  11. ^ Roman Gumanyuk. "Pripyat Lights or Chernobyl Shadows".
  12. ^ Tane, Kiyoshi; Shinichi Yamoto; Hiroki Abe (2002). 超アーケード. Ohta Books. pp. 94–97, 170. ISBN 4-87233-670-4.

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