Cultural impact of the Chernobyl disaster

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

Documentary films[edit]

  • The Bell of Chernobyl (1987), a documentary film directed by Russian filmmaker, Rollan Sergienko.
  • Black Wind White Land (1993), a documentary film exploring the disaster and its consequences for the people of Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine.
  • Chernobyl Heart (2003), a documentary film observing the effects of the disaster on the health of children in the area.
  • Klitschko, a documentary about the World Heavyweight Champions Vitali Klitschko and Wladimir Klitschko, which makes reference to their late father Wladimir Rodanovich Klitschko, a senior ranking Red Air Force officer was involved in the cleanup operation following the disaster who died in 2011.
  • Surviving Disaster: Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster,[1] a BBC docudrama about the events at the Chernobyl plant during the accident and its immediate aftermath, focusing on the role of Valery Legasov.
  • The Battle of Chernobyl (2006), a documentary with live footage at the time of the situation in Pripyat and the powerplant.
  • The Russian Woodpecker (2015), a documentary film which investigates the events leading to the Chernobyl disaster.
  • The Unnamed Zone (2006), a Spanish documentary film about 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 20 years.

Fiction films[edit]

  • Scrooged (1988), Frank Cross, upon seeing the ghost of his boss: "No, you are a hallucination brought on by alcohol... Russian vodka poisoned by Chernobyl!"
  • Chernobyl: The Final Warning (1991), explores the disaster.
  • Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991) begins with an analogous disaster of an exploding moon (Praxis), which event which stresses the alien Klingon Empire, who are in part an allegory for the Soviet Union.
  • In the film Naked (1993), 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 album Orblivion (1997).
  • The Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki wrote and directed On Your Mark (1995), 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 a 1995 interview in Animage magazine, Miyazaki compared the sarcophagus in the video to Chernobyl, noting the survival of plant life.[2]
  • In the comedy film Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo (2005), 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 (2008) 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.
  • The action film Universal Soldier: Regeneration (2009) revolves around terrorists seizing control of Chernobyl and threatening to expose the reactor.
  • In the time travel comedy film Hot Tub Time Machine (2010), 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.
  • The Russian-Ukrainian-German co-produced film В субботу (2011; international title Innocent Saturday) 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 film Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011), 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 is retrieved Shockwave suddenly appears and ravages the plant.
  • The horror film Chernobyl Diaries (2012) revolves around a group of college students who take an extreme tour into Pripyat, 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.


  • The disaster is the plot-driving device in the Marvel Comics miniseries Meltdown (1988), featuring Wolverine and Havok.
  • Martin Cruz Smith's novel, Wolves Eat Dogs (2005), is set mostly in Chernobyl, when the 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, 20 years earlier.
  • The novel Party Headquarters by the Bulgarian author Georgi Tenev deals with Chernobyl's impact on the integrity of the former Communist bloc in the late 1980s. A 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.[5]
  • 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.[6]
  • Frederik Pohl's novel Chernobyl (1987) relates the disaster from the viewpoint of individuals involved 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.[7] The solo motorcycle ride story was later revealed to be a hoax; most of the photos had been taken during a guided tour.[8]
  • Jim Shepard's "The Zero Meter Diving Team" (2007) is a short story about the disaster, narrated in the first person by 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 novel All That is Solid Melts into Air (2014) uses the disaster as the backdrop for chronicling the end of the Soviet Union.[9]
  • In the Mort and Phil comics album Chernobil... ¡Qué cuchitril!, the titular characters have to investigate mysterious things happening in Chernobyl 25 years after the disaster.
  • In volume 1 of Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan's The Strain trilogy, Professor Abraham Setrakian explains that the Master is naturally drawn to the sites of humanity's greatest disasters and atrocities. In volume 2, The Fall, corrupt businessman Eldritch Palmer meets with "The Master", the leader of the rogue vampires, in Pripyat, to plan the vampires' takeover of the world.


  • 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.
  • American rap group Outkast makes a reference to the disaster in the song "Millenium" on their second album ATLiens released in 1996. André 3000s lyrics start the song off with the line "Me and everything around me, is unstable like Chernobyl".
  • 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.[10]
  • Swedish black metal band Craft has a song referring to the disaster called "Reaktor 4" on their second album, "Terror Propaganda", released in 2002.


  • A series of 30 paintings by the Kyrgyz and Ukrainian artist Roman Gumanyuk, titled "Pripyat Lights, or Chernobyl Shadows",[11] is dedicated to the Chernobyl disaster. In 2012, the artist paid a visit to Ukraine, and toured the polluted areas the abandoned town of Pripyat, and the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant itself. Impressions from what he saw were the basis for his artworks.


  • Chernobyl miniseries, produced by HBO and Sky Atlantic, aired on 6 May 2019.
  • Motylki, Ukrainian miniseries, aired on 27 April 2013.
  • The September 30, 2009 episode of Destination Truth, a reality television series on Syfy, features a paranormal investigation located at the site.
  • In the Millennium season 1 episode "Maranatha", the hero, Frank Black, tracks a Russian anti christ figure who caused the Chernobyl disaster.
  • In Scorpion season 2 episode 23 ("Chernobyl Intentions", airdate April 18, 2016), the team works on an issue with the Chernobyl sarcophagus.
  • 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 The Simpsons season 5 episode 9 ("The Last Temptation of Homer"), Homer and his new colleague Mindy Simmons represent the Nuclear Power Plant at The National Energy convention in Capital City. Many passers-by are shouting at the nuclear power stand, culminating in one shouting, "No more Chernobyls!", prompting Homer to throw a brick at him.
  • In The Simpsons season 7 episode 7 ("King-Size Homer"), Homer receives a medal and the promise to be thin again from his boss Mr. Burns, when Homer saves the town by "turning a potential Chernobyl into a mere Three Mile Island."
  • In The X-Files season 2 episode "The Host", the main antagonist, a mutant creature dubbed "Fluke-Man", is traced to a Russian freighter that was carrying radioactive sewage away from Chernobyl.
  • On the British 2002 TV series Top Gear,[when?] 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.

Video games[edit]

  • The computer game S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl (2007), its prequel S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky, and its sequel S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat are based on the Chernobyl plant, disaster, and the surrounding areas. 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 resemble and are based upon fieldtrips to the Zone. The power plant is guarded by a fanatical cult called the "Monolith", which worships an alien crystal which resides in Reactor #4.
  • The video game Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (2007) features mission 11, "All Ghillied Up", and mission 12, "One Shot One Kill", and a multiplayer map, "Bloc", set in buildings and streets in and around abandoned Pripyat. The dangers of radiation and feral dogs are elements of the gameplay.
  • Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (2009) features the Spec Ops map "Hidden" and areas previously featured in "All Ghillied Up".
  • Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (2011) includes a flashback cutscene of the mission "One Shot One Kill", from the point of view of the playable character Yuri and the series antagonist Vladimir Makarov, witnessing the attempted assassination of Imran Zakhaev.
  • The arcade game Chelnov (1988) was believed to be named after the events at Chernobyl, despite some developers stating it was independent of the Chernobyl disaster, other developers stated it originally had an alternative name but was changed to Chelnov due to the recent Chernobyl events.[12]
  • Counter-Strike: Global Offensive has a map based on Chernobyl called "de_cache".
  • The upcoming science fiction horror video game Chernobylite is based in the exclusion zone of the aftermath of the Chernobyl Disaster.
  • In the home computer game Maniac Mansion (1987) , the player can find a hidden nuclear reactor described as "made in Chernobyl".
  • A hidden codec conversation in the video game Metal Gear Solid (1998) reveals that the supporting character Nastasha Romanenko was born in Pripyat and lived three kilometres north of there. The disaster occurred when she was 10 years old and lead to her parents' deaths from radiation sickness some years later, as well as her hard-line stance against nuclear weapons.
  • The video game Snatcher (1988) features in its backstory a horrific disaster known as "The Catastrophe", involving an explosion at a nuclear facility in Chernoton, Russia that released into the atmosphere a biotoxin called Lucifer-Alpha which kills a large percent of the world's populace. Said catastrophe bears similarities to the Chernobyl disaster.


  1. ^ Surviving Disaster: Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster Archived May 13, 2016, at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ "Interview: Miyazaki on On Your Mark // Hayao Miyazaki Web". Animage. 1995. Retrieved 2010-07-31.
  3. ^ "Tchernobyl 30 ans après : au coeur de la zone interdite". L'Obs (in French). Retrieved 2017-10-02.
  4. ^ "Culture Sélection de mai - Monaco Hebdo". Monaco Hebdo (in French). 2016-05-12. Retrieved 2017-10-02.
  5. ^ Gunkel, Christoph (31 October 2011). "Ein Jahr, ein (Un-)Wort!". Der Spiegel (in German). Retrieved 29 April 2019.
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^ Staff (2006-04-15). "Nuclear ghosts shadow victims". The Advertiser (Adelaide). Retrieved 2008-09-05.[permanent dead link]
  8. ^ Mycio, Mary (2004-07-06). "The World; Account of Chernobyl Trip Takes Web Surfers for a Ride". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2008-09-05.
  9. ^ Marra, Anthony (7 August 2014). "Red Alert". The New York Times. Retrieved 29 April 2019.
  10. ^[permanent dead link]
  11. ^ Gumanyuk, Roman. "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.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]