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Stanislav Petrov

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Stanislav Petrov
Stanislaw-jewgrafowitsch-petrow-2016.jpg
Petrov at his house in 2016
Born
Stanislav Yevgrafovich Petrov

(1939-09-07)7 September 1939
Died19 May 2017(2017-05-19) (aged 77)
Known for1983 Soviet nuclear false alarm incident
Spouse(s)Raisa Petrov (m. 1973; died 1997)
Children2
Military career
Allegiance Soviet Union
Service/branchSoviet Air Defence Forces
Years of service1972–1984
RankLieutenant colonel

Stanislav Yevgrafovich Petrov (Russian: Станисла́в Евгра́фович Петро́в; 7 September 1939 – 19 May 2017) was a lieutenant colonel of the Soviet Air Defence Forces who played a key role in the 1983 Soviet nuclear false alarm incident.[1] On 26 September 1983, three weeks after the Soviet military had shot down Korean Air Lines Flight 007, Petrov was the duty officer at the command center for the Oko nuclear early-warning system when the system reported that a missile had been launched from the United States, followed by up to five more. Petrov judged the reports to be a false alarm,[2] and his decision to disobey orders, against Soviet military protocol,[3] is credited with having prevented an erroneous retaliatory nuclear attack on the United States and its NATO allies that could have resulted in the Third World War and a large-scale nuclear war which could have wiped out half of the population of the countries involved. An investigation later confirmed that the Soviet satellite warning system had indeed malfunctioned. Because of this incident, Petrov is often credited as having "saved the world".[4][5][6]

Early life and military career[edit]

Petrov was born on 7 September 1939 near Vladivostok. His father, Yevgraf, flew fighter aircraft during World War II.[7] His mother was a nurse.[7]

Petrov enrolled at the Kiev Higher Engineering Radio-Technical College of the Soviet Air Forces, and after graduating in 1972 he joined the Soviet Air Defence Forces.[8] In the early 1970s, he was assigned to the organization that oversaw the new early warning system intended to detect ballistic missile attacks from NATO countries.[7][9]

Petrov was married to Raisa, and had a son, Dmitri, and a daughter, Yelena. His wife died of cancer in 1997.[7]

Incident[edit]

According to the Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the UN, nuclear retaliation requires that multiple sources confirm an attack.[10] In any case, the incident exposed a serious flaw in the Soviet early warning system. Petrov has said that he was neither rewarded nor punished for his actions.[11]

Had Petrov reported incoming American missiles, his superiors might have launched an assault against the United States,[3] precipitating a corresponding nuclear response from the United States. Petrov declared the system's indication a false alarm. Later, it was apparent that he was right: no missiles were approaching and the computer detection system was malfunctioning. It was subsequently determined that the false alarm had been created by a rare alignment of sunlight on high-altitude clouds above North Dakota and the Molniya orbits of the satellites, an error later corrected by cross-referencing a geostationary satellite.[12][13][14]

Petrov later indicated that the influences on his decision included that he had been told a US strike would be all-out, so five missiles seemed an illogical start;[2] that the launch detection system was new and, in his view, not yet wholly trustworthy; that the message passed through 30 layers of verification too quickly;[15] and that ground radar failed to pick up corroborative evidence, even after minutes of delay.[16] However, in a 2013 interview, Petrov said at the time he was never sure that the alarm was erroneous. He felt that his civilian training helped him make the right decision. He said that his colleagues were all professional soldiers with purely military training and, following instructions, would have reported a missile launch if they had been on his shift.[3]

Petrov underwent intense questioning by his superiors about his judgment. Initially, he was praised for his decision.[2] General Yury Votintsev, then commander of the Soviet Air Defense's Missile Defense Units, who was the first to hear Petrov's report of the incident (and the first to reveal it to the public in the 1990s), states that Petrov's "correct actions" were "duly noted".[2] Petrov himself states he was initially praised by Votintsev and promised a reward,[2][17] but recalls that he was also reprimanded for improper filing of paperwork because he had not described the incident in the war diary.[17][18]

He received no reward. According to Petrov, this was because the incident and other bugs found in the missile detection system embarrassed his superiors and the scientists who were responsible for it, so that if he had been officially rewarded, they would have had to be punished.[2][11][17][18] He was reassigned to a less sensitive post,[18] took early retirement (although he emphasized that he was not "forced out" of the army, as is sometimes claimed by Western sources),[17] and suffered a nervous breakdown.[18]

In a later interview, Petrov stated that the famous red button was never made operational, as military psychologists did not want to put the decision about a nuclear war into the hands of one single person.[19][20]

The incident became known publicly in 1998 upon the publication of Votintsev's memoirs. Widespread media reports since then have increased public awareness of Petrov's actions.[21][22]

There is some confusion as to precisely what Petrov's military role was in this incident. Petrov, as an individual, was not in a position where he could have single-handedly launched any of the Soviet missile arsenal. His sole duty was to monitor satellite surveillance equipment and report missile attack warnings up the chain of command; top Soviet leadership would have decided whether to launch a retaliatory attack against the West. But Petrov's role was crucial in providing information to make that decision.[23] According to Bruce G. Blair, a Cold War nuclear strategies expert and nuclear disarmament advocate, formerly with the Center for Defense Information, "The top leadership, given only a couple of minutes to decide, told that an attack had been launched, would make a decision to retaliate."[24][25]

Petrov later said "I had obviously never imagined that I would ever face that situation. It was the first and, as far as I know, also the last time that such a thing had happened, except for simulated practice scenarios."[23]

Later career[edit]

In the aftermath of the incident, the Soviet government investigated the incident and determined that Petrov had insufficiently documented his actions during the crisis. He explained it as "Because I had a phone in one hand and the intercom in the other, and I don't have a third hand"; nevertheless, Petrov received a reprimand.[7][26]

In 1984, Petrov left the military and got a job at the research institute that had developed the Soviet Union's early warning system. He later retired so he could care for his wife after she was diagnosed with cancer.[7] A BBC report in 1998 stated Petrov had suffered a mental breakdown and quoted Petrov as saying, "I was made a scapegoat."[18][27]

Petrov died on 19 May 2017 from hypostatic pneumonia, though it was not widely reported until September.[28][29][30]

Awards and commendations[edit]

On 21 May 2004, the San Francisco-based Association of World Citizens gave Petrov its World Citizen Award along with a trophy and $1,000 "in recognition of the part he played in averting a catastrophe."[31] In January 2006, Petrov travelled to the United States where he was honored in a meeting at the United Nations in New York City. There the Association of World Citizens presented Petrov with a second special World Citizen Award.[32] The next day, Petrov met American journalist Walter Cronkite at his CBS office in New York City.

That interview, in addition to other highlights of Petrov's trip to the United States, was filmed for The Man Who Saved the World,[31][33] a narrative feature and documentary film, directed by Peter Anthony of Denmark. It premiered in October 2014 at the Woodstock Film Festival in Woodstock, New York, winning "Honorable Mention: Audience Award Winner for Best Narrative Feature" and "Honorable Mention: James Lyons Award for Best Editing of a Narrative Feature."[34]

For his actions in averting a potential nuclear war in 1983, Petrov was awarded the Dresden Peace Prize in Dresden, Germany, on 17 February 2013. The award included €25,000.[35] On 24 February 2012, he was given the 2011 German Media Award, presented to him at a ceremony in Baden-Baden, Germany.[31][36][37]

On 26 September 2018 he was posthumously honored in New York with the $50,000 Future of Life Award.[38] At a ceremony at the Museum of Mathematics in New York, former United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said: “It is hard to imagine anything more devastating for humanity than all-out nuclear war between Russia and the United States. Yet this might have occurred by accident on September 26, 1983, were it not for the wise decisions of Stanislav Yevgrafovich Petrov. For this, he deserves humanity’s profound gratitude. Let us resolve to work together to realize a world free from fear of nuclear weapons, remembering the courageous judgement of Stanislav Petrov.” As Petrov had died, the award was collected by his daughter, Elena. Petrov’s son Dmitry missed his flight to New York because the US embassy delayed his visa.[38][39]

On the same day that Petrov was first honored at the United Nations in New York City, the Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations issued a press release contending that a single person could not have started or prevented a nuclear war, stating in part, "Under no circumstances a decision to use nuclear weapons could be made or even considered in the Soviet Union or in the United States on the basis of data from a single source or a system. For this to happen, a confirmation is necessary from several systems: ground-based radars, early warning satellites, intelligence reports, etc."[10]

But nuclear security expert Bruce G. Blair has said that at that time, the U.S.–Soviet relationship had deteriorated to the point where "the Soviet Union as a system—not just the Kremlin, not just Andropov, not just the KGB—but as a system, was geared to expect an attack and to retaliate very quickly to it. It was on hair-trigger alert. It was very nervous and prone to mistakes and accidents. The false alarm that happened on Petrov's watch could not have come at a more dangerous, intense phase in US–Soviet relations."[23] At that time, according to Oleg Kalugin, a former KGB chief of foreign counterintelligence, "The danger was in the Soviet leadership thinking, 'The Americans may attack, so we better attack first.'"[40]

Petrov said he did not know whether he should have regarded himself as a hero for what he did that day.[23] In an interview for the film The Man Who Saved the World, Petrov says, "All that happened didn't matter to me—it was my job. I was simply doing my job, and I was the right person at the right time, that's all. My late wife for 10 years knew nothing about it. 'So what did you do?' she asked me. 'Nothing. I did nothing.'"[23]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Mattern, Douglas (28 November 2007). Standish, Katerina; Bastet, Tatiyana; Reimer, Laura; Devere, Heather; Simpson, Erika; Talahma, Rula; Loadenthal, Michael (eds.). "Beyond Nuclear Terrorism". Peace Review: A Journal of Social Justice. Washington, D.C., United States of America: Peace and Justice Studies Association (International Peace Research Association/Georgetown University)/Taylor & Francis. 19 (4): 563–569. doi:10.1080/10402650701681194. ISSN 1040-2659. S2CID 143511673. Retrieved 4 September 2021.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Lebedev, Anastasiya (21 May 2004). Mattern, Douglas; Waldow, Rene; Ray, Tom (eds.). "The Man Who Saved the World Finally Recognized". MosNews/Association of World Citizens (AWC). San Francisco, California, United States of America: The Association of World Citizens. Archived from the original on 21 July 2011. Retrieved 4 September 2021.
  3. ^ a b c Aksenov, Pavel (26 September 2013). Unsworth, Fran; Hockaday, Mary; Edwards, Huw (eds.). "Stanislav Petrov: The man who may have saved the world". London, England, Uniteed Kingdom of Great Britain: British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). Archived from the original on 8 March 2014. Retrieved 4 September 2021.
  4. ^ Long, Tony (26 September 2007). Anderson, Chris (ed.). "Sept. 26, 1983: The Man Who Saved the World by Doing ... Nothing". Wired. San Francisco, California, United States of America: Condé Nast Publications. ISSN 1059-1028. OCLC 24479723. Archived from the original on 1 November 2015. Retrieved 4 September 2021.
  5. ^ Pedersen, Glen (1 July 2005). Smith, Susan; Jordan-Simpson, Emma; Vesely-Flad, Ethan (eds.). "Stanislav Petrov World Hero". Fellowship. New York City, New York, United States of America: United States Fellowship of Reconciliation. 71 (7–8): 9–10. Retrieved 4 September 2021 – via ProQuest.
  6. ^ Forden, Geoffrey; Podvig, Pavel; Postol, Theodore A. (1 March 2000). Hassler, Susan; Land, Susan Kathy; Zorpette, Glenn; Goldstein, Harry; Bretz, Elizabeth A.; Guizzo, Erico (eds.). "False alarm, nuclear danger". IEEE Spectrum. New York City, New York, United States of America: Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. 37 (3): 31–39. doi:10.1109/6.825657. ISSN 0018-9235. Retrieved 4 September 2021.
  7. ^ a b c d e f Chan, Sewell; Kishkovsky, Sophia; Matsnev, Oleg (19 September 2017). Sulzberger, A.G.; Baquet, Dean; Kahn, Joseph (eds.). "Stanislav Petrov, 77; Soviet Who Helped Avert a Nuclear War". International news. The New York Times. CLXVI (186). New York City, New York, United States of America. p. B14. ISSN 1553-8095. OCLC 1645522. Archived from the original on 19 September 2017. Retrieved 4 September 2021.
  8. ^ "Смерть предотвратившего ядерную войну офицера Петрова подтвердили" (in Russian). Lenta.Ru. 19 September 2017.
  9. ^ Nagesh, Ashitha (18 September 2017). Young, Ted; Harmsworth, 4th Viscount Rothermere, Jonathan; Dacre, Paul (eds.). "Stanislav Petrov – The man who quietly saved the world – Has died aged 77". Metro. London, England, United Kingdom of Great Britain: Associated Newspapers Ltd (DMG Media). ISSN 1469-6215. OCLC 225917520. Archived from the original on 18 September 2017. Retrieved 4 September 2021.
  10. ^ a b Churkin, Vitaly (19 January 2006). "Press release: On presentation of the world citizens award to Stanislav Petrov" (PDF). Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations (Press release). New York City, New York, United States of America: Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation. United Nations. Archived from the original (PDF) on 28 February 2006. Retrieved 4 September 2021.
  11. ^ a b В Нью-Йорке россиянина наградили за спасение мира. Lenta.ru (in Russian)
  12. ^ "Molniya orbit".
  13. ^ Henry Chancellor (director and producer), Gina McKee (narrator), Richard Bright (producer), Cherry Brewer (producer), Taylor Downing (producer), Sam Organ (producer), (5 January 2008). Baynes, Jeff; Parker, Owen; Norris, Alice; Adams, Alison; Marcussen, Elizabeth; Farrell, Aidan; Mitchell, Andrew (eds.). 1983: The Brink of the Apocalypse (Documentary). Channel 4 (Motion picture (television broadcast)). London, England, United Kingdom of Great Britain: Channel Four Television Corporation/Flashback Productions/Discovery Channel Pictures. 29:06 minutes in. Retrieved 8 September 2021 – via YouTube.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
  14. ^ Lui, Kevin (18 September 2017). Felsenthal, Edward; Benioff, Marc (eds.). "The Man Who Saved the World From Possible Nuclear War Has Died Age 77". Time. Vol. 190 no. 10. New York City, New York, United States of America: Time USA, LLC (Marc & Lynne Benioff). ISSN 0040-781X. OCLC 1311479. Archived from the original on 20 November 2017.
  15. ^ Beddoes, Zanny Minton; Standage, Tom; Boro, Lara Salameh, eds. (30 September 2017). "Obituary: Stanislav Petrov was declared to have died on September 18th". The Economist. London, England, United Kingdom of Great Britain: The Economist Group (The Economist Newspaper Limited). ISSN 0013-0613. Archived from the original on 28 December 2017.
  16. ^ Hoffman, David (10 February 1999). Graham, Donald E.; Downie Jr., Leonard (eds.). "'I Had A Funny Feeling in My Gut'". The Washington Post. Washington, D.C., United States of America. p. A19. ISSN 0190-8286. OCLC 2269358. Archived from the original on 18 December 2018. Retrieved 4 September 2021.
  17. ^ a b c d Vasilev, Yuri. Gurevich, Vladimir; Gaydamak, Arcadi; Sokolov, Sergey Viktorovich; Bogomolov, Alexey; Chelnokov, Alexey Sergeevich (eds.). "Тот, который не нажал" [The one that didn't click]. Moskovskiye Novosti (in Russian). Moscow, Russia: FLB LLC. Archived from the original on 29 November 2004.
  18. ^ a b c d e Little, Alan (21 October 1998). Unsworth, Fran; Hockaday, Mary; Edwards, Huw (eds.). "'How I stopped nuclear war'". BBC News. London, England, Uniteed Kingdom of Great Britain: British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). Archived from the original on 8 November 2006. Retrieved 4 September 2021.
  19. ^ Braunberger, Gerald; Franke, Martin; Heid, Tatjana; Hüsgen, Simon; Kaube, Jürgen; Johannßen, Philipp; Kohler, Berthold; Konstantinidis, Lisa, eds. (18 February 2013). "Officer Petrow im gespräch: "Der rote Knopf hat nie funktioniert"" [Conversation with Officer Petrov: "The red button never worked"]. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (in German). Frankfurt, Hesse, Germany: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung GmbH. Archived from the original on 19 February 2013. Retrieved 8 September 2021.
  20. ^ Peppard, Michael (20 March 2015). "Accidental Armaggedon" (PDF). Commonweal. Bolinas, California, United States of America: Commonweal Foundation. 142 (6): 6. Retrieved 4 September 2021 – via ProQuest.
  21. ^ Steele, Jonathan (11 October 2017). Viner, Katharine; Berkett, Neil (eds.). "Stanislav Petrov obituary". The Guardian. London, England, United Kingdom of Great Britain: Guardian Media Group plc (Scott Trust). ISSN 1756-3224. OCLC 60623878. Archived from the original on 11 October 2017. Retrieved 4 September 2021.
  22. ^ Bläsius, Karl-Hans; Siekmann, Jörg (27 February 2021). Sonntag, Daniel; Pagel, Peter (eds.). "Unintended Nuclear War" (PDF). KI - Künstliche Intelligenz. Gesellschaft für Informatik e.V./Springer Nature. 35 (1): 119–121. doi:10.1007/s13218-021-00710-0. Retrieved 4 September 2021.
  23. ^ a b c d e "Important Insight". Bright Star Sound. It is nice of them to consider me a hero. I don't know that I am. Since I am the only one in this country who has found himself in this situation, it is difficult to know if others would have acted differently.
  24. ^ Bensadoun, Daniel (1 October 2010). Horovitz, David; Ashkenazi, Inbar; Katz, Yaakov (eds.). "This week in history: Stanislav Petrov avoids nuclear war". The Jerusalem Post. Jerusalem, Israel: Palestine Post Ltd./Jpost Inc. (Jerusalem Post Group). ISSN 0021-597X. Archived from the original on 2 March 2021. Retrieved 4 September 2021.
  25. ^ Klare, Michael T. (1 April 2020). "'Skynet' Revisited: The Dangerous Allure of Nuclear Command Automation" (PDF). 50 (3). Washington, D.C., United States of America: Arms Control Association: 10–15. Retrieved 4 September 2021 – via ProQuest. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  26. ^ Lundgren, Carl (27 June 2013). Pollack, Joshua; Horner, Dan; Spector, Leonard S.; Fink, Anya L.; Williams, Heather (eds.). "What are the odds? Assessing the probability of a nuclear war". The Nonproliferation Review. Monterey, California, United States of America: James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies (Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey)/Taylor & Francis. 20 (2): 361–374. doi:10.1080/10736700.2013.799828. ISSN 1073-6700. S2CID 143379126. Retrieved 4 September 2021.
  27. ^ Peppard, Michael (20 March 2015). Allsman, Arlene; Dodd, Catherine; Bookoff, Steve; Marcotte, Vanessa (eds.). "Accidental Armaggedon" (PDF). Commonweal. Bolinas, California, United States of America: Commonweal Foundation. 142 (6): 6. Retrieved 4 September 2021 – via ProQuest.
  28. ^ Myre, Greg (18 September 2017). Lansing, John (ed.). "Stanislav Petrov, 'The Man Who Saved The World,' Dies At 77". National Public Radio (NPR). Washington, D.C., United States of America: National Public Radio, Inc. Archived from the original on 18 September 2017. Retrieved 4 September 2021.
  29. ^ "Stanislav Petrov, who averted possible nuclear war, dies at 77". BBC. 19 September 2017. Retrieved 19 September 2017.
  30. ^ Sanders-Zakre, Alicia (1 October 2017). "Man Who 'Saved the World'Dies at 77" (PDF). Arms Control Today. Washington, D.C., United States of America: Arms Control Association. 47 (8): 31. Retrieved 4 September 2021 – via ProQuest.
  31. ^ a b c "Stanislav Petrov Averts a Worldwide Nuclear War". Bright Star Sound. Retrieved 27 September 2006.
  32. ^ "Russian Colonel Who Averted Nuclear War Receives World Citizen Award". Moscow News. 20 January 2006. Archived from the original on 6 February 2006. Retrieved 27 September 2006.
  33. ^ "Statement Film website". Statement Film ApS.
  34. ^ Bernstein, Rachel (21 October 2014). Penske, Jay; Blauvelt, Christian; Eric, Eric (eds.). "2014 Woodstock Film Festival Honors Darren Aronofsky, Announces Audience Awards". IndieWire. Los Angeles, California, United States of America: Penske Media Corporation. Archived from the original on 10 July 2017. Retrieved 4 September 2021.
  35. ^ "Preisträger – Dresden-Preis (Prize winners - Dresden Prize)". Internationaler Friedenspreis (in German). Retrieved 28 September 2018.
  36. ^ "Deutscher Medienpreis 2011 an Dr. Sakena Yacoobi, Dr. Mitri Raheb, Stanislaw Petrow & Dr. Denis Mukwege". Deutscher Medienpreis (in German). Archived from the original on 28 July 2020. Retrieved 28 September 2018.
  37. ^ Barash, David. Shermer, Michael; Linse, Pat; Miele, Frank; Bull, William (eds.). "Close Calls: When Nuclear Armageddon Threatened to Destroy Civilization". Skeptic Magazine. Altadena, California, United States of America: The Skeptics Society. 26 (1): 39–46. ISSN 1063-9330. Retrieved 4 September 2021 – via Gale Academic OneFile.
  38. ^ a b Tegmark, Max (26 September 2018). Mecklin, John; Bronson, Rachel; Drollette Jr., Dan (eds.). "A posthumous honor for the man who saved the world". Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. Chicago, Illinois, United States of America: Educational Foundation for Nuclear Science (Taylor and Francis). ISSN 0096-3402. LCCN 48034039. OCLC 470268256. Archived from the original on 29 September 2018. Retrieved 4 September 2021.
  39. ^ Shuster, Samuel (19 September 2017). Felsenthal, Edward; Benioff, Marc (eds.). "Stanislav Petrov, the Russian Officer who averted a nuclear war". Time. Vol. 19 no. 10. New York City, New York, United States of America: Time USA, LLC (Marc & Lynne Benioff). pp. 3–5. ISSN 0040-781X. OCLC 1311479.
  40. ^ "The Nuclear War that Almost Happened in 1983". The Baltimore Sun.

External links[edit]