Soviet Leader: Chernobyl Nuclear Accident Caused the Collapse of the USSR

George Washington's picture

Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev’s policy of open politics – called perestroika – is largely blamed for the collapse of the Soviet Union.

However, according to Gorbachev’s 1996 memoirs, it was the Chernobyl nuclear accident, rather than perestroika (or Ronald Reagan’s increased arms spending), which destroyed the Soviet Union.

As Gorbachev wrote in 2006:

The nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl 20 years ago this month, even more than my launch of perestroika, was perhaps the real cause of the collapse of the Soviet Union five years later. Indeed, the Chernobyl catastrophe was an historic turning point: there was the era before the disaster, and there is the very different era that has followed.




The Chernobyl disaster, more than anything else, opened the possibility of much greater freedom of expression, to the point that the system as we knew it could no longer continue. It made absolutely clear how important it was to continue the policy of glasnost, and I must say that I started to think about time in terms of pre-Chernobyl and post-Chernobyl.


The price of the Chernobyl catastrophe was overwhelming, not only in human terms, but also economically. Even today, the legacy of Chernobyl affects the economies of Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus.


As we’ve previously noted, “. Indeed, Fukushima .

And any country foolish enough to build unsafe nuclear reactors – based upon their ability to produce plutonium for nuclear warheads and to power nuclear submarines – may go the way of the Soviet Union.

Especially if it is foolish enough to let the same companies which built and run Fukushima build and run their new plants as well.

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Tortuga's picture

There was/is a documentary on netflix about this. The reason they give for the nuclear accident is the facility was a bomb making plant. The operators on duty the night of the meltdown did not have access to the shutdown procedures because they did not have a high enough clearance. It also showed the wildlife there in the contaminated area that were/are not showing signs of deformaties and are living as long as their counterparts in non-contaminated areas. It is an interesting slant.

IMO Gorbachev is lying if his lips are moving, no difference from out governtment officials.

Reptil's picture

I think we can safely say that Russia (and the rest of the planet, since this stuff travels) has a far greater problem than just cleaning up Chernobyl.

That doesn't mean that Chernobyl didn't contribute or was the main cause to the collapse. But they didn't change anything. "Nuclear Renaissance" as a religion is in full swing.

Also, there are still several reactors of the type of Chernobyl in operation there.

And then RT's reporters commenting on the western nuclear industry strapping us a booby trap...... When will the realisation set in that this is a global problem, a serious one, human development that took the wrong turn?

Pseudolus's picture

The soviet system collapsed because the populace realised that the power it held was an illusion.

Crony capitlaism will collapse when people realise their wealth is an illusion (in the main claims on wealth).

Anyway, Christopher Story had the measure of Gorby

mess nonster's picture

Has anyone ever thought what an economic collapse would do to 450 nuke plants across the globe? No spare parts, no safety (safety costs money), no spent fuel storage, etc etc. Nukes have the potential to spell the doom for global civilization, not just the USSR.

geno-econ's picture

Gorbachev himself was the prime reason for the collapse of the USSR which was inevitable as is the collapse of the USA.  Empires succeed empires until reversion to regionalism or tribalism. Nuclear power is a side show.

Gmpx's picture

Sorry guys, but this is bullshit. Chernobyl was one of many other problems and not the main one. Gorbachev allowed people to talk and they talked down the country. Zerohedge with other alternative media reminds me Perestroyka times when everybody had an opinion - mainly negative opinion. This negative talking killed the USSR.

TrulyStupid's picture

Empires collapse as the cost of maintaining them outstrips the benefits. They are doomed when the balance of consent of the governed is witheld from the governors... just like internal collapses. Much credit for the fall of the Soviet Union is given to  the arms race started by Reagan and continued by the US to this day.

The credit really belongs to the independence movements in the soviet satellite states. First Hungary, then Czechoslovakia, Poland and finally East Germany and the failed Afghanistan adventure. The USSR imploded politically and economically. Gorbacheve talks of Chernobyl being the turning point.. a major point in the economic unravelling of the USSR.

The US  Empire is imploding for the same reasons.. the ongoing costs of maintaining martial law in ungovernable colonies is killing its economy. The home populace stopped paying for this maintenance a decade ago and the clamor is for less taxation... there never was any consent by the populace of its most recent conquests.

lolmao500's picture

America will be the biggest collapse of it all.

narnia's picture

perhaps the socialization of risk was the reason for Chernobyl in the first place.

I'm not seeing an outcry of nostalgia for the all day grocery line that existed well before that disaster in the USSR.  


old naughty's picture

Why has it taken this long for them to 'admit'?

And why now, mentoring Japan?

I still have this question: Was it planned?


proLiberty's picture

True socialists, in perpetual denial.  If only we had enough time, if only BAD THINGS hadn't happened, if only...

Or as famously said by Jake Blues (played brilliantly by John Belush)i: "IT'S NOT MY FAULT!!"


The economist Ludwig von Mises showed in 1920 [1,2] that since a socialist economy destroys price  information via government intrusion, the myriad of participants in the economy are unable to make a fully rational calculation about true  profit and loss.  Any economic activity that operates at a loss cannot be “sustainable”, a concept the left loves to scold us about, yet cannot really grasp.

Taking another approach, the Nobel economist F.A. Hayek showed that a national economy had such an immense myriad of dynamic economic relationships that no single committee or bureaurcracy, no matter how smart or how well staffed, could possibly know enough to direct prices or production levels.  His Nobel Lecture [3] was entitled The Pretence of Knowledge.  Hayek had previously used this idea as the basis for a very thorough article [4] on the subject, “The Use of Knowledge in Society.” 

When these two different withering critiques of socialism are combined, it is easy to see that not only is it dangrously foolish to think that economic decisions can successfully be made by government, but that competing bureaucracies will invariably react to the consequences of intrusions in the marketplace by each other.  It would be like trying to control the height of waves on a lake by measuring them from the back of a boat circling in its own wake. 

Socialism is also morally bankrupt, for it demands we accept the premise that we can each live at the expense of others, despite how this violates the Commandments that forbid coveting and theft.

No socialist economy is "sustainable."

[1] Economic Calculation in the Socialist Commonwealth by Ludwig von Mises

[2] Why a Socialist Economy is "Impossible" by Joseph T. Salerno

[3] The Pretense of Knowledge

[4] “The Use of Knowledge in Society,” American Economic Review, XXXV, No. 4; September, 1945, pp. 519–30.



Reptil's picture

The Soviet Union was everything but socialist, certainly after Trotsky was expelled.
The experiment of true communism died with the Mensjewiki. Before it even had started in earnest. Really, there has never been a true communist state. The dreams of syndicalists and social democrats that led to the organisation of worker unions taking control over the production facillities, at the turn of the century were finally squashed under a brutal dictatorship, with the State as controlling power, once Stalin took control. The grand experiments in organising society in new ways were revoced, a top-down bureaucracy replaced it.

The same happened in the USA, but then with bankers like Morgan and Warburg in control of Congress and then the money supply. They destroyed both competition, and any opposition that was rising in the worker classes. There was freedom, of course, but if one group of corporations (banks); a limited amount of people, controls the money supply, is there true capitalism?

If you mean "planned economy" instead of "socialism" I agree with you that it isn't sustainable. The morally bankrupt thing is nonsense, as capitalism, or the equally planned economy that is the present system revolve around theft, and a bunch of people assuming superiority towards human beings and other lifeforms. It's equally not sustainable, for the same reason, it revolves around perpetual growth. It's nearing it's end as it commands more and more nonsense, against any logic. It's just pretending to be fair, to keep up appearances till the bitter end. Don't make me laugh.

Doubleguns's picture

"Or as famously said by Jake Blues (played brilliantly by John Belush)i: "IT'S NOT MY FAULT!!"


Our prez obviously is a fan of Jake.

william shatner's picture

Some think it was also manipulating the price of oil and gold downward in order to bankrupt the Sovjets

Remember the 2nd prong in bankrupting the Soviets, reducing their Foreign Exchange income? The first step on that was to determine where the Soviets income mostly came from. It turned out to be Oil and Gold. Then Browne said that this is where the CIA came in, they in a very sophisticated manner went around the world and manipulated markets to drive down the price of both Oil and Gold. Remember where Oil and Gold were when Reagan took over? They were in the neighborhood of $30 a barrel and $500 an ounce. Both fell dramatically under Reagan. As Browne made this and other points I would look across the patio and look at Mrs. Casey and Al Haig and both would be nodding in agreement with Browne's points.

The conclusion of the speech was that it worked, and the Soviets ran out of money and fell.

There are people who believe that the American government is today manipulating the price of gold downward for their own purposes. I do not know if this is true, however I do know they have the capability to do so as they did it in the 1980s to bankrupt the Soviets. In that case I applaud what they did, it was in our countries best interest, it freed millions from Communist slavery and it may have saved millions of lives in future wars that were prevented.


mantrid's picture

nope, Chernobyl was just a black swan that triggered something accumulated over years. Fukushima, hoever, indeed is a turning point as it revealed long term problem of Japaneese dependency on external energy. it seems they are about to abandon dependence on US and realign with China, which was unthinkable two years ago.

Widowmaker's picture

Interesting premise, except in the land of 1000 year grudges, one only has 912 to go before those two do not destroy each other.

The death of money will occur well before the death of such Asian grudges. Point is there is MUCH more to it than money and when making assumptions about that culture -- it has to be viewed without the "Western lens" of fraud worshipping, bullshit markets and record bonuses scalped off widows and orphans in a hundred year period and assuming everyone else wants to do the same.

Money itself is the next to go.

ReeferMac's picture

Thanks as always GW.

Arthur Borges's picture

One dissident Swedish engineer found that the Chernobyl catastrophe was actually rooted in the pressure on technicians not to do a shutdown because it takes a long time to get a nuclear power station (NPS) back on the grid. Alas, non-Soviet NPS technicians are not immune to such pressure.

Anecdotally, thyroid cancer jumped eightfold in France shortly after the Chernobyl meltdown despite the official French Government statement that the fallout stopped precisely at the Franco-German border. No kidding: They said that!

Cast Iron Skillet's picture

In Germany they said the fallout stopped in eastern Europe.

Gunther's picture

Simply not true,
I was at the German army at that time and to reduce radiation exposure for a while it was forbidden to lay on the ground.

Big Corked Boots's picture

In Amrka, they say "radiation? what radiation?"

JOYFUL's picture

Bizarre, that a seasoned conspiracy theorist like George would allow himself to be hornswaggled into quoting disinfo from a legacy actor like G[Orbach]ev, known partner in crime with Helmut (Kohen) Kohl and George Bush in their international financial terror and extortion racket.

A mere slip up, one trusts, and not evidence of further erosion in the slender cadre of ZH's allies in the exposure of the international kriminal kleptocratic kartel.

Nobody For President's picture

"...same companies..."

That would be G.E.  - and of COURSE we will not let them build another nuke in this country.

They have no political pull in the US anyhow - they could not land the contract.

LowProfile's picture




...Well, after The Ponz (R) has imploded anyway.  Wouldn't want to give it a new lease on life.

johnQpublic's picture

isnt thorium causing excessive heat in ipads?

Schmuck Raker's picture

No, Consumer Reports says it was due to iPorn.

shortus cynicus's picture

THORIUM? It could destabilize THE SYSTEM.

We must fight any change at any cost.


But seriously, LFTR doesn't fit into my basement.

Schmuck Raker's picture

Not yet, but....

"Capital Costs of Construction
LFTRs require lower initial capital costs than conventional reactors due to lack of pressure vessel or containment dome and due to low cooling requirements.  LFTR modules can be produced in a factory and delivered on site with significant cost and construction time gains. Factory production also enables continual improvement and fleet tracking. LFTR scales well both directions, making possible even small 2-8MW(th) or 1-3MW(electric) designs.  Utilities can install several small reactors (say 100 MWe) from income, reducing interest expense and business risks.  LFTR can operate continuously for many years, possibly decades. Because of its lightweight structure and compact core, LFTR weighs less per watt, i.e., greater “specific power,” than conventional reactor designs.  Small sizes combined with long refueling intervals makes LFTR an excellent power plant for naval vessels  and possibly spacecraft.  No need for large, expensive steam pressure containment vessel and the costly licensing and regulatory requirements necessitated by such containment vessels."