Former workers at the Chernobyl power plant have disputed how the world’s worst nuclear accident was portrayed in the hit TV series.
The story of the explosion at the plant on 26 April 1986 has garnered the highest ratings for a HBO TV show on the Internet Movie Database (IMDB).
Series writer Craig Mazin prided himself on attention to details such as shoelaces and telephones, and used accounts of survivors to recreate the Soviet Union of the 1980s, The Guardian reported.
Oleksiy Breus, who was an engineer at the ill-fated plant, said some of the events surrounding the explosion and the effects of radiation on the body were depicted realistically.
But he thought there were inaccuracies in how the three main characters; director Viktor Bryukhanov, chief engineer Nikolai Fomin and deputy chief engineer Anatoly Dyatlov, were portrayed.
In the aftermath of the disaster, the three men were put on trial and sentenced to 10 years in a labor camp. Breus said: “Their characters are distorted and misrepresented, as if they were villains. They were nothing like that.
“Possibly, Anatoly Dyatlov became the main anti-hero in the show because that was how he was perceived by the power plant’s workers, his subordinates and top-management, in the beginning. Later this perception changed,” he told the BBC.
“The operators were afraid of him. When he was present at the block, it created tension for everyone. But no matter how strict he was, he was still a high-level professional,” he added.
Oleksiy Ananenko, who was a chief engineer at one of the reactor sections, was one of three workers portrayed in the series as entering an underground tunnel to open a drainage valve to prevent a second explosion.
However unlike in the show, the trio did not die of radiation sickness and were not clapped when they returned from their task. Ananenko said of the purported heroes’ welcome, “It was just our work. Who would applaud that?”
Another point of contention in the miniseries is when the residents of the town of Pripyat, where the plant was located, were seen rushing to a railway bridge, known as the “Bridge of Death” to get a closer look at the fire, oblivious to the radiation danger.
But Breus disputes this, saying that most of the residents would have slept through it. While he felt that it was good that the show refocused minds about the disaster and the secrecy of the Soviet Union, he felt it dished out lazy tropes about the U.S.S.R.
“There are many stereotypes shown, typical of Western portrayal of the Soviet Union. A big cup, vodka, KGB everywhere,” he told the BBC.
Wildly popular in the west, some pro-Kremlin media have criticized the series, with some describing it as pro-western propaganda. The newspaper Argumenty i Fakty said the show was “a caricature and not the truth.”
Meanwhile, Stanislav Natanzon, lead anchor of news channel Russia 24 said: “The only things missing are the bears and accordions” according to The Moscow Times.
To tell Russia’s side of the story, the country’s Culture Ministry has allocated $500,000 in funding for its own production which lays the blame with the U.S.
Director Alexei Muradov said: “One theory holds that Americans had infiltrated the Chernobyl nuclear power plant and many historians do not deny that, on the day of the explosion, an agent of the enemy’s intelligence services was present at the station,” The Moscow Times reported.