Tonight was the conclusion of HBO's Chernobyl miniseries, with the episode following the "justice" portion of the disaster as various parties involved going to trial for their part of the meltdown. However, while the episode is a dramatic take on the actual historic events, it also gives a look inside what really happened to the various figures portrayed in the series -- and some of them are quite surprising.
While the fates of some of Chernobyl's figures were revealed at various points in the miniseries -- Valery Legasov's suicide which opened the series, the death of various workers from the power plant itself, the ending of Chernobyl gives a bit more insight on those and others. It ultimately paints a complex picture of the lasting impact of the disaster and what it means not just for those who lived through the Chernobyl disaster, but for those of us living in the world today.
The facts and lingering legacy of Chernobyl isn't a happy one, but it is one that does have a slight bit of hope, or, as series creator Craig Mazin wrote on Twitter last week following a particularly harrowing episode, the hard part is over. The outcome does end with a kind of justice.
"For everyone watching #ChernobylHBO, the hard part's over," Mazin wrote. "No more guns. No more death. Next week, you'll see what happened on that fateful night. You will see how an RBMK reactor explodes. And a kind of justice will be done. Thank you for taking this journey with us."
Read on for the real-life outcomes of some of Chernobyl's key players.
The lead scientist dealing with the nuclear disaster, it's Valery Legasov who is perhaps the closest thing to a "central" character that Chernobyl has and the fate that is presented for Legasov in the series is very close to what happened in real life. Legasov did, in fact, end his own life on April 27, 1988 -- two years and one day after the Chernobyl disaster. He was 51 years old.
While it is impossible to know exactly why Legasov ended his own life, Chernobyl strongly implies it is as a result of the disaster. This implication is somewhat backed up by an interview his daughter Inga Valerievna gave to Russia's Moskovskij Komsomolets in 2017 in which she noted that the disaster changed him.
"After the Chernobyl disaster, my father rethought a lot," Valerievna said. "He was a patriot, seriously worried about what happened, for the country, for the people touched by the accident. He was worried about unborn children abandoned in the animal alienation zone. This agitated mercy, which was inherent in him, apparently, burned him from the inside."
As revealed in tonight's finale, while human error and arrogance had a huge role in the Chernobyl disaster it did not ocurr in a vacuum. The Soviet RBMK reactors had a fatal design flaw involving the fuel rods that could lead to a reactor explosion such as what happened at Chernobyl. Following Legasov's death and the subesquent ciruclation of his audio taped memoirs in the scientific community, Soviet officials finally acknowledged the flaws of the RBMK reactor and retrofitted the reactors to prevent a similar accident form happening.
Seen in the finale as being ill due to his radiation exposure, Boris Shcherbina died on August 22, 1990 four years and four months after the disaster. He was 70-years-old. In the years following Chernobyl, he served in a role similar to what he had played in dealing with the Chernobyl disaster for the 1988 Armenian earthquake.
The men "responsible" for Chernobyl, Victor Bryukhanov, Anatoly Dyatlov, and Nikolai Fomin were all sentenced to 10 years of hard labor for their roles in the disaster. Fomin went to work at a nuclear power plant in Kalinin, Russia following his release. Dyatlov, who was granted amnesty and released from prison after serving only five years, died from radiation-related illness, specifically heart failure, in 1995 at the age of 64. Bryukhanov also served only half his sentence and is currently living in Kiev, Ukraine and to this day maintaines that some of the real causes of the Chernobyl disaster remain unacknowledged by Russia even today.
The wife of one of the firefighters in Chernobyl, the miniseries follows her story up until shortly after the birth and tragic death of her infant daughter mere hours after her birth due to radiation-related issues. This happened in real-life as well, though following the deaths of both her husband and daughter, Ignatenko herself suffered multiple strokes and was told by doctors that she would be unable to have any more children. However, the doctors proved to be wrong and Ignatenko today lives with her son in Kiev, Ukraine.
In the first episode of Chernobyl, a group of people are shown to be standing on a railway bridge to observe the goings on at the power plant. It's a haunting scenes, complete with children playing and standing with their parents. According to the information presented at the end of Chernboyl, it has been reported that no one who watched from the bridge that night in real life survived. Today, the bridge is known as The Bridge of Death.
Following the disaster, a group of around 400 miners came to work at Chernobyl to prevent total nuclear meltdown. According to the miniseries' ending, an estimated 100 of those miners died before the age of 40.
One of the most chilling moments of Chernobyl is when three men volunteer as divers to go into the contaminated water in the reactor building in order to open gates that will prevent catestrophic nuclear meltdown. While it has been widely reported that those divers died due to their actions, it turns out that all three survived after being hospitalized and two of them are alive today.
The area around Chernobyl -- the contaminated region of Ukraine and Belarus -- is called the Exclusion Zone. On the Ukranian side, it is still forbidden for people to return to their homes or inhabit the Exclusion Zone. The Belarusian sign is a somewhat different story.
On the Belarus side, however, more people reside largely because Belarus has what Dutch journalist Franka Hummels told Newsweek is a "strange" relationship with Chernobyl.
“Belarus has this strange relationship with Chernobyl and the Exclusion Zone because of the dictatorship, because it’s a propaganda dictatorship,” Hummels added, describing the Belarusian government of Alexander Lukashenko, who is often described as Europe’s last dictator. “So if the government says it’s safe, your life is easier if you just go along with it. So people just choose to believe the government that it’s safe.”
The Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant itself still exists. The non-damaged reactors continued operating for some years after the Chernobyle disaster, though not without incident. In October 1991 No. 2 reactor caught fire and was shut down. No. 1 was shut down in November 1996 and in 2000 No. 3 was shut down.they have since been shut down and a decomissioning process has been ongoing since 2000. All three reactors are now in the decommissioning phase.
As for reactor No. 4, a steel containment structure, the New Safe Confinement, was completed in 2017. It is estimated that the New Safe Confinement will confine the radioactive remains of reactor 4 for the next 100 years.