HBO’s Chernobyl: Planned Russian series and the rise of nuclear tourism


HBO’s Chernobyl is critically acclaimed, but Russia plans to launch a series to address what it considers bad press. Plus, nuclear tourism is on the rise.

Remember the Cold War? Remember the actual Chernobyl nuclear disaster? Well, Russia sure does. According to Ilya Shepelin of The Moscow Times, some Russians lament what they consider negative spin put on the disaster by the HBO’s powerhouse miniseriesChernobyl. In fact, Russia’s NTV channel is said to be working on a similar media event.

This may have an added feature, though. Its director, Alexei Muradov, verbally paints a spy-themed version. According to The Moscow Times, he stated, “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.”

Of course, the enemy here would be the United States government, or at least some rogue agent. Shepelin’s Moscow Times piece suggests this is due to Russia being jealous of the American series. The interesting thing is, Chernobyl depicts many Russian citizens as brave, while the Russian government downplays or minimizes the threat of the disaster. Some critics have also focused on the show’s (real or alleged) misrepresentation of nuclear energy. In any case, HBO’s Chernobyl has seemingly opened up a can of worms, and renewed interest in the disaster.

Chernobyl may be good for tourism

PRIPYAT, UKRAINE – AUGUST 19: Tourists photograph one another on the remains of a merry-go-round in the ghost town of Pripyat not far from the Chernobyl nuclear power plant on August 19, 2017 in Pripyat, Ukraine. On April 26, 1986 reactor number four exploded after a safety test went wrong, spreading radiation over thousands of square kilometers in different directions. The nearby town of Pripyat, which had a population of approximately 40,000 and housed the plant workers and their families, was evacuated and has been abandoned ever since. Today tourists often visit the town on specially-organized tours from Kiev. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images

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Sometimes a TV series can feed tourism.

According to Reuters, “One Chernobyl tour agency reported a 40% rise in trip bookings since the series, made by HBO, began in May and which has attracted outstanding reviews.” This isn’t to say nuclear tourism is a new phenomenon. While some are shocked or dismayed by such tours, it is definitely a thing.

In the Netflix series Dark Tourist, journalist David Farrier took a tour of Japan”s highly radioactive Fukushima, as well as the Semipalatinsk Test Site in Kazakhstan. Farrier and a pal even took a dip in the so-called “Atomic Lake.” During these scenes, Farrier and others ultimately fled when their Geiger counters went too high.

So, whether you feel like actively engaging in nuclear tourism or watching shows from the safety of your couch, you’ll have options.

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What will happen next?

Whether you’ve seen Chernobyl or not, you may be interested in seeing America’s response to Russia’s own Chernobyl series. With tensions already heightened between the countries (including during the 2016 election), expect to see increased sensitivity between the two nations and their entertainment media. If HBO’s Chernobyl has proved one thing, it’s that these issues seemingly never go away — much like Chernobyl’s radioactive effects.

What are your thoughts on Chernobyl, Russia’s reaction and nuclear tourism?  Let us know in the comments!