I don t have any link to the claim right now, but it is heavily repeated where I live. I'll edit to add a link later

A commonly repeated story says that the firefighters that were tasked to stop the fires in the Chernobyl reactor, rather than minimise they time exposed to radiation, volunteered to be sent again and again. They figured they would die of radiation poisoning anyway, and re-exposing themselves would that way minimise the deaths of other firefighters.

Is there any report supporting that theory? For an individual or for a large part of the firefighter team deployed?

EDIT: Example for an individual:


Afterwards, Volodin was told he and his crew had been so irradiated they could no longer fly. Hospitalised in a Kiev cardiology ward, the doctors told him to drink as much wine and vodka as he liked; they had no idea how to treat him. Volodin stayed until late May, and returned to fly in and out of the disaster site for another five months.

  • Does not seem like it: "At the hospital we were walking around, talking and smoking, and at first we felt quite well [...] We didn't think of death. We thought we were just in for a checkup." - people.com/people/archive/article/0,,20097264,00.html – P_S Jul 4 '14 at 9:04
  • 7
    Given you have found a report in the Guardian - an interview with the firefighter himself - what further evidence would it require to persuade you this is true? – Oddthinking Jul 4 '14 at 11:44

As a Russian I would say that this is true.

There's still a problem with any kind of paper proofs, because Chernobyl was a top-secret place and when the diaster happened, the government even tried to hide these news. So, there are a lot of proofs from people who WERE there, but I don't think it's easy to find documents in open access.

The official version says that it really happened, and firefighters who understood that they won't survive took the place of other workers. Some of those people survived and got Order of courage, so this is actually the only proof anyone will need. I would surely say that it's not just a version, but the only existing opinion in Russia, because this disaster happened in the eyes of many people.

Important note (links are in Russian, because as I checked they show deeper info than English sources. Anyway, Google translate might help ) There're 2 opposite opinions on people's motivation to re-volunteer.

  • Actually, there's information from some survivors who claim that they were not informed about the radiation level (article from big russian newspaper). This seems possible, because the government didn't do well on the first stages of the disaster - they didn't immediately inform people or started evacuation and seemed interested in just hiding it. So, probably some licvidators re-volunteered, because they weren't informed that they wouldn't survive such radiation doses.
  • On the other hand, there were people who were well-informed and stayed because they thought if was right thing to do. This link is about the Major firefighter, who stayed in the center of the disaster. There're may memories of firefighters, who share the same idea

Conclusion So, we have 2 quite opposite versions. Anyway, both sources prove that people DID stay in the disaster zone. You can decide which motivation seems more reliable fro you, but some of the survivors are still alive and say that the second version is true. So, the second version of events is mostly supported by the public opinion.

  • A good answer here doesn't just have to be right, it has to show it is right. Can you provide links to definitive stories showing the truth of this? – matt_black Aug 5 '14 at 19:28
  • @matt_black You're correct, I updated the answer. Still, there's a big problem with official documents. Luckily we have many memories from people who survived that disaster – user21516 Aug 5 '14 at 20:25
  • 1
    Are the citation for the Order of courage public? – Taemyr Aug 6 '14 at 9:13
  • @Taemyr I added the link to the answer concerning the Orders. Unfortunately, the Orders were given very late - only in 2011, so probably this isn't widely known fact. – user21516 Aug 6 '14 at 9:30
  • IMO there's no doubt that some people "stayed in the center of the disaster". But the question asks whether anyone re-volunteered: i.e., 1) served in the disaster; 2) left, took a rest, were evacuated; 3) then returned to volunteer again. Is there any sentence in any of the links you posted (or in any other published text) which suggest that someone "re-volunteered"? – ChrisW Aug 6 '14 at 9:55

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .