Posted in:

How Accurate is HBO’s Chernobyl Mini-Series?

HBO’s new mini-series Chernobyl recalls the tale of the 1986 nuclear disaster in Ukrainian SSR. It depicts one of the worst man-caused tragedies in the world’s history and presents it in a fitting manner.

Although created as a historical drama, the show is nothing short of a horror movie. Unlike actual horror movies, though, it includes no monsters or evil forces.

Instead, it shows what radiation can do if uncontrolled, and what cost ignorance and denial of truth can have. It’s all presented in a dramatic atmosphere, but the real terror of the show is in the fact that all this actually happened.

We know that Chernobyl mini-series is based on real facts. But how accurate is it?

The Setting

The series wasn’t filmed at the site of Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. Nor was Pripyat, a workers’ town adjacent to the power station, used in the scenes of the show.

Instead, most of the show was captured in Lithuania, which still has many monuments of Soviet architecture to this day. This includes the Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant, a now-closed twin of the Chernobyl power plant.

The shots of the town of Pripyat in the show were made in Fabijoniškės, one of the residential districts in Vilnius. There are incredible similarities between these locations and the locations of the disaster.

Knowing how the ghost-town of Pripyat looks like today, seeing it alive prior to the accident is more disturbing than any post-apocalyptic mobile game GoWin writes about.

Due to this, HBO managed to recreate an authentic setting with surprisingly few and only minor inconsistencies.

The Characters

Many details about the event were hidden by the Soviet government. However, we know a lot about the people involved in and related to the catastrophe.

The show’s main character and the lead investigator in the nuclear power station, Valery Legasov was a real figure. Not only that, his story, including his suicide two years after the event, is real too.

The same applies to many other characters, such as the workers in the plant and the officials. Characters such as Vasily Ignatenko (the firefighter) and Ulana Khomyuk (the scientist) are fictional. However, they do represent the masses involved in the drama that unfolded afterwards based on real events.

According to the show’s creator Craig Mazin himself, Khomyuk is an analogy of hundreds of real scientists. They restlessly worked to contain radioactive contamination as much as possible. The show simply displays this effort in a single figure.

The Plot

From the character dialogues in the control room during the fateful night to the sacrifices of simple workers, the show gets many details right.

It does modify the timeline sometimes, such as the helicopter crash at the site. In the show, we see it only a day after the explosion while in reality, it happened only several years later.

Regardless, for an event that is so mysterious and barely explored, HBO did very well too. In some cases, the historical accuracy is sacrificed for drama and a fluent narrative.

What matters is that most of what we see actually happened in one way or another. So, if you want to learn more about the event, its details and how it all looked like, this mini-series is as good as any documentary.

About Chernobyl Mini-Series

The show was shot and developed in 2018 and released on HBO network in the spring of 2019. It’s created by Craig Mazin and directed by Johan Renck. The cast also includes:

• Jared Harris
• Stellan Skarsgård
• Sam Troughton
• Emily Watson
• Paul Ritter
• David Dencik
• Jessie Buckley

The series has a rating of 9.6 on IMDb, 96% at Rotten Tomatoes and 83/100 score on Metacritic.