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Since my thread on #Chernobyl went viral for some reason, I think I will review Episode 2 as I watch it, paying particular attention to details of Soviet life. If it's interesting to anyone, I mean.
And it gets me right off the bat, with the very first shot. The poem "Do you remember, Alyosha..." by Konstantin Simonov, written in 1941. Perfectly chosen, since it's about death, unthinking sacrifice for the greater good and the sheer tragedy of merely being Russian...
This mural, of course, is everything. "Peaceful atom", made in the Socialist Realism style, aggrandizing the Soviet exploration of atomic energy for peaceful purposes.
After Chernobyl, Russians came up a joking rhyme: "Peaceful atom into every house we will bring on our shoes"
Bingo! I have found an inaccuracy. A very, very minor one. The pennant behind Ulana is the coat of arms of Brest, Belarus, celebrating its 970th anniversary. These pennants were a popular wall decoration. The problem is that the anniversary was in 1989... So, a tiny thing
I won't talk about the buildings much since they obviously filmed in Soviet-era houses, with all their easily recognizable features such as those weird window bars (many buildings had them as a protection against stone-throwers). The thermoses and cups are all Soviet-made.
Did they actually find an old Soviet typewriter to reproduce this report? Looks like it.
But again, the most authentic thing of all is the characters and the performances. Scherbina is a real old-guard apparatchik. Not stupid, not incompetent, as many people tended to assume, but with utterly skewed priorities.
The railing against "alarmists" (panikery) is spot on.
I will break for a bit and finish tonight. This show is gut-wrenching.
There it is, the self-sacrifice for the "great bitter land I was born to defend" mentioned in the opening poem. Gen. Pikalov was a WW II hero, 62 in 1986. He was named Hero of the Soviet Union (the country's highest honor, almost unheard of in peace time) for Chernobyl.
A rather posh hotel in Pripyat is probably Polissya, which was better than most Soviet hotels by virtue of Pripyat's being a "closed city" (it means the entire place was basically classified). Not sure if these Western-style lobby bars existed. But the glasses are surely Soviet.
"They are not letting children play outside... in Frankfurt!". So goddamn true. I remember they wouldn't let us, Soviet children, play outside, either. But that was weeks after the disaster. And it was our parents who took the measures, not the officials. The rumors spread faster
And here is another miss. April 27, which is when the evacuation started, which is also being said in Russian over the loudspeaker in this scene, was a Sunday. There wouldn't be children in school uniforms with backpacks.
That said, this is exactly how Soviet schoolchildren looked. The uniforms (except for the kid in black, as I don't remember boys' uniforms being anything other than blue), the backpacks, the bows in girls' hair. The boy in blue is carrying the exact same bag I had in 1st grade.
Most of the hospital workers are women. This is very accurate. The medical profession was one of the few (education being another) where women could advance beyond men in the USSR. I am really impressed with the showrunners' attention to this detail.
Soviet buildings all looked the same. There is an iconic comedy from the 1980s the entire premise of which is a guy getting drunk, ending up in another city but still being able to get into an apartment, because the building, the floor plan and the keys were exactly like his
The evacuation scene is voiced over by an announcer over the loudspeaker which is eerily accurate. This is exactly what they would have said, complete with Soviet jargon and bureaucratic understatements. "There is a developing unfavorable situation..." EXACTLY what they'd say!
Yes, a typical Soviet classroom. The old wooden two-seater desks specifically designed to make fidgeting difficult (there is a hinge that folds it in half so you could get in your seat, and then unfolds it, pinning you to it), party officials portraits, the ubiquitous globe...
Wow... Nothing more Soviet than communal clotheslines outside those blocky apartment buildings. Of course, whoever put those wall rugs on the line would probably have their ass beat, but those rugs are such a staple of Soviet interior design. Love this shot!
And it ends with the Suicide Squad, Ananenko, Bespalov and Baranov. The most persistent rumor was that all three of them died within a week and were buried in lead caskets. However, there are reports now that two of them are still alive, while Baranov died in 2005.
I am really intrigued at how their fate will be described in the show. But, of course, this episode ended on the same note as it began: this type of shit could only happen in Russia, where sacrificing oneself for "the Motherland" is seen as the default setting of humans. Amazing.
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