Ukrainian motion designer’s millennial friendly videos of Chornobyl disaster’s secret history go viral 

Chornobyl nuclear plant five years ago and just after the tragedy. Photo: Photo: Amos Chapple.  


Article by: Olena Makarenko
Edited by: Alya Shandra

Editor’s Note

After the Euromaidan revolution, Ukraine embarked on a long-awaited journey to open its KGB archives, finally shedding light on its totalitarian Soviet past. Some of the most resonant documents that emerged from those archives are classified KGB reports documenting how the USSR’s Communist leadership attempted to sweep the largest nuclear catastrophe in the history of mankind, as well as its red-flag precursors, under the rug. A motion designer has now converted this hard-to-digest data goldmine into a millennial-friendly format. His videos have already reached millions of viewers.

Andriy Pryimachenko is a Ukrainian motion designer who created straightforward videos on the basis of declassified KGB documents on the explosion of the Chornobyl’s nuclear plant’s fourth reactor. He heard about the stories of the catastrophe in his childhood – a part of his family was from that region, and his grandfather worked as a liquidator to clear up the aftermath of the Chornobyl explosion.

Andriy believes that the fact that the materials of the secret services of the USSR and other countries were opened up is “phenomenal.” Yet few people took advantage of this information goldmine, and old myths about the catastrophe persisted — such as that the engineers were guilty for the explosion or the Soviet Union did everything right while evacuating the residents around Chornobyl. Thus, the idea to popularize the declassified archives was born.

Andriy Pryimachenko, motion designer. Courtesy photo

“The events I am talking about have taken place recently. They took place without war, without special need, simply because such was this system. Human life was worthless [in the USSR]. And the history of Chornobyl, the history of evacuation from Pripyat [the town near the plant], the history of the accident and the history of the elimination of its consequences directly show that in the Soviet Union, human life was worthless,” the designer told to the Ukrainian service of RFE/RL.

Chornobyl 1986: the first satellite picture of the disaster

Pryimachenko’s short visualizations show the last messages of the information system of the fourth block of the Chornobyl nuclear plant before the explosion.

The video contains voiceovers of the archive documents, NASA satellite archive imagery, and documents from the Ukrainian and international archives.

The scariest telephone conversation of the 20th century

All the materials he uses are taken from open sources. Many Ukrainian archives work on publishing and opening access to the messages of the Soviet and other special services. Some US archives are working on this too. As well, there are a lot of documents from the Central Intelligence Agency who investigated the Chornobyl events independently – as they did not have reliable information from the Soviet Union, they had to deal with it themselves.

Chornobyl 1986: KGB order to classify information about the accident

Nevertheless, Priymachenko admits that despite the public access, not that many people use this information. Moreover, he analyzed the comments people leave for his videos, it turned out that many still follow the Soviet myths.

50,000 people in 4 hours: announcement of the evacuation of Pripyat

“Many commenters broadcast common Soviet myths that ‘you need to drink a liter of vodka and there will be no radiation,’ or that the accident happened ‘because of engineers’, or that it happened because of the way the station was built. There is also the opinion: ‘What are you complaining about, everything was done well in the Soviet Union — people were evacuated immediately after the accident happened.” That’s why I made a video showing that people were not evacuated all day after the explosion. They were under the impact of terrible doses of radiation for more than a day.”

Priymachenko made his videos in a computer-game-like format. This was intentional: he wanted to attract a wide audience.

“I know that my audience play computer games, watch horror stories – this is a completely different generation which is not interested in a scanned document from the KGB archives with the stamp ‘declassified.’ I figured out how to visualize it all to make it interesting to watch. But my most important principle is that I do not distort the information I provide.”

The last signals Signals of the Fourth Chornobyl Power Unit

Watch all the videos here.

Edited by: Alya Shandra

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