Go back to article: Networks of knowledge and power: working collaboratively on the HoNESt project

Differences between countries

Whereas in the West, anti-nuclear and other protest groups were able to take advantage of the concerns raised by accidents, in former Communist states the combination of dictatorship and censorship made the release of radiation at Chernobyl in 1986 a key turning point. However, this should not imply that Chernobyl was the sole factor. The loosening of state control and censorship under Gorbachev was vital in increasing the publics’ scepticism about the truthfulness of state media, which insisted damage was minimal and radiation was limited to small area. In countries such as Lithuania, Bulgaria, and Belarus, concerns about the response of the State (at the national and Soviet level) directly fed into burgeoning protest against it (Stsiapanau, 2017a; Tchalakov and Hristov, 2017; Stsiapanau, 2017b). In Bulgaria, growing concern about industrial pollution had led to the formation of a campaign group called Ecoglasnost, which grew far stronger after Chernobyl. Calling for openness and transparency in the Communist state about industrial pollution, and challenging the state’s response to Chernobyl made Ecoglasnost a major force for change: a number of members went on to became vital to the creation of one of Bulgaria’s first democratic political parties, the Union of Democratic Forces (Tchalakov and Hristov, 2017, pp 17–20).

Figure 4

Colour photograph of laundry hanging out to dry with a nuclear power station in the far background

Decisions about nuclear power can be highly personal and highly local as well as moral or international. It is important to remember that there are many publics involved with nuclear power at national and local levels

Being able to take this broader view across most of Europe enabled us to challenge existing assumptions about the way nuclear energy has been experienced in the last 75 years. Working together across borders has given us the chance not only to spot similarities and differences in each others’ experiences, but also to reflect more closely on the narratives and assumptions at the heart of our standard national histories.

Figure 5

Coloured graph plotting number of nuclear events by type versus year

A codified events timeline for Eastern Europe highlights the importance of Chernobyl and the region’s continued commitment to nuclear power

Component DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15180/180907/006