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Scenes from HBO’s Chernobyl compared to real-life footage shot in Pripyat, 1986


Given the extreme popularity of HBO’s most recent Chernobyl, a detailed comparison has been made by referencing real-life footage shot in Pripyat back in 1986.

The Chernobyl disaster, as it has now been well documented, was a catastrophic nuclear accident that occurred in 1986 at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. The incident still remains to this day the most disastrous nuclear power plant accident in history. 

Taking place near the city of Pripyat, north of the Ukrainian SSR, the disaster was sparked by huge explosions that ripped the roof off of Chernobyl’s reactor number four after a number of catastrophic errors made by staff of the power plant. 

Tens of thousands of people were exposed to lethal amounts of radiation which resulted in countless deaths, a huge surge in serious illness such as cancer and other major health disorders. To this day, an exclusion zone surrounds the area of Chernobyl which is not expected to be habitable again for at least another 20,000 years.

HBO’s historical miniseries was created and written by Craig Mazin who worked in collaboration with director by Johan Renck. The miniseries, based in large part on the recollections of Pripyat locals, uses information told by Belarusian Nobel laureate Svetlana Alexievich in her book Voices from Chernobyl. The series focuses heavily on mistakes made by government officials, a decision which has been heavily criticised by a Russian Communist Party who have called for the show to be banned in the country.

The below analysis explores how Mazin and Renck used footage which was recorded at the time of the disaster to recreate the show, offering a fascinating example of the attention to detail which was enforced in the making of the series: