via  / January 22, 2012 /

Book Review

Yaroshinskaya, Alla, A. (2011) Chernobyl: Crime without Punishment. Transaction Publishers.

The Chernobyl catastrophe was largely forgotten and dismissed by the world as soon as the smoldering mess was contained in the famous sarcophagus, but those who have paid attention to the issue since then have been aware of the strangely divergent views of the human toll of the disaster. One view claims that a million people have died, and millions more have had their health ruined, while the other side says there was only a small increase in cancer deaths and “generally positive prospects for the future health of most individuals should prevail.”[1]

If anyone still doubts the more pessimistic view, they need only read the recently published Chernobyl: Crime Without Punishment to lay the question to rest. This is a translation of a book written by Ukrainian journalist, politician and winner of the 1992 Right Livelihood Award, Alla A. Yaroshinskaya. In this powerful condemnation of injustices suffered by Chernobyl victims for the past quarter century, the author provides volumes of the evidence about their suffering – and it is the only kind of evidence we should really need; that is, the stories of the victims and witnesses that reveal the health effects of the world’s worst radiological catastrophe. Scientists can debate among themselves whether small amounts of radiation stimulate genetic repair, or make positive changes to chromosome telomeres, but anyone who chooses to “remember his humanity, and forget the rest,” (to quote the famous line on this topic pronounced by Albert Einstein and Bertrand Russell) will be convinced by the corroborating evidence given by millions of victims. Doubting these accounts has started to sound a little like someone who would say that something nasty is rumored to have occurred in Germany in the 1940s, but more research is needed. Ms. Yaroshinskaya’s writing demonstrates that it is time to get over the senseless false controversy about the effects of nuclear accidents and look squarely in the eyes of people affected.


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