Two years after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, Valery Legasov ended his own life.


The first few minutes of HBO’s new miniseries, Chernobyl, are almost as harrowing as the nuclear disaster the series is based on itself.

Sitting in his home, Valery Legasov, the deputy director of the Kurchatov Institute of Atomic Energy, records tapes recounting the true account of what happened at the Chernobyl Nuclear power plant in the Ukraine on the day it exploded.

Just moments later, Valery Legasov ended his own life.

You can watch the official trailer for Chernobyl, right here. Post continues after video.

In the early morning hours of April 26, 1986, a safety test at the Chernobyl Nuclear power plant in the Ukraine went awry when a sudden power surge occurred, causing a series of explosions to the equivalent of 500 nuclear bombs to be set off.

In the weeks that followed, hundreds of people were struck down with acute radiation syndrome, while thousands of men began the mammoth effort of cleaning up the toxic mess the deadly explosion left behind.

Valey Legasov, played by Jared Harris in Chernobyl, was one of the many men tasked with cleaning up the mess.


In fact, the Soviet Union nuclear physicist was tasked with leading the commission investigating the disaster.

In the two years following the disaster, which would have a lasting impact for decades to come, Legasov attempted to keep open and honest about the cause of the incident, while others in power tried to cover up what really occurred.

In August 1986, Legasov gave a five-hour hearing on the Soviet Union’s report on the cause of the accident to the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna.

Valery Legasov
Valery Legasov was tasked with leading the commission investigating the disaster.

During the hearing, Legasov noted the nuclear disaster had been caused by human error, but the scientist was met with a lot of push back and many tried to silence him.

One day before he was due to announce his results of the investigation into the causes of the disaster, Legasov ended his own life.

When Legasov was found dead, the Soviet media did not initially report the 51-year-old's cause of death.

Soon enough, however, his cause of death was reported by the media. The Chernobyl disaster and its aftermath had taken a long term toll on the scientist.

"Soviet scientific sources in Moscow have said Legasov felt he was somehow to blame for the accident that killed 31 people and spewed a cloud of radiation over much of Europe," the Los Angeles Times reported.

Ahead of his death, Legasov reportedly left behind a number of journals, sharing unknown facts about the problems associated with the nuclear reactors' design.

Valery Legasov
Jared Harris played Valery Legaso in HBO miniseries Chernobyl. Image: HBO.

"[The journals] are very hard to get hold of. In fact, there's not a lot of him left in the historical record because they basically wrote him out of the story," actor Jared Harris, who played Legasov in Chernobyl told Cheat Sheet.

"They erased him from history. That's what they were trying to do as a threat," he added.

"They were trying to stop him from trying to get the story out."

Eight years after his death and a decade after the disaster, Legasov was posthumously awarded the title of Hero of the Russian Federation by Russian president Boris Yeltsin.

The five-part miniseries Chernobyl is available to watch now on Foxtel. 

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