Much like radioactive material, HBO's Chernobyl miniseries knows no borders. The surprise hit, which recently became the on IMDB, is introducing the 1986 disaster to a generation that grew up after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and showing those who lived through the period an in-depth look at a story they may have forgotten.
It's also starting to affect life in the actual Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, and Russian TV has announced it will create a counter-series.
Ever since the series began airing in May, Chernobyl touring agencies have documented 30- to 40-percent rises in people wanting to see the area of Pripyat, which features heavily in the show, according to a . The English-language tours, which cost around $100 per person, take visitors to locations depicted in the series, including the bunker where Soviet officials made the initial decision to not evacuate Pripyat.
The tours also take visitors to the infamous Reactor No. 4, but they're protected from its radioactive exploded core by a 344-foot-tall metal dome, which was built in 2017.
“Many people come here, they ask a lot of questions about the TV show, about all the events. People are getting more and more curious,” tour guide Viktoria Brozhko tells the AP. “During the entire visit to the Chernobyl exclusion zone, you get around two microsieverts, which is equal to the amount of radiation you’d get staying at home for 24 hours,” she says.
But while the series might be turning a profit for tour guides, it's causing headaches elsewhere around Russia.
In The Moscow Times, an English-language newspaper based out of the Russian capital, columnist showing how most of the Russian media has come out against the miniseries, launching a "mini-crusade against" the five-episode show.
"The fact that an American, not a Russian, TV channel tells us about our own heroes is a source of shame that the pro-Kremlin media apparently cannot live down," Shepelin writes.
Chernobyl is not above reproach, of course. The New Yorker's Masha Gessen the show's creator, Craig Mazin, for giving the radioactive explosion "the outlines of a disaster movie. There are a few terrible men who bring the disaster about, and a few brave and all-knowing ones, who ultimately save Europe from becoming uninhabitable and who tell the world the truth. It is true that Europe survived; it is not true that anyone got to the truth, or told it."
But the response from Russian media and the Russian government will likely not echo Gessen's belief that the show went too easy on the Soviet system. Russian TV channel NTV has announced that it will create its own story about the disaster.
The chosen director, Alexei Muradov, has a history of working with Soviet history. According to , Muradov has directed a 12-part series on Soviet World War II hero Gregory Zhukov. But Muradov has indicated that he will explore unfounded conspiracy theories in his Chernobyl project.
“One theory holds that Americans had infiltrated the Chernobyl nuclear power plant and many historians do not deny that, on the day of the explosion, an agent of the enemy’s intelligence services was present at the station,” Shepelin quotes Muradov as saying.
One thing is clear: Chernobyl's ramifications will be felt for years after its debut.