Midnight In Chernobyl: Adam Higginbotham’s Explosive Story About What Really Happened

The Untold Story of the World’s Greatest Nuclear Disaster

Ed Newman
5 min readJan 5, 2020


Photo by Javier García on Unsplash

There’s nothing quite like the exhilaration of a good read. The last time I couldn’t put a book down was in the late 60s when I stayed up all night reading Mario Puzo’s The Godfather. Friday night I was sorely tempted to stay up all night once more because of a book I almost couldn’t put down, Adam Higginbotham’s Midnight In Chernobyl.

Public domain.

It’s a remarkable account of the Chernobyl disaster. It’s quite apparent that a lot of work went into researching this story. The author, drawing from new sources, gives what is surely the most complete account of what really happened. What’s compelling is the writing itself. These are real people who were in the middle of a real situation.

The incident took place in the spring of 1986, April 26 to be precise, just days before the May 1 celebrations designed to show off the Soviet Union’s mighty power.

The book opens by setting the story within a context, that context being the Soviet Union after decades of communist party leadership.

“Behind all the catastrophic failures of the USSR during the Era of Stagnation -beneath the kleptocratic bungling, the nepotism, the surly inefficiencies, and the ruinous waste of the planned economy — lay the monolithic power of the communist party.” ( page 13)

“Advancement in many political, economic, and scientific careers was granted only to those who repressed their personal opinions, avoided conflict, and displayed unquestioning obedience to those above them. By the mid-70s this blind conformism had smothered individual decision making at all levels of the state and party machine, infecting not just the bureaucracy but technical and economic disciplines, too. Lies and deception were endemic to the system, trafficked in both directions along with chain of management: those lower down passed up reports to their superiors packed with falsified statistics and inflated estimates, of unmet goals



Ed Newman

An avid reader who writes about arts, culture, literature & other life obsessions. @ennyman3 Look for my books on Amazon