Pushkin House Russian book prize goes to Chernobyl
Serhii Plohky, professor of Ukrainan history at Harvard University, has won the Pushkin House Russian Book Prize for a second time, with Chernobyl: History of a Tragedy. His work, published by Allen Lane, was selected by a panel of five distinguished judges from a shortlist of six strong and varied contenders covering history, culture and memoir. The award, the seventh annual edition of the prize, is the first time that the same author has won twice, following Serhii Plokhy’s recognition for The Last Empire in 2015. It comes at a time of fresh interest in Chernobyl, including with the launch of a televised drama presently screening on HBO.
Chernobyl is the first book to comprehensively explore the origins of the 1986 nuclear power station disaster, the fatal blast, clean-up and aftermath, and the longer term consequences that helped lead to the collapse of the USSR. It draws on freshly revealed archives including of the KGB, highlights deep tensions and dysfunctionality within the Soviet political system, individual stories of bravery and courage, and lessons for the global nuclear industry today. It also indicates how central the explosion and its aftermath were to the collapse of the USSR.
Sergei Guriev, chair of the jury, said: “The jury has faced a challenging task of choosing the winner from a very impressive short list. Each book is an excellent read which promotes better understanding of both today’s Russia and of Russian and Soviet history. But Chernobyl stands out as a well-researched and well-written masterpiece on an event of momentous importance. The Chernobyl disaster is not just a historical episode. The main themes discussed in the book strongly resonate today – and not just in Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine.”
The prize, run by Pushkin House, the oldest arts charity in the UK exploring, celebrating and supporting the best of Russian culture, showcases, promotes and encourages the best accessible non-fiction writing in English about Russia and the Russian-speaking world. This year’s shortlist included work translated from German.
Serhii Plokhy received the £5,000 award at a dinner at Charterhouse in London this evening.
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