HBO's miniseries Chernobyl has been the biggest TV hit of 2019. Game of Thrones' final series got quite mixed reviews, but the drama about the world's worst nuclear disaster has received an almost universally positive reaction. It has become the most highly rated show on IMDb.
There is one exception however, the Russian media have not taken kindly to the portrayal of Chernobyl. According to The Moscow Times, one newspaper described it as “a caricature and not the truth”, while prominent news anchor Stanislav Natanzon commented: “The only things missing are the bears and accordions!”
The Russian version will be focused on the conspiracy theory that the disaster was caused by meddling by a CIA agent sent to the plant. "One theory holds that Americans had infiltrated the Chernobyl nuclear power plant," the film's director Alexei Muradov is quoted as saying. "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," he added.
The HBO series' director Craig Mazin painstakingly went through first hand accounts of the disaster to portray the Soviet Union as accurately as he possibly could. The Russian version sounds like it may take a few more liberties. The plot allegedly revolves around a CIA agent dispatched to Pripyat to gather intelligence on the Chernobyl nuclear power plant and the Russian counterintelligence agent sent to track him down. If that sounds like fiction, that's because it more than likely is.
Russian tabloids have accused the HBO series of papering over the heroic acts of Soviet emergency workers - the 'liquidators'. “Chernobyl did not show the most important part – our victory,” ran one headline in Komsomolskaya Pravda.
One journalist had an interesting theory about the reaction to the HBO series. Ilya Shepelin, a Russian journalist, wrote for The Moscow Times that:
The fact that an American, not a Russian, TV channel tells us about our own heroes[The Chernobyl liquidators] is a source of shame that the pro-Kremlin media apparently cannot live down.
Russian TV has a lot to live up to if it's going to compete with the HBO series.