My first reaction was to call my wife, to warn her. But all our telephones at The Institute were bugged. Oh, that ancient fear, they've been raising us on it for decades. But they don't know anything at home. My daughter is walking around with her friends after a music lesson at the conservatory. She's eating ice cream. Do I call? But that would lead to unpleasantness. They won't allow me to work on classified projects. But I can't take it, I pick up the phone. "Listen to me carefully." "What are you talking about?" my wife asks loudly. "Not so loud. Close the windows, put all the food in plastic. Put on rubber gloves and wipe everything down with a wet cloth. But the racking a bag and threw it out. If there is laundry drying on the balcony put it back in the wash." "What happened?" "Not so loud. Dissolve two drops of iodine in a glass of water. Wash your hair with it." "What----" But I don't let her finish, I put down the phone. She should understand, she works at the Institute herself. At 15:30, we learned that there'd been an accident at the Chernobyl reactor. That evening on the way back to Minsk on The Institute bus we rode for half an hour in silence, or talking of other things. Everyone was afraid to talk about what had happened. Everyone had his party card in his pocket. There was a wet rag in front of my apartment door----so my wife understood everything. I came in, threw off my jacket, and then my shirt, my pants, strip down to my underwear. And suddenly this Fury took hold of me. The hell with the secrecy! The sphere! I took the city phone directory, and my daughter's address book and my wife's, and began calling everyone one by one. I'd say: I work at the institute for nuclear physics. There's a radioactive cloud over misc. And then I'd tell them what they needed to do: wash their hair, close their windows, take the laundry off the balcony and wash it again, drink iodine, how to drink it correctly. People's reaction was: thank you. They didn't question me, they didn't get scared. I think they didn't believe me, or maybe they didn't understand the importance of what was taking place. No one became frightened. It was a surprising reaction. That evening my friend calls. He was a nuclear physicist. And it was so careless! We lived with such belief! Only now can you see with what belief. He calls and says that, by the way, he's hoping to spend the May holidays at his in-laws near Gomel. It's a stone's throw away from Chernobyl. And he's bringing his little kids. "Great idea!" I yelled at him. "You've lost your mind!" That's a tale of professionalism. End of our faith. But I yelled at him. He probably doesn't remember that I saved his children. [takes a break.] We----I mean all of us----we haven't forgotten Chernobyl. We never understood it. What do savages understand about lightning? There's a moment in Ales Adamovich's book, when he's talking to Andrei Sakharov about the atom bomb. "Do you know," says Sakharov, the father of the hydrogen bomb, "how pleasantly the air smells of ozone after a nuclear explosion?" There's a lot of romance in those words. For me, for my generation----I'm sorry, I see by your reaction, you think I am celebrating something terrible, instead of human genius. But it's only now that nuclear energy has fallen so low and been ashamed. But for my generation----in 1945, when they first drop the atom bomb, I was 17 years old. I loved science fiction, I dreamed of traveling to other planets, and I decided that nuclear energy would take us into the cosmos. I enrolled at the Moscow Energy Institute and learned that the most top secret department was the nuclear energy Department. In the 50s and 60s, nuclear physicists were the elite, they were the best and brightest. The humanities were pushed aside. Our teacher back in school would say, in three little coins there is enough energy to fuel an electrical power station, your head would spin! I read the American Smith, who described how they invented the atomic bomb, tested it, what the explosions were like. In our world everything was a secret. The physicists got the high salaries, and the secrecy added to the romance. It was the cult of physics, the era of physics! Even when Chernobyl blew up, it took people a long time to part with that cult. They'd call up scientists, scientists would fly into Chernobyl on a special Charter plane, but many of them didn't even take their shaving kits, they thought they'd be there just a few hours. Just a few hours, even though they knew that a reactor had blown up. They believed in their physics, they were of the generation that believed in it. But the era of physics ended at Chernobyl. Your generation already sees the world differently. I recently read a passage in Konstantin Leontiev in which he writes that the results of men's physics chemical experiment will lead a higher power to intervene in our Earthly affairs. But for a person who was based on their Stalin, we couldn't imagine the possibility of some Supernatural power. I only read the Bible afterwards. I married the same woman twice. I left and then came back----we met each other again in the same world. Life is a surprising thing! And mysterious thing! Now I believe. What do I believe in? I believe that the three dimensional world has become crowded for mankind. Why is there such an interest in science fiction? Men is trying to tear himself away from the earth. He is trying to master different categories of time, different planets, not just this one. The apocalypse----uclear winter----in Western literature this has already all been written, as if they were rehearsing it. They were preparing for the future. The explosion of a large number of nuclear warheads will result in enormous fires the atmosphere will be saturated with smoke. Sunlight won't be able to reach the Earth. And this will ignite a chain reaction----from cold to colder to colder still. This man-made version of the end of the world has been taught since the industrial revolution of the 18th century but atom bombs won't disappear even after they destroyed the last warhead. There will still be the knowledge of atom bombs. You merely asked, but I keep arguing with you. We are having an argument between generations. Have you noticed? The history of the atom----it's not just the military secret and a curse. It's also our youth, our era, our religion. Fifty years have gone by, just 50 years. Now I also sometimes think that the world is being ruled by someone else, that we with our cannons and our spaceships are like children. But I haven't convinced myself of this yet. Life is such a surprising thing! I loved physics and thought that I wouldn't ever do anything but physics. But now I want to ride. I want to ride to, for example, about how men does not actually please science very much----he gets in the way of it. Or about how a few physicists what changed the world. About a new dictatorship of physics and math. A whole new life has open up for me.