Chernobyl, HBO’s miniseries about the devastating 1986 nuclear accident, was a surprise hit, drawing more than 6 million viewers for its finale and landing the top spot on IMDb’s user-generated rankings of all-time television shows. Now, as The Hollywood Reporter first reported, a Russian TV channel known for pro-Kremlin coverage is producing its own show about Chernobyl, one that implicates a CIA saboteur in the disaster.
The Washington Post notes that Kremlin power brokers have been less than enthusiastic about the HBO show’s hit status, which makes sense, given that the Soviet state does not exactly come off well. The Russian version of the show will air on NTV, owned by the media division of the Russian natural gas company Gazprom, itself majority-owned by the Russian government. According to THR, the production is also being partially funded by Russia’s culture ministry.
The show’s director Alexei Muradov told the Moscow Times that its narrative will follow a theory which “holds that Americans had infiltrated the Chernobyl nuclear power plant.” “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,” Muradov continued. The Times correctly labels this line of thinking as a “fringe conspiracy theory.”
Maybe the Russians are producing their own Chernobyl story as part of an elaborate propaganda campaign to downplay Soviet culpability for the incident, or maybe they just want in on HBO’s ratings bonanza. Maybe both.