HBO’s latest miniseries, Chernobyl has audiences hooked to it world over. The show which portrays the nuclear accident that occurred at Chernobyl tries to be very close to reality. Even then, there are some deviations from the real-life nuclear disaster that shook the world on 26th April 1986.

The New Yorker

Here’s a look at some of the major events that are portrayed differently in the show.

1. One of the show’s main characters, Soviet nuclear physicist Ulana Khomyuk is an amalgamation of many nuclear scientists involved in the Chernobyl cleanup.


Ulana Khomyuk, played by Emily Watson is a fictional character representing all those scientists who helped in the cleanup in the aftermath of the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl.


In an interview with Variety, Chernobyl screenwriter explained why he chose a female scientist for the role. He said:

“One area where the Soviets were actually more progressive than we were was in the area of science and medicine. The Soviet Union had quite a large percentage of female doctors.”

He further added:

“She represents all of these other scientists that came in and risked quite a bit to fight a system, not just the system of government, but also the system of science, which in and of itself, had a certain patriarchy to it and was very interested in protecting itself from its own mistakes.”

2. Lyudmilla Ignatenko, wife of fireman Vasily Ignatenko was asked if she had kids and not if she was pregnant when she visited her husband in the Moscow hospital.

In Episode 3, when Lyudmilla Ignatenko visits her husband in a hospital in Moscow, the doctor asked her if she was pregnant. to which she replies, “No”. This is in deviation to what Lyudmilla Ignatenko was quoted saying in Svetlana Alexievich’s book on the nuclear disaster in Chernobyl.

These were her words.

“Finally I’m sitting in the office of the head radiologist. Right away she asked: “Do you have kids?” “Yes,” I say. “How many?” I’m thinking, I need to tell her two. If it’s just one, she won’t let me in. “A boy and a girl.”

3. The helicopter crash shown in episode 2 in the immediate aftermath of explosion actually took place much later and had nothing to do with radiation.


In a statement to Men’s Health, Mazin said it was one the few events that had to be moved around chronologically to fit the narrative. 

He further explained the reason behind shifting the scene.

“I wanted people to know that this was one of the hazards that these pilots were dealing with, an open reactor. Radiation was flying over it.”

Apparently, there’s a video also that shows the crash after the helicopter hit a crane.

4. While episode 4 shows that 3 men volunteer to sacrifice their lives to drain radioactive water, Adam Higginbotham’s book, Midnight in Chernobyl, reveals that they simply received orders to do so.

Adam Higginbotham’s book, Midnight in Chernobylsays that no such event occurred and the men simply received orders by telephone from the reactor manager to open the valves.

5. The court scene in the final episode of the series isn’t exactly what happened in real.

According to Esquire, Mazin says that the big court scene was “inspired by factual circumstances”, rather than being literally what happened, and represents a compressed version of the trial, which Legasov wasn’t actually present at.

While the series was made after a comprehensive research and gets some things very right, it doesn’t depict the complete truth. Even the writer, Craig Mazin has agreed to some of these discrepancies in order to provide continuity to the show.

And the fact that it gives us an idea of the events that occurred at Chernobyl like never before, has made it one of the best shows of all time.