"Meetings in Chernobyl": Soviet artists who spoke to the liquidators of the accident
In April 1986, a provincial Soviet city suffered a catastrophe, which the whole world is still talking about. To raise the spirit of the liquidators of the Chernobyl accident, it was decided to give several concerts of famous Soviet artists. Then it was difficult to accurately assess the consequences of these performances, but the performers understood that they were at great risk to their health. Despite this, many of them decided to go on stage to support their listeners - at that time there were more than six hundred thousand people in the city.
Iosif Kobzon spoke to the liquidators just a month after the accident - his four-hour concert took place in Pripyat on June 1st, 1986, less than a kilometer from the site of the explosion. There were not enough seats in the city administration building to let in everyone who wanted to see the artist - the hall was designed for three hundred people, but more than seven thousand wanted to get to the concert. After the concert, the artist talked with the audience for a long time, trying to cheer them up. Sometimes the disease that led to Kobzon's death in 2018 is associated with this performance. However, there are no facts confirming this version.
After speaking at the site of the Chernobyl accident, Kobzon risked his health and life more than once, trying to support people in need. His concerts were held in Armenia and Grozny, in 2002 he decided to negotiate with the terrorists who seized the theater during the performance "Nord-Ost", and helped save several people.
In August 1986, Valery Leontiev came to Chernobyl with a concert. According to his confessions, he did not perceive this as a feat, and simply did his job. Full awareness of the catastrophe that had occurred came after entering the affected area. The artist still recalls with horror the abandoned city that opened to his eyes.
Before the speech, Leontiev received no instructions on how to behave in the affected area. As a result, after the concert, the dosimeter indicators were exceeded twice - the artist began to seriously fear for his health. However, his speech really gave the liquidators an opportunity to escape from the harsh work. According to the testimonies of the listeners, a huge number of people gathered in the hall, an even larger crowd stood on the street.
There were so many listeners that for some time Leontyev could not even get out of the car. At this concert, the artist performed even more vividly than usual. The concert did not appear on the air of "Meetings in Chernobyl", and its recording was not preserved. After this performance, the actor did not leave the affected area - a few days later he gave a concert in the village of Cape Verde.
In September, Alla Pugacheva also arrived in the village of Cape Verde. According to some reports, the liquidators themselves asked for this very much, who, in response to the question of what they needed more: money or food, asked to hold a concert for them by a singer famous throughout the Union.
Pugacheva agreed, and soon performed on a stage specially built for her. Before the concert, she was instructed in detail about safety rules, but it was not possible to comply with everything: on stage, she refused a protective suit, revealing her face to the audience. Together with Pugacheva, Vladimir Kuzmin arrived in the village. Here they first performed the song "Two Stars", which soon became a hit.
Wanting to support the audience, Pugacheva invited the lieutenant who was involved in the aftermath of the accident to the stage and danced with him during the performance. This act caused a stormy and ambiguous reaction - the editors of the channel filming the concert said that the singer was dancing on the bones. According to some reports, the lieutenant later died from radiation.
Pugacheva expressed condolences to the victims of the accident and during the concert she regularly emphasized that she understood the seriousness of what was happening, but she wanted to distract the liquidators for at least a few hours. All references to the disaster were cut from her concert when shown on television, and the audience was able to see only an hour of the concert. After returning home, the singer had health problems that required a long recovery. Including her voice suffered.
For Irina Ponarovskaya, the concert in Chernobyl almost ended in the loss of her career - after it, the singer lost her voice for a long time. However, she managed to make hoarseness an attractive feature and continue performing. According to her, in 1986, she did not think what consequences her stay in the contaminated zone would lead to - first of all, she wanted to at least somehow help the people working in it.
Alexander Barykin gave ten concerts in the contaminated area in 1986. Two years later, he lost his voice and the opportunity not only to perform, but also to speak. After several operations and a long recovery period, Barykin managed to cope with the disease, but he did not return to the stage immediately. He said that the impression that he experienced after arriving at Chernobyl remained with him for the rest of his life - he saw how catastrophic the consequences of the accident were, and admired the courage of the people who eliminated its consequences.
When the artists went to Chernobyl, they could not predict what consequences awaited them. However, many of them did not think about themselves at that time - first of all, they wanted to support people who heroically fought against radiation.