Journalism, exquisite journalism:

Michail Gorbachev did not make a public appearance until nine days after the accident. Was this embittering?

You know, journalists always ask the same thing. Were you lied to? The Soviet power never told the truth. That was nothing new! What interests me is something else. The pause.

The pause?

In the zone helicopters were taking off, technicians were running about in their thousands, but no one had any explanations. It was a new reality. It was forbidden to sit on the ground. It was forbidden to stand under a tree for any length of time. Fishermen said they couldn't find any worms, that the worms had bored a meter and a half down into the earth. Nature had obviously received signals. I find this fascinating. People reported they'd not only seen a fire, but also a raspberry-coloured glow and that they'd never thought death could be so beautiful. Former Afghanistan fighters were flown in with helicopters and machine guns and were asking: What good are our helicopters here? An entire culture collapsed, the familiar culture of war.

(…) There were no boundaries after Chernobyl. Spaces dissolved.

I continue to be amazed that people have failed to understand Chernobyl as a new way of seeing the world. Chernobyl changed space, but politicians still talk about things in terms of today, there, nearby, foreign. It's so strange. What does near or far mean when the cloud was hanging over Europe on the second day and over China on the fourth? Even a country that doesn't build reactors will be hit by the fallout from another country.

You can read the complete conversation with Svetlana Alexievich on