The story of generals gathered in their masses is going on, but this time our character isn’t a stupid war pig, and he is not a general. He was Stanislav Petrov, a Soviet lieutenant colonel at the time of the late Cold War, when the frictions between USSR and the US was about to collapse, the nuclear collapse. A model soldier, planed in the Soviet Air Defence Forces, in the most exclusive department of all, the nuclear one. That’s the man who saved the world.
Everything started in a Moscow bunker, the Serpuchov 15, in a calm and
relatively warm night of September 26, 1983, where our hero was coordinating one of the hot points of the Soviet nuclear shell. A skein of nerves connected by ganglia, in an electronic way. This was the Soviet protection system against nuclear attacks. Someone remembers the American “Star Wars” system in case of this – the antagonist was (and still is) the most advanced, and definitely the best. Its peculiarity was to be full automatic: humans, like our Stanislav Petrov, had just to follow a strict protocol. They had to push the buttons and directly fire.No filters, in case of real attacks. The system needed nothing more. A perfect one. No possibility to fail. No errors. Everything is digital, automatic, computer brained moved. That’s the theory, of course.
We consider how fascinating and advanced was Soviet technology, but we
have to consider how annihilating were the stupid protocols that they managed, as it is well known in disasters like Korean Air Lines 007, or Chernobyl. This closed the relation to the infallibility of the socialist model and the common attraction to this kind of schemes, charts, standard sheets, was responsible for some of the most tragic episodes, but it didn’t fail always in front of the human littleness. Our man said no to bureaucracy: he chose to rebel against the digital 6mind. On that mild night, the devices of the bunker started to show multiple attacks from the US. Hundreds of nuclear weapons fastly directed to USSR. Fast, Stanislav! We must respond to the attack with the same hundreds of missiles! Fast! No time to think! Our mother Russia is near to the collapse! Fast! The protocol talks clear! It calls us to the total war! To the total end! To the atomic holocaust! Our people will die! Them too! From the bunker, we have this power! We have the moral power to do it! Millions of our women, children and innocent people will die soon! We must and we have to respond!
Can you imagine? The atomic shell never failed before. Can you imagine? The world, burning. Everything, for the last time. Can you imagine? Stanislav said no. He doubted. In his human fragility, he doubted. He didn’t shoot. No one pushed the button. Can you imagine?
The system was confused by particular astronomical conjunction between the Earth, the Sun and the orbit of the most complex and advanced military satellite of all times. A fatality. Unique randomness. Potentially, the end of humanity. Potentially, the end of everything. The fact remained a secret for a long time: too difficult to admit how the technical jewel could fail. Stanislav Petrov, too. No one still remembers him, in the land of Kremlins. Yes, he is the definitive hero of humankind. Amusingly, just famous to Americans and allies. He died poor, 3 years ago, in a Moscow that he never betrayed. A common end, for real heroes.