2 / 6

Boris Shcherbina

Boris Shcherbina (played by Stellan Skarsgard) was the deputy head of the Soviet government in charge of the investigation after the Chernobyl disaster hours after the accident. When he arrived in Pripyat (the city near the plant), he rejected to suggest an order for mass evacuation, saying, "Panic is worse than radiation." The town would not be evacuated until 36 hours after the explosion.

He died in 1990 at age 70, and it's not clear if he died of radiation or not, given that he ordered the construction of a new town in the highly contaminated area. In a secret 1988 decree that he helped form, Soviet doctors could not cite radiation as a cause of death or illness.

HBO's Chernobyl Is Based on the Lives of These Real People

The 1986 Chernobyl crisis was undoubtedly one of the worst nuclear disasters of all time. A reactor explosion at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant's fourth unit set off a fire and spewed radioactive substances into the air. It killed dozens soon after and spread dangerous levels of radiation hundreds of miles away, from Ukraine to Sweden. The disaster revealed the Soviet Union's flawed reactor design as well as its striking delay in evacuation efforts. Chernobyl's impacts on public health, economics, and the environment remain harrowingly relevant today.

HBO has recently revisited this chapter in history, re-creating the lives of the actual key players in a limited series. From the scientist who questioned the USSR's flawed reactor design to the brave young firefighter who died a painful death from radiation, here are the names you should remember from Chernobyl. Note that the following are all photos of the actors in the miniseries, not the actual people.