Valery Legasov Was Haunted By What Happened At Chernobyl — And His Memoirs Explain Why

Liam Daniel/HBO

As if the subject matter of Chernobyl wasn't dark enough, the HBO miniseries began with the suicide of the man who led the investigation of this nuclear accident. But before he died, Valery Legasov left Chernobyl memoirs via audio recordings. The Soviet scientist was the most involved in following up on this nuclear explosion that occurred in Ukraine on April 26, 1986. The fictional Ulana Khomyuk is doing much of the heavy research on the TV show, but in real life, Legasov eventually did his own investigation and documented his experience in the immediate aftermath and his findings. So while he can't tell his side of the story today, he left the world with his truth before taking his own life.

In Chernobyl, Jared Harris portrays Legasov and the miniseries appears to directly connect his death with this nuclear disaster. And this may not be inaccurate since, in an interview with the Russian publication Moskovskij Komsomolets, Legasov's daughter said that the case consumed her father. As the AP reported, Legasov died at the age of 51 just one day after the two-year anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster on April 27, 1988.

Liam Daniel/HBO

According to the publication Nuclear Monitor, Legasov expressed "his anger and despair about the safety of nuclear energy in the Soviet Union" in his memoirs. He also noted that an accident like the one at Chernobyl may have been inevitable due to how nuclear energy was handled by the soviet state. Nuclear Engineering International also shared some excerpts of his recorded memoirs that had been featured in the Russian newspaper Pravda. Per Nuclear Engineering International, Legasov had said how the accident at Chernobyl was the "apotheosis of all that was wrong in the management of the national economy and had been so for many decades."

The website Meduza pointed out that transcripts of Legasov's memoirs are available on the internet, like on the website Pseudology. But Legasov's daughter claimed to Moskovskij Komsomolets that some transcripts circulating on the web are not legitimate. However, Inga did note that her family has the full archived version of what her father said. You can hear more of his memoirs and Inga's thoughts on her dad in Russia Today's 2008 documentary, Chernobyl: Valery Legasov's Battle below.

Inga told both Russia Today and Moskovskij Komsomolets how her father had radiation poisoning. So she alleged that besides guilt and devastation about Chernobyl, Legasov took his own life because he probably didn't want to suffer that terrible death or put his wife through that. But no matter his reason for making his drastic choice, footage of Legasov and his memoirs are what the world has to remember him by.

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or text HOME to the Crisis Text Line at 741741.