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Event Details

Chernobyl and the Fall of the Soviet Union: Serhii Plokhy

26 February 2020
6:30pm – 7:30pm
Roundhouse, UNSW Sydney
This event has ended
Abandoned theme park in Chernobyl

Was the biggest peacetime nuclear disaster and demise of the Soviet Union inevitable?

On 26 April 1986 at 1.23am, a reactor at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Soviet Ukraine exploded. The blast contaminated over half of Europe with radioactive fallout and took the world to the brink of nuclear annihilation.

In his award-winning book, Chernobyl: History of a Tragedy, Harvard University professor Serhii Plokhy argues that this was a disaster waiting to happen. A leading historian of Eastern Europe, Plokhy presents the first full analysis of the gripping and unforgettable tragedy, offering us a compelling account of the perpetrators, heroes and victims. 

Join the winner of the Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction as he powerfully and expertly argues that Chernobyl was the catalyst of the Ukrainian revolt and the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Chaired by award-winning journalist Hamish Macdonald.

This event is presented by the UNSW Centre for Ideas and is a part of the UNSW Grand Challenge on Trust. Supported by Adelaide Writers' Week.


Wheelchair Accessible

The Roundhouse is located at UNSW Sydney's Kensington Campus, E6 on this map (PDF). You can be dropped off close to the Roundhouse north entrance (D5 on map). Vehicles need to arrive via High Street, Gate 2, follow the road to Third Avenue and turn onto 1st Ave West. The closest accessible parking is available in the Western Campus Car Park on Anzac Parade (G2 on map). 

Hearing Loop Available


The Centre for Ideas can provide Auslan interpreting services for selected talks upon request. 


For event enquires or to discuss your access requirements, please call the Centre for Ideas on 02 9385 9844 or email

The Centre for Ideas is happy to receive phone calls via the National Relay Service. TTY users, phone 133 677, then ask for 02 9385 9844. Speak and Listen users, phone 1300 555 727 then ask for 02 9385 9844. Internet relay users, visit, then ask for 02 9385 9844.

Serhii Plokhy

Serhii Plokhy

Serhii Plokhy is the Mykhailo Hrushevsky Professor of Ukrainian History at Harvard University. He is a leading authority on Eastern Europe and has published in English, Russian and Ukrainian. His bestselling book Chernobyl: History of a Tragedy won the Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction 2018 and the Pushkin House Book Prize in 2019. His latest book, Forgotten Bastards of the Eastern Front: An Untold Story of World War II was published in October 2019.

Hamish Macdonald

Hamish Macdonald


Hamish Macdonald has covered wars, disasters and major world events. He has secured nominations in prestigious journalism awards such as the Walkley Awards and the Quills Australian Journalist of the Year Award, a rare achievement for a commercial television network news reporter. He was also a finalist for the Graham Kennedy Award for Most Outstanding New Talent at this year's Logie Awards. A versatile news reporter and presenter he has delivered ground-breaking news reports (people smuggling in Indonesia) and fronted investigative documentary specials (Bikie Wars: Here and Now). Hamish regularly co-presents The Project on Channel 10 and is the new host of ABC's Q&A.

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