The April issue of National Geographic has an article marking the 20th anniversary of the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl.
By April 1986, despite the fantasies of Tom Clancy and the scrying of Sovietologists like Condoleezza Rice, it was obvious to anyone with a clue that the Soviet Union was on the ropes. They’d been fighting a losing battle in Afghanistan for six years. Stories of long lines for people in Moscow to buy basics like bread and toilet paper didn’t give the impression that the worker’s utopia was just around the corner.
Still, despite all of the Soviet Union’s many, many problems, this is how author Richard Stone describes what happened in Pripyat, a city of 50,000, two miles from Chernobyl (my emphasis):
In a radio broadcast the next morning, officials announced that there had been an accident and the town would be evacuated. That day, 1,100 buses from across Ukraine lined up in Pripyat. By 5 p.m. the city was empty.
Even with that kind of organization, the Soviet Union was gone five years later. Does not bode well.