Why Soviet authorities erected a statue of Prometheus near Chernobyl power plant

Prometheus monument at the time of the town’s construction.
image source: Pripyat.com

Constructing the Nuclear Plant at Chernobyl

Before accident, nuclear power plant was seen as the safe and cheap energy source for the future. The town of Pripyat was one of several municipalities dedicated in the U.S.S.R ( post Soviet union )to the specific industry.  In the photo foreground there is bronze monument in honor of Greek hero Prometheus. At the background we can see construction of the 4th floor of house number 3 at Kurchatova street. As a symbol of their ambitions, the town’s leaders erected a statue of the Greek Titan Prometheus; it was later moved within sight of the Chernobyl plant. This was inauspicious.

Prometheus fire and Pandoras box

Prometheus faced divine punishment because he dared to steal the power of the gods and give it to humans in the form of fire.  Prometheus( who symbolized ingenuity) and his twin brother Epimetheus (who symbolized foolishness) represented humankind to the gods.  The latter accepted Pandora, the first woman, as a gift from Zeus. While Prometheus was punished by having his liver eaten by an eagle, Pandora was a further punishment for Prometheus’s transgression. Epimetheus married Pandora, whereupon she opened her famous Box, loosing evil upon the world, with only Hope remaining trapped inside.

Nuclear power is like Prometheus fire         

Because Prometheus the titan gave the gift of fire to humankind so that they can start their civilization, live in cities and build empires. He is the symbol of intellect which pierces through the darkest night and brings prosperity to humanity instead of chaos. Nuclear power was considered to be as important to humanity as fire; for us, technological development is the new “Prometheus” which provides us with the “gift” of nuclear fusion. Ironic? Considering that Prometheus was caught and tortured by the gods – and nuclear fusion destroyed everything around Chernobyl in a nuclear holocaust.


For a sense of the optimistic mood under which Chernobyl was constructed, see the video below.

Video of Chernobyl plant construction (1970). Video Source: Youtube.