Image by James Ryen
On June 4, 1988, not far from the railway station in the city of Arzamas, a train car carrying munitions from a nearby weapons factory suddenly exploded. The blast damaged buildings for two kilometers (1.2 miles), completely destroying many homes. According to official reports, 91 people died, 744 were injured, and hundreds of families were left without roofs over their heads. The government investigated the incident for several years, but many victims and local authorities to this day still believe the state is hiding the truth from the public. Meduza special correspondent Daniil Turovsky went to Arzamas and met with victims and emergency responders to learn more about what happened 30 years ago.
On the morning of June 4, 1988, an engine operator named Yuri Mikanovich was on shift and having an ordinary day. Having worked in the Gorky region for many years, he knew the local railways’ every turn, slope, and climb. On this particular day, Mikanovich and a coworker had run a freight train to Gorky (known today as Nizhny Novgorod), and now they’d come to the Oskaya station for a new train that was loaded with explosives manufactured at the Sverdlov Factory in Dzerzhinsk. According to official instructions, these train cars were usually placed immediately behind an electric locomotive and shielded by ordinary train cars, but often there simply weren’t any of these train cars on hand. Today was one of those days…
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