A Radioactive Toast To Good Health


Have you seen the new HBO miniseries Chernobyl?

Congrats and thanks to all of you who decided to continue reading after the first line. And a heartfelt thanks to everyone who decided to click on something else after reading the first sentence, something that seems way more promising – I totally understand. Because, in all honesty, it doesn’t really matter if you’ve seen the series or not. We all know the story and the sequence of events, so the last thing anyone needs is another tiresome person chewing it all and spitting out the grand truth of what the authors wanted to achieve with this feature.

So, there will be no talk about the storyline of the miniseries, I promise. Instead, I would love to invite you for a drink. Sounds better, right? I would suggest Atomik vodka. The only tiny problem is that we cannot sit together and half a drink one of these days as the vodka in question cannot be bought, sampled or ordered anywhere yet. Nonetheless, the online presence is established, the first design created and we can hope that the bottling can soon start.

Chernobyl Spirit Company that is backing the project will produce the Atomik vodka on spot – from grains coming from the areas of Ukraine abandoned after the Chernobyl accident – using the water from local springs in the distillation process.

The team behind the project consists of British and Ukranian scientists and entrepreneurs. One of the people on the venture is an environmental scientist, James Smith, from the University of Portsmouth. His readings confirm that the spirit produced is completely safe, as any radioactive elements that may endure are removed in additional distillation procedures, which was confirmed in tests conducted at the University of Southampton. 

Despite the fact that product is still not available on the market, the business model that is announced is perfectly in line with all the current marketing trends. Namely, the company plans to donate 75% of the profits in the development of the local communities and help the economic prosperity of the region by revitalizing the abandoned areas of Ukraine around the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. This also declares them as a social enterprise, allowing future consumers of Atomik vodka to feel as if their alcohol consumption benefits a rejuvenation of a region that was previously destroyed by a nuclear catastrophe. If that’s the case, then you can’t really blame them for drinking, right…

It is obvious that the Atomik vodka project has been developing for quite some time, but it garnered media attention in the past few months, popping out on different online media outlets. The reason why this started trending only recently has to do with the question from the very beginning of this text.

The Chernobyl HBO miniseries has become a global phenomenon, bringing into spotlight the biggest nuclear catastrophe of our time. The explosion of the nuclear reactor on 26 April 1986 at the Chernobyl power plant, former USSR, officially reported instant death of 32 people, with the 30km perimeter around the reactor becoming the Exclusion Alienation Zone. The area saw the evacuation of 350,000 people – including the entire population of the town Pripyat that housed around 50,000. It is impossible to estimate the actual number of people who died of cancer and other diseases that came as a consequence of the post-explosion radiation, but some Greenpeace estimates mention the 200,000 mark with millions of others who were affected by the radioactive cloud that swept over Europe.

Another effect of this sudden interest in the Chernobyl tragedy is the anticipation of the Atomik vodka launch, which begs another question. Had it not been for the TV miniseries and the entire frenzy it caused, would the news of Atomik vodka produced from locally sourced grains and water from the Chernobyl region strike you in the same manner? Would your initial reaction be the same? Wouldn’t you ask yourself: are these people nuts? Who on Earth would allow anything fit for human consumption be produced there, let alone sold worldwide? Finally, would you actually be willing to try the vodka?

It seems that the Chernobyl series has profoundly changed the perception of the public to the extent that any of the questions posed above would not end up being raised. Perhaps the series inspired the Atomik vodka creators to start the production in the first place. In any event, the topic of Chernobyl has become a part of our popular culture and trending topic thanks to the HBO miniseries. Aftermath of the story is that people also want to visit the site and the surrounding areas, which prompted another fan of the show, Ukranian president Volodymir Zelensky to announce the rebuilding plan for the Chernobyl region, turning the exclusion zone into a tourist attraction. Acting like a seasoned marketing strategist, Zelensky stated: “Until now, Chernobyl was a negative part of Ukraine’s brand. It’s time to change it.” Well, at the end it makes sense, the state is the state, but we live in an era where commercial brand is more important and can even be presented as a public interest. It all makes sense to us, the state will always be the state and the times we live in revolve around the brand awareness and its positioning. 

There has been a number of series and films that defined and set the trends in fashion and music. There were those that made certain destinations very popular. As soon as the trend is spotted, the money-making machines place the right branding on a series of products to carry the trend and enter the market in high demand.

The way that media works today has further fueled this marketing potential, allowing the consumers to not only buy into a particular trend, but to also publish personalized media content related to the trend, adding to the overall hype.

With this story in mind, the trend would entail that I visit the site of the biggest nuclear disaster of our time, take photos and publish for the world to see how VIP I am by securing a visit to a place that was closed to visitors for over thirty years. Missing out on the possibility to be the first man on the moon, I might compensate by being the first in my circle of followers to enter the abandoned city of Pripyat.

Can you imagine the likes, shares and comments as well as praise that every Chernobyl selfie would generate? It is a chance not to be missed, no matter the cost. Even if the price tag is your life, literally.

I believe that some of the visitors will also click on the news reporting scientific discoveries claiming that Chernobyl region will not be safe or adequate for human health and life for thousands of years to come. This is not something we can wait for, right? But at least we can have a drink in the meantime. Vodka, perhaps? Atomik one? Let the world know what we are having here! Cheers / Na zdrovya!

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