A picture of the nuclear powerplant in Chernobyl after the disaster.

Chernobyl Disaster

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Updated Jul 14, 2021 at 05:59PM EDT by Zach.

Added Jul 14, 2021 at 05:21PM EDT by Rebecca Rhodes.

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The Chernobyl Disaster, also known simply as Chernobyl, is a common historical topic in memes referring to the nuclear meltdown at the Ukrainian Chernobyl nuclear power plant in 1986. Chernobyl memes frequently reference both the event and its aftermath, joking about the theoretical effects of radiation on the people and wildlife affected by the accident. It is a particularly prominent subject on Reddit, especially after the 2019 HBO series Chernobyl.


On April 26th, 1986, several Chernobyl engineers deactivated safety controls of one of the reactors in an attempt to test the extent to which the reactor could run on inertial spinning alone. As a result, the reactor overheated and power surged, causing a chemical explosion. Over 50 tons of toxic radiation were released. The Chernobyl nuclear power plant was stationed in a remote area of Ukraine, which was part of the Soviet Union at the time of the accident, and many citizens of the Soviet Union aided in the rescue and contaminant-sealing efforts that were detrimental to their health. In total, 32 people died as an immediate result of the event, while an estimated 5,000 others died of radiation sickness afterwards.[1]

Online Presence

Chernobyl Memes

On January 1st, 2008, a meme (seen below) was uploaded to Ebaum’s World,[2] where it received over 23,000 views in roughly 13 years. Titled "How Bert and Ernie Got Their Start," it became the first known meme about the Chernobyl disaster.

Chernobyl How Bert and Ernie got their start.

Chernobyl memes have steadily grown in popularity since 2008, especially upon the release of the 2019 HBO miniseries of the same name. In 2020, the memes received renewed attention during the COVID-19 pandemic due to comparisons to the return of wildlife and the American anti-mask movement. One of these memes (seen below) was posted on June 18th, 2021, by American Memes on Facebook.[3] It received over 6,100 likes and 157 comments in roughly one month.

Scientists: This is Chernobyl, you will die if you don't wear a protective suit! Americans:

Meanwhile in Chernobyl

Chernobyl memes began to form an early trend in 2012 known as "Meanwhile in Chernobyl." These memes utilized the same caption to represent people and animals mutated by the Chernobyl disaster through funny imagery. For example, this photoshopped image was uploaded to 9GAG[4] on February 25th, 2012, with the same caption. It received 168 likes in roughly nine years.


Welcome to Chernobyl, I’ll Be Your Guide

"Welcome to Chernobyl, I’ll be your guide" is a frequently used quote in Chernobyl memes that has been in use since 2017. One particular image of a boy with his arms tucked into his pants has become a popular image macro that has continued to circulate the internet up until 2020. This instance (shown below) was uploaded to /r/ItemShop[5] by u/buffering_neko in November 2020, receiving 77 upvotes.

"Welcome to Chernobyl, I will be your guide"

Animals of Chernobyl

Animals of Chernobyl, later phrased as "animals returning to Chernobyl" is a meme representing the evolution of animal life as a result of radioactive fallout. Originally sparked by "meanwhile in Chernobyl" memes and appearing sporadically online in the following decade, these memes increased in popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic, as headlines everywhere involving animals returning to populated areas were mocked by Chernobyl-inspired takes on mutated animals. One meme referencing the famous "radioactive puppies" of Chernobyl gained popularity online. This tweet (seen below) by @MemesCentral[6] on Twitter and received 154 likes and 36 retweets.

Please Do Not Pet the Radioactive Puppies of Chernobyl how bout i do anyway?

Chernobyl Television Show

The historical drama Chernobyl became an instant hit in 2019. It exposed a new generation of viewers to the details of the Chernobyl disaster and inspired a number of memes surrounding the event, often incorporating characters from the show.

You DIDN'T see graphite on the ground because it's not there! CHANGE MY MIND

Various Examples

Welcome to Chernobyl Il be your guide Nobody: Animals in Chernobyl: Soviet Union: It's just a fire. There is no radiation. Chernobyl employees:

Me: Turns off the cooling system because I'm cold Everyone else at the overheating nuclear powerplant: imgflip.com Due to COVID-19 lockdown, wildlife is returning back to Chernobyl What's "mematic"? Nobody : Reactor four on 26 april 1986: Unlimited power!

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