Two large geodesic domes housing satellite antennas sit within a snowy woodland landscape.

I’ve been gathering quotes from Petrov, possibly for an audio work or soundtrack for a video or installation. What I take away from his recollections are:

  • the tension between the job’s requirements (obeying orders) and a sense of personal responsibility
  • doubt that emerges when gut instinct clashes with given information
  • the necessity of contemplation and time to process decisions

“I had all the data. If I had sent my report up the chain of command, nobody would have said a word against it.”

“The siren howled, but I just sat there for a few seconds, staring at the big, back-lit, red screen with the word ‘launch’ on it. A minute later the siren went off again. The second missile was launched. Then the third, and the fourth, and the fifth. Computers changed their alerts from ‘launch’ to ‘missile strike’.”

“The slightest false move can lead to colossal consequences. That hasn’t changed.”

“There was no rule about how long we were allowed to think before we reported a strike. But we knew that every second of procrastination took away valuable time; that the Soviet Union’s military and political leadership needed to be informed without delay.”

“All I had to do was to reach for the phone; to raise the direct line to our top commanders – but I couldn’t move. I felt like I was sitting on a hot frying pan.”

“My colleagues were all professional soldiers, they were taught to give and obey orders.” 

“I thought the chances were 50-50 that the warnings were real. But I didn’t want to be the one responsible for starting a third world war.” 

“Can you imagine? It was as though a child had been playing with a vanity mirror, throwing around the sun’s reflection. And by chance that blinding light landed right in the centre of the system’s eye.”

These quotes were from his interview with Time magazine and BBC reportage.

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