RIP Stanislav Petrov –


Apparently Stanislav Petrov died in May, but the news simply didn’t get around.

Petrov, who retired with the rank of lieutenant colonel, died on 19 May but news of his passing became widely known only this month, thanks to a chance phone call. [bbc]

Thank you, Mr. Petrov, for not ending me. For not ending life as we know it. [stderr]

I went everywhere by bicycle, then, and had perfected a one-pedal mount, with my hip against the top-tube and no hands on the handlebars. I usually had my nose in a book as I rode. Everyone ignored me and I ignored everyone except for a small handful of friends. That was how my days passed: playing Empire on the pdp-11, sending email, writing code, doing crafts (at that time, mostly making chainmail armor) and watching matinees at the art theater, The Charles, a few minutes south in what would later be my neighborhood.

What did not happen: the sun did not rise in the west. I did not burst into flame from the radiant heat. The glass from parked cars and shattered windows did not flense me at speeds up to 50mph. The cloud of burning did not rise over Washington to the west like a miles-wide thor’s hammer. Nothing burned. The world did not end. None of us knew. I probably slept well that night.

Stanislav Petrov

Stanislav Petrov

Comments

  1. says

    chigau@#1:
    something about butterflies

    Really. What if he’d been sick that day and the guy standing watch was in a bad mood? Everything hinges on nothing at all.

    That really is a mighty fine photo.

    It is a great portrait.

  2. says

    Thank you, Mr. Petrov. I was 25 years old, had been married for four years, and living in Long Beach, Cal. I would have been toast. Crumbled ash toast.

  3. unperson says

    Yes, it’s sad that it took four months for the world to notice that the person who once saved it had died. I hope that his family had something akin to “he saved the world” engraved on his tombstone — not may people can have that honestly said about them.

  4. blf says

    Many thanks to Lt Col Petrov. THANK YIOU !

    The Grauniad has a nice short editorial, Stanislav Petrov: an unsung hero, which concludes, “[… I]it’s not just discipline that keeps nuclear weapons under control. Judgment and well-timed insubordination have sometimes saved us, too.” A point which, sadly, may again become critically important. (They also had an editorial when the incident first became known, In praise of — Stanislav Petrov.)

    And apropos of nothing as serious, it apparently isn’t so much that Lt Col Petrov’s sad death was ignored insomuch as it apparently wasn’t publicly announced. The BBC says:

    […]
    Petrov, who retired with the rank of lieutenant colonel, died on 19 May but news of his passing became widely known only this month, thanks to a chance phone call.

    German film-maker[] Karl Schumacher, who first brought Petrov’s story to an international audience, telephoned him to wish him a happy birthday on 7 September only to be informed by his son, Dmitry Petrov, that he had passed away.

    Mr Schumacher announced the death online and it was eventually picked up by media outlets.

    Mr Schumacher (see link below) apparently was trying to propose a Nobel Peace Prize for Stanislav Petrov, which sadly now is impossible (Nobel Prizes are not posthumous).

      † Mr Schumacher, said to be a film-maker, had, as far as I know, little-to-nothing to do with The Man Who Saved The World. He was one of the first “Westerners” to contact Petrov after the incident became known and became, and remained, a friend. His account of that meeting and subsequent events, Stanislaw Petrow zu Besuch in Deutschland (German).

  5. says

    Caine@#4:
    I would have been toast.

    Yeah, there were several SS-20s targeted at the LA basin.

    Have you ever seen Miracle Mile? That movie scared the bejeebers out of me.

  6. says

    unperson@#6:
    I hope that his family had something akin to “he saved the world” engraved on his tombstone — not may people can have that honestly said about them.

    I have a calendar mark for the day; when it rolls around next year I’ll see if I can find pictures of his marker.

  7. says

    blf@#8:
    Mr Schumacher (see link below) apparently was trying to propose a Nobel Peace Prize for Stanislav Petrov, which sadly now is impossible (Nobel Prizes are not posthumous).

    I wish they had given him Barack Obama’s.

  8. blf says

    I wish they had given him Barack Obama’s.

    Except the timing’s all wrong, I suspect I’d prefer if Petrov had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize which went to Henry Kissinger — “Political satire became obsolete when Henry Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize” (Tom Lehrer).

    That is not to say President Obama deserved his, but at the time it was awarded, he hadn’t done much to not-deserve it (nor much to deserve it, other than not being Bush). But Kissinger, at the time his was awarded, had already done an enormous amount to not-deserve it.

  9. says

    blf@#12:
    “Political satire became obsolete when Henry Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize” (Tom Lehrer).

    I believe that’s when Lehrer stopped performing. (Interesting guy. He was a cryptographer at NSA for a long time…)

    You’re right, though – Giving him Kissingers’ would have been far more appropriate.

  10. Holms says

    A cooler head prevailed then; let’s hope we have a few more Stanislavs in the right place when the Toddler’s tantrums risk everything.

Leave a Reply