1000 petals by axinia

the only truth I know is my own experience

How to save the word…with non-action. July 30, 2008

Many people dream of saving the world. Combatting terrorism, global warming, mafia, corruption, etc… And there is another possibility of doing it – to be exact, NOT to do a certain thing. Not to commit the fatal mistake. There are some stories from the time of the Cold War when the world has been saved through the non-action of military people.

This is an amazing true story about the man, who held the future of the world in his hands for 10 min. In 1983. 

A Russian pensioner in a village north of Moscow claims he saved the world. Most people would walk straight on if accosted in the street with that tale. But the truth is that Stanislav Petrov, interviewed on Monday for a Radio 4 programme and about whom a film is being made, did exactly that.

 image by James Gordon

On September 26 1983, Petrov, a 44-year-old lieutenant colonel, was monitoring the Soviet Union’s early warning satellites from a command bunker. Three weeks earlier a Korean jetliner, with 269 passengers on board, had been shot down over Soviet airspace. The Americans were about to deploy the Pershing II missile that could hit Moscow from West Germany in 12 minutes. Ronald Reagan had called the Soviet Union an “evil empire” and launched his “star wars” programme. The Soviet leader Yuri Andropov, critically ill with renal failure, thought Reagan already had a missile defence system and was convinced that the US was about to shoot first.

The Soviets were accident-prone. Shortly after midnight, a blip appeared on Petrov’s screen. Several minutes later four more blips appeared. Petrov had about 10 minutes to decide whether the blips were incoming US missiles, or were, as they later proved to be, a false alarm from a faulty satellite. The future of the world rested in his hands. Petrov followed his “gut instinct” and did nothing. He should have been given a hero’s medal. In the event, he was reprimanded for not filling out the log book that day and retired a year later.

Things happen… we have no idea!

P.S: the story found in GUARDIAN.

LOVE, axinia


12 Responses to “How to save the word…with non-action.”

  1. swaps Says:

    People like Petrov are guided by a personal compass. It takes grit. Loads of it. I have read about a submarine captain whose heroism too met disapproval. Such people make me love Russia.

    This raises a question.
    What is heroism? Is it winning gallantry medals or just sticking to your conscience?

    (Axinia, will ya watch this movie if and when it is made? Dare say yes 🙂

  2. axinia Says:

    I dont thing such courage has anything to do with Russia. Anyone can be a hero. I am sure YOU would handle it the same way.

    What is heroism? -I very good question… I think herosim is indeed saving the world or at least saving one human life + going beyond the common conditioning. Breaking the rules/laziness/cowardness/indifference/cold-heartedness/etc. and handling with the heart.

    Regarding the film, I have seen the Holliwood film “K47” about the nuclear submarie, and I really like it. In Russia, we grew up with fils about war and heroes, you can imagine (+my military backround)…:)
    I will definetly not look for this film about Petrov, I really dont have time for that, my dear friend.

  3. John Noyce Says:

    you need to change the heading!

  4. steve Says:

    Wow – what a great story. Scary how many times we’ve been so close. Check out the film 13 days with Kevin Costner about the Cuban Missile crisis.

  5. axinia Says:

    @John Noice – sorry, did not get your hint…what kind of heading? Is there something wrong with this one?

    @thnks, Steve, I think I heard about that film. It is the 3th story of this kind then.

  6. Michael Says:

    Hi Axinia!

    I think that it is important to think about what you do before you go in Action. But always to stay friendly does not help either. I have been working in Bars, Discos and Clubs as a manager for several years. We always tried to stay calm and friendly even with “problem people”. But sometimes you have to show them that you are stronger cause they want to know. Then it is calm and nice for the other guests which do not have to sheir their evening with people which only want to do silly things. US Bouncers show the good way. They keep being correct and if soemone is silly (s)he gets removed professional from the location. Funny – we never ever had problems with a hair dresser.

    … but always think about what happens if you press the button.

    Thanks, Michael

  7. Swaps Says:

    “I dont think such courage has anything to do with Russia.”
    I know some Indian who have fallen out of favour with officialdom but mostly I have regret. Because some could have changed the course of our history if they had followed their hearts.

    I was wondering what your father would say : does a soldier obey orders or follow the heart.

  8. axinia Says:

    @Swaps, that is a goog question! (You are master of good questions 🙂
    I will ask my father and let you know – I guess I really can not answer this one.

  9. Superb post, Axinia! Machines are designed by humans to be “intelligent” to a certain degree but the fact is that they are stupid! Intelligence cannot be measured in any particular way because it comprises several things that cannot be clubbed together. The intelligence of Stanislav Petrov could never be emulated by a stupid machine.

  10. axinia Says:

    good comment, An alien Earthling!

  11. Nova Says:

    I totally agree!! Some times not doing something can be very beneficial as well!!

  12. axinia Says:

    you are right, this is in a way the favourite Gandhi trick: fighting by non-violence.

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