Stanislav Petrov

Published on March 24th, 2020

Stanislav Yevgrafovich Petrov was born on 7th September 1939 near the Pacific port city of Vladivostok, Russia. His father, Yevgraf, flew fighter aircraft during World War II. His mother was a nurse. Stanislav was a hero, and if you want to – you can be a hero just like him.

Petrov at his house in 2016
Petrov in the kitchen, at his house, in 2016. Image credit: Wikimedia

Stanislav was Russian, and was a lieutenant colonel in the Soviet military. That’s not how you could be just like him, though.

In the eighties Cold War tensions between Russia and the USA were still running high.

In 1983, Stanislav was the commanding officer of a Soviet nuclear early warning site. Basically, his job was to wait for the Americans to launch a nuclear weapon, and launch one back if they do.

(Again, it’s VERY unlikely any of you will ever do that job, so just hang on a second.)

On 26th September 1983, the unthinkable happened. It seemed that America had launched bombs. Stanislav watched in disbelief as it came up on the monitoring software that 5 nuclear missiles were on their way.

Instead of panicking, Stanislav Petrov stayed calm. He thought rationally – why would America send 5 missiles when they have thousands? It didn’t add up.

So…instead of springing in to action, Stanislav did…

Nothing.

That’s right – he waited.

And waited.

And waited a bit more.

All the while, remember, there were potentially 5 nuclear missiles hurtling towards his country.

Resourceful Map
Tupolev Tu-16 twin-engined strategic heavy bomber. Image credit: Wikipedia

In the end, Stanislav Petrov was proved right – it had been a false alarm.

His calmness, his level-headedness, and his choice to do NOTHING, literally saved the world from destruction.

Here’s where you come in.

Now, we’re not saying the threat of covid-19 is the same as 5 nuclear bombs. What we’re saying is that you have the chance to be an absolute hero by doing pretty much nothing.

Please, stay at home. Put your feet up. Relax! How many times in human history will we be able to say that the heroic thing to do will be to sit down?

Stanislav Petrov is known as The Man Who Saved the World by Doing Nothing. In the coming weeks, use him as your inspiration.

This article was inspired by a tweetstorm by the Doncaster City Council.

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