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Encyclopedia > Stanislav Petrov
Stanislav Yevgrafovich Petrov

Stanislav Yevgrafovich Petrov (Russian: Станислав Евграфович Петров) (born c. 1939) is a retired Russian Strategic Rocket Forces lieutenant colonel who, on September 26, 1983, potentially avoided a nuclear attack on the USA. Assuming that reports of incoming U.S. nuclear missiles from the satellites were in error, Petrov deliberately certified what otherwise appeared to be an impending nuclear attack as a false alarm, and some question exists as to whether he then reported what appeared to be a US attack. The computer reports were later confirmed to have been in error. Because of military secrecy and international policy, Petrov's actions were kept secret until 1998. Image File history File links Petrov1. ... Image File history File links Petrov1. ... Year 1939 (MCMXXXIX) was a common year starting on Sunday (link will display the full calendar) of the Gregorian calendar. ... The Strategic Rocket Forces of Russia (Russian: Ракетные войска стратегического назначения (РВСН), transliteration: Raketnye voyska strategicheskogo naznacheniya) are a major division of the Russian armed forces that controls Russias land-based ICBMs. ... is the 269th day of the year (270th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... Year 1983 (MCMLXXXIII) was a common year starting on Saturday (link displays the 1983 Gregorian calendar). ... The US-KS Oko (Eye) is the primary Soviet early warning satellite, tasked with the detection of rocket launches from the continental United States. ... Year 1998 (MCMXCVIII) was a common year starting on Thursday (link will display full 1998 Gregorian calendar). ...

This incident is one of several high-risk decisions that were made by strategic nuclear forces over the years of the Cold War, often at the last minute, by administrative personnel far from the chain of command. A nuclear holocaust is often associated with World War III For other uses, see World War III (disambiguation). ... For other uses, see Cold War (disambiguation). ... For the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode, see Chain of Command (Star Trek: The Next Generation). ...



The incident occurred at a time of severely strained relations between the United States and the Soviet Union. Only three weeks earlier, the Soviet military had shot down a Korean passenger jet, Korean Air flight 007, that had entered into Soviet airspace, killing all 269 people on board,[1] including many Americans. The United States of America and its allies were executing the military exercise Able Archer 83 which was also straining tensions between the Soviet Union and the United States. The KGB sent a flash message to its operatives in the West, warning them to prepare for possible nuclear war.[1] Korean Air Lines Flight 007, also known as KAL 007 or KE007, was a Korean Air Lines civilian airliner shot down by Soviet jet interceptors on September 1, 1983 just west of Sakhalin island. ... Able Archer 83 was a ten-day NATO exercise starting on November 2, 1983 that spanned the continent of Europe and simulated a coordinated nuclear release. ... This article is about the KGB of the Soviet Union. ...

1983 incident

Stanislav Petrov was a Strategic Rocket Forces lieutenant colonel, the officer on duty at the Serpukhov-15 bunker near Moscow on September 26, 1983. Petrov's responsibilities included observing the satellite early warning network and notifying his superiors of any impending nuclear missile attack against the Soviet Union. In the event of such an attack, the Soviet Union's strategy was an immediate nuclear counter-attack against the United States, specified in the doctrine of Mutual Assured Destruction. For other uses, see Moscow (disambiguation). ... is the 269th day of the year (270th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... Year 1983 (MCMLXXXIII) was a common year starting on Saturday (link displays the 1983 Gregorian calendar). ... Mutual assured destruction (MAD) is a doctrine of military strategy in which a full-scale use of nuclear weapons by one of two opposing sides would effectively result in the destruction of both the attacker and the defender. ...

At 00:40 hrs, the bunker's computers identified a US missile heading toward the Soviet Union.[2] Petrov considered the detection a computer error, since a United States first-strike nuclear attack would hypothetically involve hundreds if not thousands of simultaneous missile launches to disable any Soviet means for a counterattack. Furthermore, the satellite system's reliability had been questioned in the past.[3] Petrov dismissed the warning as a false alarm, though accounts of the event differ as to whether he notified his superiors[4] or not[2] after he concluded that the computer detections were false and that the United States had not launched any missile. Later, the computers identified five additional missiles in the air, all directed towards the Soviet Union. Petrov once again concluded again that the computer system was malfunctioning, despite there being no other source of information to confirm his suspicions. The Soviet Union's land radar was not capable of detecting missiles beyond the horizon and waiting for them to positively identify the threat would limit the Soviet Union's response time to mere minutes. A Minuteman III ICBM test launch from Vandenberg AFB, California, United States. ... A false alarm, also called a nuisance alarm, is the phony report of an emergency, causing unnecessary panic and/or bringing resources (such as fire engines) to a place where they are not needed. ... For other uses, see Radar (disambiguation). ... Horizon. ...

Should Petrov disregard a real attack, the Soviet Union would be devastated by nuclear weapons without any warning or chance to retaliate. Were he to report the incoming American missiles, his superiors would have launched an equally catastrophic assault against their enemies, invariably precipitating a corresponding nuclear response from the United States. Despite his dilemma, Petrov remained with his intuition and declared the system's indications a false alarm. Later, it was apparent that his instincts were right, that no missiles were approaching and that the computer detection system was malfunctioning. It was subsequently determined that the false alarms had been created by a rare alignment of sunlight on high-altitude clouds and the satellites' Molniya orbits (an error later corrected with cross-reference to a geostationary satellite).[5] Look up Dilemma in Wiktionary, the free dictionary For the Nelly song, see Dilemma (song). ... Molniya orbit is a class of a highly elliptic orbit with inclination of +/-63. ...

Petrov later indicated the influences in this enormous decision included the facts that he had been told a US-strike would be all-out, that five missiles seemed an illogical start, that the launch detection system was new and yet in his view wholly trustworthy, and that ground radars were still failing to pick up any corroborative evidence even after minutes of delay. [6]


Despite having prevented a potential nuclear disaster by refusing to acknowledge the computer system's warnings, Lt. Col. Petrov stood accused of disobeying his orders and defying military protocol by the manner in which he handled the possible nuclear threat. He later underwent intense questioning by his superiors about his actions during the distressing ordeal, the result of which was that they no longer considered him a reliable military officer.

Stanislav's commanders blamed him for the incident in the ensuing inquiry and held him responsible for what happened.[7] His actions had revealed imperfections in the Soviet military system which showed his superiors in a bad light. He was given a reprimand, officially for the improper filing of paperwork, and his once-promising military career came to an end. He was reassigned to a less sensitive post, took early retirement and suffered a nervous breakdown.[7]

The incident involving Petrov first became known publicly in the 1990s following the publication of memoirs written by Col. Gen. Yury Votintsev, the former commander of the Soviet Air Defense's Missile Defense Units. Widespread media reports since then have increased public awareness of Petrov's actions. The introduction to this article provides insufficient context for those unfamiliar with the subject matter. ...

Petrov is now a pensioner, spending his retirement in relative poverty (US $200/month pension) in the town of Fryazino.[8] He has said he does not regard himself as a hero for what he did that day; nevertheless, on May 21, 2004, the San Francisco-based Association of World Citizens gave Colonel Petrov its World Citizen Award along with a trophy and US$1000 in recognition of the part he played in averting a catastrophe.[9] Fryazino (Russian: ) is a small scientific town in Russia, located 25 km North-East from the city of Moscow. ... is the 141st day of the year (142nd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... Year 2004 (MMIV) was a leap year starting on Thursday of the Gregorian calendar. ... “San Francisco” redirects here. ...

In January 2006 Petrov traveled to the United States where he was honored in a meeting at the United Nations in New York City. There the Association of World Citizens presented Petrov with a second special World Citizen Award.[10] The following day Petrov met with American journalist Walter Cronkite at his CBS office in New York City. That interview, in addition to other highlights of Petrov’s trip to the United States, will be included in the documentary film The Man Who Saved the World,[9] which is expected to be released in the summer or fall of 2008. The foundation of the U.N. The United Nations (UN) is an international organization whose stated aims are to facilitate co-operation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress and human rights issues. ... New York, New York and NYC redirect here. ... Walter Leland Cronkite, Jr. ... New York, New York and NYC redirect here. ...


On the same day Petrov was honored at the United Nations in New York City, the Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations issued a press release contending that a single individual would be incapable of starting or preventing a nuclear war, stating in part: "Under no circumstances a decision to use nuclear weapons could be made or even considered in the Soviet Union (Russia) or in the United States on the basis of data from a single source or a system. For this to happen, a confirmation is necessary from several systems: ground-based radars, early warning satellites, intelligence reports, etc."[11]

However, some Cold War analysts question whether this protocol would have been strictly followed in the case of the missile attack warning involving Stanislav Petrov. Because of the state of mind of the Soviet leadership in 1983, along with distressing intelligence reports, the Soviet leadership appeared seriously concerned there would eventually be a surprise nuclear missile attack by the United States. Bruce Blair, an expert on Cold War nuclear strategies, now president of the World Security Institute in Washington, D.C., says the U.S.–Soviet relationship "had deteriorated to the point where the Soviet Union as a system — not just the Kremlin, not just Andropov, not just the KGB — but as a system, was geared to expect an attack and to retaliate very quickly to it. It was on hair-trigger alert. It was very nervous and prone to mistakes and accidents... The false alarm that happened on Petrov’s watch could not have come at a more dangerous, intense phase in U.S.–Soviet relations."[2] In a nationally televised interview, Blair said, "The Russians saw a U.S. government preparing for a first strike, headed by a President capable of ordering a first strike." Regarding the incident involving Petrov, he said, "I think that this is the closest we've come to accidental nuclear war."[12] For other uses, see Cold War (disambiguation). ... Moscow Kremlin in the 19th century. ... Yuri Vladimirovich Andropov (Ю́рий Влади́мирович Андро́пов), (June 2 (O.S.) = June 15 (N.S.), 1914 - February 9, 1984) was a Soviet politician and General Secretary of... This article is about the KGB of the Soviet Union. ...

Oleg D. Kalugin, a former KGB chief of foreign counterintelligence who knew Soviet leader Yuri Andropov well, says that Andropov's distrust of American leaders was profound. It is conceivable that if Petrov had declared the satellite warnings valid, such an erroneous report could have provoked the Soviet leadership into becoming bellicose. Says Kalugin, "The danger was in the Soviet leadership thinking, 'The Americans may attack, so we better attack first.'"[13] Oleg Kalugin Oleg Danilovich Kalugin (Russian: ), (born September 6, 1934) is a former KGB spy. ...

Petrov has said he does not regard himself as a hero for what he did that day. In an interview for the documentary film The Red Button and the Man Who Saved the World,[2] Petrov says, "All that happened didn't matter to me — it was my job. I was simply doing my job, and I was the right person at the right time, that's all. My late wife for 10 years knew nothing about it. 'So what did you do?' she asked me. I did nothing."

See also

Vasili Alexandrovich Arkhipov (Russian: ) was a Soviet naval officer. ... President Kennedy in a crowded Cabinet Room during the Cuban Missile Crisis. ... Able Archer 83 was a ten-day NATO exercise starting on November 2, 1983 that spanned the continent of Europe and simulated a coordinated nuclear release. ...


  1. ^ a b Bruce Kennedy. "War Games: Soviets, fearing Western attack, prepared for worst in '83", CNN. 
  2. ^ a b c d Ewa Pieta. The Red Button & the Man Who Saved the World (Flash). logtv.com. Retrieved on 2006-09-27.
  3. ^ David Hoffman (February 10, 1999). I Had A Funny Feeling in My Gut. Washington Post.
  4. ^ The Man Who Saved the World Finally Recognized. Association of World Citizens. Retrieved on 2007-06-07.
  5. ^ http://www.everything2.com/index.pl?node=Molniya%20orbit
  6. ^ http://www.everything2.com/index.pl?node_id=1690247
  7. ^ a b BBC TV Interview, BBC Moscow correspondent Allan Little, October 1998
  8. ^ Ian Thomas. "Stan the Man", Daily Mail, October 7, 1998. 
  9. ^ a b Stanislav Petrov Averts a Worldwide Nuclear War. Bright Star Sound. Retrieved on 2006-09-27.
  10. ^ "Russian Colonel Who Averted Nuclear War Receives World Citizen Award", Mosnews.com, Moscow News, 2006-01-20. Retrieved on 2006-09-27. 
  11. ^ Press Release. "Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations". 
  12. ^ "War Games", Burrelle's Information Services (Dateline NBC), Nov. 12, 2000. 
  13. ^ Scott Shane. "Cold War’s Riskiest Moment", Baltimore Sun, Aug. 31, 2003. 

Year 2006 (MMVI) was a common year starting on Sunday of the Gregorian calendar. ... is the 270th day of the year (271st in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... Year 2007 (MMVII) is the current year, a common year starting on Monday of the Gregorian calendar and the AD/CE era. ... June 7 is the 158th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar (159th in leap years), with 207 days remaining. ... Year 2006 (MMVI) was a common year starting on Sunday of the Gregorian calendar. ... is the 270th day of the year (271st in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... Moscow News is Russia’s longest-running independent English language daily newspaper. ... Year 2006 (MMVI) was a common year starting on Sunday of the Gregorian calendar. ... January 20 is the 20th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. ... Year 2006 (MMVI) was a common year starting on Sunday of the Gregorian calendar. ... is the 270th day of the year (271st in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ...

External links

This article is based in part upon content originally by Bright Star Sound with permission and licensed under the GFDL.

  Results from FactBites:
Stanislav Petrov - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (1165 words)
Stanislav Petrov was the duty officer September 26, 1983, at a military satellite surveillance site south of Moscow, Russia.
It was Petrov’s responsibility to observe the satellite early warning network and notify his superiors of any impending nuclear missile attacks from the United States against the Soviet Union.
In the end, Petrov was neither praised nor punished by the Soviet military, although he was criticized for not keeping logbook entries as the incident unfolded (he responded by asking how that would have been possible, since he had a telephone in one hand and an intercom in the other).
WashingtonPost.com: Cold War Report (998 words)
As Petrov described it in an interview, one of the Soviet satellites sent a signal to the bunker that a nuclear missile attack was underway.
Petrov was situated at a critical point in the chain of command, overseeing a staff that monitored incoming signals from the satellites.
Petrov, who was assigned to the satellite early-warning system at its inception in the 1970s, said in the interview that he knew the system had flaws.
  More results at FactBites »



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