This Sunday, a retired Soviet lieutenant colonel was honored with a Dresden Prize for preventing a nuclear war from being triggered by a long-classified accident in 1983.
The awarding ceremony took place in Dresden Opera Theatre. Stanislav Petrov, 73, won the fourth Dresden Prize, which includes a check for 25,000 euro ($33,000).
It is hard to believe, but Petrov, in fact, was famed for ignoring his professional responsibilities. The officer served at a command center of the Soviet nuclear early-warning system outside Moscow, which reported the launch of five nuclear missiles from US territory on Sept. 26, 1983. Petrov’s duty was to report the incoming missiles to his superiors, who were likely to order a snap retaliatory strike. But he decided to report it as a false alarm, ruling it an equipment malfunction and reckoning five missiles insufficient for a proper war.
The risk was enormous, but Petrov's guess was right - an investigation proved the warning to be a false report by a monitoring satellite confused by sunlight reflecting off high-altitude clouds. This incident remained classified until 1998.
Even after receiving the award, Stanislav Petrov still denies all attempts to label him a hero. “I did nothing heroic, I just did my job and I like the way I did it", he said.
Author: Julia Alieva