5 Days Out: Stanislav Petrov


This series so far has been a list of things we’re excited about– on-ice and off– for the new season. Today I wanna do something a little different. Today I want to introduce you to a man named Stanislav Petrov.

Thirty years ago, on September 26, 1983, Petrov was working on the Soviet nuclear missile defense program. His job was to monitor possible incoming attacks from the United States. If he detected an incoming attack, his job was to start the process for firing back at the US. Mutually Assured Destruction.

That night, Petrov’s early-warning system said an American attack had been launched. Five intercontinental ballistic missiles were incoming. But instead of mindlessly doing his duty, Petrov used that rarest of human talents: doubt. He judged it to be a false alarm. He did not tap the big red Пуск button that would have begun “an irreversible chain reaction in a system geared to launch a counter-strike without human interference.”

So the Russians did not fire back at the States. Petrov’s false alarm was eventually confirmed. And then he was drummed out of the military for disobeying orders.

I guess that has nothing to do with hockey, but it kind of has everything to do with hockey. Thirty years ago today, a normal guy made sure that world would spin another day just by using his noggin and his heart. That’s worth remembering, I think.

I was born that same day thirty years ago, so I think about this a lot. As Craig Ferguson might say, it was a triumph of intellect and romance over brute force and cynicism. Earth needs more of that.

P.S. – My new album is now available. It’s called Single Point of Failure, and you can download it for free. Thanks.

Tagged with:
  • SuperOvi819

    Happy Birthday Peter!)))))))))

  • troyerlaw

    Why are we celebrating Russians who did NOT fire rockets? Get focused! Season starts Tuesday!

  • VirginiaPatriot

    A very inspiring story. Seriously. As someone who spent his childhood in the 60s, living in Florida, in school we received constant nuclear attack drills. Tucking ourselves under our desks, or in the bookshelves built into the walls along the outside of the building. We didn’t know, understand. All we knew was that something very bad could happen to us at anytime. As we got a little older, and learned about Hiroshoma and Nagasaki, we started to realize that those drills were futile. We grew up with a fear of the destruction of complete cities in one vaporizing blast. As life moves on you come to realize that there are Mr. Petrovs in the world. And makes you appreciate the Mr. Petrovs of the world. Thank you, Mr. Petrov.

  • brian!

    “He received no reward. According to Petrov, this was because the incident and other bugs found in the missile detection system embarrassed his superiors and the influential scientists who were responsible for it, so that if he had been officially rewarded, they would have had to be punished.”


  • Rhino40

    Great piece Peter…
    This brings to my my adolescent years (late 1970’s) in the San Lorenzo Valley–located in the hills about 30 minutes south of San Jose, CA. The local firefighters were an all-volunteer force who were mustered to duty by sounding a a siren that echoed up and down the forest-lined valley, and whose sound was reminiscent of an Civil Defense siren.

    For the first couple of years I would find my sleep terrifyingly interrupted when that siren went off at random hours during the night; although intellectually I knew it was just a house fire or other small-scale emegency, the reaction of my sleep-deprived lizard brain was that the end of everything was imminent.

    As I eventually got used to this, I became cycnical, thinking that one of these days that siren would go off and it would be “for reall”, but no one would care, thinking that it was “just another fire”.

    It is nteresting that–in more recent years–though the likelihood of a global holocaust has seemingly become more remote, the chances of something smaller in scale but nearly as horrific have actually increased.

    Kudos to Mr. Petrov for putting what is human and morally right ahead of Party doctrine and “CYA”…and to you, Peter, for making us aware of his story.

  • Annie Lockyer

    *makes super obvious joke about Russian machines sometimes breaking*

    *dodges projectile vegetables, leaves through the back*

  • grr