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Coffee House Culture House Daily

Meet Stanislav Petrov – the cantankerous man who saved the world

1 July 2015

9:36 AM

1 July 2015

9:36 AM

I’ve just watched a rather good DVD. This happens so rarely that I thought I’d share the fact with you. It was a film called The Man Who Saved The World, by the Danish director Peter Anthony, premiered last year and has presumably gone straight to DVD. It tells the story of Stanislav Petrov, formerly of the Soviet Air Defence Force. It was Mr Petrov who in September 1983 decided not to instruct his superiors that the USSR was under attack from US Minutemen missiles, despite the computers which told of this fact. Told him first one missile was incoming, then another……then five. But Petrov did not do what he was trained to do. He knew it was a computer malfunction, despite everyone telling him it wasn’t. And so no missiles were launched in retaliation and we were all spared incineration.

But that’s only half the story. The film also follows the real Petrov (the saving the world stuff is dramatised) on a hilarious tour of the USA, meeting celebrities and politicians. He is fantastically rude and dismissive, curmudgeonly, bad-tempered, stubborn and frankly unpleasant. I adored him – and his scene meeting Matt Damon is wonderfully funny. In short, Mr Petrov is exactly the sort of man who might just save the world; the opposite to a yes-man, utterly free of bullshit. Anyway, it’s a wonderful film and I hope you don’t mind me recommending it to you. I’ll get back to dissing Allah tomorrow, probably.

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