17 February 2013, 12:36

Former Soviet officer honored with Dresden Prize for averting nuclear war

Former Soviet officer honored with Dresden Prize for averting nuclear war

The City of Dresden has awarded its annual prize for conflict aversion to retired Russian Lieutenant Colonel Stanislav Petrov. In 1983, Petrov, an officer of the Soviet Strategic Missile Force at the time, persuaded his superiors not to react to a warning of a missile attack which he believed was spurious.

And spurious it was, as it turned out shortly afterwards. The system mistook sun rays reflected off high-altitude clouds for missile launches.

Mr Heidrun Hannusch is a senior manager of the Dresden Prize fund:

"What Mr Petrov did 30 years ago will go down in history as a heroic exploit which saved world peace. Our prize marks achievement in conflict prevention, rather than conflict resolution. Mr Petrov prevented what could have unfolded into WWIII. This certainly makes him worthy of the Dresden Prize."

And this is what Mr Petrov had to say:

"I believe I do not deserve particular praise for what I did in 1983. People say I acted heroically. In fact, however, I did nothing heroic. I was simply doing my job. And that’s it."

The Dresden Prize amounting to 25,000 euros was established in 2009.

In 2010, the Dresden Prize went to former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachov.

Voice of Russia, TASS


Russia’s Stanislav Petrov awarded for averting nuclear war

Natalya Kovalenko

Stanislav Petrov, the retired Soviet officer, who averted a nuclear war back in 1983, has been awarded the Dresden Preis 2013.

Late September 26, 1986 an alarm signaling a US missile attack went off inside the secret bunker at Serpukhov-15, 100 km off Moscow. The warning system's computer concluded that five missiles had been launched from a base in the United States. Lieutenant Colonel Stanislav Petrov was on duty that night and had to make a decision. He had little time to think. Instructions prescribed him to report to superiors who, in their turn, were to consult with Soviet leaders on launching a retaliatory attack. But common sense told him that five intercontinental ballistic missiles were too few for a nuclear war. So Petrov decided that the alert was a false alarm and didn’t press the Start button.

Petrov was right: the satellite early-warning system had a flaw as it was activated by sunlight reflected from high-altitude clouds. Later, the space monitoring system was adjusted to avoid such glitches. As the incident was Top Secret it wasn’t spoken about until 1988.

In 2006, Petrov traveled to New York City to receive the World Citizen Award for averting a nuclear war.

However, Petrov is very shy and doesn’t like to speak about the incident.

"I feel so awkward talking about it as it was my duty. People keep saying I’m a hero but I was simply doing my work."

The awarding ceremony will be held on February 17 in Saxony where Petrov will receive a prize and 25,000 euros.

Earlier, the Dresden Award was given to ex-Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev for his nuclear disarmament efforts.

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