Stanislav Petrov, the man credited with preventing a global nuclear disaster, died in May, the German newspaper Waz reports.
The former Soviet lieutenant made a decision that saved the world from a nuclear crisis in 1983 while operating as the commanding officer of a nuclear early-warning center outside of Moscow.
It was just after midnight when Petrov spotted a blip on a radar which the computer identified as five U.S. ballistic missiles headed towards the Soviet Union.
Protocol required Petrov to report an attack to his superiors within fifteen minutes of its detection, a choice that could have likely triggered a retaliatory nuclear offensive against the US and its NATO allies.
Instead, Petrov reported a false alarm, relying on the logic that Washington would have launched an entire arsenal of missiles in the event of a real attack. A later investigation confirmed that the incident was indeed the result of a technical malfunction.
Until 1993, the Russian government kept the incident a secret, and even Petrov’s wife was unaware of his actions. The world hailed Petrov as an international hero after the incident’s public revelation.
At the United Nations’ headquarters in 2006, the former officer was presented a crystal statuette in the form of a hand holding a globe and engraved with the inscription: “To the man who prevented a nuclear war.” In 2013, Petrov became the second Russian citizen to receive the Dresden Peace Prize after Mikhail Gorbachev.
Petrov died quietly at his Moscow home on May 19, 2017. Not a single media outlet reported on his death until last week.
The news of Petrov’s death was made public after his German friend Karl Schumacher learned about it by accident, Russian media outlet Meduza reported.
Schumacher called Petrov’s home on Sept. 7 to wish him a happy birthday, only to be told the news by Petrov’s son. Schumacher soon published an obituary on his blog, which was subsequently picked up by Waz.