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Literature / 1983: Doomsday

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The world after Doomsday.
On September 26, 1983, there was a false alarm in the Serpukhov-15 bunker near Moscow which reported that four missiles were heading toward the USSR from America. In Real Life, the officer on duty was Colonel Stanislav Petrov, who realised that it didn't make any sense for the US to attack with only four missiles and logged it as a technical error, which it in fact was, rather than reporting it to his superiors. (Which, by protocol, was what he should have done - and they would likely have had a more belligerent response.) Because of his sound judgment, nuclear war was averted and countless lives saved.

In the 1983: Doomsday timeline at the Alternate History Wikia, Colonel Petrov was sent to another installation before September 26th, 1983. The officer now on duty on September 26th considers the alert to be accurate and immediately contacts his superiors. Within minutes, the leaders decide to launch the whole Soviet nuclear arsenal. Logically, the Americans react by launching as well. By the time the first alerted missile is proven to be a false alarm, it's too late. Thousands of nuclear warheads subsequently detonate over targets worldwide. The People's Republic of China was attacked by Soviet nuclear missiles as well, and part of their arsenal is launched in response at the USSR.

The results of this total nuclear exchange are close to the forecasts of almost complete worldwide destruction and the "nuclear holocaust" as predicted by many scientists of this time. This results in as many as two billion people killed initially, and another two billion in the subsequent environmental disaster.


With the world largely devastated and most of the northern and parts of the southern hemisphere in ruins, the estimated 800 million survivors desperately try to keep together what is left of human society. Almost three decades later, the world is still only starting to recover.

A timeline based on 1983: Doomsday called The Eagle Down Under was published on by user LouisTheGreyFox. The Eagle Down Under expands the wiki timeline in many respects, and should be seen as an alternate timeline of its own.


Tropes included in this series:

  • After the End: For most of the Northern Hemisphere.
  • All Hail the Great God Mickey!: Played with. There are mentions of a faith worshiping Abraham Lincoln in the American survivor state of Lincoln, as well as a "Cult of the Once and Future King" (which worships the remnant British Monarchy as an extension of King Arthur) in New Britain.
  • The Alliance: Quite a few geopolitical blocs have emerged, including the Atlantic Defense Community, which is NATO's successor.
  • Allohistorical Allusion: A good deal present.
    • Among others, there's a reference to a Western novel serving as a sequel to Mobile Suit Gundam. Which bears more than a passing resemblance to ∀ Gundam, though with some strange twists (eg. the Black History being both an allegory for Doomsday and an age-long plan by the Zabis).
    • There's also mention of the military/horror Shadow of Tomorrow novel, which is a continuation of H. P. Lovecraft's French.
    • Some of the different Star Wars continuities that emerge in the decades after Doomsday include alternate versions of the prequel trilogy, Legends works, and even Knights of the Old Republic in the form of Dawn of the Jedi.
  • Alternate History: Obviously.
  • Alternate Self: The "honorary citizens" page has a few author stand-ins.
  • The Alternet: Red Mundial de Communication, or REMUNDO, is a primitive version developed in South America. Internet does exist, but it currently is in the state of what OTL Internet was like during The '90s. However the Internet in this ATL is entirely different than the one we know (for instance there is no Facebook, because Zuckerburg died in the Doomsday. Google never exists, even though co-founder Larry Page did survive, but Sergey Brin unfortunately did not survive the Doomsday).
    • Canada is already using internet for schools, as well so is the Nordic Union.
  • Apocalypse Anarchy: Played straight at least initially. Large parts of the world plunged into unrest and utter chaos, affecting even countries not directly affected by the bombs. Said chaos gradually faded out over time as order's restored and Survivor-Nations emerge, although this is still the norm in the wastelands.
  • The Apocalypse Brings Out the Best in People: There are also many, many cases of people working together, and sometimes sacrificing themselves, for the common good. (Even North and South Korea end up working together.)
  • Apocalypse How: Class 1. Most of the world gets blown to hell, but pockets of civilization survive.
  • Apocalypse Wow: The introduction to the timeline, which was the first part to be written, describes the destruction in horrifying detail.
  • Apocalyptic Log: The AP wire reports from various US bureaus describe evacuation orders from local officials, mass panic as word of the incoming Soviet attack gets out, and blinding flashes and "mighty" explosions as nearby targets are destroyed (with some reports cut short in mid-word). Whoever's running the Cincinnati bureau rages against the parties responsible for the war, while Charlotte says it's been a privilege reporting the news and hopes God is with the survivors. The last report is from Dallas (which makes sense since it's one of the major US cities farthest from the Soviet Union), reporting the destruction of Fort Worth before it, too, is cut off.
  • The Apunkalypse:
    • QUEBEC out of all places gets turned into this.
    • Subverted by Cuba. Initially, a lawless vacuum filled much of the main island as the Communist government and whatever Cuban citizens they could save fled to Isla de Juventud. Then the Cuban military expedition sent to Angola prior to Doomsday returned to relieve what was left of their nation. There's no contest.
  • Back from the Brink: The United States, after seemingly being written off after Doomsday, is revealed to have survived after all. It's come a long way, from a being collection of surviving Midwest communities under a provisional government to becoming an ascendant regional power and the legitimate successor to the pre-Doomsday USA.
  • Balkanize Me: Happened to pretty much every country that got nuked. For instance, the United Kingdom is currently broken up into more than ten different countries note , plus numerous small city states.
    • Poland as well is mentioned to have split into two factions (one of them a remnant of the Communist government), both claiming to be the legitimate country.
    • Played with in Texas. There are seven successor states, but as they have slowly made contact with each other they have begun to integrate their institutions. Unification into a new Republic of Texas is an ongoing, messy process, but peaceful and approved by popular election in all seven states. They are not, however, too keen on joining the new USA, although they retain cordial relationships.
    • Also played around with former Germany. The West imploded, although various stable German Survivor-Nations had emerged from the ashes while what remained of Bavaria joined the Alpine Federation. Most of East Germany on the other hand is known as Prussia these days.
  • Big Apple Sauce: Averted with extreme prejudice; this city was hit by about two dozen warheads and decades later, scouts reported nothing but open water where Manhattan Island and Brooklyn were, and charred, radioactive wastelands covering the other boroughs and surrounding states, and it would remain that way until the 2060s at the earliest. The city has become a popular location in fiction, due to the In-Universe romantization of pre-Doomsday America.
  • Broken Pedestal: Japanese people hold a grudge against the North American nations to the present, hating prewar America for failing to defend them.
  • But What About the Astronauts? : The Salyut 7 Crisis.
  • Celebrity Survivor: A number of them survived either by sheer luck, ability or simply being far away from the worse-hit areas when Doomsday occurred.
    • Billy Joel survives and becomes elected president as the Outer Lands.
    • The cast of U2 survives and gets back together after Doomsdays becoming huge celebrities in the Celtic Alliance.
    • Mel Gibson is a survivor of Doomsday, however unfortunately his mother died in the destruction of Melbourne leaving Gibson traumatized.
    • George Harrison is also a survivor still alive today, but it is a Tear Jerker for him since his wife and his son were killed during Doomsday.
    • Tommy Wiseau is revealed to have not only survived, but had also founded a film studio in Louisiana. While its productions are still as infamously bad as OTL, they nonetheless reflect a new, budding movie industry emerging from the ashes of Hollywood.
  • Chummy Commies: Downplayed. Socialist Siberia remains an authoritarian, one-party state, but it has granted some freedoms and liberated some parts of its economy.
  • Commie Land: How some view Socialist Siberia, including some of the former Soviet survivor nations. Especially considering that it's for all intents and purposes a reformed and slightly reworded USSR. Although it doesn't help that they did keep Pravda and the KGB are still running around. There are those in-verse who still view them as Dirty Communists due to the old Soviet connection of Doomsday.
  • Continuity Drift / Continuity Snarl: Owing to the wiki-style nature of the timeline as well as the various views of the moderators, a number of inconsistencies and debates tend to show up. Which makes maintaining at least some consistency all the more crucial.
  • Cool Bike: BMW's motorcycle division survives in Prussia, with their bikes replacing cars as the main method of private transportation.
  • Cozy Catastrophe: Subverted. Places like Australia, South America and the Alpine nations (Switzerland, Austria and Liechtenstein) managed to get by (almost) unscathed. But even they took a heavy beating from the initial aftermath. On the other hand, they also tend to become regional powers later on as the dust settles, with countries like the Alpine Confederation and ANZ Commonwealth being one of the most stable and powerful post-Doomsday areas.
  • Crapsack Only by Comparison: The Survivor-Nations in general, which really look like rough places to live in contrast to the leading pre-Doomsday countries. But compared to the wasteland they're usually surrounded by, they're still considered much better off.
  • Crapsack World: given the premise, but some parts of the world did recover. However, some lands, like the Netherlands, seemed to be doomed to being drowned and forgotten forever.
    • Some of the more devastated regions of the planet still evoke this trope.
  • Culture Chop Suey: Some parts of the world wind up experiencing this trope to some degree thanks to refugees, mass migrations and a variety of post-apocalyptic reasons. Mexico has a large American minority and baseball teams, the ANZ Commonwealth has taken in a few American influences, Socialist Siberia is increasingly (and bilingually) Russian-Chinese and New Britain could be best described as an Afrikaner mirror of the old United Kingdom.
    • The Republic of Superior is described as fast becoming an institutionalized version of this trope, due to the rise of "post-nationalism" in its society.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: The Ur Alba war, which broke out when the militaristic semi-fascist Scottish survivour nation the war's named after attempted to invade someone else's territory, involved four other nations ganging up on the Scots and ended just over two weeks later with the total defeat of Ur Alba, who suffered over twice the casulties of everyone else combined, and the total collapse of their government and military.
    • The Soviet invasion of Austria during Doomsday ended in a devastating failure as a joint Austrian and Swiss effort brutally push back the enemy before the end of 1983. A side-effect of this, however, was that the surviving Soviets degenerated into glorified warbands and proceeded to destroy what little remained of Hungary.
    • Once the Cuban expedition to Angola, sent before Doomsday, returned to what was left of the country, it didn't take long before Castro's successors regained control over the lawless parts of the island and truly began reconstruction. Warbands and bandits proved to be no match against a professional, veteran military.
  • Deadline News: Several news networks such as CNN or NBC were broadcasting the 35th Emmy Awards when the outbreak of nuclear war began. Almost all of the newscasters and reporters giving the message were thought to have died soon after their final broadcast went out.
  • Depopulation Bomb: Unsurprisingly, many nations suffered a horrific loss in population. Japan's population decline was especially bad, with its population dropping by over80 million people in 6 years.
  • Dirty Coward: Some of the American Survivor-Nations consider the Exiles' escape to Australia as this. Similarly, there are those in the former United Kingdom who view New Britain as being forged by people who left them all to die.
  • Divided States of America: Though some of the American successors seem intent on reuniting the old United States.
  • Eagleland: The CRUSA likes to see itself as this, having originated from the US exile community in Australia with the ultimate goal of reviving pre-Doomsday America. Coincidentally, they're one of the main backers of the "American Spring"...which has brought a very mixed reaction internationally to say the least.
    • The (formerly Provisional) United States, formed from communities and remnants in the Midwest, at least tries to present a more benevolent version of the above. Although it's shown as increasingly working in conjunction with CRUSA.
  • The '80s: Was very much an unpleasant time for humanity. Even at the alternate present, the world is still sort of stuck in it, technologically and culturally. The 1980's will pretty much be forever known in this alternate present as the decade where Doomsday happened and the aftermath of it.
  • Failed Future Forecast:
    • Played with. Both the USA and Soviet Union splintered after Doomsday. While both nations have been reduced to rump states, the Soviet remnant, the Union of Sovereign Socialist Republics, has managed to hold on to more of its pre-Doomsday territory, and has even expanded into Mongolia, parts of China and even Alaska.
    • The USA is an interesting case in that unlike the USSR, it virtually collapsed entirely save for the American Exiles in Hawaii (later on moving to Australia) and Puerto Rico. On the other hand, a group of survivor communities in the Midwest forged a "Provisional United States" by the early 1990s, dropping the "Provisional" bit upon finding out that there really was no US Government anymore, the remnants having been integrated into Australian society. There's also an Atlantic remnant based in the former US Virgin Islands, founded by elements of the US Military that refused to go to Australia.
  • The Federation: Crossed with The Alliance; The ANZ Commonwealth, Celtic Alliance, Nordic Union and Alpine Confederation are the most prominent ones, along with the South American Confederation. The North American Union tries to be this.
  • For Want of a Nail: For want of a certain Colonel, billions of lives were lost.
  • From Bad to Worse: For other parts of the world, like China, India, parts of North America and Eastern Europe, things are still going to hell. And in the case of the Netherlands, wiped clean off the map.
  • Future Imperfect: Averted, at least in the more civilized parts of the world. It's only been about 30 years since the bombs fell and a large amount of pre-Doomsday records were either preserved intact or recovered since then. That said however, certain details regarding what actually happened in Doomsday at certain regions of the world remain shrouded in obscurity while even in the more well-off parts, peculiarities like the "Cult of the Once and Future King" have sprung up.
  • Gargle Blaster: There is an article devoted to alcohol. One of the drinks mentioned is Poi-chin, the Cleveish form of poitin, aka Irish potato whiskey, which is about 60-80% ABV, has an unofficial age limit that is three years older than the legal drinking age, and can apparently get you drunk again the day after you drink it because even plain water will bring the remaining ethanol back into solution.
  • Going Down with the Ship: In a metaphorical sense. New York Mayor Ed Koch was offered the chance to flee New York with President Reagan as the missiles flew, but he insisted on staying behind, and spent his last televised moments giving a eulogy for his beloved city.
  • Grey-and-Gray Morality: The Saguenay War fought between Quebec sovereigntists and the surviving government in northeast Canada. Both sides believed they were fighting a defensive war (in Saguenay's case a preemptive one), both sides had good people fighting honorably for them, and both sides supported criminal elements.
    • Prussia's conflict with the Poles, or rather the ones under the remnant Communist government, over Pomerania can also count.
  • Kent Brockman News: The WCRB Newshour.
  • In Spite of a Nail: Despite the significant changes brought about by Doomsday, some events mirroring those in Real Life still occur like the 2011 Earthquake in Japan. As well as the former Yugoslavia largely degenerating into a conflict zone-though the latter event happened earlier than OTL. And mass protests in the US successor states being referred to as an "American Spring," though it's implied to be instigated by both CRUSA and the (Formerly) Provisional USA.
    • The conflicts in Angola and Nicaragua not only endured after Doomsday but somehow got worse than in OTL. The former resulting in a still-divided country and the latter dragging neighboring Costa Rica into the mess.
    • For some countries such as Madagascar, history in the 1983 timeline proceeds almost exactly the same as in our own timeline, with the same important events happening at the same dates and involving the same people.
  • Istanbul (Not Constantinople): League of Nations, Deseret, Iberia, Somaliland, Bohemia, Provisional Canada, Rhodope (successor state of former Buglaria), and Prussia.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Soviet General Secretary Andropov suffers a massive stroke after realising he's started World War III on a false alarm.
  • No Bikes in the Apocalypse: Pointedly averted.
  • No Kill like Overkill: Many cities endured multiple nuclear strikes during Doomsday. Special mention goes to London, which was hit with twelve over the span of 44 minutes.
  • Proud Warrior Race Guy: Many nations developed a military tradition after Doomsday, but none more than the Republic of Virginia. Voting rights can only be obtained by serving two tours of duty. And civil servants, including postal workers wear uniforms on the job.
  • Once Done, Never Forgotten: In the case of at least some countries, any mention of either the USA or Soviets is bound to bring up memories of how they blew it all up. The Siberians and American successors meanwhile have all but accepted their reputations.
    • Japan in particular has developed a very strong national grudge against the American survivor-nations and just about anything American. While New Britain still insists that it's the legitimate successor to the United Kingdom...which the peoples of the Isles don't take too well.
  • Regional Redecoration: Some places were victims of this both during and after Doomsday. With the destruction of its levee system, the Netherlands was flooded and eventually turned into a brackish, radioactive swamp. Manhattan and Brooklyn were also hit with so many nukes that scouts reported only open water where they used to be.
  • Retro Universe: Despite being set in the present day much of the world doesn't look like it would fit in our 21st century. For example technology and culture have only advanced to early 1990s levels at best. Many real world defunct nations are still around or have since been revived. Communism is still a major factor in world politics. In extreme cases some less fortunate survivor communities look more like they came out of the Middle Ages rather than the modern era.
  • Richard Nixon, the Used Car Salesman: A few.
    • Stephen Colbert is a senator in the Virginian Republic...who also happens to be a popular comedian with his own (mostly radio) show.
    • Russ Feingold, the OTL Senator from Wisconsin, is the president of Superior.
    • Billy Joel survived and became eventually elected as president of the Outer Lands.
    • Sarah Palin (she never gets married so she keeps her last name Heath) became governor of the state of the Lincoln in the Provisional United States
    • Mike Conaway becomes president of the nation of West Texas
  • Rightful King Returns: Averted. George H.W. Bush survived Doomsday, but realized that trying to unite the US was impossible, and disbanded the provisional government.
  • Ruins of the Modern Age
  • Schizo Tech: Extremely common in surviour nations. For instance, a country can have a helicopter in its airforce, archers and swordsmen in its army, and depend on steam trains and literal horsepower for transportation.
    • In the Kingdom of Cleveland mostly everyone has converted back to using horse carriages as a way of transport.
    • Others, such as the Philippines, tend to replace the swordsmen and archers with leftover weapons from World War 2.
    • East Texas (aka the Republic of Texas) had technology at the level of the 1800s, but made first contact with West Texas and Mexico via radio broadcasts.
    • Averted more or less among the larger and more established countries, although even they tend to fall into this trope to a lesser degree. While they may have roughly late-1980s to early-1990s technology, televisions, computers and telecommunications tend to be much less prevalent. Fuel issues also mean that there's a revival in train travel and even airships.
  • Scotireland: Ireland and Scotland merge after the collapse of the United Kingdom, forming the Celtic Alliance.
  • Sliding Scale of Alternate History Plausibility: Type II
  • The Mafia: They wield considerable power in Sicily post-Doomsday.
  • Regional Redecoration: The nuclear war devastated much of the world. The Netherlands lost much of its levee system and is now a forgotten land buried under a brackish, radioactive swamp, and is flooded. New York City was hit with so many nukes that, when scouts finally arrived back in the city a few years later, they found open water where Manhattan and Brooklyn used to be.
  • Suddenly Significant City: There are many examples of once obscure towns becoming major towns. Toledo, because it managed to avoid getting nuked, becomes the largest metropolis in North America.
  • Vestigial Empire:
    • Many of the nations worst affected on Doomsday still exist into the present, but are often mere remnants of their former selves. For example the People's Republic of China was only recently discovered to have a small fraction of its former territory and population, while France's overseas territories outside of Europe are all that remain of the former Republic (however former French Guiana, now called Republic of Guyane is it own independent country in South America).
    • Soviet Russia still exists, albeit in Siberia and parts of Central Asia and Northern China.
    • New Britain literally sees itself as this, to the point that some (more often than not derisively) call it the Third British Empire. Coincidentally, the Celtic Alliance along with the Survivor Nations in Britain proper aren't too keen on their claims.
  • Vice City: Matlock, a former British spa and market town that became a haven for drugs growth, gambling, prostitution, and mercenary activity after Doomsday.
  • World Half Full: Most of the world's population got killed, either on Doomsday itself or in the aftermath, the Eighties were pretty much hell for most of the northern hemisphere, warlords, extremists and criminals took advantage of the situation to gain power and are still a problem to this day, large parts of the world are still uninhabitable radioactive wastelands, and several countries no longer exist. However, people still pulled through, the world is well on its way to being rebuilt (albeit with quite a few changes), there's still a lot of good people in the world, and things are slowly getting better.
  • World War III: A nuclear exchange occurs between multiple global powers over a single technical error.
  • Zeppelins from Another World: Justified in that airships use less fuel then heavier then air aircraft, an important consideration in a world where the supply of oil has been greatly reduced. The Prussia-based New Zeppelin Company is also mentioned as having become the leader in lighter-than-air transportation by 2011.