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Digital Archive International History Declassified

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Ukrainian Nuclear History

This collection covers Ukraine's nuclear history, from Ukrainian physicists' early involvement in the Soviet nuclear program to the 1986 Chernobyl disaster to the 1994 decision for Ukraine to give up its massive Soviet-era nuclear arsenal. (Image, Rivne Nuclear Power Plant in Kuznetsovsk, Ukraine)

  • March 07, 1939

    Letter from People’s Commissariat of Power Plants and Electrical Industry to the Council of People’s Commissars of USSR, 'On the Organization of the Research Activities on the Nuclear Atom'

    In this letter the Soviet minister proposed to the Soviet government to concentrate the nuclear research in Ukrainian Institute of Physic and Technology (UIPhT) and to locate in Kharkov the nuclear scientists from Leningrad Institute of Physic and Technology because Kharkov institute had very good base for the nuclear studies. If this proposal was realized Kharkov could become more important Soviet nuclear center than Moscow or Sarov. In any case this letter of people’s commissar recognized the prominent role of the Ukrainian Institute of Physic and Technology (UIPhT) in the Soviet nuclear science.

  • February 22, 1940

    Letter from State Plan of Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic to Academy of Sciences of USSR, 'About the Rationality of the Cyclotron Construction in UIPhT'

    This letter informed the Academy of Sciences that UIPhT asked the government of the Ukrainian Soviet Republic to allocate 75 thousand rubles for designing of the cyclotron, and 1,5 million rubles for its building. The State Plan asked an advice on necessity to build the cyclotron.

  • February 28, 1940

    Letter from Director of the Institute of Physical Problems Petr Kapitsa to State Plan of Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, 'About Cyclotron of Ukrainian Institute of Physics and Technology'

    This document is an answer to the letter from State Plan of Ukrainian Soviet Socialistic Republic to Academy of Sciences of USSR “About Rationality to Construct Cyclotron in UIPhT” (22 Feb 1940). The answer of academician Petr Kapitsa to this letter was very critical. Kapitsa wrote that UIPhT “during the last several years built a number of research installation but did not finish them. However it started to build new installations. Such activities of UIPhT can’t be considered as normal”. So Petr Kapitsa discouraged building a cyclotron in UIPhT, and this was one of the reasons why this institute did not become the leading nuclear center in USSR.

  • April 17, 1940

    Conclusion of Radium Institute of Academy of Sciences on Invention of UIPhT Fellows Sent to Agency of Military Chemical Defense

    In this letter two nuclear scientists from UIPhT described the construction of the nuclear bomb and proposed to start activities in producing of the nuclear arsenal and make these activities secret. Two Ukrainian physicists were first Soviet scientists who revealed the way of producing the nuclear weapon (of course they did not know about the similar inventions of the western scientists which were made at the same time because of secrecy regime).

  • October, 1940

    Technical Proposal of F. Lange, V. Maslov, and V. Shpinel, 'Fission of Uranium Isotopes by Using Method of Coriolis Acceleration'

    Kharkov Institute scientists proposed in this document the concrete steps to build a nuclear weapon. The document demonstrates that Ukrainian physicists understood how to receive weapons grade uranium and elaborated concrete technical proposals to achieve this goal through uranium enrichment in centrifuge.

  • October 17, 1940

    Claim for an Invention from V. Maslov and V. Shpinel, 'About Using of Uranium as an Explosive and Toxic Agent'

    In this letter two nuclear scientists from UIPhT described the construction of the nuclear bomb and proposed to start activities in producing of the nuclear arsenal and make these activities secret. Two Ukrainian physicists were first Soviet scientists who revealed the method of producing a nuclear weapon (of course they did not know about the similar inventions of western scientists which were made at the same time under great secrecy).

  • January, 1941

    Claim for an Invention from F. Lange and V. Maslov, 'Thermocirculation centrifuge'

    This document’s proposal about centrifuge received positive assessments from the leading Soviet academicians in Moscow.

  • February, 1941

    Conclusion of National Institute of Chemical Studies of Soviet National Committee of Defence on Invention of UIPhT Fellows Which Was Sent to Agency of Military Chemical Defense

    In this document, leading Soviet scientists criticize the idea of Kharkov physicists to use Uranium in military goals, because they do not believe it is possible to realize nuclear fission in the current practical conditions faced. The Soviet National Committee of Defence received these skeptical assessments in 1941 and decided not to develop the military nuclear program.

  • February, 1941

    Letter from V.A. Maslov to People’s Commissar of Defence of USSR, 'About Necessity to Organize Activities in Using of Atomic Energy in the Military Goals'

    In this letter from Victor Maslov to People's Commisar of Defence, Marshal Timoshenko, Maslov makes one final attempt to persuade Soviet leadership to start a military nuclear program, despite the strong criticism from leading Moscow scientists toward the idea.

  • September 28, 1942

    Decree No. 2352 cc of Ukrainian State Committee of Defence

    This famous, de-classified document officially started the Soviet atomic project aimed at producing the nuclear bomb. The second point of this document orders the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences to establish a plan for the project of Uranium enrichment. F. Lange, a scientist from the Ukraine Institute of Physics and Technology, was appointed as head of this project because he worked previously on theoretical aspects of Uranium enrichment.

  • February, 1943

    Report of Secretariat of Council of People’s Commissars of USSR to V.M. Molotov, 'About the Implementing of Decree No. 2352 cc of State Committee of Defence'

    This report, sent from the Council of People's Commissars of the USSR to V.M. Molotov, informs Molotov that the project for Uranium enrichment was prepared by F. Lange and his colleagues by December, 1942. The installation of this project was planned to be produced outside of Ukraine, in a facility in Kasan.

  • April 01, 1943

    Note of I.Kurchatov for M. Pervukhin, 'About Necessity to Demobilize V.M. Kelman'

    In this document, the "father" of the first Soviet nuclear bomb, Igor Kurchatov, asks the chief of the Soviet ministry of energy, Pervukhin, to help demobilize the Ukranian physicist Veniamin Kelman, who was a fellow of UIPhT before the war. In this note Kurchatov writes about the high quality of the Ukrainian nuclear scientist and about his importance for the development of the Soviet nuclear program. This document once again demonstrates that Ukraine played a significant role in the Soviet military nuclear program.

  • 1950

    The List of Sectors (the Structure) of Laboratory No.1 in Ukrainian Institute of Physics and Technology in Kharkov

    The nuclear research activities of UPhTI were concentrated in Laboratory No. 1 which was established as a part of institute in 1946. This archival document illustrates the list of its activities.

  • April 18, 1951

    Review of Andrei Sakharov about Oleg Lavrentiev’s Paper

    In this document, Andrei Sakharov, "father" of the Soviet thermonuclear bomb program, positively assesses Oleg Lavrientiev's ideas about the Soviet thermonuclear program, which were expressed in Lavrientiev's previously-written letters to Soviet leaders.

  • November, 1957

    Events of Ukrainian Republican Committee of Peace Protection Devoted to Issue of Stopping the Nuclear Test and Prevention of the Nuclear War

    This document lists events which the Ukrainian Republican Committee of Peace Protection planned to hold during November 1957 in order to propagate against the nuclear tests and nuclear war. For example, on November 25, 1957 Committee planned to organize meeting of the medical scientists; on November 23 it planned to hold meeting of scientists of Lvov; on November 20 – 25 Committee was going to hold meeting of workers of Odessa seaport etc.

  • 1958

    Information about Conducting in Ukraine of Month’s Campaign of Joint Actions of the People against the Nuclear Weapon and for Universal Prohibiting of the Nuclear Tests for Ever and Ever

    This document describes the monthly anti-nuclear campaign held in Ukraine from September to October, 1958. During this campaign, a number of mass meetings were organized. In this meetings, scientists lectured on the damage of nuclear tests and danger of nuclear war. The lecturers argued that only western states were responsible for conducting nuclear tests and initiating the nuclear arms race, and that the Soviet Union was forced to develop its nuclear capabilities to protect socialist countries, even though the Soviets support the idea of prohibiting the nuclear weapon.

  • September 13, 1963

    Letter from the worker of Donetsk metallurgy plant Nikolai Bychkov to Ukrainian Republican Committee of Peace Protection, Donetsk

    This letter is just an example of similar numerous letters which were sent to Kiev on the occasion of signing Partial Test Ban Treaty (PTBT) in 1963. In these letters the Ukrainian teachers, workers, collective farmers wrote about their happiness because of partial prohibiting of the nuclear tests. At the same time these letters condemn China, whose relations with USSR had deteriorated by that time and who prepared to perform its first atmospheric nuclear test which broke PTBT regime.

  • September 10, 1982

    Report of KGB’s Governance about the Emergency Stop of Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant Unit No.1 on 9 September 1982

    The document describes the accident which took place at Chernobyl nuclear power plant prior to 1986 disaster. The information on the accident which took place on 9 September 1982 was classified. The document demonstrates that before the Chernobyl disaster the Soviet government knew about the deficiences of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant.

  • April 26, 1986

    The KGB’s Report on Explosion and Fire at Chernobyl NPP [Nuclear Power Plant]

    This KGB report provides a chronology of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, and gives information on the disaster's first victims.

  • May 04, 1986

    KGB’s Report on Options of Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster Elimination

    Physicists at the Academy of Sciences give advice for containing the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.