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Digital Archive International History Declassified

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Soviet Nuclear History

This is a collection of primary source documents related to the Soviet development of nuclear weapons. These letters and memorandums come from the 1940s up to the 1980s, and are from varied archival sources. Included are early notes and letters by physicist Igor Kurchatov, who was the head of the Soviet atomic bomb project in the 1940s. The collection also discusses later Soviet nuclear developments and related international treaties. See also Nuclear Proliferation, and the related collections in the Nuclear Proliferation International History Project. Documents on the history of Soviet nuclear development. (Image, first Soviet atomic test, 1949)

  • September 29, 1944

    Letter, Igor V. Kurchatov, Director of the Soviet Nuclear Program, to Lavrenti Beria

    In this letter, physicist Igor V. Kurchatov, the scientific director of the Soviet nuclear project, writes to secret police chief Lavrenti Beria, whom Stalin had given principal responsibility for the atomic effort. Prodded by his own scientists and by intelligence reports of the secret Anglo-American atomic enterprise, Stalin had initiated a small-scale Soviet nuclear weapons program in late 1942-early 1943. But the level of support political leaders had given the project failed to satisfy Kurchatov, who pleaded with Beria for additional backing.

  • August 20, 1945

    Soviet State Defense Committee Edict No. GKO-9887ss/op

    Instructions for the creation of a Special Committee which would supervise nuclear research and development of an atomic bomb.

  • January 25, 1946

    Notes on the discussion between I.V. Kurchatov, lead scientist for the Soviet nuclear effort, and Stalin.

    Kurchatov's notes on his meeting with Stalin, Molotov and Beria. Stalin promises the all necessary help to the soviet effort to build an atomic bomb. He suggests that the project should be build on "a Russian scale," without concerns for cost saving.

  • January 25, 1946

    Handwritten notes by Igor V. Kurchatov, Director of the Soviet Nuclear Program, on a Meeting with Stalin, Beria and Molotov

    Excerpts from Igor V. Kurchatov's handwritten notes from a conversation with Stalin on the secret Soviet nuclear project, accompanied by Beria and Foreign Minister V.M. Molotov, at the Kremlin on the evening of 25 January 1946.

  • April 09, 1946

    Soviet Council of Ministers Resolution, Establishing Design Bureau No. 11

    Resolution establishing Design Bureau No.11 (KB-11), which was the Soviet analog of the secret wartime American nuclear weapons laboratory at Los Alamos, New Mexico.

  • June 21, 1946

    Soviet Council of Ministers Resolution, No. 1286-525, On Development of Soviet Atomic Weapons

    Resolution outlining the work of the newly established Design Bureau No.11 (KB-11). Atomic bombs are referred to in the resolution as “jet engines S,” in two versions, S-1 and S-2 (abbreviated as RDS-1 and RDS-2). RDS-1 meant the analog of the first U.S. plutonium-239 implosion type atomic bomb tested on 16 July 1945 in New Mexico RDS-2 signified the analog of the uranium-235 gun type bomb exploded over Hiroshima on 6 August 1945.

  • September 29, 1946

    Letter from Igor V. Kurchatov to Lavrenti Beria requesting additional support for the project on buiding an atomic bomb.

    Igor Kurchatov, the scientific director of the Soviet nuclear project writes secret police chief Lavrenti Beria, whom Stalin had given principal responsibility for the atomic effort, asking for additional resources to solve uranium shortages faced by the project. (excerpts)

  • April 25, 1947

    Protocol No. 36 of a Meeting of the Special Committee under the Council of Ministers of the Soviet Union (Excerpt)

    Special dossier refining aspects of the geological prospecting party to North Korea, to extract "rare elements".

  • April 12, 1948

    Protocol No. 61 of a Meeting of the Special Committee under the Council of Ministers of the USSR (Excerpt)

    Memorandum of the Special Committee of the CC CPSU postponing the geological prospecting for uranium in North Korea.

  • April 07, 1950

    National Security Council Report, NSC 68, "United States Objectives and Programs for National Security "

    On US national security policy at the beginning of the Cold War. Includes an assessment of the conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union, as well as US and Soviet nuclear weapons capabilities.

  • March 25, 1955

    Information on Turkish Intelligence Interest on the Uranium Mine Buhovo

    Turkish intelligence agents are trying to gather information on the uranium mining in southwest Bulgaria. They believe that the extracted deposits are shipped to the Soviet Union for further processing and production of nuclear bombs.

  • June 10, 1955

    Central Intelligence Agency Information Report, 'The Development of an Ultra-Centrifuge at the Nuclear Institute of Manfred von Ardenne in Sinop'

    CIA report describing the construction process of ultra-centrifuges in the Soviet nuclear institute of Sinop and the personnel working there.

  • October 21, 1957

    Journal of Soviet Ambassador to the DPRK A.M. Puzanov for 21 October 1957

    Puzanov discusses the logistics of the display of mobile Soviet exhibits about the use of atomic energy for peaceful purposes in Pyongyang with Nam Il.

  • May 06, 1958

    Journal of Soviet Ambassador in the DPRK A. M. Puzanov for 6 May 1958

    Puzanov reports on the premises selected to house the Soviet exhibition on the use of atomic energy for peaceful purposes.

  • April 15, 1963

    Conversation between Soviet Ambassador in North Korea Vasily Moskovsky and Czechoslovak Ambassador Moravec

    A North Korean colonel suggests that the Soviet Union should give advanced military technology to North Korea.

  • February 21, 1979

    Andropov Letter, Shortcomings in the Construction of the Chernobyl Atomic Power Station

    Yuri Andropov, then Chairman of the KGB, reports concerns about the Chernobyl nuclear plant. Serious flaws in the construction "might lead to failures and accidents."

  • November 14, 1979

    Letter by the Chairman of the SPD, Brandt, to the General Secretary of the CC of the CPSU, Brezhnev

    Willy Brandt writes to Leonid Brezhnev about SALT II and tensions between the U.S. and USSR over missile placement in Europe. Brandt ask to start a dialog for exchange of ideas and to found a common ground for international development, involving Russians.

  • October, 1983

    Evolution of the deployment of Soviet intermediate missiles

    An exhaustive memo on the deployment of the Soviet Intermediate Nuclear Forces from 1977 to 1983.

  • November 12, 1983

    Memorandum on INF and START negotiations

    This memo to Prime Minister Bettino Craxi argues against the merging of the INF and START negotiations proposed by the Finnish government and backed by Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau. The memo suggests that the proposal could jeopardize the Geneva talks and harm European interests.

  • April 26, 1986

    Urgent Report, Accident at Chernobyl Atomic Power Station

    The Soviet Minister of Power and Electrification reports on an explosion and fire at the Chernobyl Atomic Power Station in Ukraine. The Soviet Ministry of Heath has determined that "it is not required to take special measures, including the evacuation of the population from the city."