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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. (Image, first Soviet atomic test, 1949)

  • 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.

  • September 23, 1949

    Statement by President Truman in Response to First Soviet Nuclear Test

    Shortly after the first Soviet nuclear bomb test on August 29, 1949, United States spy planes detected evidence of radioactivity from the blast. In this statement, President Truman revealed to the public for the first time that the Soviet Union had built and successfully detonated a nuclear bomb.

  • 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 14, 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.

  • 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.

  • October 15, 1951

    Memorandum of D. F. Ustinov to L. P. Beria on the Use of German Specialists

    Summary report on the use of German specialists for Soviet rocket development

  • February 13, 1953

    USSR Council of Ministers Decree, 'On the Plan of Scientific-Research Work on Long-Range Missiles in 1953-1955'

    Council of Ministers decree approving development of several intercontinental missiles

  • November 25, 1953

    Memorandum by V. A. Malyshev, et. al., to the Presidium of the CPSU Central Committee on the Creation of a Long-Range Missile with a Nuclear Warhead

    On the creation of a long-range missile to carry nuclear warheads

  • February 12, 1955

    Decree of the USSR Council of Ministers, 'On a New Test Range for the USSR Ministry of Defense'

    Council of Ministers decree approving a launch range in Kazakhstan for testing the ICBM

  • February 28, 1955

    Report by the Measurement Lab of the USSR Academy of Science, 'On the Properties of the Atomic Bombs Detonated on the Marshal Islands in 1954'

    Soviet scientific intelligence report on U.S. nuclear weapons testing on the Marshall Islands in 1954. This report concludes that the Ivy Mike and Castle nuclear detonations were thermonuclear based on gamma ray spectroscopy of fission fragments collected by Soviet aircraft over the USSR and PRC.

  • March 01, 1955

    Pravda Newspaper Article on the Decision of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet Concerning the USSR CM [Council of Ministers]

    Pravda announces the decisions made by the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet.

  • 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.

  • April 21, 1955

    Letter to Z. P. Zaveniagin, 'Regarding the Choice of Devices for Strategic Use'

    Report describing the relative merits of the RDS-27 and the SD nuclear weapon designs for use on the R-7 "Semyorka" ICBM.

  • May 26, 1955

    Proposal Concerning the Testing of an Experimental System for the Verification of the Casing Design

    Proposal to develop a test warhead using radiation implosion to induce a thermonuclear reaction. The proposal emphasizes that the device will be compatible with the existing R-7 ICBM delivery system.

  • 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.

  • June 30, 1955

    Letter from Iu. B. Khariton to N. I. Pavlov Regarding the Testing of a Nuclear Weapon at Object 700

    The letter describes geographic, safety, and technical considerations taken into account when selecting a test site for the RDS-37 hydrogen bomb. Specifically, the letter highlights that a testing field should be chosen based on the existence of population centers, the terrain, and the main wind patterns.

  • July 01, 1955

    Report by the Commission on the Review of the Scientific Principles of Atomic Compression and the Data on the Experimental Device RDS-37

    A report on the design of the RDS-37 nuclear device and the implications of radiation implosion induced nuclear fusion on weapons design.

  • August 24, 1955

    Report by N.M Emanuel, 'Regarding the Nature of the Fallout Path of the Hydrogen Bomb Detonated on 1 March 1954 at Bikini [Atoll]'

    Report by N.M. Emanuel on the U.S. Castle Bravo test in the Marshall Islands. The report surmises from fallout data that the bomb used a fission-fusion-fission design, and that the bomb contained a larger than normal amount of fissile material which induced a thermonuclear reaction.

  • February 02, 1956

    Note Containing an Assessment of the Parameters of a Device with Yields of 150 Megatons and One Billion Tons of TNT

    A report on the material requirements and design specifications of nuclear devices with yields of 150MT and one milliard tons TNT between Soviet officials. Specifically, the use of lithium-6 deuteride and natural uranium in varying degrees is discussed.

  • April 21, 1956

    Note by the CC CPSU Regarding the Arming of R-7 Rockets with a Hydrogen Charge on the Basis of the Principle of Radiation Implosion

    Proposal on the development of the R-7 rocket to carry a new RDS-6 type device between Soviet officials in the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. The updated R-7 rocket with RDS-6 device was approved to be designed lighter and given a bigger yield.