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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)

  • March 22, 1957

    Memorandum from the Soviet Government to the Chinese Government on the Arms Reduction Issue

    A memorandum from the Soviet government to the Chinese updating them on the arms reduction talks, a key component of which was a prohibition of the testing of atomic and hydrogen weapons. The Soviet proposal also called for reductions in conventional weapons and the prohibition of installing nuclear weapons outside their territorial borders.

  • April 10, 1957

    Memorandum from V. M. Riabikov and S. P. Korolev to N. S. Khrushchev on the State of Preparations for the First Launch of the R-7 Intercontinental Ballistic Missile

    Preparations to launch the first R-7 ICBM

  • May 16, 1957

    Report of V. M. Riabikov, M. I. Nedelin, K. N. Rudnev, and S. P. Korolev to the CPSU Central Committee

    Results of first launch of the R-7 ICB

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • December 10, 1957

    Letter, Nikolai Bulganin to Dwight D. Eisenhower

    Bulganin proposes a halt on nuclear tests among the United States, the Soviet Union, and the United Kingdom beginning on January 1, 1958.

  • December 15, 1957

    Announcement from the Chinese Government Supporting the Soviet Union's Suggestion for Peace

    The Chinese Government endorses a proposal by the Soviet Union for the USSR, the US, and the UK to halt nuclear weapons tests.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • May 15, 1958

    Central Intelligence Agency, Scientific Intelligence Research Aid, 'A Technical Evaluation of the Soviet Nuclear Power Program'

  • December 17, 1959

    Resolution No. 1384-615 on the Establishment of the Office of Chief Commander of Rocket Forces within the Armed Forces of the USSR

    Resolution outlining the responsibilities of the new Chief Commander of Rocket (or Strategic Missile) Forces.

  • September 23, 1960

    Speech by Mr. Khrushchev, Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, at the 869th Plenary Meeting of the 15th Session of the United Nations General Assembly

  • April 04, 1963

    Research Memorandum RSB-47 from Thomas Hughes to the Secretary, 'Signs of Kremlin Decision to Improve Its Strategic Posture'

    INR analysts pointed to events during mid-February 1963 which suggested that the Soviet leadership was taking steps to spend a greater share of the gross national product on military resources.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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."