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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 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.

  • May 16, 1986

    Report on Radiation Situation. Secret. Signed by Experts A.V. Produnov and G.V. Yeremin

    Radiation levels in Pripyat and the surrounding area following the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

  • May 23, 1986

    Preliminary Report on Radiation Levels in Lithuania Following the Chernobyl Accident

    Report from the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences on radiation levels detected in May 1986 following the Chernobyl nuclear accident. Both atmospheric tests and tests of food products like milk and honey showed elevated levels of radiation and radioactive isotopes which were “dangerous to the health of the population.”

  • August 28, 1986

    KGB’s Report Operational Disorder in Organizing Activities Aimed at Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster Elimination

    This document describes the deficiencies which were made in activities aimed at overlapping of Chernobyl disaster’s consequences. These deficiencies could lead to new victims because the security rules of handling with dangerous radioactive materials were broken.

  • September 16, 1986

    Second Report on Radiation Levels in Lithuania Following the Chernobyl Accident

    In a follow up to their earlier May report, the Lithuanian Academy of Science summarizes levels of radiation detected between April and August of 1986 following the Chernobyl nuclear accident. Atmospheric tests showed a sharp rise in radiation levels in late April, up to 50 times higher than Soviet standards for safe levels of exposure. Levels dropped off in May, with occasional spikes. The report also summarizes tests of food products grown in Lithuania or imported from other Soviet Republics.

  • December 08, 1986

    Communist Party of the Soviet Union Central Committee Resolution, on the Expiration of the Soviet Moratorium on Nuclear Testing

    Draft resolution with instructions for announcing the expiration of the unilateral Soviet moratorium on nuclear testing on 1 January 1987.

  • December 08, 1986

    Proposal on the Expiration of the Unilaterial Soviet Moratorium on Nuclear Testing

    Proposal to resume Soviet nuclear testing following the expiration of the USSR's unilateral moratorium on nuclear detonations on 1 January 1987. The US government continued nuclear testing throughout 1986 and did not join the Soviet moratorium. Proposes to announce the resumption of testing in December 1986 following the first American test explosion in 1987.

  • November 25, 1991

    Memo, US Proposals Concerning Limited Non-Nuclear Space Defense and Missile Attack Warning System

    Memo on Soviet-American consultations in Washington between November 25 and 27, 1991. The American side proposed discussion of limited non-nuclear missile defense and early warning systems, but the Soviet side refused to be drawn into lengthy discussions. The US also rejected the Soviet proposal to create joint missile attack warning systems.