Stalin and the Bomb: The Soviet Union and Atomic Energy, 1939-1956

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9780300060560: Stalin and the Bomb: The Soviet Union and Atomic Energy, 1939-1956

For 40 years the Soviet-American nuclear arms race dominated world politics, yet the Soviet nuclear establishment was shrouded in secrecy. Now that the Cold War is over and the Soviet Union has collapsed, it is possible to answer questions that have intrigued policy-makers and the public. This text traces the history of Soviet nuclear policy from develoments in physics in the 1920s to the testing of the hydrogen bomb and the emergence of nuclear deterrence in the mid-1950s. It tells how Stalin launched a crash atomic programme only after the Americans bombed Hiroshima and showed that the bomb could be built; how the information handed over to the Soviets by Klaus Fuchs helped in the creation of their first bomb; how the scientific intelligentsia, which included such men as Andre Sakharov, interacted with the police apparatus headed by Lavrentii Beria; what steps Stalin took to counter US atomic diplomacy; how the nuclear project saved Soviet physics and enabled it to survive as an island of intellectual automony in a totalitarian society; and what happened when, after Staliln's death, Soviet scientists argued that a nuclear war might extinguish all life on earth. This book throws light on Soviet policy at the height of the Cold War, illuminates a central but hitherto secret element of the Stalinist system, and puts into perspective the tragic legacy of this programme today - environmental damage, a vast network of institutes and factories and a huge stockpile of unwanted weapons.

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From Kirkus Reviews:

A measured account of the development of the Soviet bomb program by Holloway (Political Science/Stanford, The Soviet Union and the Arms Race, 1983) that contrives to be both technically comprehensive and gripping. Using interviews with some of the main protagonists, such as Kapitsa and Sakharov (though before they were able to talk fully), and access to those archives that have become available in Russia, Holloway clarifies a number of issues. He confirms that the Soviets were heavily dependent on espionage to provide both a sense of the seriousness with which the British (and later the Americans) were pursuing nuclear weapons, and guidelines to their methods. Still, the success of the Soviet Union in constructing such a weapon, in almost the same amount of time as the US, was a ``remarkable feat,'' given the devastation of the Soviet economy after the war. The Communist command-administrative system, Holloway notes, ``showed itself able to mobilize resources on a massive scale, and to channel them into a top priority project.'' It was, however, at immense cost both in terms of the hundreds of thousands of prisoners toiling in the uranium mines and elsewhere, the appalling health and safety record, and the damage to the environment. The building of the hydrogen bomb, by contrast, was largely and no less remarkably an indigenous Soviet achievement. Little credit seems due to Stalin, who was responsible for shooting many of the top physicists during the purges and who understood the significance of nuclear weapons only after the explosion at Alamogordo. Nor does Holloway think much of Stalin's postwar policies, which succeeded in unifying the West and causing it to rearm, though he concludes that Stalin's refusal to be browbeaten made the US more cautious about asserting its nuclear monopoly. What could have been a dry technical and analytical study is enlivened by the immensity of the issues at stake and the extraordinary characters populating the story. -- Copyright ©1994, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

From Publishers Weekly:

Working from newly opened Russian archives, as well as interviews and memoirs, Holloway presents an authoritative analysis of the Soviet nuclear program from the discovery of nuclear fission to the hydrogen bomb tests in the mid-'50s, with emphasis on the effects of the Stalinist regime's ideological and political attitudes. He documents the Soviet dictator's reluctant decision to launch a small-scale nuclear project early in WWII and the crash program he ordered after the destruction of Hiroshima alerted him to the bomb's strategic importance. Holloway calls the creation of the Soviet atomic industry a remarkable feat, adding that it would have been impossible without slave labor. He also says the effects of nuclear radiation and environmental damage virtually were ignored. His study includes rare eyewitness accounts of the initial Soviet atomic and hydrogen bomb tests. Holloway is a political science professor at Stanford and codirector of the Center for International Security and Arms Control. Illustrations.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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