The H Word: Soviet Russia’s Hydrogen Bomb

Official Soviet Peace Rally Source: USA-USSR Society for Cultural Relations: Soviet Politics and the Aesthetics of the Communist State. 200.

Official Soviet Peace Rally
Source: USA-USSR Society for Cultural Relations: Soviet Politics and the Aesthetics of the Communist State. 200.

In 1953, the USSR set off their first hydrogen bomb at the Semipalatinsk test site in Kazakhstan. This “super-bomb” was determined to surpass the power of their atomic bomb, which they had detonated four years prior. The hydrogen bomb explosion was “many times greater than that of the atom bomb” and the project was headed by two Russian physicists: Igor Kurchatov and Andrei Sakharov, who designed the bomb based on an image of a “layer cake.”

At the time of the test-explosion, Russia was the sole owner of any plans regarding a hydrogen bomb. Previously, through espionage work in the United States, they managed to gather atomic bomb plans. The United States did not manage to create their own hydrogen bomb until the following year.

US Newspaper headline, responding to the Soviet H-Bomb tests. (Source: The Detroit Free Press)

US Newspaper headline, responding to the Soviet H-Bomb tests. (Source: The Detroit Free Press)

Following the tests of the hydrogen bomb, Russia then tested multiple new versions of the atomic bomb. Through similar research, the soviets also attempted to continue work on producing efficient forms of atomic energy to use towards “peaceful progress.” While working on the hydrogen bomb, however, the United States feared that they would “lose the world to Russia.” Essentially, we would lose the arms race.

Although things looked to be in Russia’s favor, Russian chairman of the Council of Ministers Georgii Malenkov feared the growing global tensions due to the creation of the hydrogen bomb. He stated in a 1954 speech that the growing danger of “a new world war, which with modern weapons means the end of world civilization.” This pretty much destroyed his political career, as many other leaders believed this would cause fear and discontent amongst the Russian people.

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Siegelbaum, Lewis. “1954: Hydrogen Bomb.” Seventeen Moments in Soviet History. Web. 24 Oct 2014. <http://soviethistory.macalester.edu/index.php?page=subject&SubjectID=1954bomb&Year=1954>.

The Current Digest of the Russian Press: http://dlib.eastview.com.ezproxy.lib.vt.edu:8080/browse/doc/13833946 (GOVERNMENT ANNOUNCEMENT OF TEST OF A HYDROGEN BOMB IN THE SOVIET UNION)

The Current Digest of the Russian Press: http://dlib.eastview.com.ezproxy.lib.vt.edu:8080/browse/doc/13834143 (TASS REPORT ON TESTS OF NEW TYPES OF ATOMIC BOMBS IN THE SOVIET UNION)

By, W.L. (1950, Jan 2Smilie: 8). BUILD NEW BOMB, DR. UREY DEMANDS. New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from http://ezproxy.lib.vt.edu:8080/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/111542345?accountid=14826

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