The Nuclear Arms race that dominated the Cold War era began with a bang. Get it? Bad pun I know nevertheless it was true. Immediately following the Korean War, on August 29, 1949, with help from soviet agents within the US nuclear program, the USSR detonated its first atomic bomb. Previously thought in the international community to only be a US technology the Soviets declared their strength and presence as a new world superpower. Igor Kurchatov was the lead scientist for the Soviets from the beginning. He however had bigger plans for the Soviet nuclear program.
Andrei Sakharov, a Russian scientist with Kurchatov, came up with his own theory a “cake layers” method of putting thermonuclear material in between uranium-238. (SMSH) Thus creating a much more potent reaction than the atom bomb, this method produced a fission reaction with hydrogen that yielded a 400 kiloton explosion. However the US was still first to detonate a Hydrogen bomb on November 1, 1952. Less than a year later the Soviets were able to complete their designs and test their first hydrogen bomb. Thus beginning the race for bigger yields and the most destructive nukes.
Even after the death of Stalin, his successors continued his nuclear program to the end of the Cold War. Yet even within the ranks of the USSR elite questions were raised about the intention of such weapons. Georgii Malenkov, chairman of the Council of Ministers, publicly raised such questions, and said that weapons as destructive as these had the potential to end modern civilization thus asking why the pursuit nuclear capabilities was a soviet top priority. As you can imagine Khrushchev did not like these questions and the chairman later fell in line with Soviet thinking. Until the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union, nuclear war was a possible capability between the two superpowers.