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Stalin and the Bomb: The Soviet Union and Atomic Energy, 1939-1956 Paperback – March 27, 1996

ISBN-13: 978-0300066647 ISBN-10: 0300066643

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (March 27, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300066643
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300066647
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 5.9 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #136,696 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Tracing the development of nuclear power in Stalinist Russia, Holloway examines such topics as the role of espionage and the relationships between scientists and politicians.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Luc REYNAERT on September 8, 2004
Format: Paperback
D. Holloway tells us outstandingly and very detailed the gripping story of the development of nuclear weapons in the Soviet Union. He shows us that the SU success was the result of the effort of Russian scientists with I.V. Kurchatov in a crucial role, although some data were obtained via spying (Klaus Fuchs).

The nuclear weapons building combined the best (scientists, engineers) and the worst of the SU, with prisoners working in appalling conditions (no protection) and real nuclear exercises with soldiers as guinea pigs.

D. Holloway analyzes also pregnantly the hostile ideological environment for scientists. The regime's fundamental logic remained political. The politicians had the right to define what was science and pseudoscience. In the name of dialectical materialism whole scientific disciplines (e.g. genetics) were destroyed (the Lyssenko case).

Physics also came under attack. Beria asked Kurchatov if it was true that quantum mechanics and relativity theory were idealist, antimaterialist. Kurchatov replied that if relativity theory and qm were rejected, the bomb would be rejected too. Stalin's ultimate answer was:' Leave them in peace, we can shoot them later!' (p. 204)

This 'pseudoscientific' debate was held within a bureaucratic framework. Scientists were well paid and the party bureaucrats and ideologues were jealous and wanted to take their place, even if they were incompetent. Beria left physics unhampered because he needed the bomb. In that sense, physics remained a small element of civil society in a totalitarian state. But if the scientists had failed, they would certainly have received a neckshot.

The impact of nuclear weapons on international political relations is also outstandingly explained.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By R. Albin TOP 500 REVIEWER on June 19, 2010
Format: Paperback
This well written book is an insightful look at the onset of the Cold War and the role of nuclear weapons. It is based on significant research in Soviet archives and interviews with some of the important Soviet figures. Since access to Soviet archives have become more restricted in recent years, Holloway's book continues to be a major source of information about early Soviet nuclear policy. Holloway pursues 3 closely related themes. The first is the history of the Soviet nuclear weapons program, set very well in the context of the historical development of the Soviet physics community. The second is the relationship between the Soviet physics community and the Soviet state, and in particular how Soviet physicists attempted to balance the norms of science as a transnational phenomenon and the demands of the state. The third, and the one of broadest interest, is how nuclear weapons affected Soviet foreign policy.

Holloway presents a nice, concise history of Soviet nuclear physics, providing significant information about a number of the important figures. The key point is that by mid-30s, there was a vigorous Soviet physics community with a number of strong international ties and contributing significantly to research in nuclear physics. From this very impressive group would come the personnel who developed the Soviet nuclear weapons program. Holloway writes sensitively about the difficulties inherent in the position of scientists in a totalitarian state, particularly as Soviet society became more closed with the rise of Stalin. The impressive intellectual power of the Soviet physics community, clearly supported by equivalent intellectual power in crucial related areas in chemistry and engineering, made the Soviet nuclear program possible.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By John Desmond on July 15, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I teach a course in "Strategic Weapons and Arms Control" and found lots of new data here. The author goes into a bit too much detail (for me) on the science of nuclear weapons, but his discussion of the impact of the bomb on the world scene is first rate. One issue is that he discounts the testimony of former Soviet intel officer Sudoplatov that Robert Oppenheimer, among others, was a witting source of information for the Soviets on the bomb program, but he does not provide any evidence for his assumption.
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By William J. Summa on September 14, 2014
Format: Paperback
Good read if you are interested in this type of material
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