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Citizen Kurchatov: Stalin's Bomb Maker



By the time Kurchatov had written to Beria, the tide of the war had changed and Soviet troops were pushing the Nazis back to Germany. In 1945 the Soviets had reached Berlin and Germany surrendered on May 8th, 1945.

While an atomic bomb was no longer needed to defend the Soviet Union against Germany, Soviet spies continued to collect information on the Manhattan Project. Klaus Fuchs warned the Soviets that a test was imminent.

On July 16th, 1945 the first atomic bomb was detonated near Alamogordo, New Mexico in the United States. The next day, President Truman decided to hint to Stalin that the U.S. now had the bomb.

Churchill and Truman wanted to give Stalin only a hint that they had a new weapon. Truman casually told Stalin during a break in the meetings: "We have a weapon of tremendous power." Truman wrote later that Stalin showed no particular surprise and just replied that he hoped Truman could use it to end the war.

Reports by some of the Russian representatives to Potsdam claim that after hearing the news from Truman, Stalin told Beria that they would tell Kurchatov to hurry.

On August 6th, the Americans dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima. It shocked the world, and gave the Soviet bomb program added urgency.

Stalin called Kurchatov to a meeting and told him:

"Comrades. Make us atom bombs quickly. Ask anything you need. If a child doesn't cry, his mother doesn't know what he wants."

He also told Kurchatov to push ahead "with a Russian scale."


In January, the Soviets liberate Warsaw, Poland.

In February, Stalin meets Roosevelt at the Yalta Conference.

August 6th
The Americans drop an atomic bomb on Hiroshima.

September 12th
Japan surrenders.

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