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Citizen Kurchatov: Stalin's Bomb Maker


A New Weapon

In December of 1938, two German scientists brought the idea of an atomic bomb closer to reality. They managed to split the nucleus of uranium, demonstrating the ability to release energy from the nucleus.

Many scientists, including J. Robert Oppenheimer in America, immediately understood the implications. If the nuclei of enough uranium could be split, the force would be stronger than anything seen before. It could destroy entire towns.

Investigations began in England, the United States, Germany, and Japan almost immediately. To acquire the large funding needed to build a bomb, scientists first had to educate politicians on the complexity and power of an atomic bomb. The war in Europe added urgency to their mission.

Josef StalinThe Soviet government was not as concerned. Stalin believed his peace agreement with Hitler would keep Russia out of the war for many years. Neither did he understand how any bomb could be so powerful. When he received messages from his spies in England informing him that England was researching an atomic bomb, he also mistrusted the information, suspecting a trick.

However, in 1941, the Soviet Union was surprised by a Nazi invasion of Russia. Stalin was caught unprepared, and German armies advanced very quickly toward the major cities of Russia. Stalin was growing desperate.


Germany invades Poland in September.

Britain and France declare war on Germany.

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