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Citizen Kurchatov: Stalin's Bomb Maker


Nikita Khrushchev

Khrushchev was born in 1894 and began working in the coal mines early as a child. During the revolution, he fought in the Red Army and quickly rose in the Communist Party. Before Stalin's death, Khrushchev became one of Stalin's trusted favorites and dined with Stalin the night Stalin suffered his fatal stroke.

After Stalin died, Khrushchev formed a troika with Malenkov and Molotov. Khrushchev managed to have Beria arrested and executed, and then he turned on the other two members of the troika. He used clever political tactics, including ideological debates on the threat of nuclear war, and forced Molotov and Malenkov out of power.

When Khrushchev was briefed on the Soviets' nuclear bomb program, he quickly understood the tremendous power and risk these new weapons created. He also believed that the United States would never use the weapon again because of the risk of killing so many people on both sides.

Like the Soviet politicians before him, Khrushchev played both sides of nuclear diplomacy and asked for peaceful international control of nuclear weapons while, at the same time, pushing Soviet scientists to keep up or surpass western weapon production.

Khrushchev treated Kurchatov with respect and gave him more freedom in his work. He also took Kurchatov to Britain with him in 1956 and allowed Kurchatov to share some of the Soviet research on fusion energy.

However, Khrushchev did not appreciate Kurchatov's opinions on nuclear weapon testing. He told Kurchatov to "...stick to your science, we'll deal with politics."



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