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David Holloway on: Stalin's Efforts to Create a Nuclear Program
David Holloway Q: Stalin puts Lavrentii Beria in charge of the nuclear program. Given that the Soviet Union lies in ruins after the war, how does Beria go about creating this vast new enterprise?

DH: I think there are two strategies for trying to create the new atomic industry and extract resources from this economy that has been shattered by the war. One of course, is to make great use of prison labor. So you have tens of thousands of people involved in construction work and in mining who are prisoners of the Gulag. And the second thing is for the kind of the elite scientists and engineers, is to create very special conditions for them, so they have special food allowances, increasingly new isolated atomic cities are created where they had better pay than anyone else. You know, where the facilities are just much better. So it was a classic example of what the Soviet state could do quite well, which is to focus on certain very high priorities, and channel resources into those, and at the same time to neglect the welfare of the mass of the population. It was done with great ruthlessness, in fact.

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