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David Holloway on: Kurchatov and Sakharov Reactions to the 1955 Soviet Test
David Holloway Q: Tell me a bit about the reactions that Andrei Sakharov and Igor Kurchatov have to the 1955 test of the first Soviet two-stage thermonuclear device.

DH: I think there is some evidence that [Igor] Kurchatov...says to one of his close friends, "You know, that was absolutely terrible. And we have to make sure that that weapon is never used." And [Andrei] Sakharov, too, was very struck by the '55 test. In his memoirs he describes the impression it made on him, and he talked a lot about it in interviews with other people...

First of all, there were a couple of accidents. Two people were killed as a result of the test...And so in the banquet that was held to kind of mark the successful completion of the test, Sakharov made a toast saying that I hope this bomb will be detonated only at testing sites and never over cities. And Marshall Nedelin, the military man who was in charge of the test reprimanded Sakharov and told a story, the moral of which was, look, you scientists give us the tools to do the job, but we'll make the decision about when and where these weapons will be applied. And Sakharov, I think felt that like a slap across the face and said later that this was the beginning of his path toward dissidence because he then became concerned about...the consequences of the existence of these weapons and the consequences of testing.

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