The new documents on the history of the Soviet atomic project from the family archive of George Koval, the Hero of Russia

The history of the Soviet atomic project is usually considered with an emphasis on the scientific, technological, and political aspects of the creation of nuclear weapons and atomic power industry. No less important, however, is the role of intelligence in the Soviet atomic project and the nature of relationship between its administrative and scientific leaders, L. P. Beria and I. V. Kurchatov. The main difficulty in the study of this problem is the scarcity of document base: a substantial part of the archive materials remains classified and the majority of participants in the relevant events had not left any detailed memoirs. All the more interesting in this context is the discovery of documents related to the work of an outstanding “nuclear spy”, G. A. Koval, Hero of the Russian Federation. These documents reflect the assessment of the spy’s activities on the highest level – by Beria, the head of the Soviet atomic project–and not only shed light on the content of information obtained by Koval but also indicate his important role in a complicated relationship between Beria and Kurchatov at the critical moment of the project, on the eve of the first Soviet atomic bomb test in 1949. No less interesting in the history of discovery of these documents that is associated with the final period of Koval’s life, the acknowledgement of his prominent role in the intelligence game by both the Russian and the American colleagues. In his letter to Koval, A. Kramish, a veteran and leading historian of the Manhattan Project, who had assembled the fuse mechanism for the first “gadget” in Alamogordo, expresses his willingness to write a long history of Koval’s heroic endeavor. The analysis of these documents is far from complete and this publication provides an opportunity for independent researchers to otherwise interpret their content


Recommended bibliographic description

, The new documents on the history of the Soviet atomic project from the family archive of George Koval, the Hero of Russia, Voprosy Istorii Estestvoznaniia i Tekhniki [Studies in History of Science and Technology], , p.  502-535

    © Studies in the History of Science and Technology: Quarterly scientific journal of the Russian Academy of Sciences (2015)
    ISSN 0205-9606. Индекс 70143