What happens when a poor country, ravaged by war and brutalized by a totalitarian dictator, but dead-set on international greatness, tries to become a nuclear superpower? This episode – the first of three covering the Soviet nuclear program – explores how Josef Stalin, desperate to match American nuclear might after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, set his country on a path from which it would never turn back. Usha looks at the shadowy network of spies bringing atomic secrets into the Soviet Union, the rise and fall of the terrifying Stalinist henchman Lavrenty Beria, and the mysterious “atomic cities” where battle-hardened prison laborers helped produce nuclear fuel – when they weren’t drinking and getting in fights. Four years after Hiroshima, Stalin’s orders became a reality when the first Russian atomic test lit up the sky over the Kazakh steppe – and the nuclear arms race truly began.
Guests: Dr. David Holloway, Dr. Kate Brown
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