Training of specialists for the Soviet atomic industry in the menoirs of contemporaries  

Kliueva V.P. (Tyumen, Russian Federation), Melnikova N.V. (Yekaterinburg, Russian Federation)


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The article considers the training of specialists, who worked in the Soviet atomic industry, covering the period from 1945 to the 1960s from the initiation of the Soviet Atomic Project until the establishment of atomic energy as one of the leading branches of the Soviet industry. The present study is based on published memoirs of students majoring in atomic physics and biographical narrative interviews of atomic scientists who studied at the Lomonosov Moscow State University and the Moscow Engineering Physics Institute in the 1940s1960s, conducted by one of the authors of the article. The training of atomic scientists consisted in the development of theoretical knowledge, as well as engineering and practical skills. The training was provided at various universities of the country, among which a prominent place was occupied by the Moscow State University, the Saint Petersburg State University, the Moscow Engineering Physics Institute and the Ural State Technical University along with the specialised faculties of other Soviet universities. The public mood (onset of the Cold War, romanticised image of an atomic scientist) and personal aptitudes of applicants (engineering and technical aptitudes) influenced the career choice. When selecting future atomic specialists, a number of filters were used, narrowing down the number of prospective candidates. Ideology, latent anti-Semitism and gender influenced student selection. The training of atomic scientists was conducted in secrecy, which was offset by various financial (high scholarship and, later, high salaries) and non-financial (being trained by outstanding scientists, professional fulfilment, patriotic feelings) incentives. The involvement of students during training in scientific and industrial activities resulted in an effective corps of atomic specialists. Following graduation, they worked in restricted-access cities (Arzamas-16, Chelyabinsk-70, etc.), as well as at research institutes exploring atomic issues.

Key words: Soviet Atomic Project, studentship, Soviet physicists, education, post-war USSR.


Funding. The reported study was funded by RFBR according to the research project 17-01-00102-OGN.


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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted: 23.09.2019

Accepted: 30.09.2019

Article is published: 30.12.2019


Kliueva V.P.

Tyumen Scientific Centre of Siberian Branch RAS, Malygina st., 86, Tyumen, 625026, Russian Federation



Melnikova N.V.

Institute of History and Archaeology of Ural Branch RAS, S. Kovalevskoy st., 16, Yekaterinburg, 620099, Russian Federation