It has been known for some time that during the interregnum after Stalin’s death in 1953 the Russians conducted a field test of an atomic bomb, thereby subjecting soldiers to radiation in simulated battle conditions.
Its purpose was the determine how soldiers would react psychologically. No interest at all was paid to the physiological damage caused by exposure to radiation.
It is said that the test was witnessed by Chairman of the Council of Ministers Georgii Malenkov, among others, and that this explained the urgency with which he pressed for negotiations with the West to end the threat of a nuclear war, only to be shunted aside by Nikita Khrushchev.
Today Evgenii Antoniuk published an article in Life.ru that details the event – “Kak v SSSR repetirovali tret’yu mirovuyu. Shto proizoshlo na Totskom poligone?”
The test took place in Totsk (Orienburg) rather than at Kapustin Yar, as the latter was reserved for ballistic missile testing and Totsk more closely resembled the terrain of the European theatre. The bomb dropped on 14 September 1954 at 9.34 in the morning by the Tu-4 bomber was a 38 kiloton RDS-2, two and a half times the power of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima by the Americans in 1945. It exploded 350 metres above the ground.
The event was overseen by Marshal Zhukov, never one to worry about losses in battle. A total of 45,000 men were on the ground when the bomb was exploded in the air over the test site, and that excluded the local population. The only instructions were to lie flat on the ground, not to look at the explosion and to cover the ears from the sound.
The entire event was kept secret until exposed under Gorbachev. The human cost to the soldiers present and the local population can only be imagined.