The Red Bomb

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History Documentary hosted by Sean Barrett, published by Discovery Channel in 1994 - English narration

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Image: The-Red-Bomb-Cover.jpg

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The Red Bomb chronicles Russia's staggering transformation from lagging also-ran into nuclear superpower, as the USA and USSR battled it out for possession of the ultimate weapon. 90-year-old Yuly Khariton is a reclusive man with gentle eyes, who appears to spends many an evening lost in thought, as his female companion plays old songs on the piano. But Khariton's simple lifestyle belies his unbelievable past, and the part he played in the nuclear arms race – a vast and complex web of intrigue that was the crux of the Cold War. For over thirty years, he was one of the leading figures in the Soviet nuclear weapons programme; even now, he still travels in his own private train carriage, complete with personal housekeeper – a privilege shared by few other nonagenarians. In Soviet Russia, scientific research allowed no margin for error: if the survival of the communist regime depended on the success of the bomb project, so too did the lives of its researchers. Asked what would happen in the event of failure, Stalin replied: "Shoot the scientists." But though the USA poured the equivalent of 20-30 billion roubles into the creation of the bomb, the USSR achieved the same result at much less expense – largely thanks to its intelligence network that spanned all the world's research hotspots, from the university of Cambridge to the deserts of New Mexico. Progress on the Soviet side of the Iron Curtain was top secret: the wider world relied on whispers, and the occasional shockwave reaching Washington from test sites in the remote Kazakh steppe. While America was broadcasting its nuclear prowess in triumphant newsreels, few in the West suspected how close Russia was to retaliation. With Khariton as senior scientific consultant, filmmaker Jamie Doran gains unprecedented access to a cast of fascinating characters, including pilots and Red Guards, eminent physicsts and NKVD spies. Filmed in the early 1990s, and deftly interweaving archive footage and eyewitness accounts, The Red Bomb is itself a snapshot of a unique moment in history, as a Russia on its way out of Stalin's shadow offers a glimpse of its arsenal of Cold War secrets. Executive Producers for Discovery : Tomi Bednar Landis & Nancy LeBrun Produced and Directed by Jamie Doran A Rapide Production for Discovery Communications 1994

[edit] Stolen Secrets

It's 1945, and Soviet propaganda films are inviting all Russia to celebrate the glorious victory of communism. But the misery, poverty and devastation on the streets of Moscow tell quite a different story, while the defeat of Nazi Germany has only cleared the way for a new foe as Western antagonism towards communism grows. And – perhaps the greatest blow to Soviet pride – America has just won the race to produce the first atom bomb.
The West can't afford to be complacent, however. In Russia, new and secret departments have sprung up to take on the USA's "Manhattan Project". Codenamed "Bureau 2", "Department S" and "Operation Enormous", their exact functions remaining mysterious even to insiders. While the NKVD intelligence network, under Beria, work round the clock to obtain the secret recipe from the Americans, starving gulag prisoners are forced down the mines in Tajikistan, while new metropolises are being built in sequestered locations for the sole purpose of nuclear research. An excellent overview of the project that harnessed all Russia's energies, culminating in the first Red Bomb – tested just four years after Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The sight of the first-ever Soviet mushroom cloud broke down the reserve of scientists and spymasters alike, as Igor Kurchatov crushed Lavrenty Beria in his ecstatic embrace.

[edit] End of Innocence

A more detailed investigation of Russia's nuclear coming-of-age, this episode traces the atom bomb back to its infancy – to a time when state-sponsored Russian physicists were sent to Cambridge in pursuit of an obscure new technology. But the Bolshevik government was slow to catch on to the strategic importance of atomic energy, continually dismissing it in favour of good old traditional weapons.
The Americans had Einstein, Niels Bohr and a state-of-the-art testing base in New Mexico. Meanwhile, the Russians had a "tiny cluttered laboratory" in central Moscow (later upgraded to a tent in a muddy field) and no uranium to speak of. Told by the men who were involved, this is a tale of success against the odds, achieved thanks to an eccentric yet dedicated network of scientists and spies (including a bicycling femme fatale nicknamed "Red Sonya"), and the fatal negligence of MI5.
Ethical scruples were continually shelved – America's bomb-building project was validated in the name of beating Hitler, while Russia justified its atom spies by claiming the right to information that its allies should have shared. In 1945, Niels Bohr tried to persuade the Americans that to drop the bomb would be to open a Pandora's Box of horrors. He urged Roosevelt to collaborate with Stalin on the bomb – but the President refused to listen. With post-Cold-War hindsight, Bohr's futile efforts appear as the doomed actions of a tragic hero.
The film is powered by priceless testimonies from Yuly Khariton, "Red Sonya", Ilya Starinov and Anatoly Yakovlev, to name but a few (somebody seems to have gone through Stalin's address book). Also includes a rare archive interview with the famously taciturn Klaus Fuchs, the mole who infiltrated the American laboratories.

[edit] In the Name of Peace

This final episode addresses the legacy of the Red Bomb, and the steady stream of scientists who became disenchanted with the project after seeing the potential devastation it could cause.
By the time the Stalinist regime gives way to the era of Khrushchev, Russia and its rival are almost neck and neck. One war may be over, but another is just beginning. As rivalry deepens into outright hostility, can the quest to produce the ultimate atom bomb really be explained "in the name of peace"?
As the race accelerates, simple bomb tests are replaced by full-scale battle exercises and the spectre of nuclear war looms ever closer. The Soviets are plundering Czechoslovakian mines for their rich uranium reserves, and Russia upgrades its nuclear facilities, making Arzamas-16 and Semipalatinsk-21 into model cities for nuclear scientists and their families – furnished with dream homes, luxury shops and good schools (though the cities are untraceable on the map, and their inhabitants have no address). Archive footage of an imitation battle gives a hint of the war that never was – though most of the "sacrificies" are sheep and horses, stationed in the trenches in the name of military research. The Red Army evacuate farmers out of the chosen patch of countryside, allowing them to return a few days later, with nuclear dust still hanging in the air. (In the ensuing years, the local hospital saw a huge increase in tumour patients – a trend that the government did its utmost to conceal.)
As veterans revisit the scenes of their former labours – now snow-covered concrete shells, green meadows or deserted plains – their tales of noise, smoke and indescribable heat are hard to imagine. Russia's first nuclear bomber describes the view – and the terrible shocks – from the cockpit. A soldier explores the ruins of the houses he built for the purpose of destruction. Former political prisoners from the Czech mines reunite and re-enact the gulag chain-gang march.

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[edit] Technical Specs

Video Codec: XviD ISO MPEG-4
Video Bitrate: 1744 kbps
Video Resolution: 720x536
Video Aspect Ratio: 1.343:1
Frames Per Second: 25.000
Audio Codec: 0x2000 (Dolby AC3) AC3
Audio Bitrate: 192kb/s CBR 48000 Hz
Audio Streams: 2
Audio Languages: english
RunTime Per Part: 50:53.000
Number Of Parts: 3
Part Size: 700 MB (average)
Ripped by: DocFreak08

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