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Theory of Fielding - Set T - The Kurchatov Decision

From: H B Laes
Date: 22 Aug 1999


Discussion. The following is a minor but interesting example of a historical event that could possibly be illuminated by Beria's files. Vladimir Chikov (How Stalin…) and Amy Knight (Beria) wrote in their books that anecdotal information has it that Stalin chose Kurchatov to head the Soviet Union's atomic bomb project because of his relative youth; a not unusual but yet noteworthy mindset for the circumstances.

Then comes Sudoplatov (Special Tasks) with some additional intriguing background: "That Oppenheimer, a relatively young scientist, then age thirty-eight, was being put in charge of the American project influenced our decision to appoint Kurchatov, then forty, to head ours. This was a controversial decision, as our older scientists did not, or could not, believe that Neils Bohr and Enrico Fermi, world famous figures could be subordinate to Oppenheimer in Los Alamos."

Stalin's predilection for youth is itself interesting but the ostensible timing is more interesting. From Rhodes (The Making…) we learn that the essential decision on Oppenheimer was made at an October 19, 1942, meeting in Washington DC between Groves, Oppenheimer and Vannevar Bush. Los Alamos was picked by Groves and Oppenheimer in mid-November 1942. Amy Knight (Beria, page 133) fixes the Stalin meeting that resulted in Kurchatov in November 1942.

Conclusion. The foregoing construction - admittedly loose and on the fly - implies some good shooting on the part of the NKVD, damn near real time intelligence. If true, how did they do that?

Maybe Beria's archives would shed some light.

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