The Soviet Union was very fond of keeping secrets. Netizens have collected 10 secrets of a long-dead state that few people knew about.
Among them - the existence of the Caspian Sea Monster, the worst rocket disaster in the history of the USSR and a museum of "decaying bourgeois creativity." Secrets are randomly arranged without ranking them according to their importance.
1. The largest nuclear disaster in the world (at that time)
When people hear about the biggest nuclear disasters, most people think of Chernobyl and Fukushima. Few people know about the third nuclear disaster - the Kyshtym accident in 1957, which occurred near the city of Kyshtym in southern Russia. As in the case of the Chernobyl accident, the main cause of the disaster was poor design, namely the construction of a cooling system that could not be repaired. When coolant began to flow from one of the tanks, the workers simply turned it off and did not touch it for a whole year. Who needs cooling systems in Siberia?
It turns out that cooling is needed for containers in which radioactive waste is stored. The temperature in the tank rose to 350 degrees Celsius, which eventually led to an explosion that threw a 160 tonne concrete cover into the air (which was originally 8 meters underground). Radioactive substances spread over 20, 000 square kilometers.
The homes of 11, 000 people were destroyed after the evacuation of the surrounding areas, and about 270, 000 people were exposed to radioactive effects. It was only in 1976 that the Soviet emigrant first mentioned the catastrophe in the Western press. The CIA had known about the disaster since the 1960s, but, fearing the negative attitude of Americans towards their own nuclear industry, decided to downplay the severity of the accident. Only in 1989, three years after the Chernobyl accident, the details of the disaster in Kyshtym became known to the public.
2. Manned lunar program
In May 1961, US President John F. Kennedy announced that he believed the US should send a man to the moon by the end of the decade. By that time, the Soviet Union was leading the space race - the first object launched into orbit, the first animal in orbit, and the first man in space. However, on July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong became the first person to visit the moon, thereby defeating the Soviet Union in this race. In a race in which the Soviet Union did not officially take part - until 1990, the USSR denied that they had their own manned lunar program. It was part of the policy that every space program was kept secret until it succeeded.
The Soviet Union had to partially acknowledge the existence of the program in August 1981, when the Soviet satellite Kosmos-434, launched in 1971, entered the atmosphere over Australia. The Australian government, concerned that nuclear material might be on board, was reassured by the USSR Foreign Minister that the satellite was an experimental lunar ship.
Other details of the program, including test runs, were hidden. The test of lunar spacesuits during the docking of spaceships in 1969 was presented as part of the construction of the space station - the USSR continued to claim that they had no plans to land on the moon. As a result, the failed Soviet lunar landing program was canceled in 1976.
3. Treasure of creativity
In the 1990s, Western journalists and diplomats were invited to a secret museum tucked away in the remote city of Nukus, Uzbekistan. The museum housed hundreds of works of art dating from the beginning of the Stalinist regime, when artists were forced to conform to the ideals of the Communist Party. "Decaying bourgeois creativity" was replaced by paintings from factories, and without the participation of Igor Savitsky (the collector), most of the work of artists of that time would have been completely lost.
Savitsky urged artists and their families to entrust him with their work. He hid them in Nukus, a city surrounded by hundreds of kilometers of desert.
This is a unique item on this list as it tells about what was hidden not so much from the outside world as from the despotic regime. Despite the fact that the question of the importance of creativity itself remains open, the value of the story of how creativity was kept secret for decades is beyond doubt.
4. Death of an astronaut
The Soviet Union more than once "erased" cosmonauts from its history. So, for example, the data about the first cosmonaut who died during the space race was hidden. Valentin Bondarenko died during training in March 1961. Its existence in the West was not known until 1982, and public recognition followed only in 1986. The faint of heart should refrain from reading the next paragraph.
During an isolation exercise in a pressure chamber, Bondarenko made a fatal mistake. After removing the medical probe and cleaning his skin with rubbing alcohol, he threw cotton wool on the hot stove that he used to make himself tea, after which it burst into flames. When he tried to extinguish the fire with his sleeve, the atmosphere, which was 100% oxygen, caused his clothes to burst into flames. It took several minutes to open the door. By that time, the astronaut had sustained third-degree burns to his entire body except his feet - the only place where the doctor could find blood vessels. Bondarenko's skin, hair and eyes were burned. He whispered, "It hurts too ... do something to stop the pain." He died sixteen hours later.
Denying this incident just to avoid bad news was a very bad decision.
5. Mass famine - one of the worst in history
Many have heard about the famine (famine) of 1932, but internal and external attempts to hide this fact are worthy of mention. In the early 1930s, Soviet policy resulted (whether intentionally or not) in the deaths of several million people.
It would seem that this is difficult to hide from the outside world, but fortunately for Stalin and his subordinates, the rest of the world hesitated between deliberate ignorance and denial of facts.
The New York Times, like the rest of the American press, covered up or downplayed the famine in the USSR. Stalin organized several pre-arranged tours for foreign commissions: the shops were filled with food, but anyone who dared to approach the store was arrested; the streets were washed and all the peasants were replaced by members of the communist party. HG Wells from England and George Bernard Shaw from Ireland said the famine rumors were unfounded. Moreover, after the French prime minister visited Ukraine, he described it as a "blooming garden."
By the time the results of the 1937 census were classified, the famine had already been overcome. Despite the fact that the number of victims of the Holocaust is comparable to the Holocaust, the assessment of the famine as a crime against humanity has been given only in the last ten years.
6. Katyn execution
As with the 1932 famine, the international denial of the Katyn massacre earned the first place on this list for these killings. In the 1940s, NKVD officers killed over 22, 000 Polish prisoners and buried them in mass graves. According to the official version, the Nazi troops were responsible for this. The truth was recognized only in 1990. It was possible to hide the shooting by the forces of not only the Soviet Union, but also with the help of the leaders of the United States and Great Britain.
Winston Churchill confirmed in an informal conversation that the execution was most likely carried out by the Bolsheviks, who "can be very cruel." However, he insisted that the Polish government in exile stop filing charges, censor its press, Churchill also helped prevent an independent investigation of the incident by the International Committee of the Red Cross. The British Ambassador to Poland described it as "using England's good reputation to cover up what the killers had hidden with pine needles." Franklin Roosevelt also did not want Stalin to blame for the executions.
Evidence that the US government knew about the true culprits of the Katyn massacre was hidden during the 1952 parliamentary hearings. Moreover, the only government that spoke the truth about those events was the government of Nazi Germany. This is another sentence that you rarely read.
It is easy to criticize the leaders of countries who effectively left criminals unpunished, but Germany and then Japan were more important issues, which meant that sometimes very difficult decisions had to be made. The Soviet Union, with its military and industrial superpower, was needed. "The government blames only the common enemy for these events, " Churchill wrote.
7. WIG craft
In 1966, an American spy satellite captured an unfinished Russian seaplane. The plane was larger than any aircraft owned by the United States. It was so large that, according to experts, such a wingspan would not allow the aircraft to fly well. Even stranger was the fact that the aircraft's engines were much closer to the nose than to the wings. The Americans were puzzled and remained puzzled until the USSR collapsed 25 years later. The Caspian Sea Monster, as it was called then, was an ekranoplan - a vehicle similar to a mixture of an airplane and a ship that flies just a few meters from the water.
Even mentioning the name of the device was forbidden to those who participated in its development, despite the fact that huge amounts of money were allocated for the project. In the future, these devices, of course, were very useful. They could carry hundreds of soldiers or even several tanks at a speed of 500 km / h, while remaining undetected by radars. They are even more fuel efficient than the best modern cargo aircraft. The Soviet Union even built one such device, 2.5 times the length of the Boeing 747, equipped with 8 jet engines and six nuclear warheads on the roof (what else can be installed on a jet plane-ship to deliver tanks?)
8. Worst rocket disaster ever
The disregard for health and safety was not limited to nuclear waste. On October 23, 1960, a new secret rocket, the R-16, was being prepared for launch in the Soviet Union. There were many specialists near the launcher, which contained a rocket using a new type of fuel. A nitric acid leak was formed in the rocket - the only correct solution in this case was to start evacuating everyone who was nearby.
However, instead, project commander Mitrofan Nedelin ordered to patch the leak. When the explosion occurred, everyone on the launch pad was immediately killed. The fireball was hot enough to melt the surface of the site, causing many who tried to escape to get stuck in place and burned alive. More than a hundred people died as a result of the incident. It remains the worst rocket crash in history.
Soviet propaganda immediately began its work. It was alleged that Nedelin died in a plane crash. The reports of the explosion were presented as rumors that gripped the USSR. The first confirmation of the incident appeared only in 1989. To date, a monument has been erected dedicated to those who died in that disaster (but not to Nedelin himself). Although he remains officially a hero, those with any connection to this disaster remember him as the man responsible for the deaths of hundreds of people entrusted to him.
9. Smallpox outbreak (and containment program)
In 1948, a classified biological weapons laboratory was established in the Soviet Union on an island in the Aral Sea. The laboratory was engaged in the transformation of anthrax and bubonic plague into weapons. They also developed smallpox weapons and even conducted an outdoor test in 1971. By a mysterious coincidence, a weapon designed to cause a smallpox outbreak when activated outdoors did indeed trigger a smallpox outbreak. Ten people fell ill, three died. Hundreds of people were quarantined, and in 2 weeks 50 thousand people from the surrounding areas were vaccinated against smallpox.
The incident became widely known only in 2002. The outbreak was effectively prevented, however, despite the scale of the incident, Moscow did not acknowledge what happened. This is unfortunate, as there were valuable lessons to be learned from this incident about what could happen if biological weapons were ever to fall into the hands of terrorists.
10. Dozens of cities
In the south of Russia there is a city that was not on any map. There were no bus routes that stopped in it, and road signs confirming its existence. Postal addresses in it were listed as Chelyabinsk-65, although Chelyabinsk was almost 100 kilometers from it. Its current name is Ozersk and, despite the fact that tens of thousands of people lived in it, the existence of the city was unknown even in Russia until 1986. The secrecy was caused by the presence here of a plant for the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel. An explosion occurred at this plant in 1957, but due to secrecy, the disaster was named after the city, which was located a few kilometers from Ozersk. This city was Kyshtym.
Ozersk is one of the dozens of secret cities in the USSR. At the moment, 42 such cities are known, but it is believed that about 15 more cities are still under the cover of secrecy. The inhabitants of these cities were provided with better food, schools and comfortable conditions than the rest of the country. Those still living in such cities cling to their isolation - the few outsiders allowed to visit the cities are usually escorted by guards.
In an increasingly open and globalized world, many are leaving closed cities and there is likely to be some limit to how long these cities can remain closed. However, many of these cities continue to fulfill their original function - whether it is producing plutonium or supporting the navy.