We will reconstruct the forecasts of the United States and Britain for a nuclear war with the USSR in the 1960s and 1980s. What could be the consequences of a nuclear war for the population and what lessons can be learned from this.
In the event of a nuclear strike, the bomb shelters would have accommodated only the Soviet leadership and specialists. It was planned to launch 48 nuclear missiles on Moscow, which would lead to the death of 2.5 million people. The least affected would be the countryside, where it was supposed to evacuate people from cities. "Lenta.ru" reconstructs the forecasts of the United States and Britain on a nuclear war with the USSR in the 1960s and 1980s.
On January 22, 2015, the Doomsday Clock showed three minutes to midnight. The position of the hands on their symbolic dial is determined by the editors of the Bulletin of Atomic Sciences at the University of Chicago, which at one time included the creators of the first atomic bomb. It is not a fact that this clock will ever show midnight, because if a nuclear catastrophe, which this time of day symbolizes, occurs, those who are engaged in translating the hands may simply not survive.
Three minutes before midnight is an alarming figure. The last time the hands of the Doomsday Clock showed it 31 years ago, in 1984. Then the arms race was growing, and US President Ronald Reagan announced the development of SDI - the "Strategic Defense Initiative", designed to create an impenetrable "shield" for Soviet nuclear weapons, and therefore give the United States an advantage over the USSR. Only once did the clock show two minutes to midnight, in 1953, when both the United States and the Soviet Union tested nuclear bombs on their territory.
The current translation of the arrows is due to several reasons. The Board of Directors of Bulletin of Atomic Sciences justified its decision by the fact that the governments of most countries ignore climate change, and the nuclear powers are modernizing and expanding their arsenal of nuclear weapons. All this "represents an undoubted threat to the existence of mankind," and "world leaders have failed to protect the population of their countries from a catastrophe at the proper speed and scale."
Does this mean that a nuclear war is really close? If two years ago one could almost unequivocally say “no” to this question, now the confidence in the unreality of such a scenario has significantly weakened.
If launching a missile at a target is relatively easy, then it is much more difficult to eliminate the consequences of an atomic bombing, and indeed to protect civilians in a nuclear war. This problem is especially relevant for modern Russia - if the manuals on civil defense have practically not changed (perhaps, more modern political information has been added to them), then the state of the infrastructure of shelters and the preparation of the population for emergency situations leaves much to be desired.
As the first deputy head of the Ministry of Emergency Situations Sergei Shlyakov recently told Interfax, after an all-Russian audit it turned out that the fund of protective structures "is basically preserved and can be used for its intended purpose." However, one can doubt this - the musicians are well aware that many bomb shelters have been converted into rehearsal facilities. Of course, if you want to hide in them, you can, but the sealed doors are often simply cut down or useless, there is no supply of food, medicines and equipment necessary in an emergency situation for a long time. In the post-Soviet years, too, much attention was not paid to the study of the basics of civil defense in educational institutions and in production.
The USSR is another matter. The documents declassified by the US CIA in recent years will help to reconstruct how events would have developed in the Soviet Union after the start of a nuclear war. They contain intelligence data and assessments of analysts of the American department, and this is the best source of such information, because in Russia there are no declassified papers of this kind, and in their absence, one can rely only on idle speculation and conspiracy theories.
If tomorrow is war
The 1976 CIA memorandum on the Soviet civil defense system acknowledged that it was much better developed than the government assumed, and therefore could influence the assessment of damage to both sides as a result of the outbreak of a full-scale war. Experts noted that in the late 1960s and early 1970s, this area was completely subordinated to the military departments.
According to their observations, the civil defense program received significant development after 1971. The Soviet Union began to actively build fortified bomb shelters, primarily for the country's leadership, command and workers employed in the defense industry.
Imagine that in the late seventies the irreparable happened: a nuclear war began and American warheads are about to successfully reach their target. In this case, first of all, all forces will be thrown into ensuring the safety of the country's leadership - it is for him that the most fortified and comfortable shelters are intended. These include both large command bunkers and strategic missile command centers. They are located both within the city limits and in points to which it is planned to evacuate the civilian population. The bunkers have compartments for both military planning and recreation. Although each of them is slightly different from the other, they can all withstand a high-yield nuclear strike (unless, of course, they are in the epicenter of the explosion).
Over the past years, the Soviet leadership has tried to disperse as much as possible plants and factories that are especially important for the economy. Many new enterprises of light and heavy industry were built far from the former industrial centers.
The vulnerability of new factories and factories has also been reduced through the construction of fortified buildings within the city limits, as well as expansion outside of it, into satellite cities. In some enterprises, underground workshops are provided, where production can continue after an indirect nuclear strike. Other factories have plans for the immediate evacuation of production, which allows it to be relocated to an area that is less affected by the explosion.
Following the security of the country's leadership, the evacuation of qualified personnel will be carried out, without which the functioning of the Soviet economy is impossible. It is these workers and their families that will receive places in fortified shelters, after which they will be transported to out-of-town collection points. From there, they will be able to travel to production when the situation is relatively normal.
Civil defense detachments have been set up at all enterprises to take part in regular exercises. Their tasks, among other things, include the restoration of production structures and production as such.
In the event of an emergency, factories and factories will not be left without materials and equipment - there are a sufficient number of them in the storerooms. In addition to them, there are supplies of food and fuel - for example, only American intelligence officers counted 36 bunker storage facilities for grain, as well as many suburban elevators above the ground. So, while a disruption to logistics could stop production in a couple of weeks, stockpiles would allow factories and factories to operate in an emergency for a couple of months.
Alas, in the event of a sudden nuclear strike, the civilian population will have a hard time - fortified bunkers will only accommodate a few. Most will be hiding in conventional civil defense shelters, which will protect from radiation, but not from blast waves and flares, and they will become the primary threat to life in the city where the nuclear explosion occurred.
The country's leadership considers an emergency evacuation outside the city limits to be the main measure to save the civilian population. An alarm is given, and the population (of course, without panic, lined up in columns) is loaded onto the transport, after which, according to the instructions, is delivered to the collection points located 300 kilometers from the epicenter of the explosion.
Of course, it is important to understand here that the evacuation should be carried out about a week before the intended strike, so that at the time of the nuclear attack, temporary shelters will already be built in these cities, and civil defense units will organize field life at these temporary sites. The timely movement of citizens will reduce the number of victims to a few percent of the entire population of the city. Food and medicine supplies for them should be enough for several months. The evacuated citizens will live in public buildings, as well as in the houses of local residents at the rate of two evacuated citizens per house.
The organization of the evacuation will be handled by the city evacuation commissions. They are made up of representatives of the party, local authorities, military forces and city services. Their tasks include registering citizens, determining places of evacuation, their supply, transportation of the population, as well as setting evacuation regulations.
In general, in the event of a surprise attack in the city, only people in fortified shelters will be saved - that is, qualified personnel and representatives of the leadership. If we talk about large cities, then the only hope of the common population is the metro, and not all, but only deep-laid stations.
The underground in such settlements as Moscow, Leningrad, Kiev and Baku is adapted to withstand the blast wave and help avoid contact of people with radioactive fallout. For this, the stations have special armored doors, as well as metal barriers blocking the entrances to the tunnels. The metro has generators of electricity, as well as supplies of water, food and medicine.
Residents of rural areas will have the hardest time. On the one hand, the likelihood that the epicenter of the explosion will be outside the city is extremely small, on the other hand, this is what allowed the state to care less about shelters for field workers. The rescue of a drowning person is the work of the drowning person himself, and therefore the villagers will use mines, basements and hastily erected shelters as shelters, even hastily dug trenches and covered with metal sheets. Despite the fact that these measures may seem non-binding, CIA experts have found that they will really help to survive, being even two kilometers from the epicenter of the megaton explosion.
The scenario described above shows how the Soviet government intended to keep the country's economy working, but does not allow it to form an opinion what problems the civilian population would face, even if it had been warned of the catastrophe in advance and had taken proper security measures. The residents of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were taken by surprise by the bombing, which means that it makes no sense to turn to their experience.
This problem would have remained in the sphere of guesses and forecasts, if not for the Totsky military exercises conducted by the Soviet military in September 1954 at the Totsky training ground of the Orenburg region. Their main task was to check the impact of the explosion of a nuclear bomb on the terrain, population and military. Unwitting participants in this experiment were 45 thousand soldiers and 10 thousand civilians from the settlements surrounding the test site.
During the exercise, the main bomb with a capacity of 40 kilotons was dropped - that is, with a charge of medium power (for comparison: in 1945, the power of the bomb dropped by the Americans on Hiroshima was from 13 to 18 kilotons). The local population was evacuated within an eight-kilometer radius from the epicenter. Residents of nearby settlements that did not fall into this zone were instructed to take refuge in ravines and terrain. It will be important to mention here that a few days before the tests, specialists who conducted exercises with them came to the citizens, so there was no panic and confusion.
Nevertheless, the excesses could not be completely avoided: in the villages located within a radius of six kilometers from the explosion, due to the ignorance of fire-prevention measures and the presence of a large amount of flammable materials, numerous hotbeds of fire arose. In addition, 216 cases of injuries of people were recorded in settlements located at a distance of 15-50 km from the epicenter - due to excessive curiosity, local residents leaned out at the time of the passage of the blast wave and received wounds from glass fragments.
Nevertheless, the Totsk exercises showed that in the short term, the civilian population and the armed forces can be protected from the direct consequences of a nuclear explosion simply by observing basic security measures. Yes, indeed, in the first minutes, the main danger is the shock wave, and if you wait it out in proper shelter, you will most likely be able to escape.
The radiation indicators in this area, according to official documents, did not exceed the norm, so, it seems, a nuclear explosion should not have affected the health of citizens. After the collapse of the USSR, however, it became known that the medical cases of many military personnel who took part in the experiment were falsified, and in reality they received a significant dose of radiation, which then had an extremely negative effect on their health. The experience of detonating a nuclear bomb at the Totsk test site showed that over the next several decades, the incidence of oncological diseases among people living in this area increased several times.
Lessons from Chernobyl
This experiment shows that the use of nuclear weapons in a populated area is not at all an inevitable death sentence for all its inhabitants. It is important to understand that the use of an atomic bomb in a more densely populated area, first of all, would destroy buildings and people within a radius of several kilometers, but still would not deprive the sense of carrying out rescue measures.
The only known case in the history of the USSR when the methods for protecting the population from the radiation threat known to everyone from the manuals on civil defense were used in practice, is the Chernobyl disaster. Probably the most interesting is the experience of mass evacuation of the population from Pripyat and other cities in the vicinity of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. It allows you to understand the logic of evacuating civilians from the cities of the USSR in the event of a threat of a nuclear strike - not in the conditions of exercises, but in the presence of a real threat.
How would it go? Most likely, as in the case of Chernobyl, on the outskirts of cities, the day before the evacuation, the required number of cars would be collected, and the maximum number of passenger trains would be prepared at the stations.
The evacuation went relatively smoothly. During it, the authorities did not tell the citizens practically anything about the real reason. On the radio there was a message from the Pripyat city executive committee, ordering to leave the houses and proceed to the places of assembly, and after half an hour the policemen bypassed the apartment and took by force those who refused to leave them voluntarily. In the evening, the police made an additional round in order to identify the remaining (a total of 20 people were found), as well as to turn off the water and close the unlocked doors of the dwellings.
Citizens were asked to take with them a supply of food and things for only three days - thus they had the impression that this was a temporary measure. There are two reasons for this: the first, of course, was that it is easier to leave your home when you know that you will return to it, and the second is a solution-blank from the civil defense manuals.
The civil defense forces were executing an evacuation scenario before the explosion of a nuclear bomb, and it is in it that the three-day period appears. The fact is that the activity of radionuclides formed during the explosion of a uranium charge decreases a thousand times in three days, which means that there really is hope for the soonest return of citizens to their homes. Unfortunately, the radionuclides released into the environment after the Chernobyl accident had a significantly longer half-life - here we are talking not about days, but about decades. Almost none of the evacuated citizens returned to the current exclusion zone, although in the event of an explosion of a real nuclear bomb, the scenario described in the Civil Defense manuals would be quite realistic.
Pits and megatons
Of course, even in case of timely evacuation, a large number of human casualties cannot be avoided. The blow will, most likely, be sudden, which will aggravate the situation - something will have to be done with thousands of corpses in order to avoid the outbreak of epidemics. The mass burial of the corpses of citizens who died as a result of a nuclear explosion is described in a special methodological manual on civil defense, published in the days of the USSR. Most likely, it has not changed much since then, so it can be used to judge what measures would have been taken at that time.
Civil defense forces will begin burying the bodies of the victims three days after the nuclear strike. The mass graves will be huge - it is assumed that each pit will hold a hundred corpses, and they will be laid in two rows. The manual also gives the approximate time required to create such a pit and fill it: “Under normal working conditions, it will take 368.5 man-hours to bury 100 dead in one mass grave. equipment (bulldozers, excavators) - 22.5 man-hours and 4.43 machine-hours."
However, all the measures mentioned in this manual are completely irrelevant for Moscow since the 60s of the last century. The fact is that it is the capital of the USSR that would become the main target in a hypothetical nuclear strike. According to a model drawn up by the British military, the attack on Moscow will be carried out using 48 Trident ballistic missiles launched from submarines. The main targets will be the Ministry of Defense, Lubyanka, the cities of Klimovsk, Chekhov, airports.
The model assumes that, based on the population of Moscow (about 9 million at the time of its development), the number of victims within 12 weeks after the explosion will be 2.5 million. It is interesting that the safest district of the capital will be the North-East - only 2,700 out of 850,000 residents will die there. About 750,000 children will die in Moscow as a whole, several million residents will be injured.
Anyone who tries to escape from the affected area after the explosion will pass through areas with an increased background radiation. “Pollution of water supply sources and destruction of residential buildings will cause an increase in infection with all kinds of diseases,” wrote British experts, “because radiation has a detrimental effect on the human immune system. There will be both short-term and long-term problems with transport and food delivery due to pollution of agricultural land and destruction of the transport system. "They recognized that, in reality, the number of victims could significantly exceed the figures given above.
The explosion of one nuclear bomb, albeit powerful, albeit suddenly, even in the center of a large metropolis, is a disaster, but not the end of the world. Alas, the arsenal of the nuclear powers still has enough warheads not only to destroy such a large city as Moscow or Washington, but even to completely erase a person as a species from the face of the earth (as warned by Academician Sakharov, one of the creators of the Soviet hydrogen bombs). The fact that this did not happen during the confrontation between the USSR and the United States is a great success, which humanity seems to have recently begun to forget.