“Breaking down all barriers erected in the path of international co-operation”. Soviet atomic science diplomacy and the IAEA in the 1950s

Lüscher, Fabian (24 November 2017). “Breaking down all barriers erected in the path of international co-operation”. Soviet atomic science diplomacy and the IAEA in the 1950s (Unpublished). In: Scientific Cooperation Across the Cold War Divide: East-West Relations in the Field of Atomic Energy. Trieste. 24.11.2017.

In the mid-1950s, atomic science became an essential part of Soviet diplomacy. New expert-fora and supranational institutions allowed discussing atomic science cooperation and exchange across the bloc-divide. Atomshchiki – specialists in atomic energy and related fields – occupied key positions in Soviet atomic science diplomacy. Based on archival records of the former Soviet Academy of Sciences (AN) in Moscow and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna, this paper examines three aspects of their work: Policy advice, scientific cooperation and the management of international relations.

1) It will describe how atomshchiki acted as policy advisors in the Soviet Union as well as in the IAEA. In both contexts the specialists claimed that scientific-technological expertise was crucial for the policy-making of any state or institution concerned with the promises and menaces of the atomic age. Experts were therefore demanding partial authority in political decision-making. The paper not only asks about the content of nuclear specialists’ policy advice but also focuses on their strategies and agendas behind their work as experts.

2) The paper discusses how scientific exchange and cooperation were facilitated through bilateral agreements and multilateral bodies, such as the IAEA Division of Scientific and Technical Information. Often, the readiness to share valuable knowledge remained an empty phrase – not only in the Soviet case. Still, the newly established agreements and institutions opened – albeit very limited – opportunities for Soviet atomshchiki to enter international scientific-technological discourses.

3) Finally, the role of the atomshchiki’s contacts and networks in managing international relations will be analyzed. The small elite which had the opportunity to travel and to meet scientists and science diplomats from all over the world was supposed to use these encounters for spreading peace-propaganda and promoting the Soviet way of reaching and mastering the atomic age. This paper argues that despite the strict party-control of Soviet delegates, international gatherings always created opportunities to informally discuss politics in a more candid manner than official diplomacy would have permitted.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Speech)


06 Faculty of Humanities > Department of History and Archaeology > Institute of History > Modern and Contemporary History

UniBE Contributor:

Lüscher, Fabian


900 History




Fabian Lüscher

Date Deposited:

23 Jan 2018 13:43

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 15:08



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