- The NKVD code name for the Anglo-American nuclear weapons program, Enormoz, which is Russian for “enormous,” reflected Moscow’s obsession with the atomic bomb. The service’s code name for the bomb itself was “Funicular.” As early as 1941, John Carincross provided the London rezidentura with information about the British nuclear program. Joseph Stalin initially believed that this intelligence was British disinformation, but in early 1943 he directed the Soviet intelligence rezidenturas in Great Britain, the United States, and Canada to collect information on the Allied nuclear weapons program. Within a year of this order, Soviet intelligence had provided over 280 classified documents on the program.In 1944 the director of the Soviet nuclear weapons program, Igor Kurchatov, wrote Lavrenty Beria that information from the United States “was of enormous interest and great value” and pleaded for additional information.Information on nuclear weapons was collected in Great Britain, the United States, and Canada by both the NKVD and the GRU. The Soviet service created Line X within the London, Ottawa, Washington, and San Francisco rezidenturas to collect scientific, specifically nuclear, intelligence. In 1944–1948, the London rezidentura was running 15 agents with access to the nuclear program. In New York, Washington, and San Francisco, the NKVD had at least six agents working within Los Alamos, as well as at other classified facilities. In Canada, the GRU was running Allan Nunn May, who had access to nuclear secrets.Stalin personally monitored the collection of information by agents in the United States, Canada, and Britain. The Soviet leader picked Beria to head a committee of the GKO (State Defense Committee) to oversee the nuclear program. On 23 January 1946, Stalin met with Beria and Kurchatov to discuss the next steps in building a Soviet atomic bomb. Stalin encouraged Kurchatov to ask for whatever was needed. Acting like a Dutch uncle—a side of the dictator few saw—he told Kurchatov that he was to build a bomb “in the Russian style.” In 1949, when Kurchatov had built the uranium “pit” for the first bomb, he presented it (properly shielded in lead) to Stalin. Stalin was impressed but asked when it was to be exploded. While Stalin and Beria rewarded Kurchatov and the other scientists who had built the Soviet bomb, intelligence officers received scant praise. No mention of their success was allowed in the media for decades, and several of the people who carried out operations in the United States and Britain died in disgrace. In 1992 the surviving members of the intelligence service’s nuclear intelligence work finally received their due in articles in the Russian press. At least one of them traveled to the United States to discuss operations with the families of his agents.See also Fitin, Pavel; Kvasnikov, Lev; Semenov, Semen.
Historical dictionary of Russian and Soviet Intelligence. Robert W. Pringle. 2014.
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