Nuclear exercises in Totskoye: how to drop an atomic bomb on your own soldiers

On 14 September 1954, one of the most tragic military exercises in history took place. During the manoeuvres with the cryptonym “Snezhok”, the Soviet Union threw a nuclear bomb on the Totskoye military training ground, where several hours later, in the epicentre of the explosion, thousands of soldiers were ordered to enter. Both military and local civilians were then victims of terrible radiation diseases without any chance of being helped by the communist authorities.

Image credit: Charles Levy via Wikimedia Commons

Approximately 45,000 people, 600 tanks, 500 cannons, 320 planes and 6,000 other vehicles were to participate in the exercises. Soldiers chosen to take part in the Tockoje test were previously carefully selected and obliged to keep secret their participation in the testing of new weapons. As an award they were offered the payment of a salary for three months ahead.

The Soviet commanders wanted the exercise area to simulate the upland wooded wooded area of Western Germany as much as possible. Previous nuclear tests were mostly carried out in the plains of Kazakhstan, but this time the area around the village of Totskoye, which was used as a training ground in the 18th century, was chosen. Everything was to be seen, hidden in the atomic shelter, by Soviet leaders – Georgy Zhukov (the initiator of exercises), Marshal Konstantin Rokossovsky, Aleksandr Vasilevsky and Ivan Konev.

On September 14,1954, there was a strong wind in the vicinity of Totskoye, reaching 20 m/sec. At 9:33 AM, the Tu-4 bomber dropped the “Tatyana” atomic bomb on the training ground from a height of 8000 m. After 45 seconds of flight, there was an explosion at a height of 350 m, and 5 minutes later the artillery firing of the attacked area started. The bomb, which was dropped on Totskoye, had a power of 40 kilotonnes, i. e. as much as 2-3 “Little Boy” bomb, which was dropped by Americans 9 years earlier on Hiroshima. The explosion was visible 50 km from the explosion site.

Tu-4 strategic bomber
Source: Monino98 via Wikimedia Commons

The damage done on the Russian military training ground was terrible. Up to 300 metres from the epicentre, there was nothing that could survive the explosion, the land was completely burnt out, and there were only stumps left of the trees. The villages burned down within a radius of up to 5 kilometres – fortunately, their inhabitants had been evacuated earlier.

At that time, the Soviet Union’s military doctrine (as well as the American doctrine) was completely wrongly assuming the use of nuclear weapons in the same way as conventional weapons, i. e. like a simple artillery fire that could be followed by infantry attacks. That is why only 3 hours after the explosion, the Soviet army entered the contaminated zone from both sides. Those who found themselves closest to the epicentre died shortly after the exercise in the Totskoye base, suffering from radiation-related illness. A huge number of the remaining soldiers died later from cancer, and practically all of them were affected by other negative health effects.

The Soviet army was not fully prepared for the subsequent effects of irradiation. The radiated soldiers should have been washed and decontaminated immediately after the exercises, but the communists did not do any of these things. Even worse, the day before the explosion they were given new uniforms, which were then irradiated and some Soviet soldiers were wearing them even a few years later.

Soviet marshal Georgy Zhukov
P. Bernstein via Wikimedia Commons

Unfortunately, the nuclear bomb that was dropped on Totskoye also had terrible consequences for the civilian population. During the explosion a strong wind blew and a radioactive cloud, carried at an altitude of up to 15 km, managed to fly even thousands of kilometers away, even until Novosibirsk. There was an increase in cancer rates among the population and the effects of the Totskoye nuclear training were visible for years after their completion.

Not only did the Soviet Union not intend to help these people, but each of the soldiers was banned from talking about exercises in Totskoye for 25 years. Those of them who survived and went to a doctor were sent away because their documents included completely falsified data on the history of the service during a feral day in September 1954.

The communist state completely ignored the people at whom it committed such a terrible crime. As it turned out, this incompetence and contempt for human life contributed to the subsequent collapse of this socialist system – but for that it took 37 years of the Cold War between the nuclear superpowers.


Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.