Oral History of Nuclear Nonproliferation: Voices from Russia

Unfortunately, the tradition of writing political memoirs has not taken root in Russia. As a rule, diplomats and those working for other foreign policy agencies do not leave written memories of the events they witnessed after retirement. Much of what they could share is “not put on paper,” which means that sooner or later this information will be lost.

Memories of the older generation of disarmament specialists make a significant contribution to preserving the continuity of the traditions of Russian diplomacy and foreign policy. As Russia’s leading think tank in the field of international security, PIR Center strives to make its best contribution not only to overcoming current security challenges for Russia and the world, but also to preserving historically reliable information about past successes and failures. In 2021, we launched our new project “Nuclear Nonproliferation: History in Faces.”

The first event within the framework of the new project was the webinar “Putsch. Orlov. Eyewitness. 3 days and 2 nights at the White House. 30 years later” (in Russian), which took place on August 19, 2021. PIR Center’s Founder and Director Vladimir Orlov, who was in Russia’s White House from August 19 to 21, 1991, as a correspondent for Moskovskiye Novosti, shared his memories.

On December 23, 2021, an expert seminar “30 years of Russian nuclear succession” was held, timed to coincide with the anniversary of the events associated with the collapse of the Soviet Union. Prominent Russian and foreign diplomats, as well as leading researchers and analysts, took spoke at the event. The participants include:

  • Pavel Palazhchenko, Head of the International Department of the Gorbachev Foundation, chief English interpreter for Mikhail Gorbachev and Soviet foreign minister Eduard Shevardnadze in 1985-1991.
  • Yuri Nazarkin, Professor at the Geneva School of Diplomacy and International Relations, Head of the Russian delegation at the negotiations on the nuclear disarmament of Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan in 1992.
  • Vladimir Orlov, PIR Center’s Founder and Director.
  • Togzhan Kassenova, Senior Fellow with the Project on International Security, Commerce, and Economic Statecraft (PISCES) at the Center for Policy Research, SUNY-Albany, Non-Resident Fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, author of the forthcoming book “Atomic Steppe: How Kazakhstan Gave Up the Bomb”.
  • Mariana Budjeryn, Research Associate at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center, author of the forthcoming book “Inheriting the Bomb: Soviet Collapse and Nuclear Disarmament of Ukraine”;
  • Polina Sinovets – Director of the Odessa Center for Non-Proliferation, editor of the book “Ukraine’s Nuclear History.”
  • Our distinguished included were Rose Gottemoeller, Steven C. Házy Lecturer at Stanford University’s Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, NSC’s director for Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia Affairs in 1993-1994, and Alexey Obukhov, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the USSR/Russia in 1989-1992.

Currently, we are working on the new format of oral history, which will include a series of interviews with the older generation of Russian experts in arms control, disarmament and nuclear nonproliferation: veterans of the Russian Foreign Ministry, military diplomats, nuclear scientists. The interviews will be posted on nonproliferation.ru and will be available to everyone both in Russia and abroad.

For questions related to the project “Nuclear Nonproliferation: History in Faces”, you can contact Alexandra Zubenko, Junior Research Fellow of the Russia and Nuclear Nonproliferation Program at +7 (909) 759-65-66 or by e-mail [email protected].