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Article

Sekretnaia laboratornaia zhizn' v SSSR, 1940 - 1970

Cahiers du Monde Russe. 2019. Т. 60. № 2-3. С. 461-492.

In this article, secrecy – the practice, infrastructure, and ideology of responsibly concealing information – is described using the empirical example of nuclear laboratories subordinated to the Soviet atomic agency. The author pays special attention to organizational infrastructures of secrecy and material deformations of secret research. On the basis of published documents, nuclear memoirs, in-depth interviews from the collection of the Obninsk project and a unique declassified archive, the author demonstrates how between the mid-1940s and the beginning of the 1970s the concern for hiding nuclear knowledge and technology was both embedded in research practices and deformed them. The laboratory is considered as the main unit of research activity in the Soviet atomic project; the early stage of the implementation of large-scale nuclear programs associated with the concentration of scientific forces, resources, secrecy, and development of a specific style of Big Soviet science is identified as a “lab age”. Secrecy in its becoming emergence and its archive are described via the case of Moscow–Obninsk radiochemists. Secret laboratory life is curated depictedin the text as an assemblage of secret matter, spaces of regime economy, espionage bodies and additional inscription devices in action. The laboratory routines, the author suggests, changed the methods of producing scientific facts, transmuted physicists into secret physicists, and helped shape the patterns of the Soviet culture of secrecy.