Sultan Omarovich, tell us about the firsts nuclear explosion at the Semipalatinsk test site, what was the reaction of people?
I would like to start from today and return to the past. According to the Order of the President of the RK N.A. Nazarbayev from August 29, 1991, Kazakhstan’s people accomplished its mission; thanks to us, by paying a very heavy price the world refrained from waging the Third World War. Such historical and tragic mission was accomplished by our people. Thanks to the creation of the Semipalatinsk test site the history of Hiroshima and Nagasaki did not repeat on Kazakhstan’s and Soviet land.
Hiroshima after explosion
This began in 1947 where Stalin made the decision contrary to the military industrial complex of nuclear weapons of the United States of America.
In 1947 the construction of the Semipalatinsk test site began and by 1949 within the shortest possible period of time, within 2 years, the so called nuclear shield of the USSR was created. The first nuclear-weapon test was carried out on August 29 at 7 a.m. at a height of 30 meters; combative charge equal to the bomb dropped to Hiroshima and Nagasaki was detonated.
What was the reaction of people? Of course they felt euphoria. As our parents, older brothers and sisters tell, despite the secrecy, information about the creation of nuclear weapons in the USSR leaked out. People were proud of their country as the Great Patriotic War had finished not so long ago and there was a high possibility for the Third World War to be started.
After a while the site was named Kurchatov city. Before the collapse of the USSR approximately 50 thousand people lived there; this was a huge city with developer infrastructure.
City house of science in Kurchatov
Soviet and Kazakhstan’s people felt like they accomplished a heroic mission. During the Second World War they protected the planet from Nazi Germany’s enslavement while in this case people believed that they prevented the Third World War which could be the last on the Earth. The war without winners. Our nation stopped this nuclear insanity, however by paying a very heavy price.
How did Moscow respond to the request for closing of the nuclear site?
It is not a secret that the site operated during 40 years; there were 456 nuclear explosions. These charges could kill all mankind.
All these tests affected landscape, water and environment. Officially local population did not know about the tests, nobody wrote about it, only sometimes the Informational bureau announced about explosions. However, there were talks as we felt physically that plates in cupboards and on tables start trembling, ceiling lamps shook and houses moved. As we do not have mountains and volcanos we guessed and understood that regular nuclear explosion had occurred. People were tired...
People start protesting; they realized that the time for action had come. We were patriots and knew what duty and honor meant; people understood that this was necessary for our homeland but the question was the following “how long should we suffer?”. It is not difficult to stand one, two, three explosions, but it was a matter of hundreds of explosions ... Somebody should say “tokhta” (“enough”) as Kazakhs used to say. Such people appeared: at that time future Chairman of the Council of Ministers N.A. Nazarbayev supported Olzhas Suleimenov who changed his report and the electoral program of the candidate for deputy was replaced by the statement on behalf of Kazakhstan’s nation. The message was “stop testing us on nuclear strength”.
Olzhas Suleimenov called upon all those who was not indifferent and supported his protest against nuclear tests to come to the building of the Union of Writers on February 28. On February 28 several thousand people gathered in the center of Almaty. There Suleimenov announced his wish to establish International anti-nuclear movement “Nevada-Semipalatinsk” and proposed to organize mass protests not only in Kazakhstan but all over the world. During the first days the movement brought together more than 2 million people. A number of demonstrations were carried out in Europe in support of “Nevada-Semei”.
In April 1989 the movement was registered by the Ministry of Justice as the first non-governmental organization in Kazakhstan.
During the first days the movement was supported by Nursultan Nazarbayev and we thank him for this. In his speeches our President says “I closed the nuclear site despite the pressure of the military-industrial complex and leaders of the Soviet Union, thanks to the support from Kazakhstan’s people”.
Of course, Moscow’s reaction had a single meaning, who could allow people to give voice to close the nuclear site which was crucial for the Soviet Union at that time. It was a symbol of fear of the United States of America. Naturally, the USSR’s governing body did not want to do this. However, Gorbachev had the wisdom to agree with the opinion of people; there were no any repressions and movements. There was only aspiration.
Then the leaders of the USSR realized that it was not a wish of Suleimenov and Nazarbayev only; this was a mass movement and a will of millions; and it was said that if people went into the matter, it should be supported. The moratorium on nuclear testing was adopted.
We showed the whole world how to use nuclear weapons. We have done what greatest powers such as the United States of America, the Russian Federation, England, France and China could not do. This decision of our small Central Asian country with the population of 17 million people could be fairly attributed to the great deeds. Nowadays the whole world study Kazakhstan’s nuclear-free way, people thank our President and Kazakhstan’s nation.
By the initiative of the President N.A. Nazarbayev August 29 was recognized as the International Day against Nuclear Tests.
Is it proposed to include the Semipalatinsk site in the UNESCO’s book and make it tourist zone?
Indeed, it is suggested to include the Semipalatinsk testing site in the UNESCO’s book. We believe that it is fairly as the organization “Nevada-Semei” is already there and we hope that in future the Semipalatinsk site would be included as well. I am sure that it will come with time.
The Semipalatinsk site is not just a nuclear site. This is a huge military and industrial complex, serious leading science of the Soviet Union and we could not just to close it. Then the President adopted the program with the aim to use scientific achievements for peaceful purposes. The National nuclear center was established there. Outstanding physicist work in the center and scientist from many foreign countries come there every year. All the results are used for peaceful purpose.
There is the second program — tourism. Many people are interested in it and every year the number of those who want to see the site, including public figures, journalists, politicians and famous people from the West and East, is increasing. Nobody has a special fear, they arrive and calmly visit nuclear lake, fields foe experiments where the first explosions were carried out, the museum of nuclear history in Kurchatov. People are interested and want to see it...