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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Dawn; Interview with Georgi Shakhnazarov, 1987

Part of War and Peace in the Nuclear Age.


Georgii Shakhnazarov was a Soviet political scientist who became a close aide to Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev. Beginning the interview with a broad statement, he declares that the underpinnings of U.S.-Soviet conflict have usually been the result of “historical misunderstandings” rather than differences in ideology. He gives his views of the nature of socialism, which he interprets as much bigger than the variant found within the boundaries of the Soviet Union. Socialism will expand naturally, in his opinion, and he offers assurances that Moscow does not intend to spread it by force. Dr. Shakhnazarov goes on to describe the current positive Soviet attitude toward the fundamental changes in Eastern Europe. On the subject of nuclear weapons, he disagrees that they have helped the world escape war, although he remarks that they do have the effect of pushing societies to find ways to solve problems jointly. He then provides an overview of the development of Soviet thinking that nuclear weapons serve no practical, useful purpose. When prompted, he offers reasons why the West should not fear aggression by the Soviet Union – for example, the fact that the USSR already possesses plenty of physical territory and that the Soviets are preoccupied with solving their own internal problems and improving their system, and therefore “we just have no time for aggressive plans.” Uppermost among his fears is the likelihood of accidents, including with the Strategic Defense Initiative, and he describes this is the basis for his own aversion against any further ratcheting up of the arms race. Noting that progress in relations often follows a crisis, he hopes that the superpowers will not wait for the next one before making meaningful advances in the nuclear arena.

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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age
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Interview with Georgi Shakhnazarov, 1987

Series Description

The first atomic explosion in the New Mexico desert on July 16, 1945, changed the world forever. This series chronicles these changes and the history of a new era. It traces the development of nuclear weapons, the evolution of nuclear strategy, and the politics of a world with the power to destroy itself.

In thirteen one-hour programs that combine historic footage and recent interviews with key American, Soviet, and European participants, the nuclear age unfolds: the origin and evolution of nuclear weapons; the people of the past who have shaped the events of the present; the ideas and issues that political leaders, scientists, and the public at large must confront, and the prospects for the future. Nuclear Age highlights the profound changes in contemporary thinking imposed by the advent of nuclear weapons. Series release date: 1/1989

Program Description

Amid the violence, fear and desperation of World War II, nuclear weapons are created and used for the first time.

“Dawn” traces the development of the first atomic bomb, from 1932 with the ominous rumblings that led to World War II and the ground-breaking scientific experiments that led to the bomb. Atomic physicist Victor Weisskopf explains, “we did not think at all that this business would have any direct connection with politics, or with humanity.” The frantic rush by American scientists who feared the Nazis were ahead of them and the first nuclear explosion in the New Mexico desert on July 16, 1945 are described by eyewitnesses. Physicist Philip Morrison was ten miles away from the blast and will never forget the heat on his face. “Dawn” concludes with the failure of the first attempts to reach agreement on international control of atomic weapons after the war.



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Raw video

Media Type


Nuclear weapons
Einstein, Albert, 1879-1955
International relations
Nuclear disarmament
Chernobyl Nuclear Accident, Chornobyl, Ukraine, 1986
Eisenhower, Dwight D. (Dwight David), 1890-1969
Nuclear energy
Soviet Union
McNamara, Robert S., 1916-2009
Nuclear arms control
Warsaw Treaty Organization
Cuban Missile Crisis, 1962
Strategic Defense Initiative
Nuclear fission
Warfare, Conventional
Great Britain
Gorbachev, Mikhail
Deterrence (Strategy)
World Health Organization
United States
First strike (Nuclear strategy)
Chemical weapons
United Nations
Reagan, Ronald
War and Conflict
Global Affairs
Shakhnazarov, Georgii Khosroevich (Interviewee)
Publication Information
WGBH Educational Foundation
Chicago: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Dawn; Interview with Georgi Shakhnazarov, 1987,” 12/25/1987, GBH Archives, accessed July 15, 2024,
MLA: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Dawn; Interview with Georgi Shakhnazarov, 1987.” 12/25/1987. GBH Archives. Web. July 15, 2024. <>.
APA: War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Dawn; Interview with Georgi Shakhnazarov, 1987. Boston, MA: GBH Archives. Retrieved from
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