50th anniversary of Barents nuke thriller

- Let’s demonstrate to the imperialists what we are capable of, said Nikita Khrushchev and started the most intense Armageddon-like nuclear bomb explosions the world ever had seen over Novaya Zemlya in September 1961. High yield bombs were detonated almost every second day.


The September 10th multi-megaton explosion was followed by 23 of the largest nuke detonations the world ever had seen in the seven weeks period until the beginning of November 50 years ago.

The northern skyline of the Barents Region was covered with nuke-mushrooms.

Two bombs were detonated in the atomsphere on September 10th, then another on the 12th, the 13th, the 14th. Then one day without a detonation before a smaller bomb blasted off on the 16th followed by megaton size bombs on the 18th, the 20th, the 22nd and so on. The series of detonations high up in the atmosphere continued until November 4th. 

Few places in the world got more radioactive fallout from the atmospheric nuclear tests than the Barents Region. Some of the blasts over Novaya Zemlya were so powerful that autumn that people in Kirkenes in Norway and Lake Inari in Finland could see the flashes and the horizon turn red. The distance from the test site to Norway is 900 kilometers. 

People exposed to radiation
The population in Northwest Russia and the Nordic countries were exposed to radioactive doses. The highest dose-levels were received by the reindeer herders. The Sami and Nenets population eat far more reindeer meat than the average population and reindeer got extreme doses because of their grazing on sub-Arctic mosses.

Evacuation plan
Norwegian Health Authorities worked out plans for extensive preparedness measures for the population in Finnmark in September 1961. The plans comprised early warning to the population to enter bomb shelters. The people were to be evacuated if the levels of radiation exceeded 100 milliSivert. This was Cold War; the people were never informed, neither of the dose levels nor the plans for possible evacuation.

Most of the 24 mega-tons bombs that were exploded in the skies over Novaya Zemlya in the autumn 50 years ago were dropped from aircrafts that took off from the Kola Peninsula. Two propelled thermonuclear warheads were launched from Vorkuta and Salekhard respectively to target areas on Novaya Zemlya. There are also reports of missiles launched from the White Sea area with warheads exploding over Novaya Zemlya.

The official test site was near the Matochin Shar, but some of the explosions also took place further west in the Barents Sea. The fallout from the nuclear bomb explosions were measured all round the northern hemisphere.

Tsar bomba
The most powerful of all explosions was flashed off in the early morning on October 30th. The hydrogen bomb, later named Tsar bomba, was 58 megaton, or almost 6.000 times more powerful than the Hiroshima bomb. No other nuclear bombs in the world have ever had such a size.