Updated: Feb 22, 2020
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TOPIC: History of Biological Warfare
ORGANIZATION: USSR BIOPREPERAT Program
AGENT: Anthrax 836
INCIDENT: Release of Biological Warfare Agent into Civilian Population
LOCATION: Sverdlovsk, USSR
DATE: April 1979
The history of biological warfare is littered with misconceptions, misinformation, and state secrets. In this void of information fanciful disinformation and exaggerations have taken the place of historical analysis and process. Google “Biological Warfare” and the first hundred hits are on a comparatively minor program in WWII by the Japanese, and almost nothing on the much larger programs by the US, USSR, UK, Australia, France, etc.
Another factor making this research difficult is the technical problems associated with differentiating a natural pathogen outbreak from wartime conditions due to sanitation, overcrowding, migration patterns of refugees, reduced immune systems over vast populations, etc. How to tell if a virus was man made or naturally occurring is difficult at best, and has led to the potential for many outbreaks to be attributed to programs without any direct linkage.
However, the case of the SverdlovskAnthrax 836 release is one where the veil of lies was parted and a case successfully presented for biological warfare agents being the culprit. Not only did the US obtain a very compelling case from the US research team conducting pathological forensic work from limited access and information, but fortunately we have been able to get the admission by the former Deputy Director of the BIOPREPERAT, a biological scientist at the biological warfare manufacturing plant in Sverdlovsk who defected, and the President of the former Soviet Union to confirm the US teams findings.
This rarely happens, especially when a government is still able to actively shield it’s secret programs.
Biological warfare research remains illegal under the United Nations 1975 Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BWC), and nations engaged in it are in violation of this WMD that knows no borders. (1)
The US halted it’s biological warfare program in the late 1960s, when molecular biologist Dr. Matthew Meselson presented an overwhelmingly compelling case to his friend Henry Kissinger, to present to the President, Richard Nixon. Nixon completely agreed with Dr. Meslesons assessment that Biological weapons should be banned in toto, to include offensive research. However the Soviet Union, China, North Korea, and others have continued to conduct illegal research into biological weapons of mass destruction reportedly to this day, to include human testing.
It is this lack of an accurate and complete history that the History Detective Agency blog will present special articles focusing on declassified biological warfare incidents and programs.
As news continues to develop even in the present time regarding the potential release of biological agents in China, we hope a historical analysis of a confirmed case from an almost identical organizational and political structure will be useful in contemporary evaluations.