Re-examining the Nuclear Past of Kazakhstan and Ukraine Through the Prism of the War

Central Asia and Caucasus Seminar
Event Format
In person
Room S050, CGIS South, 1730 Cambridge Street, Cambridge

When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, its enormous nuclear arsenal suddenly found itself on the territory of not one but four newly independent states: Belarus, Kazakhstan, the Russian Federation, and Ukraine. One of them, Russia, would emerge as the only nuclear power in the former Soviet realm. At the same time, the non-Russian successors surrendered their nuclear inheritance and joined the international nonproliferation regime. They did so partly in return for security assurances from nuclear powers - a commitment to respect their territorial integrity and sovereignty. Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 and a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022 galvanized discourse on whether Kazakhstan and Ukraine made a mistake by giving up nuclear inheritance. In the former Soviet republics, now independent states for more than three decades, the war intensified the re-assessment of the Soviet past and their relationship with Moscow. Two new books reveal previously untold nuclear histories of Kazakhstan and Ukraine: how the Soviet military used Kazakhstan for nuclear tests, why Kazakhstan and Ukraine disarmed, and what their decisions mean for today and the future of the global nuclear order.

Remote video URL


This event is co-sponsored by Ukrainian Research Institute at Harvard University. 


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