Atomic Visitors from Outer Space: The Tunguska Nuclear Hypothesis in Soviet Technological Imagination
Author ORCID Identifier
Andy Bruno: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-8723-324X
In the mid-1940s an idea arose that a crash of an atomically-powered alien spaceship had caused the mysterious Tunguska explosion of 1908 in Siberia. Initially expressed as fiction, this speculation evolved into an active hypothesis that inspired decades’ worth of amateur investigations. This article examines the history of the Tunguska nuclear hypothesis and what it reveals about nuclear and technological culture in the USSR. It argues that Soviet technological imagination had a tendency to place the country's developments into a cosmic perspective that drew parallels between contemporary circumstances on Earth and the possible existence of technologies among civilizations elsewhere in the universe. Seeing the country's communist project as part of a cosmic drama involved a form of universalism that aligned with Marxist ideology, but also possessed distinctive influences and afterlives. By concentrating on cosmic analogies at play in Soviet technological imagination about Tunguska, this article also underscores how the suspected link between otherworldly civilizations and earthly actions informed ways of conceptualizing race and ethnicity, the boundaries of scientific knowledge, and the natural environment.
Bruno, Andy, "Atomic Visitors from Outer Space: The Tunguska Nuclear Hypothesis in Soviet Technological Imagination" (2022). NIU Bibliography. 34.
Department of History