Saturday, May 17, 2008

In Case of Nuclear War, Take...

Аптечка индивидуальная АИ-2

This item, available now on eBay for the princely sum of $35, is an example of the first aid kit stockpiled by the Soviet Union during the 1970s and 1980s to distribute to ordinary individuals in case of nuclear war. The ominous-looking black thing at the top is a single-use morphine syringe. Quite a few of these little orange kits seem to have been made, and they were featured fairly prominently in Soviet civil defense propaganda.


Alexandra Prokopenko said...

Great kit! The thing missing is the gas mask and rubber costume of green military color, and you are ready for nuclear war!
Actually, resembles an ordinary medical kit for a Soviet soldier, but the content is a bit different.
USSR was a war oriented country preparing its citizens for war - every grown up under 45 had a "military ticket" which contained data about their military position in the army in case of war. My parents still had it, now we don't.

DV8 2XL said...

Does anyone think this kit actually did anything except provide the illusion that it would help in a post N-strike situation?

More importantly did the Soviet authorities?

I can't see that some of these items didn't have a shelf-life, thus making maintaining them a logistical nightmare.

Or perhaps in some real draconian bit of planning, these kits contained cyanide pills, thus reliving the state of the burden of caring for the wounded. I recall reading once that it created a larger burden on an enemy to wound rather than kill, as wounded tied up more resources to deal with than corpses. Having the walking dead of a nuclear attack finish themselves off would make perfect sense.

I'm not suggesting this is the case with these kits, I'm just saying...

Sovietologist said...

The kits are dated, and appear to have been replaced every once in awhile. I still haven't been able to positively identify what most of the drugs contained were. I'm sure nothing lethal, because if so the Russian government would destroy the things instead of letting them escape occasionally onto the surplus market.

As for precisely what the Soviet government was expecting to do with all of this stuff, that's what I'm writing my dissertation about. For a variety of reasons I think that the Soviet civil defense organization was absolutely serious in its plans for surviving nuclear war, but that other parts of the government and a lot of the populace were incredulous about whether it would work.

I've never seen Soviet or American regulations regarding what to do with the "walking wounded," but people who worked in American civil defense decades ago have told me that in the US there were classified plans about how to deal with this situation. Hopefully I'll manage to dredge up the actual regulations eventually.

DV8 2XL said...

Well my last post was a bit tongue-in-cheek - I too doubt that they would have been that cruelly pragmatic.

However, in his three-part Essay on Nuclear Policy Making Stuart Slade
( Part I, Part II, and Part III ) does make it clear that plans do not call for trying to save everyone. He writes:

"We triage the population. One triage is condition. Who cannot be saved and will be left to die, who can only be saved with massive (and probably impractical) effort, those who can be saved with the means available now (the ones who get priority) and who will recover without treatment. On top of this is another triage. The population is prioritized according to need for protection. Pregnant women and children are top, young women of childbearing age second. Young men third, older men fourth, old women bottom. This is ruthless and brutal but its essential for survival. Given a choice between saving a young woman who can bear children and an old woman who cannot, we save the potential mother. We do the same with food. Food and water are checked for radioactivity. The clean food goes to the children and young women, the more contaminated food to the lower priority groups. That old woman? She gets the self-frying steaks."

I would have to assume that the Soviets had similar plans prepared.

Alexandra Prokopenko said...

Would be interesting to have a look at your dissetation when you are done!

Sovietologist said...

Alexandra: It'll be awhile, but I'm hoping to publish it once it's finally done. In the nearer term, I am hoping to publish an article version of my MA thesis, which is on a similar topic.

DV8: American civil defense not only did not intend to save everyone, but they told the public implicitly and explicitly that there would not be an attempt to do so. In large part this was because Congress would only fund minimal preparatory measures. There were a number of portable civil defense field hospitals produced in the 1950s and stockpiled, but put together they would have been sufficient for the expected casualties from ~1 major metropolitan area. I haven't been able to get at regional-level Soviet civil defense plans yet, so I can only speculate. From what I've read, I suppose that local civil defense formations were supposed to make on-the-spot decisions about who to save in the post-attack environment, but I honestly don't know what the plan was to deal with the "walking wounded" who reached first aid posts outside of attack areas.