Naval War College Review


In 1988, only two years before the Soviet empire fell, secret scientific efforts were still turning germs into weapons and creating entirely new germs. In Koltsovo, a hidden Siberian city, scientist Nikolai Ustinov died from an accident while working with the Marburg virus, designed to bleed victims to death. With clinical detachment, he documented his own decline in a journal with bloodspotted pages. His colleagues found that the virus had mutated while killing him. Their response was consistent with their careers—they buried the scientist in a zinc-lined coffin and turned the “new” virus into a weapon, naming it “Variant U,” in tribute to Ustinov.