Startsi are the elder statesmen, the teachers, in the Russian Orthodox Church. Of all the
Startsi, the most famous Staret in all of Russia is St. Seraphim of Sarov born in Kursk in 1759. “It was said he could supply answers before visitors had time to ask their questions. He counseled tough cases of conscience and reportedly worked miracles, healing the sick” according to Dan Graves in his article St. Seraphim of Sarov, Renowned Staret. It is ironic that Sarov would be transformed from a center of traditional learning and healing to a center of the new physics and philosophy of ‘uncertainty’; the birthplace of the Soviet’s first nuclear device.
Sarov’s story is as old as government. At the very beginning of the Cold War, Sarov, the St. Seraphim monastery grounds, and the surrounding area were closed and rebranded as
Arzamas-16, the seat of nuclear physics for the old Soviet Union. The town of Sarov occupies only eleven square miles of the 90 square mile hexagonally shaped Arzamas-16 area, which also houses research and production facilities. “…Arzamas-16 is surrounded by an outer defensive ring 25 miles out that is carefully monitored. The city inside that ring is surrounded by a double, barbed-wire fence that is patrolled by the Russian army. Uniformed troops from the Russian Ministry of the Interior patrol the inner city. Areas that house nuclear materials are surrounded by multiple fences and walls, and the spaces between the fences are plowed and patrolled. Sensors are in place to detect unauthorized intruders….”
The Soviet move on Sarov was similar to the action taken by the U.S. government to build its nuclear infrastructure in Tennessee, Nevada, Alabama, Washington state, and elsewhere; the people who lived there were moved out and the military, scientific community and their workers moved in. Maps were sanitized and the veil of secrecy dropped. Arzamas-16 was the intellectual and industrial birthplace of the first Soviet nuclear test device and the brainchild of Igor Kurchatov, the Soviet’s first nuclear program director. In the final analysis, Arzamas-16 represented a network of “secret cities” and research labs But wait, there’s more!