Maj. Andrei Durnovtsev, a Soviet air force pilot and commander of a Tu-95 Bear bomber, holds a dubious honor in the history of the Cold War.
Durnovtsev flew the aircraft that dropped the most powerful nuclear bomb ever. It had an explosive force of 50 megatons, or more than 3,000 times more powerful than the Hiroshima weapon.
Over the years, historians identified many names for the test bomb.
Andrei Sakharov, one of the physicists who helped design it, simply called it “the Big Bomb.” Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev called it “Kuzka’s mother,” a reference to an old Russian saying that means you are about to teach someone a harsh, unforgettable lesson.
The Central Intelligence Agency blandly dubbed the test “Joe 111.” But a more popular name born out of Russian pride and a sheer awe sums it all up —theTsar Bomba, or “the King of Bombs.”
“As far as I can tell the term did not surface until after the end of the Cold War,” Alex Wellerstein, a historian at the Stevens Institute of Technology and blogger, told War Is Boring. “Before that it was just called the 50 megaton or 100 megaton bomb.”
“I think we make a lot more of the Tsar Bomba today than anytime other than the immediate period in which it was tested.”
“Americans like to point to it as an example of how crazy the Cold War was, and how crazy the Russians are and were,” Wellerstein added. “Russians seem to take pride in it.”
Read more: The National Interest