The story of Vladimir Alexandrov certainly falls into the “mysterious” category, with his 1985 disappearance linked to many governments, the Cold War and nuclear warfare.
Exactly what happened to the Russian national is unknown. While most assume he is dead, the circumstances that led to this have been questioned. Then after all, he may even not be dead.
This article reviews this disappearance. There is a reader’s poll at the end of the article, which we hope you partake in. This will allow us to be able to see what the overall opinion is among our readers as to what happened.
Vladimir Alexandrov was born in the Soviet Union in 1938. As an erudite individual, Alexandrov became interested in science and nuclear energy.
He studied at the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology. Over the following years, he excelled in numerous fields. He often visited the United States as part of a research exchange program.
Alexandrov is best-known for creating the mathematical model used in the development of the nuclear winter theory. This is a hypothesised effect that would follow nuclear war, should – heaven forbid – such an event ever happen.
The topic of anything nuclear-related had the potential to gain unwanted interest – especially with the world in the midst of the “Cold War” at the time. Therefore, Alexandrov had the potential of being caught up in a far bigger conflict.
Alexandrov attended the International Conference of Nuclear Free Zones Local Authorities in March 1985. The event took place in the city of Cordoba, Spain.
This conference brought together some of the most well-known names in the scientific field – including people from the United States and the Soviet Union. The conference allowed bright minds to share ideas on nuclear science.
Alexandrov gave a talk about his nuclear winter theory at the conference, before leaving. Exactly what happened next is unknown, but has been the subject of much discussion.
It is known that Alexandrov visited the Russian embassy in Madrid. However, Alexandrov was never seen again. He simply vanished – having seemingly never made it out of the embassy, although this isn’t entirely confirmed.
The involvement of Alexandrov in research into nuclear war and energy cast a cloud over the case. The threat of nuclear warfare was a common topic in the 1980s, with Alexandrov caught up in this.
To the outside world, there appeared to be little effort from authorities in the USSR in investigating the disappearance of Alexandrov. The Spanish authorities were unable to determine Alexandrov’s movements – nor if he left the embassy on his own accord.
Some unverified reports state that Alexandrov had been drunk throughout the conference. This may have made put him in a vulnerable state, potentially complicating matters.
Given the lack of information behind Aleksandrov’s disappearance, it is unknown if there was any investigation from the USSR. There were reports that the USSR had tried to enlist the Red Cross to help them trace Aleksandrov – thought it isn’t known if this is true.
It isn’t known either when the investigation was curtailed. At some point though, there was no longer any effort to find Aleksandrov in the USSR. Many have suggested that no investigation or search had taken place to begin with.
Many in the west have blamed the USSR for the disappearance. It has been speculated that Alexandrov had been planning on renouncing the nuclear winter theory. Therefore, it has been theorised that this decision resulted in the KGB (the USSR’s foreign intelligence and security agency) kidnapping and later killing Alexandrov.
However, some in the USSR suggested that Alexandrov may have been kidnapped by American intelligence. Alexandrov’s knowledge and skillset was highly sought after during the 1980s, thereby making it feasible for Alexandrov to be a target for the US.
Meanwhile, there was a belief in the western scientist community that the USSR had tried to heavily push the nuclear winter theory as a means of trying to give support to anti-nuclear activists in the United States and Europe – thereby trying to sabotage the build-up of nuclear arms in the United States.
Alexandrov continues to be spoken of highly by his peers in the modern day, with his ideas still being used. However, his whereabouts remain unknown.
There are a few different theories that have been put forward. Any of these theories could feasibly be correct, with both advantages and disadvantages to each.
We now take a look at the evidence for each:
Theory One: Vladimir Alexandrov was kidnapped by the USSR
The most logical theory is that Alexandrov died at the hands of the USSR. The fact that Alexandrov didn’t appear to leave the Russian embassy could be a tell-tale sign that something nefarious happened to him.
Deaths of high-profile figures in embassy’s have been seen before, with the death of prominent journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Arabian embassy a prime, yet tragic, example of this.
The USSR may have been worried that Alexandrov was going to defect to the west. As mentioned, this case happened at a time when tensions were high between the United States and the USSR. Paranoia was also high. If they did think an intelligent man like Alexandrov was going to defect, they may have decided to take action.
Alexandrov was known to enjoy his time in the United States, and was close to many American scientists. This may have led to the USSR becoming concerned.
Climatologist Jerry Pottery, who knew Alexandrov well, has said that he believes “the KGB decided that Alexandrov was too Americanized” and “could be a threat” – with Pottery believing the USSR killed him.
However, others have questioned why the USSR would kill their own citizen – who had a lot of knowledge. If he wasn’t going to defect, it would seem strange to kill a citizen that was contributing a lot to nuclear science.
It is also not known for certain if Alexandrov did or didn’t make it out of the embassy. Sadly, no CCTV footage exists. But if Alexandrov did leave the embassy, it would seemingly point to others being involved.
Theory Two: Vladimir Alexandrov was kidnapped by the United States
Another possible theory is that Alexandrov was kidnapped by the United States. It should be remembered that the Cold War also involved the United States. They needed to protect themselves.
Similar to the USSR, the United States may have felt Alexandrov was a threat. He was known to visit the United States a lot. It could be possible that he came across information that he shouldn’t have, meaning the United States had to act.
Alternatively, the United States may have tried to get Alexandrov to defect to them. If Alexandrov refused, the Americans may have been concerned how the USSR would react to news of their attempts to make him defect. They may have decided that they needed to remove Alexandrov.
However, given that Alexandrov seemingly went missing in the Russian embassy does make it logistically difficult for the United States to be involved in his death. It isn’t really clear why Americans would be near the Russian embassy. If they were involved, the USSR would surely have become aware of this.
Moreover, he was known to have good relationships with many American scientists. This makes many doubt that there was involvement by the United States.
Theory Three: Vladimir Alexandrov defected to the United States
Alexandrov may have defected to the United States. If Alexandrov did manage to leave the embassy, he may have been covertly transported to a safehouse in Spain, before he was secretly flown to the United States.
Alexandrov may have then lived in the United States for the rest of his life. He may have continued his work on nuclear science. His knowledge would be highly coveted and would have been very desirable.
Due to the covert nature of any defection, Alexandrov may have spent the rest of his life living under the radar. It is therefore feasible that he lived for many years, or even decades, after the conference.
However, Alexandrov had his family in his native USSR and was held in high regard by his peers. He would’ve also known about the dangers of defection. He was also able to frequently visit the United States, so there doesn’t seem to be a reason why Alexandrov would want to defect. Alexandrov’s wife was very ill at the time of his disappearance, which may be further evidence that Alexandrov wouldn’t leave the USSR at the time.
Moreover, given the large international collaboration between scientists, it would be unlikely that Alexandrov would not be spotted at all. It would have been incredibly difficult for the United States to keep his defection a total secret.
Theory Four: Vladimir Alexandrov disappeared on purpose
Aleksandrov may have felt under pressure being due to being indirectly involved in the Cold War and the tension between the United States and the USSR. Therefore, it is feasible that he chose to intentionally vanish.
He was known to be clever, and therefore may have been able to live undetected for many years. If this is true, then there is a good chance that he lived for many years following the conference.
However, family circumstances suggest that this theory is unlikely. Aleksandrov had been seeking care for his wife who was very ill at the time. He was helping to try and aid his stricken wife, and hired a specialist to help with the treatment of his wife.
It would be very strange for Aleksandrov to go to all this effort for his wife and then just to leave on a whim. But, being in a neutral country away from the glare of the UK and US may have offered him the escape he desperately craved.
Now that you have read the above theories, we would love you to vote on the theory that you believe is most accurate in the poll below. Once you have cast your vote, the results of the poll will appear.
The disappearance of Vladimir Alexandrov is a case that is a part of the series of events that appeared to be linked to the Cold War. The truth of this disappearance, as well as all of the other clandestine events at the time, is open to discussion.
The unfortunate thing is that Vladimir Alexandrov did not appear to leave Spain alive. What happened in his final moments is unknown to the general public. The chances of us ever knowing what happened are remote at best.