Bacteriological Weapon

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Related to Bacteriological Weapon: biological warfare, germ warfare, Bioweapons
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Bacteriological Weapon


a biological weapon; a weapon whose destructive effect is based on the pathogenic properties of microorganisms, the causative agents of diseases in man, animals, and plants.

The basis for the harmful effect of bacteriological weapons is bacterial agents (bacteria, viruses, rickettsias, fungi, and the toxic products of their life processes) used for military purposes through the use of live, infected carriers of disease (insects, rodents, ticks, etc.) or in the form of suspensions and powders. Foreign military specialists include among bacterial agents intended to affect people the causative agents of plague, natural smallpox, anthrax, tularemia, glanders, melioidosis, brucellosis, cholera, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, several types of American equine encephalomyelitis, yellow fever, Q fever, deep mycoses, and botulinus toxin; among those intended to affect animals are the causative agents of foot-and-mouth disease, cattle plague, anthrax, African hog fever, and brucellosis; and among those intended to affect vegetation are the causative agents of wheat stem rust, phytophthora of potatoes, and rice blast. Bacterial agents may be employed by means of special rockets, artillery (mortar) shells, aerial bombs, and other ammunition, as well as by saboteurs.

Bacteriological weapons have high combat effectiveness, which makes it possible for them to affect large areas with a small expenditure of forces and materials. In extremely small quantities they cause destruction (disease) upon entry into an organism. Infectious diseases that are caused by the use of certain species of their causative agents may, under certain circumstances, spread from one focus of infection to another and cause disease in a large number of persons (an epidemic). The destructive effect manifests itself within a determined period of time.

In order to liquidate the consequences of bacterial attack, it is necessary to determine in good time the species of the causative agent.

Bacteriological weapons are prohibited as a means of warfare. The prohibition against using “poison” in warfare has been known since antiquity. That prohibition, secured by article 23 of the Supplement to the Fourth Hague Convention of 1907, without doubt also covers bacteriological weapons. The prohibition of bacteriological weapons was established with absolute clarity by the Geneva Convention of 1925, which more than 60 governments, including the USSR, ratified or joined. The USA, Japan, Brazil, and a few other capitalist countries had not ratified the Convention as of the beginning of 1970. In spite of the prohibition of bacteriological weapons, attempts to use them have been made more than once. During World War I (1914–18), German agents tried on several fronts to infect horses in the enemy camp with the causative agent of glanders, and they infected horses and cattle sent from South America to France with causative agents of anthrax and glanders. Before World War II (1939–45), imperialist Japan and fascist Germany secretly prepared to use bacteriological weapons; this was confirmed in 1946 at the Nuremberg trials and in 1949 by trial materials in Khabarovsk. In 1939 the Japanese imperialists used several species of bacteriological weapons against Mongolian and Chinese troops, and even against the civilian population of China. As a result of this, several outbursts of plague, as well as some other dangerous diseases, occurred in a number of regions (for example, in the region of Ningpo in 1940). A Soviet tribunal condemned 12 Japanese war criminals who were guilty of the preparation and use of bacteriological weapons.

After World War II (1939–45), bacteriological weapons and the methods and means of their application underwent intensive development in the USA, Great Britain, Canada, the Federal Republic of Germany, Israel, and several other countries whose reactionary circles are attempting to frighten nations with the prospect of bacteriological as well as nuclear and chemical weapons. In a number of countries a basis for the mass production of bacteriological weapons has been created and the training of appropriate specialists for this is being accomplished. The press in the USA advertises “achievements” in the field of bacteriological weapons, especially the development of means and methods for the mass production of pathogenic microbes and toxins—for example, obtaining botulinus toxin, one of the most active biological poisons, in pure crystalline form. Representatives of military and industrial circles in the USA have long proclaimed their efforts to create methods of armed warfare at “low cost” but with high effectiveness, making it possible to destroy men without destroying valuable materials. It is emphasized that the development of means and methods for the application of bacteriological weapons may be conducted under cover of legal biomedical research, whereby many enterprises that are presumably constructed for commercial fermentation processes may be used for the mass production of pathogenic microbes and their toxins. The monitoring of such arrangements is difficult, since bacteriological weapons may be produced in small laboratories. In 1966–68, American troops used certain species of bacteriological weapons during the aggression in South Vietnam, especially to destroy rice and other agricultural crops.

The use of bacteriological weapons is the most heinous crime against humanity. It is a gross violation of the commonly accepted standards of international law. In August 1968 the Soviet Government again introduced a proposal that the Eighteen-Nation Disarmament Committee examine ways and means of securing the implementation of the Geneva Convention of 1925 by all states.

The threat of the use of bacteriological weapons demands preparation of effective measures for the protection of troops and population. This includes a system of anti-epidemic, sanitary-hygienic, and medical measures—that is, acquainting the population and military personnel with measures for protection against infection (vaccinations, emergency prophylaxis, masks), providing the population with specially equipped shelters, and protecting the supply of provisions, water sources, vegetation, and animals.


Roseberry, T. Mir ili chuma: Biologicheskaia voina i kak predo-tvratit’ ee. Moscow, 1956. (Translated from English.)
Rožniatowski, T., and Z. Zoltowski. Biologicheskaia voina: Ugro-za i deistvitel’nosl’. Moscow, 1959. (Translated from Polish.)
Rothschild, D. Oruzhie zavtrashnego dnia. Moscow, 1966. (Translated from English.)
Pamiatka naseleniiu po zashchite ot atomnogo, khimicheskogo i bakteriologicheskogo oruzhiia. Moscow, 1957.
Bakleriologicheskoe oruzhie i zashchita ot nego. Moscow, 1967.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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