The Anthrax Diaries, A Documentary, Examines Secret Bioweapons Programs

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A new film explores what it was like to work in secret laboratories developing bioweapons—infectious or toxic agents, including bacteria, viruses and toxins—whose potential use in warfare could have a deep and demoralizing psychological impact on civilian populations nearly as devastating as their physiological effects.

The Anthrax Diaries, a 30-minute documentary, examines the social and ethical context of weapons-making. The film recounts the research and development of biological weapons in the Soviet Union, focusing in particular on some of the ways in which the lives of the scientists, many of whom had been trained as physicians and therefore had taken the Hippocratic Oath, were affected by their deadly work.

In 1969, President Nixon made a unilateral decision to abolish the United States biological weapons program. The Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention, an international treaty prohibiting the development, production and stockpiling of biological and toxin weapons, went into force in 1975, following ratification by the Soviet Union, the United States and twenty other countries.  

The Soviet Union—and later Russia—nonetheless continued its bioweapons program in secret until 1992. Today, there are still concerns about ongoing covert biological weapons activities by states and terrorist groups.

The film was produced by Slava Paperno, director of Cornell University’s Russian Language Program in collaboration with Kathleen Vogel, Professor, Department of Science and Technology Studies, Cornell University, Judith Reppy, Professor, Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies at Cornell University and Sonia Ben Ouagraham-Gormley, Assistant Professor, Biodefense Program, George Mason University. Slawomir Grunberg, an Emmy Award winning filmmaker, directed the documentary.

The team plans to produce a 60-minute version of the film and submit it to film competitions such as the Sundance Film Festival.  Anthrax Diaries is currently being screened as an education module at several universities.

The film is supported through a grant from Carnegie Corporation of New York.

About Carnegie Corporation of New York

Carnegie Corporation of New York was created by Andrew Carnegie in 1911 to promote the advancement and diffusion of knowledge and understanding. In keeping with this mandate, the Corporation’s work focuses on the issues that Andrew Carnegie considered of paramount importance: international peace, the advancement of education and knowledge, and the strengthening of our democracy.