Armageddon Insurance

Civil Defense in the United States and Soviet Union, 1945–1991

By Edward M. Geist

338 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 6 halftones, 1 graph, 3 tables

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-4525-4
    Published: January 2019
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-4524-7
    Published: January 2019
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-1-4696-4526-1
    Published: October 2019
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-5091-1
    Published: October 2019

New Cold War History

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The dangerous, decades-long arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War begged a fundamental question: how did these superpowers actually plan to survive a nuclear strike? In Armageddon Insurance, the first historical account of Soviet civil defense and a pioneering reappraisal of its American counterpart, Edward M. Geist compares how the two superpowers tried, and mostly failed, to reinforce their societies to withstand the ultimate catastrophe.

Drawing on previously unexamined documents from archives in America, Russia, and Ukraine, Geist places these civil defense programs in their political and cultural contexts, demonstrating how each country's efforts reflected its cultural preoccupations and blind spots and revealing how American and Soviet civil defense related to profound issues of nuclear strategy and national values. This work challenges prevailing historical assumptions and unearths the ways Moscow and Washington developed nuclear weapons policies based not on rational strategic or technical considerations but in power struggles between different institutions pursuing their own narrow self-interests.

About the Author

Edward M. Geist is associate policy researcher at the RAND Corporation.
For more information about Edward M. Geist, visit the Author Page.


“This is the first comprehensive history of any Cold War civil-defense system, and Geist has given us not one side but both. . . . A major contribution to the literature on the Cold War.”--The Russian Review

"This book is imaginatively written and displays an impressively wide knowledge not only of civil defense planning, but the production, deployment, means of delivery and technologies of nuclear weapons. It is a valuable history."--Kate Brown, author of A Biography of No Place: From Ethnic Borderland to Soviet Heartland

"Geist has produced a valuable analysis of the evolution of U.S. and Soviet policies toward civil defense, making creative use of previously uncited Soviet sources and contributing significantly to our understanding of a fascinating and timely issue."--Professor William Potter, Middlebury Institute of International Studies

"This extensive, thorough, and archive-based book makes a significant contribution to our understanding of the debate over civil defense in the Soviet Union and the United States."--Paul Josephson, Colby College

"This books provides much-needed historical context for the political and technological dimensions of civil defense during the Cold War. Geist makes thought-provoking claims about the ways that these issues were handled in very different state constructions and in an evolving political landscape."--Jacob Hamblin, Oregon State University