In the film Captain America: The Winter Soldier, a flashback explains how

Bucky was 'recovered' after his fall from the train.

I can't recall whether it is explicitly stated that he fell into the custody of the Soviet Union, but I know this to be the case in the 616 and he speaks Russian in the film.

The bunker under Camp Lehigh contains

Arnim Zola, who provides a piece of expository dialogue describing how he was acquired through "Operation Paperclip", colloquially known in Europe as The Brain Drain.

At the conclusion of WWII, Europe was divided up between what would eventually become the EU and the USSR. In order to keep players off the table, a great number of European 'assets' were repatriated as Americans:

Arnim Zola being one of them, and it is implied that the Winter Soldier is another.

If the Winter Soldier was already a Soviet asset, how have HYDRA (a German/American brain-drain coalition of Fascism) come to be in possession of him? If the Soviets created the Winter Soldier as a weapon against American-Intelligence/HYDRA/SHIELD, why is he fighting on their side? does the film explain this at all, or have I missed something?

  • Also, it was touched on in the film. At the end of the film, Natasha gives Steve a file on him 'from Kiev'. The file is in Russian.
    – user1027
    Commented Apr 12, 2014 at 3:11
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    This comment says absolutely nothing about why Hydra would control the Winter Soldier. He speaks Russian in the film, why would it be surprising that a file from the Ukraine about a Soviet-era project would be in Russian? Commented Apr 12, 2014 at 8:18
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    I've edited the question to hide what is probably spoilery. However, I've yet to see the film so I don't know for sure what might be particularly revealing to someone still waiting. If I've missed anything that should be hidden please update the question.
    – Xantec
    Commented Apr 16, 2014 at 16:00
  • @Xantec, I'm rolling back to remove the spoilerboxes because I think enough time has passed, and I know from experience spoilerboxes aren't amazingly compatible with certain devices. Thanks though, I think it was the right thing to do and helpful. Commented Aug 17, 2014 at 11:51
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    @JohnSmithOptional Don't remove spoiler markdown like that. We use spoilers on this site, instead of big obnoxious text like you originally had.
    – user1027
    Commented Aug 17, 2014 at 17:35

4 Answers 4


Because HYDRA is everywhere

This is a bit of speculation, but since the movie has already changed Bucky's backstory it is hard to pull from main Marvel 616 universe for info and the Cinematic Universe mostly just offers us what we see in the film.

However, from the film we know that post World War II that HYDRA didn't perish but infiltrated SHIELD. Through SHIELD it would not be hard for HYDRA to infiltrate other organizations as well (SHIELD is first and foremost an intelligence agency after all). It also makes sense that if HYDRA wants their own personal assassin, that hiding him within the KGB is more effective than hiding him within SHIELD, which probably has more than a few rules about that kind of thing.

So a plausible chain of events could be:

  1. Bucky is captured by World War II era HYDRA
  2. He is recovered, placed on ice, enhanced and brainwashed by Zola
  3. He is later placed within the modern day KGB for training as an assassin
  4. In a post KGB world, HYDRA puts him back on ice and brings him out when they need him (a la the events of Captain America 2)
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    I think this is the most plausible scenario, I just wish there was something to confirm it within the MCU. Commented Apr 16, 2014 at 19:52
  • Agreed, but thanks to the movie format we'll probably not get much more out the backstory ... and probably not until CA3 is a thing.
    – joshbirk
    Commented Apr 16, 2014 at 22:34

The film never outright says this, but it is a fact that the Soviets had their own version of Paperclip, taking German scientists and engineers back to the USSR in the same way the Americans - and British and French, for that matter - also kidnapped/ offered asylum to German scientists and engineers. It is a safe bet that, like the Hydra members who infiltrated S.H.I.E.L.D., many of those scientists were Hydra members who infiltrated the KGB; possibly Soviet politics in general, given the presence of Hydra operatives in the US political system as well as S.H.I.E.L.D..

When the USSR went down, possibly with a little 'help' from Hydra, they would simply have transferred their own personal control of the Winter Soldier to the US-based Hydra. After all, remember that Zola is the one who created the Winter Soldier, and he was taken by the Americans. There was obviously some sort of East-West interaction going on in Hydra.

  • I'm aware the 616 and the MCU are different continuities, but Brubaker's Winter Soldier storyline goes as far as showing Vasily Karpoff stating that, whilst he will sell weapons to the Red Skull, Russia would never let go of the Winter Soldier. The Film, if I'm not mistaken, says he was obtained through Operation Paperclip, but I'm asking how/why, if paperclip was to remove key figures before Russia took them, how did they get hold of Russia's best weapon? is there nothing that covers this in the film? Commented Apr 12, 2014 at 8:49
  • No, there is nothing that covers it in the film. I just thought of the possibility that the file Black Widow shows Rogers at the end of the film may have some sort of explanation written in Russian/ Ukrainian, but I don't read either language, even if I had a screenshot to go by. Excepting that possibility, or something in the background during Zola's speech - another possibility that just occurred to me - it is not touched on in the film. Commented Apr 12, 2014 at 8:52
  • This answer I think is the closest to being accurate, but needs a little tweaking. In the film, we see a flashback of Zola working on the Winter Soldier. This would be pre-70s, before he uploaded himself into the computer. This suggests that after WWII, Zola was somehow able to work on the Winter Soldier. However, he'd be working for SHIELD/HYDRA at that point...
    – user1027
    Commented Aug 17, 2014 at 17:39

He was always a Hydra asset.

In Captain America: The Winter Soldier we see that Hydra member Armin Zola was responsible for his creation.

Dr. Arnim Zola: The procedure has already started. [we see the Zola and the Hydra agent amputating his left arm and replacing with the metal arm] You are to be the new face of HYDRA. [to his men] Put him on ice. [we see Bucky being frozen after which he comes back to the present and knocks over the HYDRA agent fixing his arm, Rollins points his gun at him to stop him attacking any further] [as Pierce enters the bank vault Bucky is being held in] (Source)

In Captain America: Civil War, we see that Vasily Karpov was the Winter Soldier's handler. He was a member of Hydra and a high-ranking Soviet officer.

We even see the Hydra logo on the Siberian facility where the Winter Solider was kept.

  • Also in civil war the 5 other winter soldiers were all Hydra agents, Bucky said something along the lines that their squad had the highest kill counts of anyone in Hydra before their enhancement Commented May 9, 2016 at 10:07

This is something that I've been wondering about.

The only suggestion that The Winter Soldier is Russian is the Big Red Star on his shoulder.


During some of TWS's flashbacks there is a strong suggestion that Armin Zola was present during the operations that turned Bucky into the Winter Soldier. Zola also strongly suggests that he was involved in tasking TWS with at least some of his assassinations.

We know that Bucky fell to his doom at the start of the mission that led to Zola's capture. We also know that Zola remained in custody after this and, as part of operation Paperclip, eventually came to work for SHIELD.

Both of these suggest that it was the Hydra Cell within SHIELD that created and controlled the Winter Soldier, and not the Russians.

This is backed up by the seeming omission of Black Widow's shared history with The Winter Soldier.

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    "The only suggestion that The Winter Soldier is Russian is the Big Red Star on his shoulder."... he also gives commands to his accomplices in Russian...and the file at the end of the film containing his active history is in Russian... Commented Apr 16, 2014 at 19:49
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    I'd forgotten about the file at the end. Although this may just be that the Russian SHIELD equivalent have had a lot more exposure to him, or are more willing to follow shadows :)
    – Dan Kelly
    Commented Apr 17, 2014 at 8:43
  • Having seen it again last night it definitely appears that Zola is the one to commission the works to TWS after his accident - most tellingly, being the one to give the order to "put him on ice"
    – Dan Kelly
    Commented Apr 20, 2014 at 21:08

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