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Andrei Sakharov, the son of a science teacher, was born in Russia on 21st May 1921. An exceptional student he studied physics at Moscow State University and was awarded a doctorate in 1947 for his work on cosmic rays.
Sakharov played an important role in the development of the Soviet hydrogen bomb and in 1953 became the youngest man ever to be admitted as a full member of the Soviet Academy of Sciences.
In 1961 Sakharov spoke out against the plans of Nikita Khrushchev to test a 100-megaton hydrogen bomb in the atmosphere. He argued that the test would create widespread radioactive fallout.
Sakharov caused further controversy when he published Progress, Coexistence and Intellectual Freedom in 1968. In the book he called for nuclear arms reductions. He also advocated the integration of the communist and capitalist systems to form what he called democratic socialism. As a result of the book Sakharov was removed from top-secret work and all his privileges removed.
In 1970 Sakharov joined with Valery Chalidze, Igor Shafarevich, Andrei Tverdokhlebov and Grigori Podyapolski to establish the Committee for Human Rights. In 1975 Sakharov was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and three years later published Alarm and Hope.
In December 1979, Sakharov spoke out against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The following month the Soviet government stripped him of his honours and exiled him to the closed city of Gorky. His wife, Yelena Bonner, a human-rights activist, was also sent into exile.
Sakharnov and his wife remained in captivity until the Mikhail Gorbachev gained power in the Soviet Union. In December 1986 the couple were released and allowed to return to Moscow.
Andrei Sakharov was elected to the Congress of People's Deputies in April 1989. However, Sakharov died nine months later in Moscow on 14th December, 1989.
In 1945 I began to read for my doctorate at the Lebedev Institute, the department of physics in the Academy of Sciences of the USSR. My teacher there was the great theoretical physicist, Igor Evgenyevich Tamm.
He influenced me enormously and later became a member of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR and a winner of the Nobel Prize for physics. In 1947 I defended my thesis on nuclear physics, and in 1948 I was included in a group of research scientists whose task was to develop nuclear weapons. The leader of this group was I.E. Tamm.
For the next 20 years I worked under conditions of the highest security and under great pressure, first in Moscow and subsequently in a special secret research centre. At the time we were all convinced that this work was of vital significance for the balance of power in the world and we were fascinated by the grandeur of the task. In the foreword to my book Sakharov Speaks, as well as in My Country and the World, I have already described the development of my socio-political views in the period 1953-68 and the dramatic events which contributed to or were the expression of this development. Between 1953 and 1962 much of what happened was connected with the development of nuclear weapons and with the preparations for and realization of the nuclear experiments. At the same time I was becoming ever more conscious of the moral problems inherent in this work. In and after 1964 when I began to concern myself with the biological issues, and particularly from 1967 onwards, the extent of the problems over which I felt uneasy increased to such a point that in 1968 I felt a compelling urge to make my views public.
Peace, progress, human rights - these three goals are insolubly linked to one another: it is impossible to achieve one of these goals if the other two are ignored. This is the dominant idea that provides the main theme of my lecture. I am grateful that this great and significant prize, the Nobel Peace Prize, has been awarded to me, and that I have been given the opportunity of speaking to you here today. It was particularly gratifying for me to note the Committee's citation, which emphasizes the defense of human rights as the only sure basis for genuine and lasting international cooperation. I consider that this idea is very important; I am convinced that international confidence, mutual understanding, disarmament, and international security are inconceivable without an open society with freedom of information, freedom of conscience, the right to publish, and the right to travel and choose the country in which one wishes to live. I am likewise convinced that freedom of conscience, together with the other civic rights, provides the basis for scientific progress and constitutes a guarantee that scientific advances will not be used to despoil mankind, providing the basis for economic and social progress, which in turn is a political guarantee for the possibility of an effective defense of social rights. At the same time I should like to defend the thesis of the original and decisive significance of civic and political rights in moulding the destiny of mankind. This view differs essentially from the widely accepted Marxist view, as well as the technocratic opinions, according to which it is precisely material factors and social and economic conditions that are of decisive importance. (But in saying this, of course, I have no intention of denying the importance of people's material circumstances.)
There is a great deal to suggest that mankind, at the threshold of the second half of the twentieth century, entered a particularly decisive and critical period of its history.
Thermonuclear missiles, which in principle are capable of annihilating the whole of mankind, exist; this is the greatest danger threatening our age. Thanks to economic, industrial, and scientific advances, the so-called "conventional" arms have likewise grown incomparably more dangerous, not to mention chemical and bacteriological instruments of war.
There is no doubt that industrial and technological progress is the most important factor in overcoming poverty, famine, and disease. But this progress leads at the same time to ominous changes in the environment in which we live and the exhaustion of our natural resources. In this way mankind faces grave ecological dangers.
Rapid changes in traditional forms of life have resulted in an unchecked demographic explosion which is particularly noticeable in the developing countries of the Third World. The growth in population has already created exceptionally complicated economic, social, and psychological problems, and will in the future inevitably pose still more serious problems. In a great many countries, particularly in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, the lack of food will be an overriding factor in the lives of many hundreds of millions of people, who from the moment of birth are condemned to a wretched existence on the starvation level. In view of this, future prospects are menacing, and in the opinion of many specialists tragic, despite the undoubted success of the "green revolution".
Andrei Dmitrievich Sakharov was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1975 for his human rights activism in the Soviet Union. Sakharov’s scientific work as a physicist lead him to work on the Soviet Union’s first hydrogen bomb, alongside his mentor Igor Tamm. These actions as well as the state of Soviet society brought him to deep reflection on “Peace, Progress, and Human Rights” throughout the remainder of his life and career (“Peace, Progress, and Human Rights” being the title of his Nobel Lecture).
Bonner, Elena. Alone Together. Translated by Alexander Cook. New York, 1986.
——. Vol'nye zametki k rodoslovnoĭ Andreia Sakharova. Moscow, 1996.
Sakharov, Andrei. Progress, Coexistence, and Intellectual Freedom. Translated by the New York Times. New York, 1968.
——. Memoirs. New York, 1990.
——. Moscow and Beyond, 1986–1989. Translated by Antonina Bouis. New York, 1991.
Altshuler, B. L., et al. Andrei Sakharov: Facets of a Life. Gifsur-Yvette, France, 1991.
Evangelista, Matthew. Unarmed Forces: The Transnational Movement to End the Cold War. Ithaca, N.Y., 1999.
Gorelik, Gennadii. Andrei Sakharov: Nauka i svoboda. Moscow, 2000.
Holloway, David. Stalin and the Bomb: The Soviet Union and Atomic Energy, 1939–1956. New Haven, Conn., 1994.
Lourie, Richard. Sakharov: A Biography. Hanover, N.H., 2002.
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Andrei Sakharov's birthday celebrations are also a Soviet history lesson
N o Russian did more to draw attention to human rights abuses in the era when Leonid Brezhnev led the Soviet Union than the nuclear physicist Andrei Sakharov. Though he died suddenly in 1989, celebrations are taking place in Moscow this week for his 90th birthday and to remind young Russians of his place in history.
A member of the team which developed Moscow's hydrogen bomb in the firm belief that world peace depended on the Soviet Union achieving military balance with the United States, he later had second thoughts about the risks of confrontation that both sides were running. He also opposed the idea of anti-ballistic missile defence.
To ensure real peace he came to the view that the two states' political systems must reach some degree of convergence. For Russia this meant greater democracy and openness as well as a revival of the de-Stalinisation programme that began after the dictator's death but was stopped a decade later. When his private letters to the authorities had no effect, he chose to speak out.
He suddenly found he had stepped across the line and was in the world of the repressed. A reluctant dissident, he became aware that members of the intelligentsia had suffered imprisonment and internal exile for denouncing the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia. He learnt of other lonely and peaceful protests that led to jail terms. Sakharov's pre-eminence made it hard for the Kremlin to treat him so harshly just as it made him a magnet for the Soviet Union's tiny civil rights movement.
Other dissidents asked him to publicise their views and Sakhraov became a key figure behind the "Chronicle of Current Events", a secretly typed bulletin of every arrest and imprisonment that became known to him. It was smuggled to the west and published. In January 1980, Sakharov spoke out against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. He was stripped of all his awards and sent into exile to Gorky, a city closed to foreigners where his apartment was under constant police watch. It was only thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev's arrival at the pinnacle of power in the Kremlin that he was released in December 1986. On return to Moscow he became a much-quoted public figure and was chosen by the Academy of Sciences to have a seat in the Soviet parliament.
This week's birthday celebrations coincide, more or less, with the publication of an important new book on de-Stalinisation. The Victim's Return: Survivors of the Gulag after Stalin treats a subject that is rarely touched. No one really ever comes home after prison and Siberian exile. Relationships, friends, children, and society at large have all changed, sometimes to the pain of the returnees.
Stephen Cohen, a distinguished American scholar of Russian politics, got to know many former prisoners as a researcher in Moscow in the 1970s and 1980s, in particular the families of one-time Bolsheviks and party loyalists, from Nikolai Bukharin's widow, Anna Larina, to the Medvedev brothers and Lev Kopelev.
We know a good deal about the Gulag but little about post-Gulag life. Cohen sheds fascinating new light on two former prisoners who, in spite of their suffering, remained committed communists on release, found work in the party's central committee, and used their high-level access to open Khrushchev's eyes. They helped to persuade him to order the release of all victims still in exile and to make the "secret speech" in 1956 in which he denounced Stalin's crimes. Olga Shatunovskaya and Aleksei Snegov became known to admirers and Kremlin detractors alike as "Khrushchev's zeks" (prisoners).
They were even more influential five years later when Khrushchev raised the spectre of trials of perpetrators and had Stalin's corpse removed from the mausoleum in Red Square. Shatunovskaya became the lead investigator in the official commission that examined the origins of Stalin's terror.
Cohen's book is a reminder that, for all the persecution which Sakharov and scores of other intellectuals suffered under Brezhnev, the system was infinitely less harsh than Stalin's arbitrary rule where unpredictability was a deliberate tool of state policy. Though commonly described as stagnant, the Brezhnev system was slowly evolving, and Gorbachev's emergence was not an aberration.
Even in today's Russia, when anti-Stalinism may seem to be losing out in officialdom, Cohen argues that things are more complex. Prime Minister Putin has taken contradictory stands, endorsing a new school textbook that seems to rationalise Stalin's terror as a necessary form of social "mobilisation", but also attending the public commemoration of victims at a notorious site near Moscow where hundreds of Stalin's victims were killed. For his part President Medvedev has expressed alarm that young Russians did not know about the "dimensions of the terror, the millions of maimed lives" under Stalin.
Russia has no national museum of Stalin's repression but Moscow has two Gulag museums. One is financed by the city council and organised by Anton Antonov-Ovseyenko, the son of an executed former Bolshevik leader. The other is the Sakharov museum. Both help to keep the flame of memory alive.
Andrei Sakharov (1921 - 1989)
Andrei Dmitrievich Sakharov was born in Moscow on May 21, 1921. His father was a well-known teacher of physics and the author of textbooks, exercise books and works of popular science. He was raised in a large communal apartment where most of the rooms were occupied by his family and relatives. In 1938, he entered Moscow State University, studying at the Faculty of Physics. Having been evacuated in 1941 during the "Great Patriotic War," he graduated in Ashkhabad (today's Turkmenistan) in 1942 and was assigned laboratory work in Ulyanovsk. He returned to Moscow in 1945 to study at the Theoretical Department of FIAN (they Physical Institute of the USSR Academy of Sciences), receiving his Ph.D. in 1947.
A year later, Sakharov conducted research, along with fellow Soviet physicist Igor Tamm, in controlled nuclear fusion. This work, conducted between the years 1948-56, eventually led to the creation of the first Soviet hydrogen bomb. The first Soviet device was tested on August 12, 1953. That same year, Sakharov received his D.Sc. degree, was elected a full member of the USSR Academy of Sciences and was awarded the first of his three Hero of Socialist Labor titles. He continued to work at Sarov, helping on the first genuine Soviet H-bombs, tested in 1955, and the 50MT Tsar Bomba of October 1961, the most powerful device ever exploded.
Politically active during the 1960s, Sakharov was against nuclear proliferation and protested against atmospheric testing of the hydrogen bomb in 1961. He played a role in the 1963 Partial Test Ban Treaty, signed in Moscow. In 1965, he returned to fundamental science and began working on cosmology, but continued to oppose political discrimination.
In 1968, Sakharov authored an essay calling for drastic reductions in nuclear arms. In 1970, he founded the Committee for Human Rights. In 1972, he married fellow human-rights activist Yelena Bonner. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1975, but Soviet authorities would not permit him to travel to Norway to accept the award. By 1980, for his unrelenting criticism of Soviet policies, including the invasion of Afghanistan, Sakharov was sentenced to internal exile in Gorki.
In December 1986, Sakharov was allowed to return to Moscow, and he was eventually elected to the new Soviet Legislature, holding one of 12 new posts reserved for members of the Academy of Sciences. He remained a tireless advocate for political reform and human rights for the rest of his life. Sakharov died of a heart attack on December 14, 1989, and was interred in the Vostryakovskoye Cemetery in Moscow.
Read Sakharov’s Original Essay
Fifty years ago The Times published an excerpt of the Soviet dissident’s manifesto.
For this work and other “thought crimes” the Soviet authorities stripped Sakharov of his honors, imprisoned many of his associates and, eventually, exiled him to Gorky.
In 1968, when t his work was published, I was a 20-year-old mathematician studying at the Moscow equivalent of M.I.T. Although we dared not discuss it, my peers and I lived a life of double-think: toeing the Communist Party line in public, thinking independently in private. Like so many others, I read Sakharov’s essay in samizdat — a typewritten copy duplicated secretly, spread informally and read hungrily.
Its message was unsettling and liberating: You cannot be a good scientist or a free person while living a double life. Knowing the truth while collaborating in the regime’s lies only produces bad science and broken souls.
Sakharov’s essay, which coincided with the Prague Spring, helped energize democratic dissident movements that were just budding in a post-Stalinist world. The largest of these was one I would soon join: the so-called refusenik movement to allow the Soviet Union’s long-oppressed Jews the freedom to emigrate.
Some Russian dissidents mistrusted the Zionist movement as particularistic and unpatriotic, fearing it would distract from their broader human rights agenda. Not Sakharov. He supported the refuseniks because he recognized the right to emigrate as a gateway to democratic entitlement that opens everyone to embracing freedom in a closed society.
By the mid-1970s I was serving as Sakharov’s spokesman, and I remember after yet another friend of ours had been sentenced to prison, he told me: “They want us to believe there’s no chance of success. But whether or not there’s hope for change is not the question. If you want to be a free person, you don’t stand up for human rights because it will work, but because it is right. We must continue living as decent people.”
Sakharov’s decency made him a moral compass orienting not just the East, but also the West. He insisted that international relations should be contingent on a country’s domestic behavior — and that such a seemingly idealistic stance was ultimately pragmatic. “A country that does not respect the rights of its own people will not respect the rights of its neighbors,” he often explained.
As Sakharov and his fellow dissidents in the 1970s and ’80s challenged a détente disconnected from human rights, Democrats and Republicans of conscience followed suit. Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan disagreed about many specific policies, but both presidents linked human rights and foreign policy. President Carter treated Soviet dissidents not as distractions but as respected partners in a united struggle for freedom. President Reagan went further, tying the fate of specific dissidents to America’s relations with what he called the “evil empire.”
Approaching the fight to win the Cold War as a human rights crusade as well as a national security priority energized Americans. It reminded them that, regardless of the guilt and defeatism of the Vietnam War or the shame and cynicism of Watergate, the country remained a beacon of liberty.
This anniversary of Andrei Sakharov’s heroic essay comes during similarly dark days for the United States.
Despite the dramatic discontinuities between Donald Trump and Barack Obama, in divorcing human rights from foreign policy President Trump is following President Obama’s lead.
Mr. Obama repeatedly prioritized engaging dictatorial regimes rather than challenging their human rights records. His eagerness to strike a nuclear deal with Iran muffled his moral voice during Iran’ s Green Revolution of 2009. And he refused to make diplomatic progress conditional on demands that Iran stop supporting terror globally or executing its own people at home.
Mr. Trump has taken America’s human-rights-free foreign policy to absurd new heights. His assertion that North Koreans support Kim Jong-un with “great fervor” undermined America’s moral standing, sabotaged North Korean dissidents and legitimized an evil dictator. His shocking refusal to confront President Vladimir Putin of Russia over his country’s blatant interference in the 2016 United States presidential election highlights his unwillingness to protect Americans’ democratic rights, let alone Russians’ human rights.
The wisdom of Sakharov’s essay may not be in fashion these days, but the truth it contains is eternal. People all over the world are waiting for an American leader to recover it.
Natan Sharansky, the author of “The Case for Democracy,” is a former spokesman for Andrei Sakharov. He spent nine years in Soviet prisons and the gulag. This essay was written with Gil Troy, a historian at McGill University and the author of “The Zionist Ideas.”
Soviet history: archival resources at Harvard university library and archives
This is an extensive &ldquocollection of collections&rdquo containing the papers of physicist and human rights activist Andrei Sakharov as well as the papers of other prominent Soviet activists and dissidents, including Elena Bonner, Andrei Amalrik, the writer Vasilii Grossman, and many others.
Andrei Sakharov Archives at Harvard University (overview with links to Harvard library catalog records, finding aids, and descriptions of individual paper collections)
Andrei Sakharov Archives collections of primary interest:
Andrei Sakharov (1921-1989) was a Soviet physicist who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1975 for his work as a human rights activist. The collection, dating primarily from 1960-1990, comprises personal and professional papers related to Sakharov's family and career as a physicist his life and work with his wife, Elena Bonner his campaign to limit the testing and proliferation of nuclear weapons his human rights activities, including hunger strikes undertaken by him and Elena Bonner and his role in the development of perestroika. Includes various formats of Sakharov's two key autobiographical works: Memoirs and Moscow and beyond, an autobiographical novel.
Amal'rik , 1938&ndash1980, was a Soviet dissident, historian, and dramatist. This collection includes correspondence, biographical materials, political writings, and lectures.
Bonner, 1923&ndash2011, was a human rights activist and writer, and the wife of Andrei Sakharov . This collection includes correspondence circa 1975&ndash1999, working manuscripts for Alone Together and Mothers and Daughters, and biographical materials.
Dewhirst is a specialist in 20th-century Russian literature and history. His papers, circa 1917&ndash1999, include copies of articles from Russian newspapers, samizdat, and other material compiled by Dewhirst on Soviet dissidents and intelligentsia, the gulags, and other topics.
Grossman, 1905&ndash1964, was a Soviet writer and journalist. At the outbreak of World War II, he became a war correspondent, writing eyewitness accounts of a number of major battles, the liberation of Treblinka, and of conditions at the fronts and in the liberated territories. After the war, the manuscript of his novel Life and Fate was seized by the KGB and banned from publication. The novel was first published in 1980 in Switzerland, and in 1988 in the Soviet Union.
His papers, collected by his biographers John and Carol Garrard, include documents and research materials related to Grossman and his family, circa 1902&ndash2013, with an emphasis on 1923&ndash1994.
The Gurevich family papers, circa 1900&ndash1950, primarily document the life of Grigorii Gurevich, 1883&ndash1952, editor-in-chief of the Novaia Derevnia publishing house, who spent several terms in labor camps. The papers include his letters to his family and his memoir, as well as correspondence among other family members. Also included are some writings of Roman Eiges, 1840&ndash1926, a doctor who corresponded with Tolstoy.
This collection, circa 1968&ndash2003, includes materials relating to various human rights organizations, as well as materials on individual cases of human rights violations both in the USSR and in other countries. Organizations represented include Amnesty International and the Committee of Concerned Scientists. Individual cases documented include Anatolii Manchenko, Tatiana Yelikanova, Yuri Orlov, Sergei Kovalev, and others.
The papers of Kline, an editor, writer, and former president of the Andrei Sakharov Foundation (USA), date from 1968&ndash1992.
Reddaway formed this collection as part of his work documenting Soviet human rights movements. The collection includes images of Soviet dissidents, including Andrei Sakharov , political prisoners in Gulag camps, penal facilities, and psychiatric prison-hospitals.
Liberal Dissent – Sakharov
The division of mankind threatens it with destruction. Civilization is imperiled by: a universal thermonuclear war, catastrophic hunger for most of mankind, stupefaction from the narcotic of “mass culture,” and bureaucratized dogmatism, spreading of mass myths that put entire peoples and continents under the power of cruel and treacherous demagogues, and destruction or degeneration from the unforeseeable consequences of swift changes in the conditions of life on our planet.
In the face of these perils, any action increasing the division of mankind, an preaching of the incompatibility of world ideologies and nations is madness and crime. Only universal cooperation under conditions of intellectual freedom and the lofty moral ideals of socialism and labor, accompanied by the elimination of dogmatism. and pressures of the concealed interests of ruling classes, will preserve civilization.
The reader will understand that ideological collaboration cannot apply to those fanatical, sectarian, and extremist ideologies that reject all possibility of rapprochement, discussion, and compromise, for example, the ideologies of fascist, racist. militaristic, and Maoist demagogy.
Millions of people throughout the world are striving to put an end to poverty. They despise oppression, dogmatism, and demagogy (and their more extreme manifestations: racism, fascism, Stalinism, and Maoism). They believe in progress based on the use, under conditions of social justice and intellectual freedom, of all the positive experience accumulated by mankind …
Intellectual freedom is essential to human society-freedom to obtain and distribute information, freedom for open-minded and fearless debate, and freedom from pressure by officialdom and prejudices. Such a trinity of freedom of thought is the only guarantee against an infection of people by mass myths, which, in the hands of treacherous hypocrites and demagogues, can be transformed into bloody dictatorship. Freedom of thought is the only guarantee of the feasibility of a scientific democratic approach to politics, economy, and culture.
But freedom of thought is under a triple threat in modern society-from the deliberate opium of mass culture, from cowardly, egotistic, and philistine ideologies, and from the ossified dogmatism of a bureaucratic oligarchy and its favorite weapon, ideological censorship. Therefore, freedom of thought requires the defense of all thinking and honest people. This is a mission not only for the intelligentsia but for all strata of society, particularly and organized stratum, the its most active working class. The worldwide dangers of war, famine, cults of personality, and bureaucracy-these are perils for all of mankind.
Recognition by the working class and the intelligentsia of their common interests has been a striking phenomenon of the present day. The most progressive, internationalist, and dedicated element of the intelligentsia is, in essence, part of the working class, and the most advanced, educated, internationalist, and broadminded part of the working class is part of the intelligentsia.
This position of the intelligentsia in society renders senseless any loud demands that the intelligentsia subordinate its strivings to the will and interests of the working class (in the Soviet Union, Poland, and other socialist countries). What these demands really mean is subordination to the will of the Party or, even more specifically, to the Party’s central apparatus and its officials. Who will guarantee that these officials always express the genuine interests of the working class as a whole and the genuine interest of progress rather than their own caste interests? …
Fascism lasted twelve years in Germany. Stalinism lasted twice as long in the Soviet Union. There are many common features but also certain differences. Stalinism exhibited a much more subtle kind of hypocrisy and demagogy, with reliance not on an openly cannibalistic program like Hitler’s but on a progressive, scientific, and popular socialist ideology.
This served as a convenient screen for deceiving the working class, for weakening the vigilance of the intellectuals and other rivals in the struggle for power, with the treacherous and sudden use of the machinery of torture, execution, and informants, intimidating and making fools of millions of people, the majority of whom were neither cowards nor fools. As a consequence of this “specific feature” of Stalinism, It was the Soviet people, its most active, talented, and honest representatives, who suffered the most terrible blow.
At least ten to fifteen million people perished in the torture chambers of the NKVD from torture and execution, in camps for exiled kulaks and so-called semi-kulaks and members of their families and in camps “without the right of correspondence” (which were in fact the prototypes of the fascist death camps, where, for example, thousands of prisoners were machine gunned because of “overcrowding” or as a result of “special orders”).
People perished in the mines of Norilsk and Vorkuta from freezing, starvation, and exhausting labor, at countless construction projects, in timber-cutting, building of canals, or simply during transportation in prison trains, in the overcrowded holds of “death ships” in the Sea of Okhotsk, and during the resettlement of entire peoples, the Crimean Tatars, the Volga Germans, the Kalmyks, and other Caucasus peoples …
In conclusion, I will sum up a number of the concrete proposals of varying degrees of importance that have been discussed in the text.’ These proposals, addressed to the leadership of the country, do not exhaust the content of the article.
The strategy of peaceful coexistence and collaboration must be deepened in every way. Scientific methods and principles of international policy will have to be worked out, based on scientific prediction of the immediate and more distant consequences.
The initiative must be -seized in working out a broad program of struggle against hunger.
A law on press and information must be drafted, widely discussed, and adopted, with the aim not only of ending irresponsible and Irrational censorship, but also of encouraging self-study in our society, fearless discussion, and the search for truth. The law must provide for the material resources of freedom of thought.
All anti-constitutional laws and decrees violating human rights must be abrogated.
Political prisoners must be amnestied and some of the recent political trials must be reviewed (for example, the Daniel -Siniavskii and Ginzburg-Galanskov cases). The camp regime of political prisoners must be promptly relaxed.
The exposure of Stalin must be carried through to the end, to the complete truth, and not just to the carefully weighed half-truth dictated by caste considerations. The influence of neo-Stalinists in our political life must be restricted in every way (the text mentioned, as an example, the case of S. Trapeznikov, who enjoys too much influence).
The economic reform must be deepened in every way and the area of experimentation expanded, with conclusions based on the results.
Source: Andrei Sakharov, Sakharov Speaks (New York: Knopf, 1974), pp. 58-61, 80-81, 112-13.
Andrei Sakharov's 100-years. ‘Lithuania did not defeat USSR alone’ – interview with Venclova
This year, the world celebrates the 100th anniversary of Andrei Sakharov, a prominent Russian scientist, public figure, and human rights activist. Lithuanian poet and dissident Tomas Venclova compares his work to the likes of Mahatma Gandhi or Martin Luther King.
Andrei Sakharov was born on May 21, 1921. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1975.
A developer of thermonuclear weapons, he was at the same time an active campaigner for disarmament. He also campaigned for free speech in the Soviet Union and opposed compulsory treatment in psychiatric hospitals.
After he condemned the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Sakharov had all of his awards taken away, and, in 1980, he was exiled from Moscow together with his wife Elena Bonner. Only in 1986 was he allowed to return by the Soviet reformist leader Mikhail Gorbachev.
“He was our hope for a new future, but when he died, there was a feeling that we were burying our hopes,” said the journalist and photographer Yuri Rost.
Sakharov’s work also greatly inspired Lithuanian intellectuals engaged in dissident movements. In 1976, Viktoras Petkus, together with Tomas Venclova and other activists, founded the Lithuanian Helsinki Group, a dissident organisation that wrote reports on human rights violations in the Soviet Union.
Sakharov visited Vilnius to take part in the trial of his Muscovite friend, fellow human rights activist Sergei Kovalev. The latter was arrested in 1974 for supporting Lithuanian dissidents and sentenced to ten years in prison.
As Tomas Venclova notes, it was at that exact time that Sakharov was supposed to accept the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo. Since he was forbidden to travel abroad, his wife Elena Bonner went to Norway to accept the award on his behalf.
Venclova, a Lithuanian poet, scholar, and one of the founders of the Lithuanian Helsinki Group, spoke to LRT.lt on the occasion of Sakharov’s upcoming 100th anniversary.
This year, we celebrate the 100th anniversary of Andrei Sakharov. What does this date mean to you?
A significant shift in the history of the twentieth century is associated with the name of Andrei Sakharov: the collapse of the totalitarian regime in the USSR. It was then that the Soviet empire collapsed and Eastern Europe, including Lithuania, was liberated. Modern Russia calls this a “geopolitical catastrophe”.
In fact, it was a huge victory for mankind and all the people of the USSR, including Russians themselves. There were many factors behind the victory, not least the dissident movement. Andrei Sakharov was its central figure. It was he who proved, in our area, that pushing for human rights with peaceful, non-violent means is the best way to overcome slavery. Largely due to this the Soviet regime collapsed without war or excessive bloodshed. This is Sakharov’s historical merit that cannot be forgotten.
I knew Andrei Dmitrievich very little, but he had been an influence on my worldview for decades, and still is. The only short encounter I had with him remains one of the key memories of my life.
Sakharov is one of the creators of the hydrogen bomb. He then immediately took it upon himself to protect humanity from his own invention. Are there any other similar examples of fearlessness and humanism in history?
Andrei Sakharov was a prominent physicist and worked on developing weapons capable of destroying civilization. He, like many scientists since Einstein, understood the danger of nuclear war early on, and supported agreements that made it less likely. However, he saw that, more than that, only democratic reforms and a humane, responsible system of government throughout the world can completely eliminate the threat to humanity.
Therefore, he spoke out, at great personal risk, for a change in the USSR, for an end to political repression, for the openness and truth. There are similar cases.
I would say that Sakharov was similar in his goals to Thomas Jefferson or Abraham Lincoln, and in his methods to Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela. In some ways it was more difficult for him, but, like them, he achieved his goal, albeit not everywhere, but to a very large extent.
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the opening of Sakharov Square in Vilnius. Located outside central Vilnius, near the Press House, this inconspicuous place is in great desolation today. You approached Vilnius Municipality with a request to install a memorial plaque on Sakharov’ house on Tauro Street, but the request was denied. Do you think Vilnius is forgetting the ‘citizen academician’?
Sakharov came to Vilnius in December 1975 to participate in the trial of his friend Sergei Kovalev, who was arrested for helping Lithuanian dissidents. Andrei Dmitrievich was not allowed into the courtroom, but his arrival had a huge resonance, since he was to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo.
Communication with Sakharov greatly revitalized the Lithuanian movement for freedom and taught the Lithuanians a lot. This was an important milestone in the history of the country and the city. However, the way it is marked on the map of Vilnius, I would say, is purely formal: there is the Sakharov Square, but it is just a wasteland with a lonely bench where few people look.
Meanwhile, it is well-known where Andrei Dmitrievich stayed, and this place is in the center of the city, where tourist routes pass. I believe it is our moral and historical duty to celebrate it. I hope the issue will be resolved, especially since there are well-known public figures who support us.
You have highlighted that during his visit to Vilnius in 1975, Sakharov communicated with Lithuanian campaigners for freedom, and his example and support played a huge, though underappreciated role in preparing ground for Lithuania’s independence. Would you say that if it weren’t for Sakharov, Lithuania wouldn’t have declared independence on March 11?
Of course, the March 11 independence declaration had its roots, its reasons and a complex history. However, many people now forget its context. There is a deepening impression that Lithuania freed itself, alone (and at the same time freed everyone else). This is absurd: it was impossible for Lithuania to free itself alone and secede from the USSR.
Lithuania’s struggle was an important catalyst for the process, but it was going on everywhere, led by common forces. Russian dissidents such as Sakharov, Kovalev, Lyudmila Alekseeva, played a huge part, and the benevolent neutrality of almost the entire Russian people (also ensured by the efforts of dissidents) contributed as well. Russian security forces who tried to suppress the independence movement were in a clear minority, and therefore they lost.
Sakharov and Gorbachev were the only Nobel Peace Prize laureates in the USSR. Gorbachev summoned Sakharov from exile. You can recall their “duel” at a congress. Some say that Sakharov was who Gorbachev wanted to be, but couldn’t. Do you think these figures have something in common?
I am no enemy of Gorbachev, but I would not compare him with Sakharov. Gorbachev is a politician with his own goals and mistakes, and in the end he suffered a defeat, while Sakharov is a figure who goes far beyond politics and, moreover, he won. Sakharov, apparently, somehow influenced Gorbachev, but he undoubtedly outgrew him. If we talk about Russian politicians, then Alexander Yakovlev and Boris Yeltsin played a positive role in the fate of Lithuania (this should also not be forgotten), while Gorbachev’s role was, shall we say, ambivalent.
The return of Alexei and Yulia Navalny to Russia has been compared with Sakharov’s and Elena Bonner's return from exile to Moscow in 1986. Do you agree with this comparison? How do you feel about the current situation in Russia? Is suppression of dissent in today’s Russia more thorough than in Sakharov’s times?
Having returned to Moscow, Sakharov and Bonner were given the opportunity to participate in public life and to influence it without any serious obstacles, whereas Navalny, as you know, ended up in prison. The difference is striking. I have great respect for Alexei and Yulia Navalny, but I would not compare them to the Sakharovs either. It was a different time, they were different people with different goals and destinies.
In my (and not only my) opinion, Russia is currently going through a re-Sovietisation and even re-Stalinisation. The Stalinist level has not been reached, of course, there are no immense labour camps or mass executions, there is some opposition, but a move towards Stalinism is, alas, obvious. I hope it will end sooner or later, the sooner the better. Despite bellicose statements and gestures, Russia is right now weak, and re-Sovietization can only weaken it further.
Do you think that, had Andrei Dmitrievich not died so suddenly at 68, Russia would have gone down a different path?
I can say one thing: right now, he would have acted in the same way as he acted under the Soviet rule. It helped back then.
Sakharov was in many ways a visionary, and wrote not only about the dangers of nationalism and totalitarian regimes, about the value of the personal, but also about consciousness control, the environment. Which of his ideas do you find of particular value?
I think that problems of climate change are now coming to the forefront, and Sakharov had foreseen them to a certain extent. The Internet, with its ambiguous impact on a person, could not have been at the centre of his attention, since it was developed, very rapidly, only after his death. However, today he would probably be very interested in it.
You once wrote a resonant essay, Aš dūstu (I Am Suffocating). The past year, at least in the United States, was marked by George Floyd’s final words, “I can’t breathe.” We all felt short of breath both literally and figuratively during the pandemic. In the spring of 2021, is it easier or more difficult for you to breath, in the existential, philosophical sense?
In my essay, I talked about the dangers of isolationism, pseudo-patriotism, narrow nationalism, and also racism. It seemed that in Lithuania, and throughout the world, these threats were growing: this was facilitated, in particular, by the policies of Donald Trump. It is probably weakening now.
An example of this is the marginalisation of extreme right in the Lithuanian society. I thought their influence would grow, but I seem to have been mistaken. However, it is truly difficult to predict anything here. For example, I am confused (to put it mildly) by the planned Great Family Defence March. It would make sense and even be necessary if traditional family was persecuted and forbidden, but such fears are a complete idiocy. In this situation, it is worth referring back to the concept of human rights, that is, to Sakharov’s ideas.
There is this Latin expression: dum spiro – spero (while I breathe, I hope). It could also be said the other way around: while I hope, I breathe. But you can hope when you act, if only by expressing your opinion. Andrei Dmitrievich Sakharov did this, and succeeded.
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