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Andrei Dmitrievich Sakharov ( ) (May 21, 1921 – December 14, 1989) was an eminent Sovietmarker nuclear physicist, dissident and human rights activist. Sakharov was an advocate of civil liberties and reforms in the Soviet Union. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1975.

Life and career

Sakharov was born in Moscowmarker on May 21, 1921. His father was Dmitri Ivanovich Sakharov, a private school physics teacher and an amateur pianist. Dmitri's grandfather Ivan had been a prominent lawyer in Tsarist Russiamarker who had displayed respect for social awareness and humanist principles (including advocating the abolition of capital punishment) that would later influence his grandson. Sakharov's mother was Yekaterina Alekseyevna Sakharova (née Sofiano and of Greekmarker ancestry). His parents and his paternal grandmother, Maria Petrovna, largely shaped Sakharov's personality. Although his paternal great-grandfather had been a priest in the Russian Orthodox Church, and his pious mother did have him baptised, his father was an atheist and religion did not play an important role in his life, though he did believe that a non-scientific "guiding principle" governed the universe and human life.

Education and career

Sakharov entered Moscow State Universitymarker in 1938. Following evacuation in 1941 during the Great Patriotic War (World War II), he graduated in Aşgabatmarker, in today's Turkmenistanmarker. He was then assigned laboratory work in Ulyanovskmarker. During this period, in 1943, he married Klavdia Alekseyevna Vikhireva, with whom he raised two daughters and a son before she died in 1969. He returned to Moscow in 1945 to study at the Theoretical Department of FIANmarker (the Physical Institute of the Soviet Academy of Sciencesmarker). He received his Ph.D. in 1947.

Development of Thermonuclear Devices

On World War II's end, Sakharov researched cosmic rays. In mid-1948 he participated in the Soviet atomic bomb project under Igor Kurchatov. The first Soviet atomic device was tested on August 29, 1949. After moving to Sarovmarker in 1950, Sakharov played a key role in the next stage, the development of the hydrogen bomb. The first Soviet fusion device was tested on August 12, 1953, using what was called the Sloika design. In 1953, he received his D.Sc. degree, was elected a full member of the Soviet Academy of Sciences, and was awarded the first of his three Hero of Socialist Labor titles. Sakharov continued to work at Sarov, playing a key role in the development of the first megaton-range Soviet hydrogen bomb using a design known as "Sakharov's Third Idea" in Russia and the Teller-Ulam design in the United States. It was first tested as RDS-37 in 1955. A larger variation of the same design which Sakharov worked on was the 50MT Tsar Bombamarker of October 1961, which was the most powerful device ever exploded.

Support for Peaceful Use of Nuclear Technology

In 1950 he also proposed an idea for a controlled nuclear fusion reactor, the tokamak, which is still the basis for the majority of work in the area. Sakharov, in association with Igor Tamm, proposed confining extremely hot ionized plasma by torus shaped magnetic fields for controlling thermonuclear fusion that led to the development of the tokamak device.

Efforts to Improve Nuclear Reactor Technology

In 1951 he invented and tested the first explosively pumped flux compression generators, compressing magnetic fields by explosives. He called these devices MC or MK (for magnetocumulative) generators. The radial MK-1 produced a pulsed magnetic field of 25 megagauss (2500 teslas). The following helical MK-2 generated 100 million amperes in 1953. Sakharov then tested a MK-driven "plasma cannon" where a little aluminium ring was vaporized due to the huge eddy currents into a stable, self-confined toroidal plasmoid shot to 100 km/s. Sakharov later suggested to replace the copper coil in MK generators by a big superconductor solenoid to magnetically compress and focus underground nuclear explosions into a shaped charge effect. He theorized this could focus 1023 protons per second on a 1 mm2 surface, then envisaged to make two such beams collide. But it is not known if any experiment based on this idea has been ever achieved.

Research and Physics

After 1965 Sakharov returned to fundamental science and began working on particle physics and cosmology.

He especially tried to explain the baryon asymmetry of the universe, being the first scientist to introduce two universes called "sheets", linked by the Big Bang. Sakharov achieved there a complete CPT symmetry since the second sheet is enantiomorph (P-symmetry), has an opposite arrow of time (T-symmetry) and is mainly populated by antimatter (C-symmetry) because of an opposite CP-violation. In this model the two universes do not interact, except via local matter accumulation whose density and pressure would become high enough to connect the two sheets through a bridge without spacetime between them, but with geodesics continuity beyond the radius limit allowing an exchange of matter. Sakharov called such singularities a collapse and an anticollapse, which are an alternative to the couple black hole and white hole in the wormhole theory. Sakharov also proposed the idea of induced gravity as an alternative theory of quantum gravity.

Turn to activism

From the late 1950s Sakharov had become concerned about the moral and political implications of his work. Politically active during the 1960s, Sakharov was against nuclear proliferation. Pushing for the end of atmospheric tests, 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.

The major turn in Sakharov’s political evolution started in 1967, when anti-ballistic missile defense became a key issue in US–Soviet relations. In a secret detailed letter to the Soviet leadership of July 21, 1967, Sakharov explains the need to "take the Americans at their word" and accept their proposal "for a bilateral rejection by the USA and the Soviet Union of the development of antiballistic missile defense", because otherwise an arms race in this new technology would increase the likelihood of nuclear war. He also asked permission to publish his manuscript (which accompanied the letter) in a newspaper to explain the dangers posed by this kind of defense. The government ignored his letter and refused to let him initiate a public discussion of ABM in the Soviet press.

The apartment building in the Scherbinki microdistrict of Nizhny Novgorod where A.D.
Sakharov lived in exile 1980-85.
His apartment is now a museum.
In May 1968 he completed an essay, Reflections on Progress, Peaceful Coexistence, and Intellectual Freedom, where the anti-ballistic missile defense is featured as a major threat of world nuclear war. After this essay was circulated in samizdat and then published outside the Soviet Union, Sakharov was banned from all military-related research and Sakharov returned to FIAN to study fundamental theoretical physics. In 1970 he, along with Valery Chalidze and Andrei Tverdokhlebov, was one of the founders of the Moscow Human Rights Committee and came under increasing pressure from the government . He married a fellow human rights activist, Yelena Bonner, in 1972.

In 1973 he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize and in 1974 was awarded the Prix mondial Cino Del Duca. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1975, although he was not allowed to leave the Soviet Union to collect it. His wife read his speech at the ceremony in Oslomarker, Norwaymarker.

Sakharov's ideas on social development led him to put forward the principle of human rights as a new basis of all politics. In his works he declared that "the principle 'what is not prohibited is allowed' should be understood literally", denying the importance and validity of all rules and regulations not codified in the laws. He was arrested on January 22, 1980, following his public protests against the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 and was sent to internal exile in the city of Gorkymarker, now Nizhny Novgorodmarker, a closed city that was inaccessible to foreign observers.

Between 1980 to 1986, Sakharov was kept under tight Soviet police surveillance. In his memoirs he mentions that their apartment in Gorky was repeatedly subjected to searches and heists. He remained isolated but unrepentant until December 1986 when he was allowed to return to Moscow as Mikhail Gorbachev initiated the policies of perestroika and glasnost. There, in secret, he met and worked with Western scientists such as Eric Fawcett .

Sakharov was named the 1980 Humanist of the Year by the American Humanist Association.
Later, in 1988, Sakharov was given the International Humanist Award by the International Humanist and Ethical Union.

He helped to initiate the first independent legal political organizations and became prominent in the Soviet Union's growing political opposition. In March 1989, Sakharov was elected to the new parliament, the All-Union Congress of People's Deputies and co-led the democratic opposition.


Soon after 9:00 pm on December 14, 1989, Sakharov went to his study to take a nap before preparing an important speech he was to deliver the next day in the Congress. His wife went to wake him at 11:00 pm as he had requested but she found Sakharov dead on the floor. A sudden heart attack had taken his life at the age of 68. He was interred in the Vostryakovskoye Cemetery in Moscow.


The Sakharov Prize, established in 1988 and awarded annually by the European Parliamentmarker for people and organizations dedicated to human rights and freedoms, was named in his honor.

An Andrei Sakharov prize is also to be awarded by the American Physical Society every second year from 2006, "to recognize outstanding leadership and/or achievements of scientists in upholding human rights".

The Andrei Sakharov Prize For Writer's Civic Courage was established in October 1990.

Andrei Sakharov Archives

The Andrei Sakharov Archives and Human Rights Center, established at Brandeis Universitymarker in 1993, are now housed at Harvard Universitymarker.The documents from that archive were published by the Yale University Press in 2005. These documents are available online.Most of documents of the archive are letters from the head of the KGBmarker to the Central Committee about activities of Soviet dissidents and recommendations about the interpretation in newspapers. The letters cover the period from 1968 to 1991 (Brezhnev stagnation). The documents characterize not only the Sakharov's activity, but that of other dissidents, as well as that of highest-position apparatchiks, and the KGB. No Russian equivalent of the KGB archive is available.

Legacy and remembrance

  • In Moscowmarker, there is Sakharov Boulevard, Sakharov Museum, and Sakharov Center.
  • During the 1980s, the block of 16th Street NW between L and M streets, in front of the Soviet embassy, in Washington, D.C.marker was renamed "Andrei Sakharov Place" as a form of protest against his 1980 arrest and detention.
  • In Yerevanmarker, the capital of former-Soviet Armeniamarker, Sakharov Square, located in the heart of the city, is named after him.
  • The Sakharov Gardensmarker (est. 1990) are located at the entrance to Jerusalemmarker, Israelmarker, off the Jerusalem–Tel Aviv Highway. There is also a street named after him in Rishon Le-zion, Israelmarker.
  • In Nizhny Novgorodmarker, there is a Sakharov Museum in the apartment on the first floor of the 12-storeyed house where the Sakharov family lived for seven years.
  • In St. Petersburgmarker, his monument stands in Sakharov Square, and there is a Sakharov Park.
  • In 1979, an asteroid1979 Sakharov—was named after him.
  • A public square in Vilniusmarker in front of the Press House is named after Sakharov. The square was named in March 16, 1991, as the Press House was still occupied by the Soviet Army.

In fiction


  • "In this pamphlet, advanced for discussion by its readers, the author has set himself the goal to present, with the greatest conviction and frankness, two theses that are supported by many people in the world. These are:
    1. The division of mankind threatens it with destruction... Only universal cooperation under conditions of intellectual freedom and the lofty moral ideals of socialism and labor, accompanied by the elimination of dogmatism and pressure of the concealed interests of ruling classes, will preserve civilization...
    2. The second basic thesis is that intellectual freedom is essential to human society — freedom to obtain and distribute information, freedom for open-minded and unfearing 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, economics and culture." (Reflections on Progress, Peaceful Coexistence, and Intellectual Freedom, in The New York Times, July 22, 1968)
  • "I foresee a universal information system (UIS), which will give everyone access at any given moment to the contents of any book that has ever been published or any magazine or any fact. The UIS will have individual miniature-computer terminals, central control points for the flood of information, and communication channels incorporating thousands of artificial communications from satellites, cables, and laser lines. Even the partial realization of the UIS will profoundly affect every person, his leisure activities, and his intellectual and artistic development. ...But the true historic role of the UIS will be to break down the barriers to the exchange of information among countries and people." (Saturday Review/World, August 24, 1974)
  • "Thousands of years ago, tribes of human beings suffered great privations in the struggle to survive. In this struggle it was important not only to be able to handle a club, but also to possess the ability to think reasonably, to take care of the knowledge and experience garnered by the tribe, and to develop the links that would provide cooperation with other tribes. Today the entire human race is faced with a similar test. In infinite space many civilizations are bound to exist, among them civilizations that are also wiser and more "successful" than ours. I support the cosmological hypothesis which states that the development of the universe is repeated in its basic features an infinite number of times. In accordance with this, other civilizations, including more "successful" ones, should exist an infinite number of times on the "preceding" and the "following" pages of the Book of the Universe. Yet this should not minimize our sacred endeavors in this world of ours, where, like faint glimmers of light in the dark, we have emerged for a moment from the nothingness of dark unconsciousness of material existence. We must make good the demands of reason and create a life worthy of ourselves and of the goals we only dimly perceive." (Last paragraph of Sakharov's Nobel Lecture, December 11, 1975)

See also



  • Sakharov, Andrei, Facets of a Life, Frontieres, 1991. ISBN 2863320963
  • Babyonyshev, Alexander, On Sakharov, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1982. ISBN 0394710045
  • Bergman, Jay, Meeting the Demands of Reason: The Life and Thought of Andrei Sakharov, Cornell University Press, 2009. ISBN 0801447313
  • Sakharov, Andrei, Collected Scientific Works, Marcel Dekker Inc., 1982. ISBN 0824717147
  • Lozansky, Edward D., Andrei Sakharov and Peace, Avon, 1985. ISBN 0380898195
  • Drell, Sidney D., and Sergei P. Kapitsa (eds.), Sahkarov Remembered, Springer, 1991. ISBN 088318852X
  • Gorelik, Gennady, with Antonina W. Bouis, The World of Andrei Sakharov: A Russian Physicist's Path to Freedom. Oxford University Press, 2005. ISBN 019515620X

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