Template:Eastern Slavic name

Andrei Dmitrievich Sakharov
Андрей Дмитриевич Сахаров
Sakharov at a conference of the USSR Academy of Sciences on 1 March 1989
Born(1921-05-21)May 21, 1921
DiedDecember 14, 1989(1989-12-14) (aged 68)
CitizenshipSoviet Union
Alma mater
Known for
SpouseYelena Bonner
Scientific career
FieldsNuclear physics

Andrei Dmitrievich Sakharov (Russian: Андре́й Дми́триевич Са́харов; 21 May 1921 – 14 December 1989) was a Russian nuclear physicist, Soviet dissident and human rights activist.

He became renowned as the designer of the Soviet Union's Third Idea, a codename for Soviet development of thermonuclear weapons. Sakharov later became an advocate of civil liberties and civil reforms in the Soviet Union, for which he faced state persecution; these efforts earned him the Nobel Peace Prize in 1975. The Sakharov Prize, which is awarded annually by the European Parliament for people and organizations dedicated to human rights and freedoms, is named in his honour.[1]


Sakharov was born in Moscow on May 21, 1921. His father was Dmitri Ivanovich Sakharov, a private school physics teacher and an amateur pianist.[2] His father later taught at the Second Moscow State University.[3] Andrei's grandfather Ivan had been a prominent lawyer in imperial Russia who had displayed respect for social awareness and humanitarian principles (including advocating the abolition of capital punishment) that would later influence his grandson. Sakharov's mother was Yekaterina Alekseyevna Sakharova, a great-granddaughter of the prominent military commander Alexey Semenovich Sofiano (who was of Greek ancestry).[4][5] Sakharov's parents and paternal grandmother, Maria Petrovna, largely shaped his personality. Although Sakharov's paternal great-grandfather had been a priest in the Russian Orthodox Church, and his pious mother had him baptised, Sakharov was an atheist in later life.[6][7][8] However, he did believe that a "guiding principle" governed the universe and human life.[9]

Education and career

Sakharov entered Moscow State University in 1938. Following evacuation in 1941 during the Great Patriotic War (World War II), he graduated in Aşgabat, in today's Turkmenistan. He was then assigned to laboratory work in Ulyanovsk. In 1943, he married Klavdia Alekseyevna Vikhireva, with whom he raised two daughters and a son before she died in 1969.[9] He returned to Moscow in 1945 to study at the Theoretical Department of FIAN (the Physical Institute of the Soviet Academy of Sciences). He received his Ph.D. in 1947.

Development of thermonuclear devices

Main articles: RDS-37 and Tsar Bomba

After the end of World War II, he researched cosmic rays. In mid-1948 he participated in the Soviet atomic bomb project under Igor Kurchatov and Igor Tamm. The first Soviet atomic device was tested on August 29, 1949. After moving to Sarov in 1950, Sakharov played 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. Before his Third Idea, Sakharov tried a "layer cake" of alternating layers of fission and fusion fuel. The results were disappointing, yielding no more than a typical fission bomb. However the design was seen to be worth pursuing because deuterium is abundant and uranium is scarce, and he had no idea how powerful the US design was. One of the Bikini atomic experiments changed that, because the magnitude of the explosion became public knowledge when there was a dispute between Japan and the US over the contamination of a large area of ocean. Sakharov was surprised by the size of the explosion and realized that the Americans had harnessed the power of a separate fission explosion to compress the fusion fuel. Sakharov realised that in order to cause the explosion of one side of the fuel to symmetrically compress the fusion fuel, a mirror could be used to reflect the radiation. The details had not been officially declassified in Russia when Sakharov was writing his memoirs, but in the Teller-Ulam design, soft X-rays emitted by the fission bomb were focused onto a cylinder of lithium deuteride to compress it symmetrically. This is called radiation implosion. The Teller-Ulam design also had a secondary fission device inside the fusion cylinder to assist with the compression of the fusion fuel and generate neutrons to convert some of the lithium to tritium, producing a mixture of deuterium and tritium.[10][11] Sakarov's idea was first tested as RDS-37 in 1955. A larger variation of the same design which Sakharov worked on was the 50 Mt Tsar Bomba of October 1961, which was the most powerful nuclear device ever detonated.

Sakharov saw "striking parallels" between his fate and those of J. Robert Oppenheimer and Edward Teller in the USA. Sakharov believed that in this "tragic confrontation of two outstanding people", both deserved respect, because "each of them was certain he had right on his side and was morally obligated to go to the end in the name of truth." While Sakharov strongly disagreed with Teller over nuclear testing in the atmosphere and the Strategic Defense Initiative, he believed that American academics had been unfair to Teller's resolve to get the H-bomb for the United States since "all steps by the Americans of a temporary or permanent rejection of developing thermonuclear weapons would have been seen either as a clever feint, or as the manifestation of stupidity. In both cases, the reaction would have been the same – avoid the trap and immediately take advantage of the enemy's stupidity."

Sakharov never felt that by creating nuclear weapons he had "known sin", in Oppenheimer’s expression. He later wrote: "After more than forty years, we have had no third world war, and the balance of nuclear terror ... may have helped to prevent one. But I am not at all sure of this; back then, in those long-gone years, the question didn't even arise. What most troubles me now is the instability of the balance, the extreme peril of the current situation, the appalling waste of the arms race ... Each of us has a responsibility to think about this in global terms, with tolerance, trust, and candor, free from ideological dogmatism, parochial interests, or national egotism."[12]

Support for peaceful use of nuclear technology

Main article: Tokamak

In 1950 he 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.[13]

Efforts to improve nuclear reactor technology

In 1951 he invented and tested the first explosively pumped flux compression generators,[14] 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 resulting helical MK-2 generated 1000 million amperes in 1953.

Sakharov then tested a MK-driven "plasma cannon" where a small aluminum ring was vaporized by huge eddy currents into a stable, self-confined toroidal plasmoid and was accelerated to 100 km/s.[citation needed] Sakharov later suggested replacing the copper coil in MK generators with a large 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.

Research and physics

After 1965 Sakharov returned to fundamental science and began working on particle physics and cosmology.[15][16][17][18][19][20][21][22]

He 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 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

Since 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.

The major turn in Sakharov's political evolution came 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 explained 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 ABMs in the Soviet press.[23][24]

In May 1968 he completed an essay, "Reflections on Progress, Peaceful Coexistence, and Intellectual Freedom", where the anti-ballistic missile defense is described as a major threat of world nuclear war. After this essay was circulated in samizdat and then published outside the Soviet Union (initially on July 6, 1968, in the Dutch newspaper Het Parool through intermediary of the Dutch academic and writer Karel van het Reve, followed by The New York Times[25]), Sakharov was banned from conducting any military-related research and 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 Committee on Human Rights in the USSR and came under increasing pressure from the government.[13] He married a fellow human rights activist, Yelena Bonner, in 1972.

In 1973 and 1974, the Soviet media campaign targeted both Sakharov and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. While Sakharov disagreed with Solzhenitsyn's vision of Russian revival, he deeply respected him for his courage. Only a few individuals in the Soviet Union dared to defend 'traitors' like Sakharov and Solzhenitsyn, and those who had dared were inevitably punished.[12]

Sakharov later described that it took "years" for him to "understand how much substitution, deceit, and lack of correspondence with reality there was" in the Soviet ideals. "At first I thought, despite everything that I saw with my own eyes, that the Soviet state was a breakthrough into the future, a kind of prototype for all countries". Then he came, in his words, to "the theory of symmetry: all governments and regimes to a first approximation are bad, all peoples are oppressed, and all are threatened by common dangers." After that he realized that there is not much "symmetry between a cancer cell and a normal one. Yet our state is similar to a cancer cell – with its messianism and expansionism, its totalitarian suppression of dissent, the authoritarian structure of power, with a total absence of public control in the most important decisions in domestic and foreign policy, a closed society that does not inform its citizens of anything substantial, closed to the outside world, without freedom of travel or the exchange of information."[12] 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", defying the unwritten ideological rules imposed by the Communist ruling elite on the society in spite of the seemingly democratic USSR Constitution.

In 1973, Sakharov 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 Oslo, Norway.[26][27] The Norwegian Nobel Committee called him "a spokesman for the conscience of mankind".[1] In the words of the Nobel Committee's citation: "In a convincing manner Sakharov has emphasised that Man's inviolable rights provide the only safe foundation for genuine and enduring international cooperation."[12]

In no way did Sakharov consider himself a prophet or the like: "I am no volunteer priest of the idea, but simply a man with an unusual fate. I am against all kinds of self-immolation (for myself and for others, including the people closest to me)." In a letter written from exile, he cheered up a fellow physicist and human rights activist with the words: "Fortunately, the future is unpredictable and also – because of quantum effects – uncertain." For Sakharov the indeterminacy of the future supported his belief that he could, and should, take personal responsibility for it.[12]

Internal exile

The apartment building in the Scherbinki district of Nizhny Novgorod where Sakharov lived in exile from 1980 to 1986. His apartment is now a museum.

Sakharov was arrested on January 22, 1980, following his public protests against the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan in 1979, and was sent to internal exile in the city of Gorky, now Nizhny Novgorod, a city that was off limits to foreigners.

Between 1980 and 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. Sakharov was named the 1980 Humanist of the Year by the American Humanist Association.[28]

In May 1984, Sakharov's wife, Yelena Bonner, was detained and Sakharov began a hunger strike, demanding permission for his wife to travel to the United States for heart surgery. He was forcibly hospitalized and force-fed. He was held in isolation for four months. In August 1984 Yelena Bonner was sentenced by a court to five years of exile in Gorky.

In April 1985, Sakharov started a new hunger strike for his wife to travel abroad for medical treatment. He again was taken to a hospital and force-fed. He remained in the hospital until October 1985 when his wife was allowed to travel to the United States. She had heart surgery in the United States and returned to Gorky in June 1986.

In December 1985, the European Parliament established the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, to be given annually for outstanding contributions to human rights.[29]

On December 19, 1986, Mikhail Gorbachev, who had initiated the policies of perestroika and glasnost, called Sakharov to tell him that he and his wife could return to Moscow.[30]

Political leader

In 1988, Sakharov was given the International Humanist Award by the International Humanist and Ethical Union.[citation needed] 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, the Inter-Regional Deputies Group.


Sakharov's grave, 1990

Soon after 21:00 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 23:00 as he had requested but she found Sakharov dead on the floor. According to the notes of Yakov Rapoport, a senior pathologist present at the autopsy, it is most likely that Sakharov died of an arrythmia consequent to dilated cardiomyopathy at the age of 68.[31] He was interred in the Vostryakovskoye Cemetery in Moscow.


The Sakharov Prize, established in 1988 and awarded annually by the European Parliament 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".

This article needs to be updated. Please help update this article to reflect recent events or newly available information. (September 2015)

The Andrei Sakharov Prize For Writer's Civic Courage was established in October 1990.[32]

Andrei Sakharov Archives and Human Rights Center

The Andrei Sakharov Archives and Human Rights Center, established at Brandeis University in 1993, are now housed at Harvard University.[33] The documents from that archive were published by the Yale University Press in 2005.[34] These documents are available online.[35] Most of documents of the archive are letters from the head of the KGB 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 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.

Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought

Established in 1988 in honour of Russian nuclear scientist and human rights activist Andrei Sakharov, the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought is the highest tribute to human rights endeavours the European Union accords. It is awarded to those who carry the spirit of Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov. With this in mind, the Parliament selects Laureates who, like Sakharov, dedicate their lives to peaceful struggle for human rights.[36]

Legacy and remembrance

A statue of Andrei Sakharov in Yerevan, Armenia



File:Meiman dissidents.gif
Soviet dissidents in the upper row are Naum Meiman, Sofiya Kallistratova, Pyotr Grigorenko, his wife Zinaida Grigorenko, Tatyana Velikanova, Sergei Zheludkov, Andrei Sakharov, the lower row is Genrikh Altunyan, Alexander Podrabinek, shot on 16 October 1977[41]


Honours and awards

In 1980, Sakharov was stripped of all Soviet awards for "anti-Soviet activities". Later, during glasnost, he declined the return of his awards and, consequently, Mikhail Gorbachev did not sign the necessary decree.[citation needed]

See also


  1. ^ a b Biography, by American Institute of Physics
  2. ^ Autobiography, The Nobel Foundation 1975
  3. ^ Sidney David Drell, Sergeǐ Petrovich Kapitsa, Sakharov Remembered: a tribute by friends and colleagues (1991), p. 4
  4. ^ Bonner, Yelena. Об А.Д. Сахарове (in Russian). Archived from the original on November 18, 2010. Retrieved November 2, 2009. ((cite web)): Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (|url-status= suggested) (help)
  5. ^ Греки в Красноярском крае (Материалы из книги И.Джухи "Греческая операция НКВД") (in Russian). Archived from the original on November 18, 2010. Retrieved November 2, 2009. ((cite web)): Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (|url-status= suggested) (help)
  6. ^ Gorelik, Gennady; Antonina W. Bouis (2005). The World of Andrei Sakharov: A Russian Physicist's Path to Freedom. Oxford University Press. p. 356. ISBN 9780195156201. Apparently Sakharov did not need to delve any deeper into it for a long time, remaining a totally nonmilitant atheist with an open heart.
  7. ^ Gorelik, Gennadiĭ Efimovich; Antonina W. Bouis (2005). The World of Andrei Sakharov: A Russian Physicist's Path to Freedom. Oxford University Press. p. 158. ISBN 9780195156201. Retrieved May 27, 2012. Sakharov was not invited to this seminar. Like most of the physicists of his generation, he was an atheist.
  8. ^ Todd K. Shackelford, Viviana A. Weekes-Shackelford, ed. (2012). The Oxford Handbook of Evolutionary Perspectives on Violence, Homicide, and War. Oxford University Press. p. 465. ISBN 9780199738403. The Soviet dissident most responsible for defeating communism, Andrei Sakharov, was an atheist.
  9. ^ a b Drell, Sidney D., and Sergei P. Kapitsa (eds.), Sakharov Remembered, pp. 3, 92. New York: Springer, 1991.
  10. ^ Memoirs by Andrei D. Sakharov, Vintage Paperback, April 14, 1992
  11. ^ The World of Andrei Sakharov: A Russian Physicist's Path to Freedom, Gennady Gorelik, Antonina W. Bouis, Oxford University Press, USA, 1st edition, April 14, 2005.
  12. ^ a b c d e Sakharov, Andrei
  13. ^ a b Biography, by American Institute of Physics
  14. ^ A.D. Sakharov: "Magnetoimplosive generators", UFN 88:4, 725–734 (1966); Sov. Phys. Uspekhi 9: 294–299 (1966).
  15. ^ A.D. Sakharov: "Expanding Universe and the Appearance of a Nonuniform Distribution of Matter", ZhETF 49: 345–358 (1965); translation in JETP Lett. 22: 241–249 (1966)
  16. ^ A.D. Sakharov: Violation of CP Symmetry, C-Asymmetry and Baryon Asymmetry of the Universe, Pisma Zh. Eksp. Teor. Fiz. 5: 32–35 (1967); translation in JETP Lett. 5: 24–27 (1967)
  17. ^ A.D. Sakharov: Quark-Muonic Currents and Violation of CP Invariance, Pisma Zh. Eksp. Teor. Fiz. 5: 36–39 (1967); translation in JETP Lett. 5: 27–30 (1967)
  18. ^ A.D. Sakharov: "Antiquarks in the Universe" in "Problems in theoretical physics", dedicated to the 30th anniversary of N.N. Bogolyubov, Nauka, Moscou, pp. 35–44, 1969
  19. ^ A.D. Sakharov and I.D. Novikov: "A multisheet Cosmological model" Preprint Institute of Applied Mathematics, Moscow, 1970
  20. ^ A.D. Sakharov: "Topological structure of elementary particles and CPT asymmetry" in "Problems in theoretical physics", dedicated to the memory of I.E. Tamm, Nauka, Moscow, pp. 243–247, 1972
  21. ^ A.D. Sakharov: "Baryonic asymmetry of the Universe", ZhETF 76: 1172–1181 (1979); translation in JETP Lett. 49: 594–599 (1979)
  22. ^ A.D. Sakharov: "Cosmological model of the Universe with a time vector inversion". ZhETF 79: 689–693 (1980); translation in JETP Lett. 52: 349–351 (1980)
  23. ^ Gennady Gorelik. The Metamorphosis of Andrei Sakharov. Scientific American, 1999, March.
  24. ^ Web exhibit "Andrei SAKHAROV: Soviet Physics, Nuclear Weapons, and Human Rights" at American Institute of Physics [1]
  25. ^ "Outspoken Soviet Scientist; Andrei Dmitriyevich Sakharov". New York Times.
  26. ^ Y.B. Sakharov: Acceptance Speech, Nobel Peace Prize, Oslo, Norway, December 10, 1975.
  27. ^ a b Y.B. Sakharov: Peace, Progress, Human Rights, Sakharov's Nobel Lecture, Nobel Peace Prize, Oslo, Norway, December 11, 1975.
  28. ^ "Humanist of the Year". Retrieved November 21, 2012.
  29. ^ Chronology
  30. ^ Michael MccGwire (1991). Perestroïka and Soviet national security. Brookings Institution Press. p. 275. ISBN 0-8157-5553-8.
  31. ^ Coleman, Fred (1997). The Decline and Fall of the Soviet Empire: Forty Years That Shook the World, from Stalin to Yeltsin. New York: St. Martin's. p. 116.
  32. ^ "For Writer's Civic Courage", Literaturnaya Gazeta, October 31, 1990
  33. ^ Harvard University. KGB file of Sakharov Template:Wayback
  34. ^ The KGB File of Andrei Sakharov. (edited by Joshua Rubenstein and Alexander Gribanov), New Haven: Yale University Press, 2005; ISBN 978-0-300-10681-7
  35. ^ The KGB File of Andrei Sakharov, online version with original texts and the English translations in English and in Russian (text version in Windows-1251 character encoding and the pictures of the original pages).
  36. ^ "Sakharov Prize Network". European Parliament. Retrieved December 10, 2013.
  37. ^ Washington's Sakharov Plaza: A Message to Russia, Toledo Blade, 27 Aug 1984. Retrieved May 2013
  38. ^ Template:Ru icon. Photo exhibition "Sakharov Gardens" (sakharov-center.ru)
  39. ^ Aaron Curtiss (November 22, 1991). "Sakharov Junction". Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles. Archived from the original on November 18, 2010. Retrieved September 14, 2010. ((cite news)): Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (|url-status= suggested) (help)
  40. ^ Anderson, Susan; Bird, David (August 10, 1984). "New York day by day; human rights reminder posted near Soviet mission". The New York Times.((cite news)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  41. ^ Подрабинек, Александр (2014). Диссиденты (in Russian). Moscow: АСТ. ISBN 978-5-17-082401-4. ((cite book)): Unknown parameter |trans_title= ignored (|trans-title= suggested) (help)
  42. ^ "Alexander Gradsky official website" (in Russian). Retrieved February 3, 2013.
  43. ^ The opening paragraphs of Sakharov's Reflections on Progress, Peaceful Coexistence, and Intellectual Freedom
  44. ^ The human rights movement, 1969–1979.


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