Andrei Sakharov

Missing image
Andrei Sakharov, 1943

Andrei Dmitrievich Sakharov (Андре́й Дми́триевич Са́харов, May 21, 1921December 14, 1989), was a Soviet-Russian nuclear physicist, dissident and human rights activist. Sakharov was an advocate of human rights, civil liberties, and Soviet Union reforms.

He was born in Moscow and educated at Moscow State University from 1938. However, following evacuation in 1941 he graduated in Ashkhabad, in today's Turkmenistan. He was then assigned laboratory work in Ulyanovsk. He returned to Moscow in 1945 to study at the Theoretical Department of FIAN (the Physical Institute of the USSR Academy of Sciences). He received his Ph.D. in 1947.

On World War II's end, Sakharov researched cosmic rays. In mid-1948 he became part of the Soviet atomic bomb project under Igor Kurchatov. The first Soviet atomic device was tested on August 29, 1949. After moving to Sarov in 1950, Sakharov played a key role in the next stage, the development of the hydrogen bomb. The first Soviet device was tested on August 12, 1953. In 1953 he received Sc.D. 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. Sakharov 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.

He also proposed an idea for a controlled fusion reactor, the tokamak, that is still the basis for the majority of work in the area. Sakharov, in association with Igor E. Tamm, proposed confining extremely hot ionized plasma by torus shaped magnetic fields for controlling thermonuclear fusion. This led to the development of the tokamak device. 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 but continued to oppose political discrimination. In May 1968 he completed an essay, Reflections on Progress, Peaceful Coexistence, and Intellectual Freedom, which was published outside the Soviet Union. After this Sakharov was banned from all military-related research and Sakharov returned to FIAN to study fundamental theoretical physics. In 1970 he was one of the founders of the Moscow Human Rights Committee and came under increasing pressure from the regime. He married human rights activist Yelena Bonner in 1972.

Statue of Andrey Sakharov in Sakharov Square in  at night.  Copyright (c) 2004, Raffi Kojian,
Statue of Andrey Sakharov in Sakharov Square in Yerevan at night. Copyright (c) 2004, Raffi Kojian,

In 1973 he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize and he won the prize in 1975, although he was not allowed to collect it. Sakharov's ideas on social development led him to put forward the principle of human rights as a new basis of all politics. He was arrested on January 22, 1980 following his protests against the invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 and was 'exiled' to the closed (for foreigners) city of Gorki.

Between 1980 to 1986, Sakharov was kept under Soviet police surveillance. He remained isolated but unrepentant until December 1986 when he was allowed to return to Moscow. He helped to initiate the first independent legal political organizations and became prominent in the Soviet Union's growing political opposition. In April 1989 Sakharov was elected to the new parliament, the All-Union Congress of Peoples' Deputies and co-led the democratic opposition.

Sakharov died of a heart attack in 1989 and was interred in the Vagankovskoye Cemetery in Moscow.

The Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, established in 1985 and awarded annually by the European Parliament for people and organizations dedicated to human rights and freedoms, was named in his honor.

Sakharov and the "Sakharov Drive" were featured in Arthur C. Clarke's novel 2010: Odyssey Two. One of the Enterprise-D shuttlecraft in Star Trek: The Next Generation was also named for him.


  • Sakharov, Andrei, "Facets of a Life". 1991.
  • Babenyshev, Alexander, "On Sakharov". Russia, 1981.
  • Lozansky, Edward D., "Andrei Sakharov and Peace". 1985.
  • Drell, Sidney D., and Sergei P. Kapitsa, "Sahkarov Remembered". 1991

External links

de:Andrei Dmitrijewitsch Sacharow fr:Andreï Dmitrievitch Sakharov he:אנדריי סחרוב io:Andrei Sakharov nl:Andrej Sacharov ja:アンドレイ・サハロフ no:Andrej Sakharov pl:Andriej Sacharow ro:Andrei Saharov fi:Andrei Saharov sv:Andrej Sacharov


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