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Black Holes

Chronology of Andrei Sakharov

  • 1921 Born in Moscow to liberal intellectual family.
  • 1942 Completes physics studies at Moscow University.
  • 1946-57 Recruited for weapons work and develops Soviet hydrogen bomb.
  • 1957 Concern about radioactive hazards of nuclear testing starts Sakharov down the path of disagreeing with the Soviet leadership in writing, with his name attached.
  • 1964 Joins group of Soviet intellectuals who write appeal to Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev warning against the rehabilitation of Stalin.
  • 1968 Publishes Reflection on Progress, Coexistence and Intellectual Freedom in New York Times, strongly criticizing Soviet totalitarianism, and calling for an end to the Cold War. This does not make him popular with his government.
  • 1975 Awarded Nobel Peace Prize, but not allowed by Soviet government to attend award ceremony. His wife and co-activist Elena Bonner attends for him and delivers his acceptance speech. After this, a government vilification campaign begins, wherein Sakharov is called a "Judas" and a "laboratory rat of the West".
  • 1980 Knowing that Sakharov will protest the planned Soviet military intervention into the Afghanistan civil war, Brezhnev has Sakharov summarily exiled to the closed city of Gorky, 250 miles east of Moscow, where no Western diplomats or journalists can contact him.
  • 1981 Sakharov is forcibly hospitalized after a protracted hunger strike.
  • 1983 Despite being exiled to Gorky, Sakharov's continued writings somehow manage to make their way to the West, such as The Danger of Thermonuclear War published in Foreign Affairs.
  • 1984-1985 Still confined to Gorky, Sakharov and Bonner wage more hunger strikes over treatment for Bonner's medical problems. On the eve of the Geneva summit, new Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev allows Bonner to travel to America for heart bypass surgery.
  • April 26, 1986 Soviet nuclear reactor at Chernobyl runs out of control and explodes during a botched test of a new cooling mechanism, causing the worst nuclear reactor disaster in world history so far. 30 deaths from burns and radiation exposure occur within the first week of the accident, and the land around the reactor for a 30 km radius is deemed uninhabitable due to radiation.
  • December 16, 1986 Gorbachev has a telephone installed by KGB in Sakharov's Gorky apartment so that Gorbachev can telephone Sakharov personally with the news that Sakharov and Bonner are free from exile to come back to Moscow, where Sakharov is to do "patriotic work", namely to help the Soviet goverment cope with the dangerous aftermath of Chernobyl.
  • December 14, 1989 After a hard day at work advocating political pluralism and economic reform in the Soviet Congress of Peoples Deputies, Andrei Sakharov collapses at home and dies. He is buried as a national hero.
  • August 1991 Soviet state comes to an inglorious end on live worldwide television as putsch organized to topple Gorbachev is foiled by massive public nonviolent resistance, leading to the end of the USSR and the collapse of the Soviet Communist Party.
Physicist Andrei Sakharov, 1921-1989
rights activist
Andrei Sakharov
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