Drawing by Ali Ferzat
Article by: George Pinchuk
Twenty-seven years ago, on December 14, 1989, Andrei Dmitrievich Sakharov died of a heart attack at the age of 68. Most definitely, he was the bravest and the most consistent accusers of the Soviet totalitarianism.
A nuclear physicist called “the father of the Soviet H-bomb,” Sakharov became deeply concerned about the real possibility of the “nuclear winter,” which would extinguish humankind. According to his own words, as a young man he believed that the USSR was basically a great country where the educational system was great and where everyone was “socially protected.” However, later in life he encountered the dark side of the Soviet system.
In 1968, Andrei Dmitrievich wrote an essay, titled, “Reflections on Progress, Peaceful Co-Existence, and Intellectual Freedom.” It was a very “benevolent,” peaceful narrative of Sakharov’s ideas about the future, particularly his belief in the “convergence” between the West and the Soviet block. He sent it to a number of Soviet newspapers, but it was completely ignored. Then he sent it to the Central Committee of the Communist Party with a plea to publish it, but again, he was ignored. By that time, his “Reflections” were circulating all over the USSR as typewritten copies, and, finally, they were published in the Netherlands and then in the USA. Sakharov was immediately removed from his position at a Soviet research center in physics.
He continued to work at home, concentrating on fundamental problems of the theory of physical processes, and also meeting with people who were critical to the abuse of human rights in the USSR. In 1970, he became a co-founder of the Committee of Human Rights in the USSR, back then completely illegal. By the end of the 1970’s, the Committee collected hundreds of volumes of information about violations of most basic human rights in the so-called “Socialist countries.” The Soviet media continued to malign Sakharov, picturing him as a traitor bribed by “Capitalists.” But Andrei Dmitrievich continued his struggle and, in 1975, received his Nobel Peace Prize.
When the Soviet Army invaded Afghanistan in December 1979, Sakharov openly and vehemently protested. In January 1980, he was arrested and forced into an internal exile to the city of Nizhniy Novgorod (back then, Gorky). He was banned from any contact with any person who had not been approved by the Soviet secret police (KGB). In 1984 and 1985, he went on hunger strikes, protesting against his life in captivity and against the decision of the Soviet government not to let his wife Yelena Boner travel abroad for badly needed heart surgery. Eventually, in 1986, Gorbachev allowed the Sakharovs to return to Moscow and Bonner to have her surgery in the USA.
In early 1989, Sakharov became a member of the new Soviet parliament, where he spoke many times in defense of human rights and freedoms. However, his health deteriorated, and at about 9 p.m. on December 14, 1989, Yelena Bonner found him in his study lying on the floor with a massive, fatal heart attack. Memory Eternal to this unique humanist and fighter for human rights, for a better world!
An annual prize named after Sakharov, the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, named after Soviet scientist and dissident Andrei Sakharov, was established in December 1988 by the European Parliament as a means to honor individuals or organizations who have dedicated their lives to the defense of human rights and freedom of thought. The winners of the 2016 prize are Nadia Murad Basee and Lamiya Aji Bashar, two Yazidee human rights activists and ex-ISIS captives who are raising awareness on the plight of Yazidees executed by ISIS and sold into sex slavery.
A list of all the Sakharov prize laureates from Wikipedia. [Ukrainian laureates included the Euromaidan movement (2014), captive Ukrainian pilot Nadiya Savchenko (2015) and Crimean Tatar leader Mustafa Dzhemilev (2016) – Ed.]
|1988||Nelson Mandela||South Africa||Anti-apartheid activist and later President of South Africa|
|1988||Anatoly Marchenko (posthumously)||Soviet Union||Soviet dissident, author and human rights activist|
|1989||Alexander Dubček||Czechoslovakia||Slovak politician, attempted to reform the communist regime during the Prague Spring|
|1990||Aung San Suu Kyi||Burma||Opposition politician and a former General Secretary of the National League for Democracy|
|1991||Adem Demaçi||Kosovo||Kosovo Albanian Politician and long-term political prisoner|
|1992||Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo||Argentina||Association of Argentine mothers whose children disappeared during the Dirty War|
|1993||Oslobođenje||Bosnia and Herzegovina||Popular newspaper, continued to publish after its office building was destroyed in Sarajevo|
|1994||Taslima Nasrin||Bangladesh||Ex-doctor, feminist author|
|1995||Leyla Zana||Kurdistan||A female politician of Kurdish descent from North Kurdistan, who was imprisoned for 10 years for speaking her native language of Kurdish in the Turkish Parliament|
|1996||Wei Jingsheng||China||An activist in the Chinese democracy movement|
|1997||Salima Ghezali||Algeria||Journalist and writer, an activist of women’s rights, human rights and democracy in Algeria|
|1998||Ibrahim Rugova||Kosovo||Albanian politician, the first President of Kosovo|
|1999||Xanana Gusmão||East Timor||Former militant who was the first President of East Timor|
|2000||¡Basta Ya!||Spain||Organisation uniting individuals of various political positions against terrorism|
|2001||Nurit Peled-Elhanan||Israel||Peace activist|
|2001||Izzat Ghazzawi||Palestine||Writer, professor.|
|2001||Dom Zacarias Kamwenho||Angola||Archbishop and peace activist|
|2002||Oswaldo Payá||Cuba||Political activist and dissident|
|2003||Kofi Annan (& United Nations)||Ghana||Nobel Peace Prize recipient and seventh Secretary-General of the United Nations|
|2004||Belarusian Association of Journalists||Belarus||Non-governmental organisation “aiming to ensure freedom of speech and rights of receiving and distributing information and promoting professional standards of journalism”|
|2005||Ladies in White||Cuba||Opposition movement, relatives of jailed dissidents|
|2005||Reporters Without Borders||International||France-based non-governmental organisation advocating freedom of the press|
|2005||Hauwa Ibrahim||Nigeria||Human rights lawyer|
|2006||Alaksandar Milinkievič||Belarus||Politician chosen by United Democratic Forces of Belarus as the joint candidate of the opposition in the presidential elections of 2006|
|2007||Salih Mahmoud Osman||Sudan||Human rights lawyer|
|2008||Hu Jia||China||Activist and dissident|
|2009||Memorial||Russia||International civil rights and historical society|
|2010||Guillermo Fariñas||Cuba||Doctor, journalist, and political dissident|
|2011||Asmaa Mahfouz, Ahmed al-Senussi, Razan Zaitouneh, Ali Farzat, Mohamed Bouazizi (posthumously)||Egypt, Libya, Syria, Syria, Tunisia||Five representatives of the Arab people, in recognition and support of their drive for freedom and human rights.|
|2012||Jafar Panahi, Nasrin Sotoudeh||Iran||Iranian activists, Sotoudeh is a lawyer and Panahi is a film director.|
|2013||Malala Yousafzai||Pakistan||Campaigner for women’s rights and education|
|2014||Denis Mukwege||DR Congo||Gynecologist treating victims of gang rape|
|2015||Raif Badawi||Saudi Arabia||Saudi Arabian writer and activist and the creator of the website Free Saudi Liberals|
|2016||Nadia Murad Basee and Lamiya Aji Bashar||Iraq||Yazidi human rights activists and former abductees of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant|