|On a 06 November:|
|1988 Nobel Peace
Prize laureate for 1975 visits US.
Soviet scientist and well-known human rights activist born on 21 May 1921, Andrei Sakharov begins a two-week visit to the United States. During his visit, he pleaded with the American government and people to support Russian leader Mikhail Gorbachev's policies of glasnost (political openness) and perestroika (economic reforms), and so ensure the success of a new, more democratic, and friendlier Soviet system. Sakharov had not always been a favorite of the Soviet government. During the late-1930s and 1940s, he was a respected physicist in the Soviet Union, and was part of the group of scientists who worked to develop Russia's first hydrogen bomb in the 1950s. By the late 1950s, however, he began to have serious doubts about Russia's open-air testing of nuclear weapons. He also began to protest for more scientific freedom in the Soviet Union. By the mid-1960s, he was openly criticizing the Stalinist legacy and current laws designed to muzzle political opponents. In 1968, he had an essay published in the New York Times calling for a system that merged socialism and capitalism. Because of this, Sakharov was stripped of his security clearance and job. In 1970, he co-founded the Moscow Committee for Human Rights. His work resulted in his winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1975.
Sakharov also urged the United States to pressure the Soviet Union concerning the latter's human rights policies, and harshly criticized Russia's invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. He and his wife were arrested and sentenced to internal exile. Despite his isolation, his supporters continued to smuggle his writings out of the country. In December 1986, Gorbachev released Sakharov and his wife from exile. It was a pragmatic move on Gorbachev's part: He desired closer relations with the West, and Sakharov had become a hero to many in the United States and elsewhere. Sakharov became a spokesman for the reforms Gorbachev was trying to push through, and praised the construction of the new Soviet Union. His November 1988 trip to the United States was part of this effort. Nevertheless, he continued to press for more democracy in the Soviet Union. On 14 December 1989, shortly after delivering a speech denouncing Russia's one-party rule, Sakharov suffered a heart attack and died.
|The Nobel Peace Prize for 1975
In 1975 the Nobel Committee of the Norwegian Storting awarded the Nobel Peace Prize to Andrei Dmitrivich Sakharov.
In the will and testament that Alfred Nobel drew up prior to his death in 1896, he directed that the Peace Prize should be awarded to the person who had "done the most or the best work for fraternity between peoples, the abolition or reduction of standing armies, and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses".
The Nobel Committee's interpretation of these premises has varied in accordance with changing attitudes to the concept of peace over the years.
The Peace Prize laureates during the preceding seventy-four years included:
champions of the ideas of international law;
champions of social justice, such as Léon Johaux;
for humanitarian achievements, such as Albert Schweitzer;
for pacifist work, such as Bertha von Suttner and Carl von Ossietzky;
for the promotion of human rights, such as Réne Cassin, Martin Luther King, and Albert Lutuli.
From the very start the decisions made by the Committee have frequently been the subject of criticism and debate. This need not, however, mean that they were incorrect.
The Nobel Committee is an independent body, independent of any state authority, party, group, or individual. The basis of its decisions rests exclusively on the directions and intentions contained in Alfred Nobel's will and testament.
For the Committee to allow its work to be influenced in any way by fear or to be dictated by convenience or opportunism would constitute an unforgivable dereliction of its duties.
This year the Nobel Committee has awarded its Peace Prize to one of the great champions of human rights in our age. In setting forth its reasons for its present choice the Committee states inter alia:
"Sakharov's fearless personal commitment in upholding the fundamental principles for peace between men is a powerful inspiration for all true work for peace. Uncompromisingly and with unflagging strength Sakharov has fought against the abuse of power and all forms of violation of human dignity, and he has fought no less courageously for the idea of government based on the rule of law. In a convincing manner Sakharov has emphasised that Man's inviolable rights provide the only safe foundation for genuine and enduring international cooperation. In this way, in a particularly effective manner, working under difficult conditions, he has enhanced respect for the values that rally all true peacelovers."
We were repeatedly told during the great war that raged between 1940 and 1945 that this war was being fought in order to safeguard the human rights of future generations. Those who fought for this noble ideal, and the many millions who gave their lives to achieve it, won the war on the field of battle; but their great goal, the enduring establishment of human dignity, was not achieved.
During the post-war years the United Nations has worked energetically and untiringly to draw up and gain universal acceptance for a global declaration and two conventions on fundamental human rights. It has done so in the conviction that these rights and freedoms are absolute imperatives for the maintenance of lasting peace in the world. Most countries have accepted this line of thought.
And yet today - despite all the sacrifices and efforts that have been made - in every part of the world there are millions of people who cannot be said to enjoy the most elementary human rights; there are even regions where people previously enjoyed these rights, and where, after the conclusion of the last war, they forfeited them.
Réne Cassin, the architect of the global declaration and one-time Peace Prize laureate, is fully aware of this. He has the following comment to make on the present situation:
"The declaration sets up an ideal for us to follow, and it lays down guidelines for our actions. Yet a glance at the world of today is sufficient to show that we still have a long way to go before we can achieve this ideal. Not a single country, even the most advanced, can pride itself on fulfilling all the articles of the declaration.
We witness violations of the right to live. Murder and massacre are allowed to pass unpunished. Women are exploited, there is widespread famine, contempt for freedom of conscience and freedom of speech, widespread racial discrimination - all these evils are far too widespread to be overlooked."
Yet this tragic situation must not lead to resignation. On the contrary, it is a challenge to all responsible people, irrespective of national boundaries, to intensify their struggle to establish respect for human dignity and to rally around the courageous individuals who refuse to bow their necks to the yoke.
This year's prizewinner, Andrei Sakharov, was born in Moscow in 1921. He studied physics at the University of Moscow, and attracted considerable attention at an early age with the publication of a number of scientific treatises.
During the years from 1948 to 1968 Sakharov worked at an institute for nuclear research, secret as a member of a team of scientists engaged in the development of nuclear arms.
Sakharov himself emphasises that his own contribution to the work of this team of scientists was not directed solely to military ends, but aimed as well at the harnessing of nuclear power for other purposes, e.g. in industry and in the production of energy.
Although the Soviet Union in 1949, in common with the United States of America, had produced her own atom bomb, nevertheless the United States was far more advanced than the USSR in nuclear technology. Sakharov was of the opinion that, in the interests of peace, it was important to narrow this lead, in order to establish a balance in the arms race capable of deterring both parties from initiating a war.
At the age of thirty-two Sakharov was elected to the Russian Academy of Science, of which he was the youngest member. For his scientific work on behalf of his country he has twice been awarded the Order of Lenin, on one occasion the Stalin Prize, and on three separate occasions he has been nominated a Hero of Socialist Labour.
In 1968, however, a significant change occurred in his status and way of life. He was removed from his research post and allocated to work in the Physics Institute of the Academy of Science.
This change in Sakharov's circumstances and standing was a direct result of a change in his way of thinking, and his frank admission of this.
He describes this in his book "Sakharov Speaks". "Beginning in 1957 (not without the influence of statements on this subject made throughout the world by such people as Albert Schweitzer, Linus Pauling, and others) I felt myself responsible for the problem of radioactive contamination from nuclear explosions."
Sakharov made no secret of the fact that he had arrived at these conclusions; in fact, he expressed himself frankly to the authorities in letters, in which he set forth his ideas on the situation. He hoped that this might provide a basis for a free and open exchange of opinion, but in this he was profoundly disappointed.
In one important respect, however, Sakharov believes that his views have had some effect. This was when the USA and the Soviet Union completed an agreement in 1963 on a ban on nuclear tests in the atmosphere, in space, and in the ocean.
In 1968 Sakharov issued his famous "Manifesto on progress, co-existence, and intellectual freedom". Sakharov's "Manifesto" is not based only on conditions in his own country; it is written from a global point of view and constitutes an earnest appeal for peace to responsible men and women in every country.
The principal problem with which he deals here is the threat of the total annihilation of our civilisation which would result from a nuclear war. He maintains that this danger can only be averted by means of worldwide cooperation transcending national and ideological boundaries.
In this connection he is particularly concerned with close contacts between the USA and the Soviet Union. It is his belief that peaceful co-existence between these two super powers could be achieved if some measure of approximation were to take place between the political systems of these two states.
Sakharov believes that this form of cooperation offers the only alternative to a nuclear war which he describes as collective suicide.
As far as his own country's contribution to this convergence is concerned, he emphasises reforms such as democratisation, debureaucratisation, demilitarisation, and social and scientific progress.
In close cooperation between these two super powers Sakharov also envisages a possibility for a tremendous joint approach to a solution of world hunger, overpopulation, and pollution.
In his opinion, too, a substantial aid programme might provide a lasting foundation for a harmonious social and economic development of the third world.
The wholesale contributions made by the industrial countries would, Sakharov believes, involve a considerable reduction in the amount of money spent by these countries on armaments.
As we all know, these are ideas that have been repeatedly debated in the United Nations. The philosophy at the back of this line of argument has, inter alia, found expression in the appeal which the United Nations made in 1970 in rich member-countries allocate one per cent of their gross national product for aid to the developing countries.
Sakharov's "Manifesto", which caused such a stir in large parts of the world, was the first publication in which he gave a cohesive presentation of his views on the conditions necessary to a policy of détente and intellectual freedom.
In subsequent publications, such as "Sakharov Speaks" and "My Country and the World", his views on some of the problems he dealt with in his "Manifesto" have undergone a change. The reason for this, he says, is to be found in the dramatic international development of recent years, in conversations he has had with people from his own country and abroad, as well as in his own widened personal experience. It is not so much the dream of the future with which he is preoccupied, as all the dangers that threaten, those that interpose themselves between the dream and reality.
In assessing the ideas set forth in his "Manifesto" Sakharov personally emphasises that at the time he wrote it, he was still living in an isolated and highly privileged scientific milieu, without any contact with the community outside.
This is how he describes his life at this time: "I was isolated from the people."
And in an interview he continues:"Thus, in evaluating my essay of 1968 you must understand this and take into account the route I followed from work on thermonuclear weapons to my concern about the results of nuclear tests - the destruction of people, genetic consequences, and all these things. My life has been such that I began by confronting global problems and only later on more concrete, personal, and human ones."
It was his intimate contact with the daily life of fellow human beings and his concern that compelled him to commit himself to an intense struggle to find a solution for problems which he indicated openly in letters written to the authorities, and for which he demanded reforms.
In an attempt to submit his proposals to a wider public, Sakharov founded the "Committee for Human Rights" in 1970, together with some friends and colleagues.
The aim of this committee was to work, within the framework of the law, to institute constructive reforms for the promotion of human rights, in accordance with the humanist principles formulated in the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights of 1948.
Sakharov maintained that they should strive to achieve the following chief aims: the abolition of secret trials; a new press law ensuring that people would have full information; reforms in the prison system; the amnesty of political prisoners; the abolition of the death penalty; open frontiers; and a ban on the use of psychiatric institutes for political ends.
It must be gratifying for Sakharov to know that his ideas on the conditions necessary for peace and détente have found an echo in the "Agreement on Security and Cooperation in Europe", which was signed on August 1 this year by thirty-five different nations in Helsinki.
Section VII of the Helsinki Agreement states: "The participating States will respect human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief, for all without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion."
It goes on to state: "They will promote and encourage the effective exercise of civil, political, economic, social, cultural and other rights and freedoms all of which derive from the inherent dignity of the human person and are essential for his free and full development."
It is an historic event that the leading states of the world should have established in this document that human rights are an essential factor in détente between nations.
No state and no single politician can suppress or evade the moral and political obligations that these Articles impose by taking refuge in formalistic arguments couched in terms of international law. To do so would be a betrayal of mankind and of peace.
Andrei Dmitrivich Sakharov has shown that he is prepared to bear his share of the burden.
In the words of the Nobel Committee: "Andrei Sakharov's great contribution to peace is this, that he has fought in a particularly effective manner and under highly difficult conditions, in the greatest spirit of self-sacrifice, to obtain respect for these values that the Helsinki Agreement here declares to be its object."
Sakharov's struggle for human rights, for disarmament, and for cooperation between all nations has peace as its final goal. For his endeavours to improve the lot of people in every country we pay our tribute to him here today in awarding him the Nobel Peace Prize for 1975.
The Nobel Committee deeply deplores the fact that Andrei Sakharov has been prevented from being present here today in person to receive the Peace Prize.
This is a fate he shares with the man who, forty years ago in 1935, was awarded the Peace Prize. His name was Carl von Ossietzky.
The title page of Sakharov's celebrated "Manifesto" of 1968 carries these words of Goethe as its motto: "Only the man who has to fight for them daily deserves freedom and life."
Andrei Dmitrivich Sakharov has in truth fulfilled Goethe's conditions for possessing both freedom and life.
|AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF ANDREI SAKHAROV
(Translation from the Russian written in 1975)
I was born on 21 May 1921. My father was a well-known teacher of physics and the author of text books, set exercise books and works of popular science. I grew up in a large communal apartment where most of the rooms were occupied by my family and relations and only a few by outsiders. The house was pervaded by a strong traditional family spirit - a vital enthusiasm for work and respect for professional competence. Within the family we provided one another with mutual support, just as we shared a love of literature and science. My father played the piano remarkably well, in particular Chopin, Grieg, Beethoven and Scriabin. During the civil war he earned a living by playing the accompaniment to silent films at the cinema.
I am especially grateful for the memory of my grandmother, Maria Petrovna, who was the family's good spirit. She died before the war at the age of 79. My grandmother brought up six children and when she was around 50 years old she taught herself English all on her own. Right up to the time of her death she read English works of fiction in the original. From when we were quite small she read aloud to us, her grandchildren. I still have the most vivid memory of her reading to us those evenings. It would be Pushkin, Dickens, Marlowe or Beecher-Stowe, and in Holy Week, the Gospel.
The influence of my home has meant a great deal to me, particularly because I had my first lessons at home and later experienced the greatest difficulty in adapting myself to my classmates. I took my final school examination with distinction in 1938 and at once began to study at the Faculty of Physics in Moscow University. Here too I passed my Finals with distinction, in 1942 when because of the war, we had been evacuated to Ashkhabad.
In the summer and autumn of 1942 I lived for some weeks in Kovrov where I had originally been sent to work after my graduation. Later I worked as a lumberjack in a desolate rural settlement near Melekess. My first bitter impressions of the life of the workers and peasants in that very hard time are derived from those days. In September 1942 I was sent to a large munitions factory on the Volga where I worked as an engineer and inventor right until 1945. At the factory I made a number of inventions in the field of production control. But in 1944, while still employed at the factory, I wrote some scientific articles on theoretical physics and sent them to Moscow for appraisal and comment. These first works were never published, but they gave me the self-confidence so essential to every researcher.
In 1945 I began to read for my doctorate at the Lebedev Institute, the department of physics in the Academy of Sciences of the USSR. My teacher there was the great theoretical physicist, Igor Evgenyevich Tamm.
He influenced me enormously and later became a member of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR and a winner of the 1958 Nobel Prize for physics. In 1947 I defended my thesis on nuclear physics, and in 1948 I was included in a group of research scientists whose task was to develop nuclear weapons. The leader of this group was I. E. Tamm. For the next 20 years I worked under conditions of the highest security and under great pressure, first in Moscow and subsequently in a special secret research centre. At the time we were all convinced that this work was of vital significance for the balance of power in the world and we were fascinated by the grandeur of the task. In the foreword to my book "Sakharov Speaks", as well as in "My Country and the World", I have already described the development of my socio-political views in the period 1953-68 and the dramatic events which contributed to or were the expression of this development. Between 1953 and 1962 much of what happened was connected with the development of nuclear weapons and with the preparations for and realization of the nuclear experiments.
At the same time I was becoming ever more conscious of the moral problems inherent in this work. In and after 1964 when I began to concern myself with the biological issues, and particularly from 1967 onwards, the extent of the problems over which I felt uneasy increased to such a point that in 1968 I felt a compelling urge to make my views public. Thus it was that the article "Thoughts on Progress, Peaceful Coexistence and Intellectual Freedom" came into being. In reality these are the same themes which seven and a half years later were to become the title of my Nobel Lecture ("Peace, Progress and Human Rights"). I consider these themes to be fundamentally important and closely interconnected. My public stand represented a turning point for me and my entire future. The article very quickly became known throughout the world. For a long time the Soviet press contained no mention of the "Thoughts", and later references were either disapproving in the extreme or else ironic. A great many critics, even if sympathetically disposed towards me, regarded my reflections in this work as exceedingly naive and speculative. Today, however, after eight intervening years, it seems that much of what may be termed important both in Soviet politics and in international politics is connected in one way or another with these thoughts.
From 1970 onwards the defence of human rights and the defence of the victims of political trials became all-important to me. Together with Chalidze and Tverdokhlebov, and later with Shafarevich and Podyapolski I shared in running the Committee for Human Rights, thus making my position quite clear. I feel bound to recall the fate of two of them. In April 1976 Andrei Tverdokhlebov was sentenced to five years exile for his social work, and in March Grigori Podyapolski was lost to us through his tragic premature death.
As early as 1950, Tamm and I were the joint originators of a Soviet work on controlled thermonuclear reaction (the thermonuclear reaction of hydrogen isotopes either for the production of electrical energy or for the production of fuel for nuclear reactors). Great advances have now been made in this work. A year later, at my initiative, experiments were started on the construction of implosive magnetic generators (devices by which chemical or nuclear reactions are transformed into magnetic field energy). In 1964 we attained a record with a magnetic field of 25 million gauss.
From July 1968, when my article was published abroad, I was removed from top-secret work and "relieved" of my privileges in the Soviet "Nomenclatura" (the privileged class at the top of the system). Since the summer of 1969 I have again been working at the Lebedev Institute where I studied, as an assistant, for my doctorate from 1945 to 1947 and began my scientific work. My present work concerns the problems connected with the theory of elementary particles, the theory of gravitation and cosmology and I shall be glad if I can manage to make some contribution to these important branches of science.
Nevertheless, it is the social issues which unremittingly demand that I make a responsible personal effort and which also lay increasing claims on my physical and mental powers. For me, the moral difficulties lie in the continual pressure brought to bear on my friends and immediate family, pressure which is not directed against me personally but which at the same time is all around me. I have written about this on many occasions but, sad to report, all that I said before applies equally today. I am no professional politician - which is perhaps why I am continually obsessed by the question as to the purpose served by the work done by my friends and myself, as well as its final result. I tend to believe that only moral criteria, coupled with mental objectivity, can serve as a sort of compass in the cross-currents of these complex problems.
I have stated in writing many times already that I intend to refrain from making any concrete political prognoses. There is a large measure of tragedy in my life at present. The sentences lately passed on my close friends - Sergei Kovalev (who just exactly at the time of the Nobel Prize ceremony was sentenced to seven years' imprisonment and three years' exile) and Andrei Tverdokhlebov - represent the clearest and most unequivocal evidence of this. Yet, even so, both now and for always, I intend to hold fast to my belief in the hidden strength of the human spirit.
|BIOGRAPHY OF ANDREI SAKHAROV
On December 14, 1989, the last day of his life, Andrei Sakharov addressed a contentious meeting of independent deputies in the Soviet Congress, urging them to fight for political pluralism and a market economy, and to seek support of the people, "who have finally found a way to express their will." He returned home late that evening and retired to his study, to get some rest before getting ready for the day ahead. To his wife, Elena Bonner, he said, "Tomorrow will be a battle." A short while later, she found his body: the heart that kept the freedom of conscience and intellect alive in the Soviet Union had stopped beating.
[Russian bard Alexander Gradsky's song on the death of Andrei Sakharov (audio file, 2.3 MB, may take several minutes to download) expressed the dismay and the feeling of great loss shared by many people in Russia.]
Andrei Sakharov was born on May 21, 1921 into a Moscow family of cultured and liberal intelligentsia. "From childhood, I lived in an atmosphere of decency, mutual help and tact, respect for work, and for the mastery of one's profession." This was, in his own words, the environment that shaped Sakharov's life. At Moscow University where he studied physics, he was quickly recognized as one of the most brilliant students. He was exempted from military service during the war with Nazi Germany and completed his studies in 1942. For several years he worked as an engineer at an armament factory and patented several inventions. Soon after the war was over he was recruited into the top-secret nuclear weapons project. He is now universally known as the father of the Soviet hydrogen bomb.
In 1957 his concern with the radioactive hazards of nuclear testing inspired him to write a pioneering article on the effects of low-level radiation. This might be considered his first step towards dissent. In the next ten years his concerns took on a more civic tone. He wrote to Khrushchev alerting him to the harm caused to Soviet biology and science in general by Lysenkoism (the primitive teaching whose creator was responsible for physical extermination of many scientists falsely charged with treason in the times of Stalin).
In 1964, together with 24 other prominent intellectuals and artists, he felt compelled to write to Brezhnev, warning him against the rehabilitation of Stalin, planned by Soviet leaders at that time, saying that "people would never understand or accept" Stalin's restoration to a place of honor. It was in 1968, however, that he emerged dramatically in the human-rights struggle and became the movement's inspiration, when his essay "Reflection on Progress, Coexistence and Intellectual Freedom" was published in The New York Times. This bold and prophetic essay, a scathing indictment of the Soviet totalitarian system, urged an end to the cold war and set forth a constructive blueprint for remaking the Soviet Union and the world. Even though the phrase "human rights" was not in this first public statement of Sakharov, the main ideas formed the backbone of what is now universally accepted as the "ideology of human rights," or, more precisely, the "Sakharov doctrine": the indivisibility of human rights and international security.
Although Sakharov's persistent lobbying achieved significant success in 1963 with the conclusion of the Moscow Limited Test Ban Treaty, for the most part he was frustrated in his attempts to influence the Soviet establishment from within. Publication of his "Reflection on Progress, Coexistence and Intellectual Freedom" abroad led to his firing from the Soviet weapons program. But it was the promotion of this philosophy and his advocacy of human rights as well as the defense of prisoners of conscience, that brought Andrei Sakharov the Nobel Peace Prize of 1975. The Nobel citation called him "the conscience of mankind" and said that he "has fought not only against the abuse of power and violations of human dignity in all its forms, but has in equal vigor fought for the ideal of a state founded on the principle of justice for all." At that time, the Soviet official vilification campaign that was already intensifying against him and his wife called Andrei Sakharov "a Judas" and "laboratory rat of the West." He was denied a visa to go to Norway for the award. His wife, in Italy for eye surgery, traveled to Oslo and read his acceptance speech, in which he again stressed the respect for human rights as the key to world stability, progress and peace.
The five years that followed the Nobel Prize brought no improvement of the human rights situation. In fact, there was hardly any doubt left that stagnation in the economy and civic life, as Andrei Sakharov predicted in his 1975 essay "My Country and the World", had finally settled in. In this, and other essays, he continued to develop what would become the intellectual framework for the political, economic, and legal reforms of perestroika. His forceful statements criticizing human rights violations and calling for the release of prisoners of conscience won Sakharov international respect. But at home, in Brezhnev's constricted USSR, the authorities found him exasperating. When Andrei Sakharov denounced the Soviet military intervention in Afghanistan in December 1979, the Kremlin's response was quick. On January 22, 1980, he was banished to Gorky, 250 miles east of Moscow. He was never charged, tried before a court of law, or convicted.
This made total the isolation that had increased steadily over the previous decade, as friends and fellow human-rights activists, as well as family members, were either imprisoned or pressed to leave the country. His wife became his only link to the outside world, serving as his envoy to bring to Moscow and abroad Sakharov's statements on important political issues, among them "The Danger of Thermonuclear War" (Foreign Affairs, Summer 1983), his appeals on behalf of political prisoners, and the major part of his "Memoirs". Sakharov rewrote large portions of his 1,000 page autobiography three times to restore what was stolen by the KGB.
His insistence that his wife be allowed to go to the West for reliable treatment for her heart after she suffered a massive coronary attack compelled him to go on two hunger strikes - in 1984 and 1985. In 1981 Sakharov and Bonner had gone on a hunger strike together for their daughter-in-law, who was denied the right to join her husband, Bonner's son, in the USA. As happened in 1981, Sakharov was forcibly hospitalized and denied any contacts with his wife. Disturbing reports of his death or forced treatments with mind-altering drugs were all the news that came to the West, apart from misinformation, heavily edited and suited for this purpose by the KGB. But his spirit was not broken. In 1985, to impress western public opinion on the eve of the Geneva summit with Ronald Reagan, Mikhail Gorbachev allowed Bonner to travel to the US, temporarily suspending her sentence to exile in Gorky.
After a successful sextuple heart bypass operation, she returned to her husband and to exile, which continued until December 16, 1986, when a telephone was installed in their apartment and Gorbachev called to invite Sakharov to come back to Moscow and to perform "patriotic work." Back from Gorky, Sakharov moved to fulfill - sometimes reluctantly, sometimes awkwardly, but always with courage and integrity, discernment and compassion - his civic responsibilities as a spokesman for democracy. He was elected to the Presidium of the Academy of Science, and to the Congress of People's Deputies, and appointed a member of the government commission to draft a new Soviet constitution. He served as a national ombudsman, traveling around the Soviet Union to lend his support to persons suffering from official abuse.
In June 1989, at the First Congress of People's Deputies, Sakharov appealed for a radical reformation of the Soviet system and for an end to the Communist Party's dictatorship. Only a few days before his death, he completed a draft of a new constitution for the "Union of Soviet Republics of Europe and Asia."
After his exile, he was a free man for less than three years, but these were the years when the totalitarian colossus began to crumble. Andrei Sakharov witnessed the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the beginning of irreversible changes that swept Russia. He also saw his ideas, his steadfast, uncompromising dedication to truth and justice, shared by thousands of people in his country. In his endeavor to "make good the demands of reason and create a life worthy of ourselves and of the goals we only dimly perceive," he revealed those rare qualities that distinguish genius from talent: the ability to identify the crucial element in complex situations, great originality, and an instinct for the currents of time.