Ladies and gentlemen, distinguished colleagues,
Good morning, good afternoon and good evening!
In accordance with the Forum’s plans, even before the pandemic struck we intended to hold a special session on the intellectual legacy of Andrei Dmitrievich Sakharov as part of our conference on nuclear non-proliferation. This session forms part of the general preparatory plan for the 100th anniversary of Sakharov’s birth in May 2021.
By way of information, let me tell you that yesterday the online conference “The New Iranian Nuclear Crisis: Ending Escalation” was held. It resulted in the adoption of a rather robust declaration, which we traditionally present to the heads of the world’s leading states, the UN Security Council and other organizations. You will have the opportunity to look at it.
- Many hundreds, if not thousands of books, articles and films have been written or made about Andrei Sakharov’s life and the fundamental and applied results of his work, and about his human rights activities. Everyone knows about his three Hero of Socialist Labour titles, the laureate awards he received and which were then stripped from him and then reinstated, about the Nobel Peace Prize, his tireless protection of convicted writers, poets, artists (Sinyavsky, Daniel, and others), about his calls to end the war in Afghanistan, his exile in Gorki, his return, his draft Constitution, and his hard work in Moscow. And these are merely snippets of all that he did. His philosophical and social science articles were unique in the USSR.
- He penned the article “Reflections on Progress, Peaceful Coexistence and Intellectual Freedom”, in which he developed the ideas of convergence between socialism and capitalism, and which he sent to Brezhnev in the 1960s. But to no avail. That is a very powerful lesson for government: you must heed scientists!
The depth and rigour of his scientific, philosophical and humanist convictions were so important, so powerful and central for Andrei Sakharov that he openly voiced his position, which fully contradicted the basic principles of the prevailing Soviet ideology and practice.
He clearly understood the consequences this would have on his fate, but did not attach any importance to them. Nevertheless, he had to endure an incredible amount of slander, mudslinging, accusations of treason, the damning article in Pravda written by forty academics, another one by Soviet writers in the same newspaper… etc.
- He set out his humanist views in writing already in 1955, as nuclear weapons were being created:
“The main thing for me was the inner conviction that this work was necessary. The monstrous destructive force, the tremendous efforts required for its development, the means taken from a poor, hungry war-torn country, the human victims of hazardous industries and forced labour camps – all this emotionally reinforced the sense of tragedy, it made one think and work in such a way that the sacrifices would not have been in vain. My most passionate dream is that thermonuclear weapons will deter war, but never be used. ”
The last sentence is essentially a forerunner to the theory and principles of strategic stability.
- Let me repeat once again – as a result of countless publications, almost everything is known about his childhood, his studies, his work during the war, his achievements in creating the hydrogen bomb, his human rights activities, his participation in two Congresses of People’s Deputies of the Soviet Union after his return to Moscow, his statements that were drowned out by “an aggressively obedient majority” (as the famous writer Afanasyev said), and about his draft Constitution.
But it is important and interesting to hear what the most famous and authoritative participants of our online session who knew Sakharov or the stories of his associates have to say about him today.
I am not one of them, but as an anecdote I can tell you how I stood next to him in a queue of 10-12 people in a store. He was recognized and invited to skip the queue, but he refused. I remember his conversation with the saleswoman, in which for some reason he repeatedly used the word ‘coffee’ in the neuter gender. Then I thought – wouldn’t it be wonderful if the only mistake we made in life were one like that.
Thank you for your attention.