Andrey Sakharov

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Andrei Dmitrievich Sakharov was born on May 21, 1921, in Moscow. His father, named Dmitri Ivanovich Sakharov, was a distinguished scientist, a writer of science, and pedagogy. He also had a hobby of playing the piano for silent films and at home. His mother, named Ekaterina Alekseevna was the daughter of a distinguished General, Aleksei Sophiano, who was a Greek-Russian aristocrat in Moscow. Young Andrei Sakharov was a voracious reader. He graduated from high school with excellence. From 1938, Sakharov studied physics at Moscow State University. He graduated 'cum laude' in 1942, while the university was evacuated in Ashkhabad, Turkmenistan during WWII.

Sakharov created a number of inventions for the Soviet military industry during the Second World War. He earned his Ph. D. in 1947 and was included in the top-secret Soviet thermonuclear research group under Igor Tamm. In 1949-50 Sakharov became the co-inventor of the controlled hydrogen reaction. Today he is known as "the father of the Soviet hydrogen bomb." He was secretly awarded the State Prize by Joseph Stalin, who had a personal meeting with Sakharov and Lavrenti Beria, the chief of NKVD/KGB.

After giving the hydrogen bomb to Joseph Stalin, Sakharov went through a dramatic moral transformation. He wrote in his 'Memoirs' that from 1952-1961 he grew to realization that his invention is extremely harmful in the hands of politicians, and that it caused him serious moral pain. Sakharov rose to become a staunch opponent of the nuclear tests and made a political statement in 1961, making Nikita Khrushchev angry. During the Cuban missile crisis, Sakharov had a clear vision of the danger that his mighty invention may cause in the hands of undereducated politicians, who exterminated millions of their own people. Sakharov voiced his opinion in 1966-1967 on defense of the political prisoners in the USSR; at a time when Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was being terrorized by the KGB.

Sakharov's integrity took him on a complicated political journey. As a conscientious scientist he made sincere statements in confrontations with the undereducated Nikita Khrushchev. In spite of being awarded in 1953, 1956, and 1962; as 'The Hero of Socialist Labor' Sakharov still ignored all the materialistic bribes from the Soviet government. A free thinker, Sakharov took a stand against the overpowering system he once used to be a part of. In 1968 he published his essay on 'Peaceful Co-existence and Intellectual Freedom', and was immediately cut off from the privileged food supplies; which he was entitled to as a top scientist. In 1969 he donated all his life savings to the Red Cross in Moscow. In 1970 he co-founded the Committee for Human Rights. In 1972, he married Yelena Bonner, also a co-founder. Sakharov was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace (1975), but was not allowed to go to Norway to accept it.

In 1979 he opposed the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. He also joined the boycott of the Moscow Olympic Games in 1980. Sakharov wrote an open letter to Leonid Brezhnev, declaring that "Wars must stop during the Olympics. According to the tradition, the Soviet Union must remove the troops out of Afghanistan. Olympics cannot be in a country, which is at war." Soviet government retaliated immediately by canceling all his state awards, honors, and privileges.

The totalitarian regime tried to break him by making his life miserable in exile at the sealed and controlled city of Gorky (now Nizhni Novgorod) from 1980-1986. There Sakharov lived in a small flat on the ground floor of a building, filled with his KGB opponents, who performed 24/7 surveillance of his life. Sakharov's case illustrated how Soviet dictatorship focused on victimization of the best, in order to control the rest.

In December of 1986, Mikhail Gorbachev personally contacted Sakharov while in exile. Gorbachev ordered that the KGB should release Sakharov and return him to Moscow. Back in Moscow Sakharov continued his work as a...
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