The Exile of Sakharov

The Exile of Sakharov


Andrei Sakharov posed a more difficult quandary for the Soviet authorities. Despite his persistent expression of dissenting views and defense of other dissenters, he was also a decorated physicist and academician, and the father of the Soviet hydrogen bomb. It was only in 1980 when he spoke out against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan that the authorities acted, exiling him to Gorky (Nizhnii Novgorod).

Original Source: Khronika tekushchikh sobytii, No. 56: 30 April 1980

Chronicle 44 (16 March 1977) reported that the Novosti Press Agency was preparing a book entitled On the Exile of A. D. Sakharov. Now the exile has taken place.

On 22 January at 2 pm police stopped the Academy of Sciences car in which A. D. Sakharov was being driven to work. K G B officers got into the car and ordered the chauffeur to drive to the USSR Procuracy. There, Sakharov was taken to a room where he was met by A. M. Rekunkov, the First Deputy of the USSR Procurator- General, and three other people, one of whom was introduced as a representative of the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet. Rekunkov read Sakharov this Decree of the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet :

In connection with the systematic acts committed by A. D. Sakharov, which discredit him as an award-holder, and in the light of numerous proposals from members of the Soviet public, the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet, under Article 40 of the ‘General Statutes on Orders, Medals and Honorary Titles of the USSR’, decrees:

That Andrei Dmitrievich Sakharov be divested of the title of Hero of Socialist Labor (Sakharov had been awarded this title three times — Chronicle) and all the USSR State awards conferred on him.

(This decree was published in the Gazette of the USSR Supreme Soviet, No. 5, 30 January 1980. It was dated 8 January. From the date and the number below the decree one can see that it was meant to have been published in No. 3 of 16 January. Sakharov’s family notes that his mother-in-law, R. G. Bonner, was granted permission on 7 January to travel to the U S A to visit her children and grandchildren.) Rekunkov requested Sakharov to return his awards and award documents. Underneath the text of the Decree presented to him, Sakharov wrote that he refused to do as requested, since he felt he had deserved his awards.

Rekunkov then said that a decision had been taken to exile Sakharov to Gorky, a town closed to foreigners. Sakharov’s wife, E. G. Bonner, could go with him if she wished to do so. Rekunkov gave Sakharov permission to phone home. After this call, the telephone in his flat was immediately cut off.

In order to tell people what was happening, Sakharov’s family had to use a public call-box. For some reason all the nearby call-boxes were out of order. After a few calls the one they managed to find —a fairly long way from home — also stopped working. Sakharov’s flat was immediately cordoned off. Foreign correspondents who came racing to the scene were told: ‘Go and look for him in Sheremetevo (i.e. the international airport). Sakharov was in fact taken to Domodedovo. E. G. Bonner went there as well. A special plane, on which there was a doctor and luxury food was served, flew Sakharov and Bonner to Gorky. When they arrived in Gorky Sakharov learned from the conversations of people around him that ‘Tsvigun himself’, [K G B Chairman] Andropov’s deputy, had accompanied them from Moscow.

In Gorky, Deputy Regional Procurator Perelygin informed Sakharov of the conditions of the regime imposed on him: he was under open surveillance and had to appear at the police station every ten days `to report’: he was forbidden to leave Gorky, meet foreigners or ‘criminal elements’, or correspond with or hold conversations with people abroad. When Sakharov asked whether this ban included his children abroad, he was told that it did. Sakharov was introduced to the people responsible for keeping him under surveillance. He was given the use of their office telephone.

Sakharov was given three rooms (of 10, 12 and 18 square meters) in a four-room flat (603137, Gorky, Shcherbinki 2, prospekt Gagarina, 214, kv. 3). A woman who said she was the ‘owner of the flat’ occupied the fourth room (14 sq.m.). This woman offered them her services: ‘I have always looked after the lodgers’. It was a furnished flat. There was a supply of food in the refrigerator (payment was requested later). There was no telephone.

On 23 January R. G. Bonner phoned the K G B duty-officer to ask where Sakharov was. Mentioning the USSR Procuracy, he answered that A. D. Sakharov had been ‘asked to change his place of permanent residence from Moscow to Gorky’.

On 22 January the Moscow evening edition of lzvestiia published a short report :

Concerning A. D. Sakharov

For a number of years A. D. Sakharov has conducted subversive activities against the Soviet State. Accordingly, he has been issued repeated warnings by representatives of the Soviet authorities and of social organizations and by prominent Soviet scientists, regarding the inadmissibility of such activities.

Paying no heed to these warnings, Sakharov has recently started making open appeals to reactionary circles in imperialist states to interfere in the internal affairs of the USSR.

In the light of numerous proposals from members of the Soviet public, the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet has divested A. D. Sakharov of his title of Hero of Socialist Labor and all his USSR State awards, and the USSR Council of Ministers has divested him of the USSR prizes awarded him. — (TASS)

On 23 January the Moscow evening edition of Izvestia published an article entitled ‘A Just Decision’, signed K. Batmanov. This article stated:

In addition to removing Sakharov’s title and awards, the competent organs have decided to remove him by administrative means from Moscow.

(The article maintains that Sakharov once made a statement:

about the beginning of an ‘era of consolidation and rebirth’ in Chile, when the bloodthirsty, fascist clique headed by Pinochet was in power;

and that Pravda referred to this statement on 25 September 1973:

The newspaper Humanité has published a report stating that Sakharov appealed to the military junta in Chile ‘to protect the freedom and safety of the poet Pablo Neruda’.
This time one might indeed think that this verbose herald of “freedom” has hit the mark’ — writes the author of the article, Serge Leyrac. Imagine his surprise when he discovered the real reason for Sakharov’s action. In his appeal to the junta he writes: ‘The loss of this great man (Neruda) would cast a long shadow over the era of rebirth and consolidation proclaimed by your government.)

On 29 January Pravda carried a short news item:

In the Presidium of the USSR Academy of Sciences
The Presidium of the USSR Academy of Sciences has examined the matter of Academician A. D. Sakharov’s anti-Soviet activities …
The Presidium of the USSR Academy of Sciences has condemned the activities of Academician A. D. Sakharov as being directed against the interests of our country and the Soviet people, aimed at aggravating international tension, and as bringing discredit to the high calling of the Soviet scientist.

On 30 January Literary Gazette published an article entitled ‘Slanderers and Pharisees’ (signed V. Borisov). On 15 February, E. G. Bonner’s birthday, Komsomolskaya Pravda printed an article entitled ‘There Was No Caesar’ (signed A. Efremov and A. Petrov). An article signed N. Tolin and entitled ‘The Usual Splash of Official Hypocrisy’ (New Times, No. 5), stated in part :

Sakharov has information on a number of matters constituting state secrets. This is not the first time he has taken it into his head to divulge such information to foreign organs. Recently, it has been reliably shown that he sent or tried to send abroad items of information concerning the most important problems of our national defense capabilities.

Recently, also, he has made attempts to set up some sort of organization of so-called ‘dissidents’, involving not only Soviet citizens but even foreigners …

Sakharov is now living in Gorky. He has been given a four-room flat.

At first, anyone wishing to see Sakharov was allowed to do so.

Admittedly, visitors were detained on leaving his flat and taken to a neighboring house, where, in a flat used as a ‘support point for keeping the peace’, an ‘anti-Sakharov headquarters’ had been set up. Sakharov’s visitors were ‘advised’ to stop coming to see him. One visitor was fined 30 rubles for ‘disobeying the authorities’.

Source: A Chronicle of Current Events, Nos 55-6. London: Amnesty International Publications, 1981.

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