Andrei Sakharov was born on May 21, 1921, in Moscow (USSR) and revealed his talent for theoretical physics at an early age. He obtained his doctorate in 1945. From 1948 on, under the supervision of the Nobel Laureate Igor Tamm, he worked on the development of a Soviet hydrogen bomb. Sakharov believed it was important to break the American monopoly on nuclear weapons. But from the late 1950s on, he issued warnings against the consequences of the arms race, and in the 1960s and 1970s he voiced sharp criticism of the system of Soviet society, which in his opinion departed from fundamental human rights.
Andrei Sakharov, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1975 for his opposition to the abuse of power and his work for human rights. The leaders of the Soviet Union reacted with fury, and refused Sakharov permission to travel to Oslo to receive the Prize. His wife, Jelena Bonner, received it on his behalf. After receiving the prize, Sakharov continued to work for human rights and to make statements to the West through Western correspondents in Moscow.
Early in 1980, after he had denounced the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, he was exiled to Gorky. In 1984, Elena Bonner joined him, also under sentence of exile. Isolated from family and friends, they continued to be persecuted by the KGB. Sakharov resorted to hunger strikes to secure medical treatment for Bonner, who was finally given permission to leave the Soviet Union for heart surgery in 1985. After Mikhail Gorbachev came to power with a policy of liberalization, they were freed and allowed to return to Moscow in 1986. Despite the measure of freedom now possible, which enabled him to take up a political role as an elected member of the Congress of the People's Deputies, Sakharov was critical of Gorbachev, insisting that the reforms should go much further. He died in Moscow on December 14, 1989.
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