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MS Russ 79

Sakharov, Andreĭ, 1921-1989. Andreĭ Sakharov papers, 1852-2002: Guide.

Houghton Library, Harvard Library, Harvard University


Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138 USA

© President and Fellows of Harvard College

Production of this online guide was funded by a gift from Stephen B. Kay.

Descriptive Summary

Location: b
Call No.: MS Russ 79
Repository: Houghton Library, Harvard Library, Harvard University
Creator: Sakharov, Andreĭ, 1921-1989.
Title: Andreĭ Sakharov papers,
Date(s): 1852-2002 (inclusive),
Date(s): 1960-1990 (bulk).
Quantity: 1 collection (57 linear feet (137 boxes)
Language of materials: The collection is predominantly in English and Russian; there is also material in Bulgarian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, French, German, Hebrew, Hungarian, Icelandic, Italian, Japanese, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish, and Ukrainian.
Abstract: Papers of Russian physicist and human rights activist Andreĭ Sakharov.

Immediate Source of Acquisition:

2004M-12. Gift of Elena Bonner; received: 2004 July.


Gift of Elena Bonner to The Andreĭ Sakharov Archives and Human Rights Center at Brandeis University, 1993. Transferred, with her consent, as part of the Sakharov Archives, to Harvard University, upon the gift of the Archives by Elena Bonner, 2004.

Processing Information:

Processed by: Yulia Labkovsky and Melanie Wisner

Processing Information:

Brandeis University carried out the original description of the collection into a relational database; this data was converted into the present finding aid by the Houghton Library. The collection was reboxed, retaining most of its original order and original folders (many of which bear notes in English and Russian).
Names appearing in this finding aid usually appear in inverted order and have not been standardized, nor were they necessarily transliterated consistently; users are advised to try alternate spellings when searching.
While efforts have been made to clarify abbreviations and punctuation conventions of the original database, many remain.

Conditions Governing Access:

There are no restrictions on physical access to most of this material. Collection is open for research.
RESTRICTION: Series I.7, Family correspondence, is restricted until July 2021.
Images linked to this finding aid are available from workstations connected to the Harvard network and to users with a valid Harvard PIN.

Preferred Citation:

Andreĭ Sakharov Papers, 1852-2002 (MS Russ 79), Houghton Library, Harvard University.

Related Materials

This collection forms part the Andreĭ Sakharov Archives, Harvard University. Search HOLLIS under this title for other components of the Archives.
Material in this collection overlaps with that held by the Andrei Sakharov Archives in Moscow (Russia) formed by the Andrei Sakharov Foundation.

Biographical / Historical

Andreĭ Sakharov (1921-1989) was born May 21, 1921, into a Moscow family of cultured and liberal intelligentsia. His father was Dmitri Ivanovich Sakharov, a private school physics teacher and an amateur pianist. Sakharov's mother was Ëkaterina Alekseyevna Sakharova (née Sofiano, of Greek ancestry). Although his paternal great-grandfather had been a priest in the Russian Orthodox Church and his mother had had him baptized, his father was an atheist.
Sakharov married Klavdia Alekseyevna Vikhireva in 1943; they had two daughters and a son before her death in 1969. He met Elena Bonner in October 1970 when both were attending the trial of human rights activists in Kaluga; they subsequently worked together to defend Jews sentenced to death for attempting an escape from the USSR in a hijacked plane. In 1965 Elena Bonner had separated from her husband, Ivan Semyonov, a classmate from medical school. They had a daughter, Tatiana, in 1950, and a son, Alexei, in 1956. Bonner and Sakharov married in January 1972.
Sakharov studied physics at Moscow University where he was recognized as a brilliant student; he was exempted from military service during the war with Nazi Germany and completed his studies in 1942. At the end of the war, he was recruited for secret nuclear weapons research and studied cosmic radiation. He entered the Theoretical Department of FIAN (the Physical Institute of the Soviet Academy of Sciences) in 1945 and received his Ph.D. in 1947.
In 1948, he participated in the Soviet atomic bomb project, testing the first Soviet atomic device in 1949. After moving to Sarova (Russia) in 1950, Sakharov played a key role in the development of the hydrogen bomb and proposed an idea for a controlled nuclear fusion reactor. The first Soviet fusion device was tested in 1953. That year he received his D.Sc. degree, was elected a full member of the Soviet Academy of Sciences, and was awarded the first of his three Hero of Socialist Labor titles.
In 1957, Sakharov's concern with the hazards of nuclear testing inspired him to write a pioneering article on the effects of low-level radiation; he also wrote to Soviet president Nikita Krushchev on the harm to Soviet science of the followers of Lysenkoism, a Stalinist-era extermination of scientists wrongly charged with treason. Pushing for the end of atmospheric nuclear tests, he was party to the 1963 Partial Test Ban Treaty signed in Moscow. In 1964, with 24 other prominent intellectuals and artists, he warned Soviet President Leonid Brezhnev of the dangers of the rehabilitation of the legacy of Stalin. The publication of his essay, Reflection on Progress, Coexistence and Intellectual Freedom, an indictment of the Soviet system and a call to end the Cold War, in the New York Times in 1968 propelled him onto the world stage. The "Sakharov doctrine" of the indivisibility of human rights and international security became the ideological backbone of the human rights movement.
Sakharov was fired from the Soviet weapons program as a consequence of this publication. His work in defense of prisoners of conscience and advocacy of human rights brought him the Nobel Peace Prize in 1975. The Soviets denied him a visa to receive the award in Norway, and his wife, undergoing eye surgery in Italy, went to Oslo to deliver his speech.
Sakharov's critical essays continued to develop a framework for political, economic, and legal reform. His denouncing of Soviet military intervention in Afghanistan in December 1979 triggered his banishment in January 1980 to Gorky, 250 miles east of Moscow, without trial or conviction. His wife became his link to the outside world, taking to Moscow and abroad his statements on important political issues, including the major part of his Memoirs. In 1981 Sakharov and Bonner went on a hunger strike on behalf of Bonner's son's wife who was denied permission to join her husband in the United States. Sakharov went on two more hunger strikes in 1984 and 1985 insisting that Bonner be allowed to travel to the West for treatment after suffering a heart attack. During the first hunger strike in 1981, Sakharov was hospitalized forcibly and denied contact with his wife. False reports of his death and of forced treatments with mind-altering drugs were received in the West. 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 United States.
Elena Bonner returned to her husband and to exile after a successful sextuple heart bypass operation. The exile 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 sought to serve as a spokesman for democracy. He was elected to the Presidium of the Academy of Science and the Congress of People's Deputies; he was appointed a member of the government commission to draft a new Soviet constitution. At the First Congress of People's Deputies in June 1989, 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." He was a free man for less than three years before his death in 1989.
(Adapted from text by Elena Bonner © 1993)


Arranged in an order established by Brandeis University. Brandeis folder references have been retained at the end of each entry. Additional material received from Brandeis but not listed in their database has been integrated, with folder numbers created to fit into the existing sequence for filing purposes. Organized in eight series:

Scope and Contents

The Andreĭ Sakharov papers comprise personal and professional papers related to Andreĭ Sakharov's family; his life and work with his wife, Elena Bonner; his work as a physicist; his campaign to limit the testing and proliferation of nuclear weapons; his human rights activities, including hunger strikes undertaken by him and Elena Bonner; his role in the development of perestroika; and the activities of many others in the Soviet Union's human rights movement. Includes various formats of Sakharov's two key autobiographical works: Memoirs; and Moscow and beyond, an autobiographical novel. Substantial material for and about his wife, Elena Bonner, is included; her papers are held separately as a component of the Andrei Sakharov Archives at Harvard University.
Formats of material present include manuscripts, drawings, photographs, electronic media, maps, printed material, and a few artifacts such as Sakharov's academic robes.
Some material in this collection was received by Brandeis University as photocopies from other sources abroad by mutual exchange agreement; these sources have been noted where known.

The following abbreviations are found frequently:

List of key names

Container List