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COLLECTION Identifier: MS Russ 79

Andreĭ Sakharov papers


Papers of Russian physicist and human rights activist Andreĭ Sakharov.


  • Creation: 1852-2002
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1960-1990

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.

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.


57 linear feet (142 boxes)
25.5 Gigabytes

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:
  1. CC of CPSU: Central Committee of Communist Party of Soviet Union
  2. CSCE: Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe
  3. FAS: Federation of American Scientists
  4. FIAN: Lebedev Physical Institute of Academy of Sciences, Moscow
  5. GARF: State Archive of Russian Federation
  6. KGB: Soviet Committee for State Security

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 nine series:

  1. I. Personal material
  2. I.1. Biographical material
  3. I.2. Diaries and personal records
  4. I.3. Financial records
  5. I.4. Medical treatment and postmortem data
  6. I.5. Legal records
  7. I.6. Awards and memorabilia
  8. I.7. Family correspondence
  9. I.8. Obituaries and condolences
  10. II. Professional and political activities
  11. II.1. Scientific activities
  12. II.2. Political activities
  13. II.2.1. Statements, speeches, interviews
  14. II.2.2. Human rights cases
  15. II.2.3. Hunger strikes
  16. II.2.4. Sakharov defense
  17. II.2.5. KGB, Supreme Soviet, Politburo material
  18. II.2.6. KGB reports on Sakharov and Bonner
  19. II.2.7. Memoirs: manuscripts confiscated by KGB
  20. II.2.8. Reports to Central Committee of Communist Party on Sakharov
  21. II.2.9. Congress of People's Deputies material
  22. II.2.10. Miscellaneous political
  23. II.2.11. Soviet Academy of Sciences material
  24. II.2.12. United States Dept. of State material
  25. II.2.13. United States Congress material
  26. II.2.14. FBI reviews of Russian press and TV
  27. III. Correspondence
  28. III.1. Correspondence from Sakharov
  29. III.2. Correspondence to Sakharov
  30. III.3. Publishers' correspondence
  31. III.4. Correspondence with organizations and individuals
  32. III.4.1. Correspondents A-B
  33. III.4.2. Correspondents C-F
  34. III.4.3. Correspondents G-H
  35. III.4.5. Correspondents L-O
  36. III.4.6. Correspondents P-U
  37. III.4.7. Correspondents V-Z
  38. III.5. Hate mail and publications
  39. III.6. Forged postcards
  40. III.7. Edward Kline correspondence
  41. IV. Writings of Sakharov
  42. IV.1. Scientific writings
  43. IV.1.1. Original writings
  44. IV.1.2. References to Sakharov's scientific writings
  45. IV.2. Political writings
  46. IV.2.1. Major and minor writings
  47. IV.2.2. Memoirs
  48. IV.2.3. Moscow and Beyond
  49. IV.3. Notes and drawings
  50. V. Photographs
  51. V.1. Photographs ca. 1860-1970
  52. V.2. Photographs 1972-1976
  53. V.3. Photographs 1977-1981
  54. V.4. Photographs 1982-1986
  55. V.5. Photographs 1986-1999
  56. V.6. Undated photographs
  57. V.7. Photograph album 1989
  58. VI. Reference material on Sakharov
  59. VI.1. Written works and clippings, ca. 1951-2000
  60. VI.2. Written works and clippings, 1970-1983
  61. VI.3. Written works and clippings, 1984-1994
  62. VI.4. Written works and clippings, 1995-2002
  63. VI.5. Rhéaume, Charles, 1953-. Science et droits de l'homme: Le soutien international à Sakharov, 1968-1989
  64. VI.6. Miscellaneous reference material on Sakharov
  65. VII. Visits to the United States
  66. VII.1. Elena Bonner's visit
  67. VII.2. Andreĭ Sakharov's visit
  68. VIII. Miscellaneous
  69. IX. Additions to collection

Physical Location

b, Harvard Depository


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.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

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

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.

Separated Materials

Born-digital material has been separated: Russ79BD

List of key names

  1. Alexandrov, Anatoly: President of the Soviet Academy of Sciences, 1975-1986, physicist
  2. Alexeyeva, Elizaveta [Liza]: wife of Alexei Semyonov (Elena Bonner's son)
  3. Alexeyeva, Ludmila: member of Helsinki Watch group, historian
  4. Altshuler, Boris: physicist, Sakharov's student, colleague and friend
  5. Amalrik, Andrei: Soviet dissident, political emigrant, historian, writer
  6. Andropov, Yuri: member of Politburo, head of the KGB, 1967-1982, General Secretary of the CPSU, 1982-1984
  7. Bogoraz, Larisa: Soviet dissident and human rights activist, linguist
  8. Brezhnev, Leonid: General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, 1964- 1982
  9. Bukovsky, Vladimir: Soviet dissident and human rights activist, political emigrant, writer
  10. Chalidze, Valery: Soviet dissident and human rights activist, political emigrant, writer, publisher of the Chronicle Of Current Events
  11. Chebrikov, Viktor: Chairman of the KGB from 1982-1988
  12. Chernenko, Konstantin: General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in 1984-1985
  13. Daniel, Yuli: Soviet dissident, writer, political prisoner
  14. Dobrynin, Anatoly: Soviet Ambassador to the United States, 1962-1986
  15. Fainberg, Viktor: Soviet dissident
  16. Fedorchuk, Vitaly: Chairman of the KGB in 1982, then Soviet interior minister, 1982- 1986
  17. Gastev, Yuri: Soviet dissident, mathematician
  18. Ginzburg, Alexander: Soviet dissident, human rights activist, samizdat journalist, poet
  19. Gluzman, Semyon: Soviet human rights activist, psychiatrist
  20. Gorbachev, Mikhail: General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1985 to 1991, last head of the state of USSR
  21. Harkevitch, Nina: physician, friend of Elena Bonner (Italy)
  22. Kalistratova, Sofia: Soviet human rights activist, lawyer, defended various Soviet dissidents, member of Moscow Helsinki Group
  23. Keldysh, Mstislav: Soviet scientist, academician, President of the Soviet Academy of Sciences, 1961-1975; Sakharov's supporter
  24. Khariton, Yuli: Soviet physicist, chief designer of the Soviet atomic bomb, Sakharov's patron at one time
  25. Khrushchev, Nikita: First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, 1953-1964
  26. Kopelev, Lev: Soviet dissident, writer
  27. Kostava, Merab: dissident, one of the leaders of the National-Liberation movement in Georgia
  28. Kovalev, Sergei: human rights activist and politician, former Soviet dissident and political prisoner
  29. Kurchatov, Igor: Soviet physicist, academician, the leader of the Soviet atomic bomb project
  30. Kuznetsov, Eduard: human rights, dissident, political prisoner; unsuccessful hijacker, political emigrant; writer
  31. Landa, Malva: human rights activist, member of Moscow Helsinki Group
  32. Leontovich, Mikhail: Soviet physicist, academician
  33. Levshina, Olga: first wife of Alexei Semyonov
  34. Lubarsky, Cronid: human rights activist, political prisoner, political emigrant
  35. Marchenko, Anatoly: Soviet dissident, human rights activist, political prisoner
  36. Marchuk, Guri: President of USSR Academy of Sciences, 1986-1991
  37. Medvedev, Roy: Soviet dissident, historian, later
  38. Meiman, Naum: Soviet dissident, member of Moscow Helsinki Group
  39. Mikhailov, Alexander: Director of the National Institute of Scientific and Technical Information (VINITI)
  40. Nekipelov, Viktor: Soviet dissident, human rights activist, pharmacist and poet
  41. Olsufieva, Maria: translator, friend of Elena Bonner (Italy)
  42. Orlov, Yuri: nuclear physicist, dissident, human rights activist, founder of Moscow Helsinki Group, political prisoner, exiled from USSR
  43. Pimenov, Revolt: mathematician, historian, human rights activist, political prisoner
  44. Plyushch, Leonid: mathematician, writer, dissident, political prisoner
  45. Podgorny, Nikolai: Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, 1965-1977
  46. Podrabinek, Alexander: journalist, human rights activist, political prisoner
  47. Podyapolskaya, Maria: human rights activist
  48. Podyapolsky, Grigory: human rights activist
  49. Rekunkov, Alexander: First Deputy Procurator General, later Procurator General of the USSR
  50. Salova, Galina: Soviet dissident
  51. Samodurov, Yuri: director of Andrei Sakharov Museum (Moscow)
  52. Semyonov, Alexei: son of Elena Bonner
  53. Shafarevich, Igor: mathematician, dissident, political writer, supporter of Sakharov's Human Rights Committee in 1970s
  54. Shcharansky, Anatoly: dissident, Zionist, human rights activist, political prisoner, political emigrant
  55. Shchelokov, Nikolai: Soviet Minister of Interior, 1968-1982
  56. Shikhanovich, Yuri: human rights activist, mathematician, political prisoner
  57. Sinyavsky, Andrei: writer, dissident, political prisoner, political emigrant
  58. Slepak, Vladimir: dissident, member of Moscow Helsinki Group
  59. Solzhenitsyn, Alexander: writer, Gulag survivor, political emigrant, Nobel Laureate
  60. Tamm, Igor: Soviet physicist, Nobel Laureate, Sakharov's older colleague
  61. Thorne, Ludmilla: Soviet dissident, then American human rights activist, one of the organizers of Sakharov Readings
  62. Turchin, Valentin: physicist, mathematician, human rights activist, political emigrant
  63. Tverdokhlebov, Andrei: physicist, dissident, political emigrant
  64. Velikanova, Tatiana: human rights activist, mathematician
  65. Velikhov, Evgeniy: physicist, academician, vice-president of Academy of Sciences from 1978, head of Kurchatov Institute of Atomic Energy from 1988
  66. Yankelevich, Tatiana: Elena Bonner's daughter
  67. Yankelevich, Efrem: Elena Bonner's son-in-law, Sakharovs' representative abroad
  68. Zeldovich, Yakov: physicist, a key developer of Soviet nuclear and thermonuclear weapons; Sakharov's colleague and friend

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.

Sakharov, Andreĭ, 1921-1989. Andreĭ Sakharov papers, 1852-2002: Guide.
Houghton Library, Harvard College Library
Description rules
Language of description
Production of this online guide was funded by a gift from Stephen B. Kay.

Repository Details

Part of the Houghton Library Repository

Houghton Library is Harvard College's principal repository for rare books and manuscripts, archives, and more. Houghton Library's collections represent the scope of human experience from ancient Egypt to twenty-first century Cambridge. With strengths primarily in North American and European history, literature, and culture, collections range in media from printed books and handwritten manuscripts to maps, drawings and paintings, prints, posters, photographs, film and audio recordings, and digital media, as well as costumes, theater props, and a wide range of other objects. Houghton Library has historically focused on collecting the written record of European and Eurocentric North American culture, yet it holds a large and diverse number of primary sources valuable for research on the languages, culture and history of indigenous peoples of the Americas, Africa, Asia and Oceania.

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