Sakharov and Maria Domukhovskaya -- Andrei Sakharov's
grandfather and grandmother -- in 1882.
Aleksei Soﬁano, Andrei Sakharov’s maternal grandfather, in 1905.
Pyotr Lebedev (1866-1912).
Lebedev, Vladimir Vernadsky,
along with a large group of professors, walk out of Moscow University in
protest of the government’s police tactics.
The Physical Institute, founded for Pyotr Lebedev in 1911 and built in 1916. The Physical Institute of the Academy of Science (FIAN) moved into this building in 1934. Andrei Sakharov’s path in science began here in 1945.
1921, May 21. Andrei Sakharov is born.
1925. Leonid Mandelshtam begins work at Moscow University
1930. Boris Gessen is appointed
director of the Physics Institute at Moscow State University.
1942. Sakharov graduates from Moscow University in the summer (in evacuation in Ashkhabad because of the war). He begins work at the Ulyanovsk Cartridge Factory, where he meets Klava Vikhireva (he marries her in 1943).
The newlyweds Klavdia Vikhireva and Andrei Sakharov, 1943
“We were married on 10 July. Klava’s father blessed us with an icon, made the sign of the cross over us, and said a few words of advice. Then, holding hands, we ran across the meadow to the side where the registry ofﬁce was situated. We lived together 26 years until Klava died on 8 March 1969. We had three children—our elder daughter Tanya (born 7 February 1945), our daughter Luba (28 July 1949), and our son Dmitri (14 August 1957). The children brought us great joy (but of course, like all children, not only joy). We had periods of happiness in our life, sometimes years at a time, and I am very grateful to Klava for them.”—Sakharov
1943, spring. The Soviet Atomic Project begins under the direction of Igor Kurchatov.
Andrei Sakharov, 1943
1945, February. Sakharov becomes a graduate student under Igor Tamm in the theoretical department of FIAN.
According to the personnel questionnaire of the graduate student, Andrei Sakharov's social origin was raznochinets (in 19th century Russia this term was used for intellectuals not belonging to the gentry)
Member of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR Igor Tamm in the Caucasus
A year later he would head the secret group at FIAN that would invent the ﬁrst thermonuclear bomb. Ten years after that he would receive the Nobel Prize (for work done in 1937).
Igor Tamm at a seminar.
“His true passion, which tormented him all his life and gave his life a higher meaning, was fundamental physics. He said a few years before his death, already gravely ill, that his dream was to live long enough to see the New (capitalized) theory of elementary particles that answered ‘the damned questions’ and to be in a state to understand it.” —Sakharov
1945, July 16. The first atomic bomb is tested in the United States.
1945, July 17. Sergei Vavilov becomes president of the Academy of Sciences.
1945, July 24. During the Potsdam Conference, President Harry S. Truman tells Stalin that the United States has “a new weapon of unusual destructive force,” without specifying that it is the atomic bomb.
1945, August 6. The atomic bomb is dropped on Hiroshima, and three days later on Nagasaki.
Andrei Sakharov, 1945
“On the morning of 7 August I left the house for the bakery and stopped by the newspaper displayed on the newspaper stand. I was struck by the report of Truman’s announcement: on 6 August 1945 at 8 a.m. an atomic bomb of the enormous destructive power of 20 thousand tons of TNT was dropped on Hiroshima. My knees buckled. I realized that my life and the life of very many people, maybe all of them, had suddenly changed. Something new and terrible had entered our lives, and it had come from the side of the Grand science—the one that I worshipped.” — Sakharov
1945, August 20. The Special Committee is formed, headed by Beria.
Full-scale work starts on the atomic project in the USSR.
1946, March. Winston Churchill’s Iron Curtain speech in Fulton, Missouri, becomes the declaration of the Cold War.
1947, November. Sakharov successfully defends his candidate of science thesis .
1948. Sakharov’s pioneering work on muon catalysis.
1948, March. Klaus Fuchs passes information on American hydrogen bomb work.
1948, June. Government resolution on creation within FIAN of an auxiliary group headed by Tamm to help Zeldovich’s group at the Institute of Chemical Physics work on the hydrogen bomb.
Andrei Sakharov, 1948
‘That summer is memorable for the sparkling water, sun, the fresh greenery, the sailboats gliding over the reservoir. Although it was summer, we all worked very intensely. The world in which we were immersed was strange and fantastic, in vivid contrast to everyday city and family life beyond our work rooms, and to ordinary scientiﬁc work.”—Sakharov
description of the US Classic Super based on intelligence information prepared
in January, 1946, with Yakov Zeldovich's
Russian version of the US Classic Super was named Truba (Tube).
Vitaly Ginzburg in 1947, when the newspaper article “Against Kowtowing!” berated
him for his publications, “which discredit our Soviet science.”
A year later he came up with the “second idea” for the Soviet H-bomb, and in 1950 he did his work on the theory of superconductivity, which brought him the Nobel Prize in 2003.
1948, August. The session of the All-Union Academy of Agricultural
Sciences: Lysenko pogrom of Soviet biology.
1948, December. Preparations begin for the All-Union Conference of Physicists.
1949, January. Sakharov’s report on Sloyka, the thermonuclear bomb project.
1949, March. Cancellation of the All-Union Conference of Physicists.
August 29. The first Soviet test of the
1950, January 31. Truman’s directive to create the H-bomb.
1950, February 26. Soviet decision to expand work on the H-bomb.
1950, March. Sakharov moves to the Installation
The monastery town of Sarov, nearly 500 kilometers
from Moscow, which was transformed into the Installation—a secret city where
nuclear weapons designers lived and worked. Andrei Sakharov spent 18 years
here, from 1950 to 1968. The town was removed from all maps and surrounded by
rows of barbed wire. The last of its code names was Arzamas-16.
The Installation’s theorists worked in the red brick building.
1950-1952. In parallel with work on thermonuclear weapons, Sakharov proposes the principle of magnetic thermal insulation of plasma for a controlled thermonuclear reaction (Tokamak) and the principle of obtaining superstrong magnetic fields in the explosion-magnetic generator.
1952, fall. Sakharov’s first political action. With ten other leading physicists in the atomic project, he signs a letter in support of the publication of Vladimir Fock’s article “Against Ignorant Criticism of Contemporary Physics Theories” in response to the June 1952 newspaper article “Against Reactionary Einsteinism in Physics.”
1952, November 1. American
thermonuclear test “Mike.”
On December 2, 1952, Beria mentioned this test in his letter directing that creation of Sloyka "is of the first priority. Judging from certain information that has reached us, there have been tests related to this type of device."
1953, March 5. Death of Stalin.
1953, June. Sakharov defends doctoral dissertation (at the Installation). Beria is arrested.
1953, August 12. The first Soviet test of the thermonuclear bomb Sloyka (Joe-4).
1953, October. Sakharov is elected to the Academy of Sciences.
1954, January. Sakharov is awarded his first star of Hero of Socialist Labor and the Stalin Prize.
1954, January 14. Sakharov-Zeldovich's
joint memo (16 pp., handwritten ) on “atomic compression of the super-device”
as a turn in the H-bomb research, but the key idea of radiation implosion was
not still in sight.
Apparently by then Sakharov and Zeldovich realized that the Sloyka design had no potential for significant improvement, and that Truba (i.e. Classical Super) was a dead end. Since the latter was acknowledged in the US in 1950, it is a straightforward proof that there was no Soviet H-bomb espionage in 1950-1953.
1954, March 1. American thermonuclear test “Bravo.” Its 15 megatons made it 2.5 times more powerful than calculated.
1954, spring. Birth of the “Third Idea” (the Soviet version of radiation implosion) and start of work on a full-scale thermonuclear bomb.
1955, November 22. The first airdrop test of the thermonuclear bomb. Marshal Nedelin gives Sakharov a lesson in political literacy.
Sakharov, and Frank-Kamenetsky at the Installation.
Cosmological bet of 1956
17 February 1973
Problem of Quantum Determinism:
Is there a singular solution of the Schrodinger equation that describes the Universe for all degrees of freedom for all times?
(17 years ago
D.A. F[rank]-K[amenetskii] answered "No",
A.D.S[akharov] answered "Yes" )
1956, September. Sakharov is awarded second star of Hero of Socialist labor and the Lenin Prize.
1957, June. USA announces the creation of a “clean” nuclear bomb.
1958, May. Sakharov’s articles on the radioactive danger of nuclear testing.
According to his calculations, every megaton of atmospheric
thermonuclear testing kills 6,600 people in the course of 8,000 years all over
the planet. Sakharov raised the question:
“What moral and political conclusions must be made from these numbers?”
In January 1958 Time magazine
proclaimed Khrushchev Man of the Year. The symbol of the year was Sputnik.
The article described “Russia’s stubby and bald, garrulous and brilliant
ruler,” who in 1957 “outran, outfoxed, outbragged,
outworked and outdrank them all.”
In its conclusion, the article gave him some advice: “At 63 Nikita himself does not yet have absolute power, is still best described as chairman of the gang. And to control such a gang, as Nikita well knows, takes far more political skill than Stalin ever required. Khrushchev’s Russia needs its thinking men—its scientists and its technicians—and Khrushchev must allow them to think. They demand respect. They can do without Khrushchev, but Khrushchev cannot do without them.”
Twice Hero of Socialist Labor
Academician Andrei Sakharov and thrice Hero of Socialist Labor
Academician Igor Kurchatov.
“My meeting with Kurchatov was in September 1958 in his house on the grounds of the institute. Part of our conversation took place on the bench near his house under spreading leafy trees."
"Kurchatov listening to me closely and basically agreed with my points. He said, ‘Khrushchev is in the Crimea now, vacationing by the sea. I’ll ﬂy out to see him and I’ll present your views to him.’ "—Sakharov
1961, July. At a meeting with the atomic project scientists, Khrushchev announces his decision to renew nuclear testing. Sakharov openly disagrees, angering the country’s leader.
1961, October 30. The most powerful bomb in history -- the Tsar Bomb (developed under Sakharov) -- is tested.
1962, March. Sakharov's third Hero of Socialist Labor star.
1962, September. “The most terrible lesson”—Sakharov failed to prevent an unnecessary test.
1962, October. Cuban missile crisis.
1963, August. Moscow Test Ban Treaty. Sakharov was proud of his part in the accords.
1964, June. Sakharov speaks out against Lysenko at the Academy of
1965. Sakharov’s first work on cosmology is published.
"Program for 16 Years,"
written by Sakharov for himself in 1966, included 16 topics. Why
16? Perhaps because he had spent the previous sixteen at the Installation,
removed from grand science.
Of particular interest is point 14. where Sakharov put a question mark and added: "This is just what I’ll probably be doing." He turned out to be right, and he took up "just that," the unplanned, soon after, and even wrote two of his brightest theoretical works for that point.
In thinking about complex physics-mathematical materials, the academician skipped point 8. That turns point 14 into 13, which may explain its special nature.
1966, February. Letter to the leaders of the country against the
rehabilitation of Stalin. Among the 25 signers are the physicists Artsimovich, Kapitsa, Leontovich,
Sakharov, and Tamm.
1966. Sakharov’s first popular science articles.
1966, September. Article on the baryon asymmetry of the universe.
Sakharov poem expressing the idea of baryon asymmetry (on a copy of the 1967 article)
1966, December 5. Sakharov joins a demonstration at Pushkin Square in
defense of the constitution.
1967, February. Sakharov’s first letter in defense of dissidents.
1967, July 21.
In a secret letter to the Central Committee, Sakharov
explains the need to “take the Americans at their word” and accept their
proposal “for a bilateral rejection by the USA and the USSR of the
development of anti-ballistic missile defense”, because otherwise an arms
race in this new technology would increase the likelihood of nuclear war. He
also asked a permission to publish his article manuscript (accompanied the
letter) in a newspaper to explain the tricky danger of this kind of defense.
The government ignored his letter and refused to let him initiate a public discussion of ABM in the Soviet press.
The first and last page of the secret letter to the Soviet leadership, 21 July 1967
1967, August. Sakharov’s article on the vacuum nature of gravitation is
1968, February. Sakharov begins work on “Reflections on Progress, Peaceful Coexistence, and Intellectual Freedom.”
1968, May. Sakharov releases “Reflections” to samizdat publication. In late May the KGB sends it to the Politburo. In June, the manuscript is sent to Brezhnev
Sakharov’s inscription on the English translation of his popular science article "The Symmetry of the Universe". The date is only a few days after the completion of "Reflections" and just before their release in samizdat. It is clear that Sakharov did not live by politics alone, even at the moment he was entering the public affairs arena, but first and foremost by science.
1968, June 18. At Tamm’s request, Sakharov reads his lecture “Evolution
of Quantum Theory” at the Academy of Sciences ceremony bestowing a gold medal
1968, July 1. The U.S. president announces the USSR’s agreement to start negotiations on arms limitation.
1968, July. “Reflections on Progress, Peaceful Coexistence, and Intellectual Freedom” is published in the West.
1968, July 10. Sakharov’s last day in his office at the Installation.
August 26. Andrei
Sakharov’s first meeting with Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.
“Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and Andrei Sakharov had differences of opinion in philosophy, history, and politics. But they respected each other profoundly. And naturally, Solzhenitsyn publicly defended Sakharov several times. And naturally, Sakharov immediately supported his dissident contemporary as soon as the rumor of Solzhenitsyn’s arrest ﬂew through the town on the evening of 12 February 1974.” —Lydia Chukovskaya
Lydia Chukovskaya in her room, which held the photographs of Andrei Sakharov and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.
A self-portrait of the family in the mid-1960s (the only photograph of the entire family).
From left to right: Lyuba, Tanya, Dima, father and mother.
In the evenings, Mom and Dad played their traditional game of chess.
March 8. After a long illness,
Sakharov's wife Klava dies.
“In a state of despair and grief in the face of Klava’s inexorable death, I grabbed at straws—someone told me that there was a woman in Kaluga with a miracle cure for cancer . . . The inventor of the vaccine was fanatical woman, a doctor by education, who for several years (she was retired) had been making her preparation at home. She gave me a box of ampoules, categorically refusing to take money.”—Sakharov
The miracle did not come to pass. After horrible suffering, Klava passed away. For several months Sakharov “lived in a daze, doing nothing either in science or public affairs.” He dedicated his articles “Antiquarks in the Universe” and “A Multisheeted Cosmological Model” to his wife. And he never played chess again.
Sakharov's letter to the Ministry of MedMash, 1969
"I request your permission to be transferred to FIAN to work in the field of elementary particle theory."
It is not clear what the unemployed physicist was depicting—a specific person or the entire military-industrial complex.
1969, May. Sakharov is officially fired from the Ministry of Medium
Machine Building. In July he becomes senior scientific fellow of the
Theoretical Department at FIAN.
1969, August. Sakharov’s last trip to the Installation. He donates his huge savings (equivalent to thirty times his annual salary) “for the construction of a cancer hospital, the fund for children’s services at the Installation, and to the International Red Cross to help victims of catastrophes and the starving.”
1970, April 20. The KGB chief appeals to the Central Committee for approval to bug Sakharov’s apartment.
1970, May-June. Sakharov helps defend Pyotr Grigorenko and Zhores Medvedev and enters the dissident milieu.
1970, autumn. Sakharov attends his first human rights trial. There he meets Elena Bonner (they become a couple a year later).
1971, September. Sakharov appeals to the Supreme Soviet on freedom of choice of where to live.
1972, October. Sakharov’s first interview to a Western correspondent.
1973, August 21. Sakharov’s first press conference.
1973, August 23. In an interview with Western journalists, Sakharov says, “How can we speak of trust, if one of the sides is like a giant concentration camp?”
Andrei Sakharov and Elena Bonner before their ﬁrst press conference, August 21, 1973
August 29. Letter of 40 academicians to Pravda,
the start of the newspaper campaign of the “people’s wrath.”
1973, September. Solzhenitsyn, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1970, proposes Sakharov for the Nobel Peace Prize. Lydia Chukovskaya’s article “Wrath of the People” in defense of Sakharov and Solzhenitsyn is released in samizdat (she was expelled from the Writers’ Union for this article).
1974, January. Sakharov reads Gulag Archipelago, just published in the West. “We knew the innumerable facts of mass cruelty and illegality in the world of the Gulag, and had an idea of the scale of those crimes. And still, even for us, Solzhenitsyn’s book was a shock.”
1974, February. Solzhenitsyn is arrested and expelled from the USSR.
1974, April. Sakharov responds to Solzhenitsyn’s Letter to the Leaders, published in March. The ideological differences between them, for all their mutual respect, are evident.
1974, June. Sakharov’s first (6-day) hunger strike to draw attention to the plight of political prisoners.
1975, October 9. The Nobel Peace Prize award to Sakharov is announced.
1975, December 11. Sakharov is attending a trial of a human rights activist in Vilnius. There he hears the Nobel ceremony on the radio. His Nobel Lecture, “Peace, Progress, and Human Rights,” is read in Oslo by Elena Bonner.
“Speaking at one of the dinners [during the Nobel ceremony in Sweden], Lusya repeated her line about Russian women [using the word ‘baba,’ which literally means peasant woman, but is used colloquially for women] on whose backs Russia plows and threshes and grinds ﬂour, and added that now they also accept prizes. Maria Olsufyeva, who was interpreting for Lusya, had difﬁculty translating the phrase. And really, how do you say ‘baba’ in English?’”—Sakharov
1978, summer. Sakharov begins writing his memoirs.
“I am no volunteer priest of the idea, but simply a man with an unusual fate. I am against all kinds of self-immolation (for myself and for others, including the people closest to me)." -- From Andrei Sakharov’s diary, 27/IV 1978
Andrei Sakharov, a few months before his exile from Moscow to Gorky.
1980, January. Publicly criticizes the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. January 22, on the way to a seminar at FIAN, Sakharov is arrested and exiled to Gorky.
Photo distributed in Moscow on Andrei Sakharov’s sixtieth birthday when he was in Gorky exile. The caption below the photo: “On May 21, 1981, Andrei Sakharov will be 60. He is now living in Gorky, 214 Gagarin Prospect, Apt. 2.”
1983, May 18. At the direction of the Congress, President Ronald Reagan
designated May 21, 1983, as “National Andrei Sakharov Day”: "Today,
we call upon the Soviet leaders to give Andrei Sakharov his freedom. The world
needs his learning, his wisdom, his nobility. In observing National Andrei
Sakharov Day, May 21st, we urge the American people and all the peoples of the
world to speak for him, for in doing so we speak for ourselves, for all
mankind, and for all that is good and noble in the human spirit."
1983, June. Sakharov’s article “The Danger of Thermonuclear War” is published in the West, and a new campaign is begun against Sakharov and Bonner in the USSR.
1984, May 2. Elena Bonner is arrested. Sakharov begins a hunger strike, demanding permission for his wife to travel to the United States for heart surgery. On May 7 he is forcibly hospitalized and force-fed.
1984, August 10. Elena Bonner is sentenced to 5 years of exile in Gorky.
1984, September 8. Sakharov is released from the hospital, where he was held in isolation for four months.
Andrei Sakharov and Elena Bonner, Gorky, September 1984, three months after a hunger strike.
1985, April 11. Gorbachev is the new General Secretary of the CPSU.
1985, April 16. Sakharov starts new hunger strike for his wife to travel aboard for medical treatment. On April 21 he is taken to hospital and force-fed.
1985, October 23. Sakharov leaves hospital. October 25, Bonner is given permission to travel. In November she flies to the United States, where she has heart surgery. She returns to Gorky in June 1986.
1985, December. The European Parliament establishes the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, to be given annually for outstanding contributions to human rights. The first prize is given in 1988 to Nelson Mandela and Anatoly Marchenko (posthumously).
1986, December 16. Gorbachev calls Sakharov and tells him that he and his wife may return to Moscow.
1986, December 23. Sakharov returns to Moscow.
1987, February. Sakharov speaks at the Moscow Forum
for a Non-Nuclear World and Human Survival.
1987, November. Sakharov’s first interview in the Soviet press.
1988, October. Sakharov is elected member of the Presidium of the Academy of Sciences.
1988. Sakharov’s first trip abroad. In the United States meets
Edward Teller and receives Einstein Peace Prize.
1989, January–March. First semi-free elections in Soviet history for Congress of People’s Deputies. Sakharov is elected deputy from the Academy of Sciences.
Rally at the Presidium of the Academy
of Sciences, February 2, 1989.
The nearest sign reads, “WHO IF NOT SAKHAROV?”
1989, May 25 – June 9.
Sakharov participates in the First Congress of People’s Deputies of the USSR. At the final session he calls on them to pass “Decree on Power,” which would, among other things, repeal the one-party political system.
1989, July. Sakharov is elected co-chairman of the Interregional Group—the democratic opposition in the Congress.
September 6. The KGB burns the last (?)
seven volumes of materials gathered on “Ascetic” and “Vixen” (Sakharov and
Bonner). Around 600 volumes had been destroyed previously.
1989, September 27. Sakharov addresses the French Physics Society in Lyons with his lecture “Science and Freedom.”
1989, autumn. Sakharov finishes his memoirs, works on his draft of the constitution, and works in the Supreme Soviet.
Andrei Sakharov’s manuscript, draft Constitution for the Union of Soviet Republics of Europe and Asia
the future is unpredictable and also - because of quantum effects - uncertain,”
-- Sakharov offered this consolation to a physicist and human
rights activist in a letter from his exile in Gorky.
This kind of uncertainty encouraged Sakharov and his humanitarian friends to act to deserve a better future.
Andrei Sakharov in his last year
1989, December 14. Andrei Sakharov dies.
1990. Sakharov’s Memoirs are published. In Russia the Sakharov Prize for Civic Courage in a Writer is established. The first recipient is Lydia Chukovskaya.
// Physics in Perspective, Vol 11, N 2 / June, 2009, p. 169-197
Teller, Sakharov, Secrecy, and Parallel Histories
The Paternity of the H-Bomb
Espionage and the Parallel Secret World
The 3rd idea
On Scientific Secrets
Edward Teller and the Realities of Illusory Worlds
Beyond Science and Military Technology
The Anti-Communist and his Two Socialist Friends
Creating an Illusory World to Justify Oneself
Parallels and Perpendiculars