Separation

John Ziman

  • Refusenik by Mark Ya. Azbel
    Hamish Hamilton, 513 pp, £9.95, February 1982, ISBN 0 241 10633 8

I first came across the name M. Ya. Azbel in about 1956. He was one of the three authors of a very remarkable paper, published in the Russian Journal of Experimental and Theoretical Physics, showing how the electrical resistance of a very pure and perfect crystal of a metal might be expected to vary with direction in a high magnetic field at a very low temperature. This paper was a decisive breakthrough in the electron theory of metals, which was my own scientific specialty. It was not surprising to see the same name attached to other papers of similar brilliance, or to hear, later, that Azbel had moved from Kharkhov to Moscow. Some of my scientific colleagues who visited Moscow in the Sixties mentioned him as one of the most stimulating members of the Landau Institute for Theoretical Physics, where he was chairman of a department; he was also a professor at Moscow University. In 1973, I heard he had applied for a visa to go to Israel. The plight of Jewish ‘refuseniks’in the Soviet Union was becoming a serious human rights issue at that time, so it was natural enough for me to join the campaign on behalf of this Russian ‘opposite number’. We sent letters and telegrams to various Soviet dignitaries, and I even spoke to Azbel on the telephone, direct from Bristol to Moscow, when a group of refuseniks were on a fortnight’s hunger strike to draw attention to their situation.

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