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Landau and his School

John Ziman, 18 December 1980

Landau: A Great Physicist and Teacher 
by Anna Livanova, translated by J.B. Sykes.
Pergamon, 226 pp., £10, June 1980, 0 00 000002 7
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... Name the greatest Russian physicist of this century. The public vote would go for Andrei Sakharov – but for moral stature rather than for contributions to knowledge. A generation ago, Pyotr Kapitza would have been supported by many, in the mistaken belief that he was the master mind behind the Russian Bomb ...

Perestroika and its Discontents

John Lloyd, 11 July 1991

Moscow and Beyond: 1986-1989 
by Andrei Sakharov.
Hutchinson, 168 pp., £14.99, April 1991, 0 09 174972 7
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Fatal Half-Measures: The Allure of Democracy in the Soviet Union 
by Yevgeny Yevtushenko, edited and translated by Antonia Bovis.
Little, Brown, 357 pp., £12.95, May 1991, 0 316 96883 8
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... those who had remained within the official fold, like Yevtushenko, and those who had not, like Sakharov. When the anti-Stalinist organisation Memorial was founded in 1988 both men joined its leadership. For Sakharov, Memorial was less important than the battles he fought with other dissident colleagues for the rights of ...

Jewish in Moscow

Yoram Gorlizki, 8 February 1990

... times, and despite assuming secular forms, still shapes the ways in which Jews are talked about. Andrei Sakharov intimated as much when he remarked, on the occasion of the Sharansky trial, that in the Soviet Union ‘anti-semitism has been raised to the level of a state religion in a godless state.’ It is also possible to see this tendency to ...

When did your eyes open?

Benjamin Nathans: Sakharov, 13 May 2010

Meeting the Demands of Reason: The Life and Thought of Andrei Sakharov 
by Jay Bergman.
Cornell, 454 pp., £24.95, October 2009, 978 0 8014 4731 0
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... War. The surprise of foreign observers was not lost on the dissidents themselves. As one of them, Andrei Amalrik, put it, it was as if an ichthyologist had discovered talking fish. Suddenly there were natives inside the closely guarded Soviet aquarium who could not only speak, but speak their own minds. Smuggled texts found their way to the West, where they ...

Patriotic Work

M.F. Perutz, 27 September 1990

by Andrei Sakharov, translated by Richard Lourie.
Hutchinson, 776 pp., £19.99, July 1990, 0 09 174636 1
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... struggle for human rights. For twenty years, from 1948 until his dismissal in 1968, Sakharov masterminded the scientific groundwork for the development and perfection of ever more lethal atomic weapons, blindly and obsessively absorbed in work that he describes as a theoretician’s paradise. His inventive genius was rewarded by election to full ...
Zinky Boys: The Record of a Lost Soviet Generation 
by Svetlana Alexievich, translated by Julia Whitby and Robin Whitby.
Chatto, 192 pp., £9.99, January 1992, 0 7011 3838 6
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... propaganda section of an artillery regiment testifies to the extraordinary moral authority which Andrei Sakharov exercised: ‘When I hear people accusing us of killing people over there I could smash their faces in. If you weren’t there and didn’t live through it you have no right to judge us. The only exception was ...

Pissing in the Snow

Steven Rose: Dissidents and Scientists, 18 July 2019

Freedom’s Laboratory: The Cold War Struggle for the Soul of Science 
by Audra J. Wolfe.
Johns Hopkins, 302 pp., £22, January 2019, 978 1 4214 2673 0
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... in the USSR into following a rigid party line, and in 1946 theory was ossified in the claim by Andrei Zhdanov, the secretary of the Central Committee of the CP, that the world was divided into two camps: one Soviet and ‘democratic’; the other US-led and ‘imperialistic’. Science, according to the Zhdanov thesis, both reflected and contributed to ...
Ablaze: The Story of Chernobyl 
by Piers Paul Read.
Secker, 478 pp., £16.99, May 1993, 0 436 40963 1
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... at Chernobyl was a direct descendant of the prototype built by the team of scientists, including Andrei Sakharov, which formed around Igor Kurchatov and, shortly after the war, developed an atomic bomb. That reactor was designed to meet Kurchatov’s requirements by the engineer Nikolai Dollezhal and was built at the record speed considered advisable ...

People and Martians

Sheila Fitzpatrick, 24 January 2019

The Great Terror: Stalin’s Purge of the Thirties 
by Robert Conquest.
Bodley Head, 576 pp., £20, November 2018, 978 1 84792 568 8
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The Harvest of Sorrow: Soviet Collectivisation and the Terror-Famine 
by Robert Conquest.
Bodley Head, 412 pp., £20, November 2018, 978 1 84792 567 1
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... but it was invented for rather different purposes.’ Later in the same interview he noted that ‘Andrei Sakharov said that Stalin was anti-Ukrainian, and other people have said the same. But he was anti-Ukrainian because they gave him trouble. He was also anti a lot of other people.’ Three years earlier, Conquest had told the demographic historian ...

Like a Ball of Fire

Andrew Cockburn, 5 March 2020

... NPO Mashinostroyeniya, with its ten thousand employees in Rostov. (At almost the same time, Andrei Sakharov was busy persuading Gorbachev that America’s ‘Star Wars’ programme could never pose a significant threat to Soviet missiles.) The Albatross programme survived the fall of the Soviet Union, though only just: mothballed in the 1990s, it ...

The View from Poklonnaya Gora

John Lloyd, 3 October 1996

Moscow: Governing the Socialist Metropolis 
by Timothy Colton.
Harvard, 958 pp., £25.95, January 1996, 0 674 58741 3
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... into politics: the most influential were the Memorial Assocation built round the returned exile Andrei Sakharov, dedicated to exhuming the memory of the millions of zeks; the Moscow Tribune, the creation of Tatyana Zaslavskaya and Sakharov again, which stood for radical democratic and economic change; and the ...

Good Day, Comrade Shtrum

John Lanchester: Vasily Grossman’s Masterpiece, 18 October 2007

Life and Fate 
by Vasily Grossman, translated by Robert Chandler.
Vintage, 864 pp., £9.99, October 2006, 0 09 950616 5
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... a friend from his student years. Some time later, a microfilm copy of the manuscript was made by Andrei Sakharov and Yelena Bonner, and the microfilm was smuggled to the West in 1970 by Vladimir Voinovich. (It must have been a bit like Celebrity Dissident Pass-the-Parcel.) In 1980 the book was published for the first time; in 1985, Robert Chandler’s ...

Big Boss in Fast Cars

Neal Ascherson: In Brezhnev’s Room, 24 February 2022

Brezhnev: The Making of a Statesman 
by Susanne Schattenberg, translated by John Heath.
I.B. Tauris, 484 pp., £30, November 2021, 978 1 83860 638 1
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... responsibility, but he was not the driving force behind the arrests’. He knew and revered Andrei Sakharov, and was reluctant to agree to his eventual banishment to Gorki. But Aleksandr Bovin, one of the shrewdest men on his staff, concluded that Brezhnev ‘simply did not understand the issue of democracy and human rights’. This became all too ...

Big Man Walking

Neal Ascherson: Gorbachev’s Dispensation, 14 December 2017

Gorbachev: His Life and Times 
by William Taubman.
Simon and Schuster, 880 pp., £25, September 2017, 978 1 4711 4796 8
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... didn’t get in his way in Washington and Moscow. Arguing with Mrs Thatcher, swapping ideas with Andrei Sakharov or with heretical Italian communists – that was fun. Remaining patient with stupid old dinosaurs like Erich Honecker or evil goblins like Ceaușescu was a penance. Gorbachev seems to have regarded the ‘fraternal ruling parties’ as, on ...

Moderation or Death

Christopher Hitchens: Isaiah Berlin, 26 November 1998

Isaiah Berlin: A Life 
by Michael Ignatieff.
Chatto, 386 pp., £20, October 1998, 0 7011 6325 9
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The Guest from the Future: Anna Akhmatova and Isaiah Berlin 
by György Dalos.
Murray, 250 pp., £17.95, September 2002, 0 7195 5476 4
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... reply to Berlin’s hatred of the Soviet system. A non-sequitur. Apart from anything else, it was Andrei Sakharov who educated millions of people to see the obviousness of the points I’ve just made.(Incidentally, and on a point that often gives rise to gossip, Ignatieff asserts that Berlin was as shocked as anybody by the surreptitious CIA funding of ...

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