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The KGB File of Andrei Sakharov

The KGB File of Andrei Sakharov

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by Joshua Rubenstein (Editor), Alexander Gribanov (Editor), Efrem Yankelevich (Translator), Ella Shmulevich (Translator)

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Andrei Sakharov (1921–1989), a brilliant physicist and the principal designer of the Soviet hydrogen bomb, later became a human rights activist and—as a result—a source of profound irritation to the Kremlin. This book publishes for the first time ever KGB files on Sakharov that became available during Boris Yeltsin’s presidency. The


Andrei Sakharov (1921–1989), a brilliant physicist and the principal designer of the Soviet hydrogen bomb, later became a human rights activist and—as a result—a source of profound irritation to the Kremlin. This book publishes for the first time ever KGB files on Sakharov that became available during Boris Yeltsin’s presidency. The documents reveal the untold story of KGB surveillance of Sakharov from 1968 until his death in 1989 and of the regime’s efforts to intimidate and silence him. The disturbing archival materials show the KGB to have had a profound lack of understanding of the spiritual and moral nature of the human rights movement and of Sakharov’s role as one of its leading figures.

Editorial Reviews

Jeane J. Kirkpatrick
“A fascinating, illuminating book, a treasure trove of information on the development of Sakharov's views and of the 'dissident movement' in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.”—Jeane J. Kirkpatrick, Senior Fellow, American Enterprise Institute.

Richard Pipes
"It is fascinating and inspiring to read these documents and witness how the Soviet security apparatus with all its spies and bugging devices was unable to break the will of one indomitably courageous man."—Richard Pipes, Baird Professor of History, Emeritus, Harvard University
Walter Laqueur
"Sheds fascinating light on the working of the Soviet system at the highest level—its policy towards the intelligentsia and the dissidents."—Walter Laqueur

Product Details

Yale University Press
Publication date:
Annals of Communism Series
Product dimensions:
6.13(w) x 9.25(h) x 1.02(d)

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The KGB File of Andrei Sakharov

Yale University Press

Copyright © 2005 Yale University
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-300-10681-7

Chapter One

Emergence of a Public Activist

IN MAY 1968 a secretary at the Installation, the secret community where Andrei Sakharov lived and worked with other nuclear scientists, handed security officials a manuscript copy of Andrei Sakharov's essay "Progress, Coexistence, and Intellectual Freedom." The KGB required her to pass along all material that the scientists shared with her. Sakharov was not naive; he fully expected her to alert the authorities, even as she typed the manuscript for him. But he had nothing to hide and was hoping that his essay would lead to a dialogue with Party officials. Andropov quickly summarized it for members of the Politburo, noting that it related both to general criticism of the Soviet regime and to recent defiant protests by a small group of activists. He also made sure to highlight Sakharov's support for the Prague Spring, a development that would only serve to reinforce suspicion of Sakharov himself.


Andropov to Central Committee, May 22, 1968 The appearance of "Progress, Coexistence, and Intellectual Freedom" * * *

A full member of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR, Andrei Dmitrievich Sakharov (born 1921;Russian; not a Party member; three times Hero of Socialist Labor; recipient of State and Lenin prizes; deputy director of research at All-Union Research Institute of Experimental Physics of the USSR Ministry of Medium Machine Building [Arzamas-16]), in recent years has repeatedly signed, at the request of antisocial individuals, politically immature documents, which were then sent to various government and state bodies.

On May 16, 1968, while at the Institute, Sakharov asked one of the typists to produce five copies of materials in his possession. Once information about the political nature of the document being duplicated was received, measures were taken that resulted in obtaining one copy of the document, starting with page 6.

The attached document deals with issues pertaining to the political, economic, and social development of our society, mainly from an anti-Marxist position. It expounds the view that it is necessary to "reconsider the traditional approach in international affairs." It holds the Soviet Union accountable for the situation in the Middle East by permitting "the irresponsible encouragement of so-called 'Arab unity' (which in no way has a socialist character,... but is purely nationalistic and anti-Israel)." It calls for granting peoples the right "to decide their own fate by a free expression of their will" on the basis of the "[Universal] Declaration of Human Rights."

The author considers contemporary social development and discusses the danger of "the monstrously cruel dictatorial police regimes" of Stalin, Hitler, and Mao Zedong. He notes that "fascism in Germany lasted for twelve years, Stalinism in the USSR twice as long. While the two have much in common, there are also certain differences: Stalinism exhibited a more subtle kind of hypocrisy and demagoguery; it relied not on an openly cannibalistic program, like Hitler's, but on a progressive, scientific, and popular socialist ideology that was popular among the toiling classes and served as a convenient screen for deceiving the working class, and for weakening the vigilance of the intelligentsia and rivals in the power struggle.... " In addressing the issue of the "threat to intellectual freedom," the author writes: "Today, intellectual freedom is the key to a progressive restructuring [perestroika] of the state system in the interests of mankind. This has been understood, in particular, in Czechoslovakia; we must support their courageous initiative, which is so valuable for the future of socialism and all mankind."

... In the second part of the document, the author denies that capitalist society entails any contradiction between the means of production and the form of ownership, and claims that "both capitalism and socialism are capable of indefinite development by borrowing positive elements from each other (and, in fact, converging in a number of essential aspects)."

In conclusion, the author writes that "the capitalist world could not have failed to give birth to the socialist one, but the socialist world should not use armed force to destroy the ground from which it grew. Under present conditions this would be tantamount to mankind's suicide."

* * *

Andropov was now prepared to portray Sakharov in a more provocative manner. He emphasized that Sakharov was devoting less energy to weapons research and increasing amounts of time to antisocial activities. Furthermore, Andropov claimed that other dissidents, such as Pyotr Yakir, who was reputed to be one of the more adventurous figures among them, were now said to be asking Sakharov how to approach Yuli Khariton, the scientific director of Soviet nuclear weapons projects, to enlist him in their efforts. Leonid Brezhnev knew Sakharov personally and had been among the Soviet leaders to honor him earlier in the 1960s. So it was not surprising that Brezhnev, upon reading this report, appended a handwritten order that it be shared with Alexei Kosygin and Nikolai Podgorny, the other members of the triumvirate that was governing the country.


Andropov to Central Committee, June 13, 1968 Sakharov and the activity of other dissidents

* * *

According to information obtained by the Committee for State Security, certain hostile elements, in their demagogic attempts to prove the existence of "the Party's excessive interference in science and the arts," the necessity for "improving socialism," etc., are continuing their efforts to exploit the name of the well-known Soviet scientist Academician Sakharov by systematically asking him to endorse documents of politically harmful content.... In recent years, Sakharov has been paying less and less attention to creating nuclear weapons; for all practical purposes, he now avoids taking part in these tasks. According to the information available from official sources and from our agents, Sakharov is characterized as an outstanding scientist, not only as a person possessing a wide range of knowledge in theoretical physics, but also as someone deeply interested in biology, medicine, literature, and politics. At the same time, during his work in the collective of the All-Union Research Institute of Experimental Physics, Sakharov was regarded as an apolitical person, who takes no part in public life and who is susceptible to outside influences....

As the material obtained by agents shows, the people closest to Sakharov include some who are disseminating ideologically immature and harmful works by Medvedev, Solzhenitsyn, and Ginzburg, which propagandize the idea of a "transfer of power from politicians to the technical intelligentsia" and question the leading role of the Party in the task of building communism. Material in the file of one individual, Zhivlyuk (born 1936; Belorussian; member of CPSU; holds a candidate degree in physics), implicates him in having tried to use his contacts with scientists (including Sakharov) to influence the decision of the authorities concerning the fate of Gabai and Khaustov, who were convicted under Article 190-3 of the Criminal Code of the RSFSR.

Zhivlyuk often meets and talks to Sakharov, who allegedly shares his views on a number of issues concerning the politics and social development of the country. According to the same information, Sakharov, upset by the lack of response to his repeated appeals to authorities, nevertheless intends to seek a meeting with the CPSU's leadership and to raise the question of the inadmissibility of the recent unjustified repression of the creative intelligentsia, which reminds him of the "worst times of 1937."

The ... material on ... Yakir shows that this subject and his associates not only are informed about the actual role of Academician Khariton as the director of research for the whole task of developing Soviet nuclear weapons, but also discuss with Sakharov the possibility of involving Khariton in their activities, which are directed toward criticizing the policy of the CPSU and the Soviet government in the production and testing of these weapons.

Currently Sakharov continues to work on a document of a political nature, which he has titled "Reflections on Progress, Coexistence, and Intellectual Freedom." In this document, together with a discussion of the political, economic, and social development of our society, the author advances a multistage scenario for the development of capitalist and socialist societies, which he believes will inevitably follow in the coming decades (by the year 2000).

Taking the above into account and in order to eliminate opportunities for anti-Soviet and antisocial elements to exploit Academician Sakharov's name for their hostile purposes, and in order to prevent him from committing politically harmful acts, we believe it would make sense for one of the secretaries of the Central Committee to receive Sakharov and conduct an appropriate conversation with him.

* * *

As human rights activists became familiar with Sakharov's essay and his full stature as a scientist, Andropov noted their desire to "exploit" Sakharov for their own political purposes. These activists were learning about Sakharov for the first time, just as the Western public was becoming aware that a principal designer of Soviet nuclear weapons had issued a manifesto criticizing the Kremlin. To reinforce the serious nature of their findings, KGB agents claimed to have evidence of a link between the dissidents and a foreign publisher with close ties to the émigré anti-Soviet organization NTS (Narodno-trudovoi soyuz, or the Popular Labor Alliance of Russian Solidarists).


Andropov to Central Committee, July 18, 1968 Moscow dissidents linked to Andrei Sakharov

* * *

According to information obtained by the Committee for State Security, Litvinov, Grigorenko, and their confederates discussed (at their last regular gathering-the so-called Tuesdays at the Litvinov apartment) plans for continuation of their antisocial activities. In a conversation with our source, Litvinov said that they now seek new forms of activity, not excluding demonstrations and strikes. At the same time, they do not intend to abandon the dissemination of protest letters because they believe that, "despite persecution of their authors, the letters fulfill their role: they stir up public opinion." While demagogically asserting that his main goal is to "lay the foundation for the rule of law in our country," Litvinov simultaneously declares that he rejects "not only Bolshevism as a system, but Bolshevik methods as well." He considers his methods to be similar to those of the "Kadets."

Grigorenko takes an especially active part in the discussions of new forms, tactics, and methods of antisocial activity. While giving high marks to the provocative actions of Litvinov and Bogoraz-Brukhman, Grigorenko said that now "another step is required. Life itself has come to our rescue. Sakharov is the next step. This is what we have to promote right now. But we already need to think about the third step. Every innovation, every new idea has its limits: there is a time to exploit it and a time to stop exploiting it; otherwise, it will turn into its own antithesis. Now, for the time being, we have to exploit Sakharov, and to exploit him to the hilt. But we have to think about the next stage, the third stage. And the third stage is the forthcoming conference of Communist parties. We have to have an opposition party of some sort; whatever form it may take, we have to have it here, in our country, in the land of the Soviets."

... On July 1, Litvinov, Bogoraz-Brukhman, and Marchenko were seen meeting with a French tourist, Jean Yves Clousier, who represents a newspaper with close contacts to Grani, a publication of NTS. Clousier stated that his newspaper, in collaboration with other publishers, is preparing for publication two White Books: one on the trial of Ginzburg and Galanskov and another about "concentration camps."

During the meeting, Bogoraz-Brukhman gave Clousier documents (the content of which is unknown) that she had prepared and that had been approved by Litvinov and Marchenko.

Our agents have established that close contacts of Yakir (his wife, daughter, and son-in-law, Kim, as well as others) are very interested in events in Czechoslovakia, and that they intend to establish contact with citizens of Czechoslovakia to obtain information about events there. They prefer to establish contact with Czechs, not Slovaks. For the same reason, Yakir maintains contact with V. P. Lukin, who works for the magazine Problems of Peace and Socialism....

Sakharov was now helping the Marxist historian Roy Medvedev compile additional material for his pathbreaking book on the purges, Let History Judge. Sakharov's development of contacts with other dissident figures could only annoy the Politburo.


Andropov to Central Committee, August 4, 1968 Sakharov and the dissident historian Roy Medvedev

* * *

Agents of the Committee for State Security have obtained a new version of R. A. Medvedev's manuscript, Let History Judge (a photocopy is appended). Medvedev has supplemented the manuscript with materials about physicists repressed in the past, with an analysis of their scientific potential, schools they represented in science, and evaluation of the ideas they did not bring to realization. Medvedev obtained this information from Academician Sakharov, with whom he has close relations.

Medvedev intends, in the near future, to complete Let History Judge and to begin an analysis and assessment of the contemporary situation (in connection with the deterioration in the domestic and foreign situation).

In assessing the measures of Communist parties in socialist countries with respect to events in Czechoslovakia, Medvedev declared: "The military occupation of Czechoslovakia would inevitably lead to a strong reaction in the USSR, but it seems that the pressure of Western Communist parties has restrained some of our own 'hawks' from such an insane action."

In June of this year, Medvedev obtained from Sakharov a revised copy of his article "Reflections on Progress, Coexistence, and Intellectual Freedom," which he permitted some of his acquaintances to read. He made copies of the text together with L. N. Petrovsky (a member of the CPSU and researcher at the Central Museum of V. I. Lenin). In general, Medvedev endorses Sakharov's article, since, in his opinion, it calls for the democratization of intellectual life. At the same time, he also notes its utopian character. Medvedev expresses concern about Sakharov's future; he believes it to be pointless for Sakharov to try "to put pressure on the government...."

* * *

On August 25, a day before the following two reports were filed, eight activists held a demonstration in Red Square to protest the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia. They were Konstantin Babitsky, Larisa Bogoraz, Vladimir Dremlyuga, Vadim Delone, Pavel Litvinov, Viktor Fainberg, Natalya Gorbanevskaya, and Tatyana Baeva. At the same time, the KGB was growing increasingly concerned about Western fascination with dissent inside the Soviet Union, including the interest of the U.S. Congress.


Tsvigun to Central Committee, August 26, 1968 Growing Western interest in Soviet dissent

* * *

The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee intends to publish, in the near future, a report on "Aspects of Intellectual Ferment and Dissent in the Soviet Union" prepared by Library of Congress specialists S. Yakobson and R. Allen.

The report is based on material from the trials of Brodsky, Sinyavsky-Daniel, Bukovsky, Galanskov-Ginzburg, and Chernovil; on letters sent to the West by Litvinov, Sakharov, Belinkov, L. Chukovskaya, Maltsev, Solzhenitsyn, and Voznesensky; and also on other documents that have reached the West and allegedly attest to the growth of an oppositionist mood in the USSR.


Excerpted from The KGB File of Andrei Sakharov Copyright © 2005 by Yale University. Excerpted by permission.
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Meet the Author

Joshua Rubenstein is northeast regional director of Amnesty International USA and a longtime associate at Harvard University’s Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies. Alexander Gribanov is a literary scholar and archivist. He was the literary editor of the Chronicle of Current Events in Moscow, and arranged and processed the papers of Andrei Sakharov at Brandeis University.

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