Q: Andrei Sakharov's experience making nuclear weapons has a tremendous
impact on his later life, does it not?
DH: There's a very interesting question of the relationship between [Andrei]
Sakharov the weapons scientist, and Sakharov the defender of human rights. You
know, some people would say that these are kind of two very different people.
But I think there are important connections. And Sakharov himself always
believed that there were important connections. That his path towards
political activity started with the 1955 thermonuclear test which produced such
a big impact on him. He became concerned about these weapons. He then became
concerned about the fallout issue. That led him to campaign for, you know,
moratoria on nuclear testing. And then he later became involved, you know,
played a role in bringing about the partial test ban treaty of 1963. He then
got involved in other policy issues about ballistic missile defense and
expressed a great concern about these questions, and a great concern that they
were not receiving the proper kind of analysis in this society. And that led
him to write his famous 1968 memorandum on peaceful coexistence, intellectual
freedom. And when that was published in the West, he was removed from weapons
work. And you know, then his kind of public life begins at that point.
Q: What in the makeup of Andrei Sakharov leads him to assume the role that
he ultimately plays in Soviet history?
DH: I think there was in his personality a kind of link between a very
penetrating intelligence and a commitment to doing something good and something
useful. And I think he himself saw...this commitment to doing something good
as characteristic of the Russian intelligentsia, or certainly of the family
that he grew up in. And I think his commitment to working on weapons was
linked to a belief that this is the right thing to do. This is -- I'm doing my
duty for my country and it serves the cause of peace...
The first time I met him,...the kind of image in my mind was of a search
light, or a light house which would, you know, if you asked a question, the
beam would shift onto the question. Suddenly the whole issue would be
illuminated and he would very thoughtfully try to get into the most important
points of a particular issue... he turned that intelligence on himself as well
and I think after -- in 1955, when he saw the consequence of the [superbomb]
test...he thought, this isn't satisfactory, I have to be concerned with the
broader issues, and I think that led him step by step to the public role that
he did later play in his life.
back to Interview Transcripts