ROAR: “Sakharov’s ideas still useful for Russia”

Vladimir Kremlev for RT
The Russian media are marking the 20th anniversary of the death of Andrey Sakharov, a physicist, dissident, human rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner.

The participants pf a two-day international conference called “Andrey Sakharov’s Ideas Today” which has started in Moscow are discussing “peace, progress and human rights” – the main ideas of the scientist’s Nobel lecture. The topics include disarmament, ecology, energy security, issues of intellectual freedom and the role of intellectuals in the modern world.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev sent a letter to the participants of the conference, stressing the realization of Sakharov’s ideas today. Many observers agree with this, stressing that not only Sakharov’s scientific work, but also his public activity has left a significant trace in the country’s history.

Vremya Novostey daily wrote that Sakharov’s ideas conform to the tasks the Russian society is facing today. “Human rights activists and leading political figures including the president have declared that,” the paper said.

“Sakharov’s persistence in defending people’s rights and freedoms is what Russia lacks today,” said Ella Panfilova, Chair of the Presidential Council on Civil Society.

Lyudmila Alekseeva, head of the Moscow Helsinki Group, believes that Sakharov managed to predict many things that exist today, and “his advice are still useful for the development of humanity.”

For instance, when he wrote his “Reflections on Progress, Peaceful Coexistence, and Intellectual Freedom” or his Nobel lecture “Peace, Progress, Human Rights,” “the world was divided into two camps,” Alekseeva told Vremya Novostey daily. “And he said that there should not be such division on our small planet, and that it is necessary to solve the common problems of poverty, ecology and arms reduction,” she said.

Since that time, “the world has not become united, but the Cold War between the two camps has ended,” Alekseeva stressed. She added that the problems of poverty and ecology are now being solved “at the level of heads of states.”

It is another issue that Sakharov dreamt about: “the single government,” Alekseeva said, adding that humanity “has not grown up to this yet.” She also noted that after 20 years since Sakharov’s death “not all rights and freedoms that he fought for have been realized in Russia.”

Alekseeva also told Vesti TV channel that “today our country and the world (are poorer for the) lack (of) Andrey Sakharov because the present world does not have such moral guides as he was.”

Rossiyskaya Gazeta daily described the conference “Andrey Sakharov’s Ideas Today” as an attempt “to return Sakharov to us in the actuality of the present situation because, it must be confessed, after his departure his name did not disappear, but it did not work either,’” the paper said.

The organizers of the conference stressed that Sakharov is important today “not only as a co-author of the modern conception of human rights and the human rights movement, but also as a man personifying a moral dimension of international politics.”

“Sakharov and Solzhenitsyn are two ethical pillars of our political and moral history in the second half of the 20th Century,” the daily noted. “Their fates and personalities as no others show how a man may be equal to the system, how a person may oppose the system,” it added.

In Russia, Sakharov is remembered as the outstanding physicist, “a father of the H-bomb,” and a man who campaigned against nuclear testing and the introduction of Soviet troops in Afghanistan.

Fedor Lukyanov, editor-in-chief of Russia in Global affairs magazine, also believes that Sakharov’s works are an important but “still unappreciated part of Russian ideological heritage that has not lost currency in the 21st Century.”

It is difficult not to notice now “the lack of figures of Sakharov’s scale and ideas possible to change the paradigm of the development,” he added.

“The problems that Sakharov indicated became especially noticeable after the end of the bipolar confrontation when the West obtained dominant positions on the international arena,” Lukyanov wrote in Gazeta daily. The spirit of chauvinism, great-power competition and the arrogance of strength “rather than totalitarian ideologies are threatening values common to all mankind,” the analyst added.

Sakharov’s ideas “about the convergence of different socio-political systems which seemed naïve after the collapse of socialism are taken differently now – a self-complacent market without borders does not look like a panacea for all problems,” Lukyanov said.

Meanwhile, the modern Russia does not know “how to treat Andrey Sakharov,” he noted. “On the one hand, it is silly to abandon one of its most famous citizens and to suppress his role in history,” Lukyanov said. “On the other hand, Sakharov’s philosophy is too far from the way the authorities and society understand themselves,” he said, adding that “the academician defended the supremacy of morality in politics, the priority of common values and supranational approaches.”

Lukyanov thinks that the ideas that were at the center of Sakharov’s world view, such as democracy, human rights and freedoms, humanism and responsibility have been “discredited.” A unique impulse for changes in the late 1980s to the early 1990s “was devaluated” and “a deep social modernization, which could be possible thanks to the wave of enthusiasm of the active part of the population, has not been fulfilled,” he added.

Historian Roy Medvedev noted that “great physicist Sakharov did not know his country and the Soviet society, but nevertheless he left an enormous trace in our political life.”

“I compared Sakharov with Don Quixote, a noble knight with clean intentions,” Medvedev told Argumenty i Facty weekly. “Don Quixote also believed that it is possible to change the world with a word, but did not understand well the reality surrounding him,” he said.

Meanwhile, the organizers of an exhibition that was opened in the city of Nizhny Novgorod, where Sakharov lived in exile have called their display “He was a prophet of his time.”

Sergey Borisov, RT