This is what it means to be an active dissenter: While Sakharov's wife was delivering his Nobel Peace Prize lecture in Oslo...



This is what it means to be an active dissenter: While Sakharov's wife was delivering his Nobel Peace Prize lecture in Oslo in December 1975, he was in Lithuania for the trial of biologist Sergei Kovalev, indicted for distributing the dissident information journal Chronicle of Current Events--a trial to which he and Kovalev's other friends were denied access, at which his request to testify was denied, whose outcome he protested, and whose ailing victim he appealed for time and time again . . . until Sakharov's persistence and Western support, combined with Kovalev's resolute fasting, resulted in his transfer to the Leningrad prison hospital for treatment. Then ""Nobel Peace Prize Laureate"" Sakharov wrote to the New York Times ""to thank everyone in America, Europe, and the Soviet Union"" for their help. So, yes, he believes in human-rights intercessions and in ditente: ""We must not forget that only ditente created the possibility of exerting even minimal influence on both the domestic and foreign policies of the Socialist countries. In the name of ditente they are required to accommodate their actions to universal humanitarian standards."" And, reviewing the growth of the human-rights campaign in 1977 and 1978--the emergence of protest groups in Eastern Europe, Eurocommunist support, Carter's advocacy, the award of the 1977 Nobel Peace Prize to Amnesty International, political amnesties in Third-World countries--he sees grounds for hope; but also, in stepped-up repression, grounds for alarm. Just how vulnerable the dissenters feel themselves to be is dramatized here by the Subway Bomb case--which Sakharov and his colleagues reflexively took to be a KGB ploy to discredit the (nonviolent) human-rights movement, or another Reichstag fire. Also included among the assembled public statements of the period is Sakharov's (issue-forcing) correspondence with Carter, his canny assessments of Soviet positions on disarmament and trade, his writings in opposition to the death penalty and, staunchly, for nuclear-power development (as safe and strategically opportune). But the last word is probably best left to an ex-prisoner whom Sakharov had defended: ""If one man stands up for every man, then it is the duty of every man to stand up in defense of the one when danger threatens him.

Pub Date: Dec. 18, 1978


Page Count: -

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 1978