Andrei Sakharov

Acceptance Speech

As the Laureate was unable to be present on the occasion of the award of the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, December 10, 1975, the acceptance was read by Elena Bonner Sakharova


Mr. President, honourable members of the Nobel Committee, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am here today because, due to certain strange characteristics of the country whose citizens my husband and I are, my husband’s presence at the ceremony of the Nobel peace award turned out to be impossible. Today, in fact, he is not here, but in Vilnius, capital of Lithuania, where the scientist Serghey Kovalyev is being tried. Due to those same strange characteristics which made it impossible for Sakharov to be in Oslo, he is at present near the court building, not inside but standing out in the street, in the cold, for the second day, awaiting the sentence against his closest friend.

But in spite of all this, Sakharov believes that the Nobel peace award ceremony – whose name by itself has such a deep symbolic and human meaning – must take place and the words which he meant to say here should also be heard. This is the reason why he asked me to read to you his address.

I am very grateful and very proud. I am proud to see my name placed together with the names of many outstanding people, among them Albert Schweitzer.

Thirty years ago nothing but ruins were left of half of my country and half of Europe. Millions of people mourned and still continue to mourn their dear ones. For all those who went through the experience of the most terrible war in history, World War II, the conception of war as the worst catastrophe and evil for all mankind has become not only an abstract idea but a deep personal feeling, the basis for one’s entire outlook on the world. To keep one’s self-respect, one must therefore act in accordance with the general human longing for peace, for true détente, for genuine disarmament. This is the reason why I am so deeply moved by your appreciation of my activity as a contribution to peace. But what made me particularly happy was to see that the Committee’s decision stressed the link between defense of peace and defense of human rights, emphasising that the defense of human rights guarantees a solid ground for genuine long-term international cooperation. Not only did you thus explain the meaning of my activity, but also granted it a powerful support. Granting the award to a person who defends political and civil rights against illegal and arbitrary actions means an affirmation of principles which play such an important role in determining the future of mankind. For hundreds of people, known or unknown to me, many of whom pay a high price for the defense of these same principles (the price being loss of freedom, unemployment, poverty, persecution, exile from one’s country) your decision was a great personal joy and a gift. I am aware of all this, but I am also aware of another fact: in the present situation, it is an act of intellectual courage and great equity to grant the award to a man whose ideas do not coincide with official concepts of the leadership of a big and powerful state. This, in fact, is how I value the decision of the Nobel Committee; I also see in it a manifestation of tolerance and of the true spirit of détente. I want to hope that even those who at present view your decision sceptically or with irritation some day will come to share this point of view.

The authorities of my country denied me the right to travel to Oslo on the alleged grounds that I am acquainted with state and military secrets. I think that actually it would not have been difficult to solve this security problem in a way acceptable to our authorities, but unfortunately this was not done. I was unable to participate personally in today’s ceremony. I thank my friends who live abroad and who honoured me by being my guests here. I had also invited friends from my country, Valentine Turchin, Yury Orlov and two of the most noble defenders of the cause of justice, legality, honour and honesty, Serghey Kovalyev and Andrei Tverdokhlebov, both of whom are at present in jail, awaiting trial. Not only the latter two but none of them could come: in the USSR when it comes to obtaining a permit to travel abroad there is not much difference between their respective situations. Still, I beg you to kindly consider all of them my official guests.

I would like to end my speech expressing the hope in a final victory of the principles of peace and human rights. The best sign that such hope can come true would be a general political amnesty in all the world, liberation of all prisoners of conscience everywhere. The struggle for a general political amnesty is the struggle for the future of mankind.

I am deeply grateful to the Nobel Committee for awarding me the Nobel Peace Prize for 1975, and I beg you to remember that the honour which was thus granted to me is shared by all prisoners of conscience in the Soviet Union and in other Eastern European countries as well as by all those who fight for their liberation.

From Nobel Lectures, Peace 1971-1980, Editor-in-Charge Tore Frängsmyr, Editor Irwin Abrams, World Scientific Publishing Co., Singapore, 1997

Copyright © The Nobel Foundation 1975

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