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Bomb-Builder to Civil Rights Campaigner: Andrei Sakharov

To mark Andrei Sakharov’s 100th birthday, the university is holding an exhibition on the physicist on the Boulevard. The 21 pillars were created by University of Bremen students and the exhibition can be seen in front of the State and University Library Bremen between May 21 and July 16, 2021.

Andrei Sakharov is considered the “father of the Soviet hydrogen bomb.” The extraordinary scientist was given this name after his team successfully tested the bomb in 1953. In 1975, two decades later, he – as a world-famous dissident - received the Nobel Peace Prize. Between these two events lies a life as an exceptional physicist and critic of the Soviet Union, who initially led a privileged life in the USSR and used said privileges (for example his access to foreign literature and state and party leaders) to critically dissect the consequences of his actions and to ask the same of leading politicians. He demanded a prohibition of nuclear tests and argued with the party and state leader Nikita Khrushchev for this.

Work for Politically Persecuted and Intellectual Freedom

During the Brezhnev era, Sakharov campaigned for the politically persecuted. His manifesto “Progress, Peaceful Coexistence, Intellectual Freedom” made him world famous in 1968 – and also a disloyal rebel in the eyes of the government. In 1980, he was banished to Gorky, from where Gorbachev released him in 1986. Shortly before his passing in 1989, he was able to present his political ideas to the All-Union Congress of People’s Deputies as a delegate.

Students Prepared and Translated Moscow Exhibition

“The aim of the exhibition is to show how one person unflinchingly advocated for their political ideas in times of terror and war and later on KGB harassment and smear campaigns,” according to Susanne Schattenberg from the History Department at the University of Bremen. During the corona winter semester, her students intensely studied Sakharov’s written works and prepared the exhibition texts for a German audience. Sakharov’s life will be presented by means of short texts, large-format photos, and original sources in eight sections: Each board will explain the historical background and a second one will then shed light on Sakharov’s life stations: During the Great Terror of the 1930s, the Second World War, the development of the hydrogen bomb under Stalin’s reign, his dedication to environmental protection and human rights in the 1950s and 1960s, his banishment to Gorky in 1980, and finally his last years under Gorbachev. The exhibition will be rounded off by the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, which the European Parliament has been awarding since 1988.

More Current than Ever

Sakharov’s demands from 1968 sound more current than ever: That there can only be permanent peace when the USA and USSR (Russia today) become closer, that resources must be handled with care and that the planet cannot be pillaged, that only freedom of opinion and press can ensure that people are not led astray by propagandists and those who are hateful. In his Nobel Prize speech in 1975, he summarized these thoughts as follows: “Peace, progress, human rights – these three themes are closely interconnected.”

The exhibition is also being opened in Moscow and Kaunas at the same time and is additionally planned to be shown in the European Parliament. The Bremen version will tour to Berlin and Cologne. It can also be downloaded as a PDF from the Research Centre for East European Studies’ homepage.

The exhibition on the university Boulevard can be accessed at all times. In accordance with the corona regulations, a mask must be worn and social distancing is to be adhered to.
The exhibition is being supported by the Karin and Uwe Hollweg Foundation.


Susanne Schattenberg
Research Centre for East European Studies
University of Bremen
Phone: +49 421 218-69624
Email: schattenbergprotect me ?!uni-bremenprotect me ?!.de

Further Information:

Exhibition details (in German only):

(ID: 995 1166 8404; Kenncode: 914662)


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