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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Sakharov Museum Inaugurated

On the eve of the 75th anniversary of the birth of physicist, Soviet dissident and Nobel Peace Prize winner Andrei Sakharov, human rights activists and politicians on Monday inaugurated a museum and think-tank in his honor.


But the founders of the Sakharov Peace, Progress and Human Rights Museum, stressed that the journey to democracy in Russia which Sakharov started is by no means over.


"We have yet to say farewell to our totalitarian psyche, even though we now live in a different state." Sakharov's widow, Yelena Bonner, told the crowd gathered outside the center, the Associated Press reported.


The museum, on the second floor of a newly restored house in central Moscow, is divided into three parts. The first, entitled "The Totalitarian Past," includes pictures of political prisoners, and an official decision by the Communist Party Central Committee on the repression of families of "traitors of the motherland" dated July 5, 1937.


"In Israel there's a whole memorial center dedicated to victims of the Holocaust," said Yuri Samudulov, head of the Sakharov Foundation which founded the center. "In Washington there's a museum to victims of genocide. In our country, in which tens of millions of people of my grandfather's generation and my grandmother's generation and my father's generation were killed, our generation has to talk about this. By starting the museum we are trying to build a relationship with the past, without which we'll never become a normal country."


The second section of the museum depicts Sakharov's life. Born in 1921, he achieved fame for his work in developing the hydrogen bomb, but was expelled from the Arzamas-16 nuclear research laboratory in the late 1960's after writing an article "On Progress, Peaceful Coexistence and Intellectual Freedom."


He returned to Moscow, only to face exile to the city of Gorky a few years later for his open opposition to the war in Afghanistan. In Gorky he was under constant surveillance, and undertook several hunger strikes to protest government decisions.


In December 1986, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev called him in person to tell him he was free to return to Moscow. He died in 1989.


The museum shows childhood photographs, covers of his early books and letters to political leaders, appealing for greater respect for human rights.


The third section, "Contemporary Problems of Russia," features video footage of the war in Chechnya, and pictures drawn by children in Abkhazia, of helicopters shooting at burning houses.


As well as housing the museum, which will open to the public July 1, the center is to be a think tank and a center for discussion and analysis of the region's conflicts. It is financed by the Sakharov Foundation, and sponsors include the Moscow city government and USAID.