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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Sakharov Honored on 80th Birthday

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The late dissident Andrei Sakharov, who was known as the conscience of the nation, was honored with ceremonies in Moscow and Nizhny Novgorod on his 80th birthday Monday.

Sakharov, who designed the Soviet hydrogen bomb, represents to Russians the symbol of the fight for democracy during Soviet times and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1975.

"He was a great citizen, quiet and delicate, but an unbending man," former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev said, in remarks reported by Interfax. "[He was] a man of conscience, an impressive moral authority for all of us."

Gorbachev freed Sakharov from exile in Nizhny Novgorod, then known as Gorky, in 1986, where he was confined for seven years for his ideologies.

Gorbachev laid flowers at a bust of Sakharov at Moscow International University on Monday.

In Nizhny Novgorod, city leaders and scientists broke ground for a Sakharov Garden next to the house where Sakharov lived.

But Yelena Bonner, Sakharov's widow and herself a prominent figure of the Soviet and Russian human rights movement, said she was disappointed that the liberal ideologies of her husband are not being implemented.

"Teens who wear the portraits of the ruler across their stomachs are willing to become a dark mass and lose their personalities," Bonner said on TV6 on Sunday, referring to a recent pro-President Vladimir Putin youth rally where teens wore T-shirts with the president's likeness.

"You know once there was a concept of velvet revolution, but in Russia right now it is velvet civil war," she said.

Meanwhile, the Sakharov Archive on Monday opened a small museum where visitors can catch a glimpse of the scientist's life and political and scientific work.

The museum takes up two rooms of the archive's office, an apartment in a building on Zemlyanoi Val and next door to the flat where Sakharov lived before his death in 1989.

Photographs, documents and books portray Sakharov's life from childhood to his last days, when he was an active member of the Congress of People's Deputies. The exhibition starts with a detailed family tree of Sakharov's family. There are also dozens of notes and letters that reflect Sakharov's thoughts and ideas about political and democratic reforms in Russia.

"Of the previously unknown items we found a drawing of a man with flags that Sakharov made when he was 5," said Yekaterina Shikhanovich, a researcher at the archive. "It is not the most important document, but it was nice to have it because such things are very rare."

Shikhanovich said that despite the opening of the museum, the archive of thousands of documents is still open for scholars and researchers.

The nearby Sakharov Center also opened a special exhibit dedicated to the era in which Sakharov lived in honor of his birthday Monday.

"Here, you see the signs of the time from Stalin to the country's most recent past," said Yury Zlotnikov, the exhibition curator. The exhibition is open Tuesdays through Sundays from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. until June 30.

The museum can be visited by appointment on Saturdays and Sundays. A visit can be arranged by telephone — 916-2480 — or by calling the Sakharov Center at 923-4401.