Moscow Authorities Prohibit Sakharov Commemorative Exhibition, 24. May 2021

Moscow city authorities have prevented the Moscow Sakharov Center from holding an exhibition celebrating the life of Andrei Sakharov, a famous Soviet dissident. The exhibition was due to open on May 17, four days prior to the 100th anniversary of Sakharov’s birth.  

The exhibition, entitled Andrei Dmitriyevich Sakharov: Anxiety and Hope, was to feature photographs of Sakharov, as well as various quotes from his writings and speeches.

Trained as a nuclear physicist, Sakharov is best known as a dissident of the Soviet Union. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1975, and was persecuted by the Soviet state for his outspoken support for human rights, civil liberties and nuclear disarmament. Sakharov died in December 1989, less than two years before the Soviet Union collapsed.  

Though the Department of Culture in Moscow had earlier proclaimed its willingness to supply photo stands for the exhibition, the Sakharov Center claims the Department has rejected its proposed exhibition model.

No formal reason has yet been provided to the Sakharov Center, and they maintain that the Department has been elusive regarding the exhibition. On April 30, the Department allegedly advised the Sakharov Center that the intended content for the exhibition was unacceptable, but on May 14 instead asserted that the stands that were to be supplied for the Sakharov exhibition were needed for an exhibition commemorating the Battle of Moscow (October 1941- January 1942) and the victory over Nazi Germany on May 9, 1945.

Sakharov Center representatives stated that the refusal and its wording were “unconvincing and shameful”, accusing Moscow officials of attempting to “fence off the legacy of one of their best sons”. 

The Sakharov Center is a Moscow-based organisation dedicated to continuing the legacy of Andrei Sakharov. They promote democratic values, human rights, and open discussion about relevant historical issues, including Soviet totalitarianism. They also aim to contribute to the creation of civil society in Russia today. Across May 24 and May 25, the Center will hold a conference, entitled ‘Alarm and Hope. 21st Century International Conference’, dedicated to the centenary of Sakharov’s birth. More information about the conference can be found here.

Mourners visit the grave of Andrei Sakharov in Moscow, January 1990. Photo: George Garrigues.