A Letter to My Scientific Colleagues

Dear Friends,

Two years ago your support played a vital role in resolving the problem of my daughter-in-law Liza Alexeyeva’s departure to join her husband. I turn to you once again concerning a matter of critical importance which could have tragic consequences. I ask your help in securing permission for my wife to travel abroad for medical care. (Treatment for her life-threatening cardiac condition is the first priority, but she also needs treatment and an operation for her eyes.) She would like to see her children and grandchildren after a five-year separation. She could visit her mother and possibly bring her back to the Soviet Union.

We believe that medical treatment of my wife in the USSR would be dangerous. Believe me, this is not a case of unjustified “nerves” or of a search for confrontation. My wife has suffered for many years from an unprecedented campaign of slander and from intense pressure exerted directly on her as well as on her children and grandchildren. Threats were made to kill her grandchildren. Six years ago we were forced to the decision that it would be better if the children and grandchildren emigrated. This has brought about the tragic separation of our family with an almost complete lack of communication adding to our sorrow. After the departure first of our children and then of Liza Alexeyeva two years ago, my wife Elena Bonner became the sole hostage for my public activity. The whole responsibility for my statements has been shifted onto her. But that is only a part of the problem as I see it. The KGB appraises Elena’s role in my life and public activity very highly and seeks to eliminate her moral influence and, I have reason to fear, her physical presence as well. A unique and unbearable situation has been created. In thinking and speaking about the Sakharov case, you should keep this major complication in mind.

A campaign of slander has been mounted to discredit my wife. Soviet propaganda depicts her as the instigator of all my statements and as a Zionist agent of the CIA. That assertion spiced with scandalous and sophisticated slander about my wife’s moral qualities and mythical past behavior was repeated in 1983 by three publications so that millions of people have read that sensational lie: N. N. Yakovlev’s book The CIA Against the USSR (200,000 copies) and Yakovlev’s articles in the magazines Smena (1,170,000 circulation) and Chelovek i zakon (8,700,000 circulation). The appearance of Yakovlev’s articles coincided with publication in the newspaper Izvestia of a letter signed by academicians A. A. Dorodnitsyn, A. M. Prokhorov, G. K. Skryabin, and A. N. Tikhonov which deliberately and outrageously misrepresented my views on nuclear war, peace, and disarmament. In violation of common sense, my wife was saddled with that burden as well. It has been used to incite popular hatred and denunciation. Thousands of letters, passers-by on the street, passengers sharing her compartment on …

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