Updated:
Original:
Year
1988
Month Day
November 06

Renowned Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov visits United States

Soviet scientist and well-known human rights activist Andrei Sakharov begins a two-week visit to the United States. During his visit, he pleaded with the American government and people to support Russian leader Mikhail Gorbachev’s policies of glasnost (political openness) and perestroika (economic reforms), and so ensure the success of a new, more democratic, and friendlier Soviet system.

Sakharov had not always been a favorite of the Soviet government. During the late-1930s and 1940s, he was a respected physicist in the Soviet Union, and was part of the group of scientists who worked to develop Russia’s first hydrogen bomb in the 1950s. By the late 1950s, however, he began to have serious doubts about Russia’s open-air testing of nuclear weapons. He also began to protest for more scientific freedom in the Soviet Union. By the mid-1960s, he was openly criticizing the Stalinist legacy and current laws designed to muzzle political opponents. In 1968, he had an essay published in the New York Times calling for a system that merged socialism and capitalism. Because of this, Sakharov was stripped of his security clearance and job. In 1970, he co-founded the Moscow Committee for Human Rights. His work resulted in his winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1975.

Sakharov also urged the United States to pressure the Soviet Union concerning the latter’s human rights policies, and harshly criticized Russia’s invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. He and his wife were arrested and sentenced to internal exile. Despite his isolation, his supporters continued to smuggle his writings out of the country. In December 1986, Gorbachev released Sakharov and his wife from exile. It was a pragmatic move on Gorbachev’s part: He desired closer relations with the West, and Sakharov had become a hero to many in the United States and elsewhere. Sakharov became a spokesman for the reforms Gorbachev was trying to push through, and praised the construction of the new Soviet Union. His November 1988 trip to the United States was part of this effort. Nevertheless, he continued to press for more democracy in the Soviet Union. On December 14, 1989, shortly after delivering a speech denouncing Russia’s one-party rule, Sakharov suffered a heart attack and died.

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us!

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Bolsheviks revolt in Russia

Led by Bolshevik Party leader Vladimir Lenin, leftist revolutionaries launch a nearly bloodless coup d’État against Russia’s ineffectual Provisional Government. The Bolsheviks and their allies occupied government buildings and other strategic locations in the Russian capital of ...read more

Abraham Lincoln elected president

Abraham Lincoln is elected the 16th president of the United States over a deeply divided Democratic Party, becoming the first Republican to win the presidency. Lincoln received only 40 percent of the popular vote but handily defeated the three other candidates: Southern Democrat ...read more

UN condemns apartheid in South Africa

On November 6, 1962, the United Nations General Assembly adopts a resolution condemning South Africa’s racist apartheid policies and calling on all its members to end economic and military relations with the country. In effect from 1948 to 1993, apartheid, which comes from the ...read more

Teddy Roosevelt travels to Panama

On November 6, 1906, President Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt embarks on a 17-day trip to Panama and Puerto Rico, becoming the first president to make an official diplomatic tour outside of the continental United States. Roosevelt entered office in 1901 with the firm intention of ...read more

A woman ices her husband with anti-freeze

Shirley Allen is arrested for poisoning her husband, Lloyd Allen, with ethylene glycol, commonly known as anti-freeze. After witnessing her mother spike Lloyd’s drinks with the deadly substance, Shirley’s own daughter turned her in to the authorities. Lloyd Allen was Shirley’s ...read more

British victory at Passchendaele

After more than three months of bloody combat, the Third Battle of Ypres effectively comes to an end on November 6, 1917, with a hard-won victory by British and Canadian troops at the Belgian village of Passchendaele. Launched on July 31, 1917, the Third Battle of Ypres was ...read more