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Sakharov's widow Bonner dies in the US

Bonner (L) with her husband Sakharov in 1986
Bonner (L) with her husband Sakharov in 1986 M.A.Kallistratova et al

Soviet dissident Yelena Bonner, the widow of Nobel Peace Prize winner Andrei Sakharov, has died at her home in the US aged 88. Bonner died on Saturday after undergoing heart surgery for the third time. 


Born in the Soviet republic of Turkmenistan to Jewish communist parents, she was raised during the bloodiest years of Joseph Stalin’s purges. Her father was executed in 1914 when she was 14-years-old and her mother was sent to a labour camp for eight years.

With Russia in chaos after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Bonner helped to organise fledgling human rights movements and was a keeper of her nuclear scientist husband’s legacy.

She married Sakharov in 1972, and accepted his Nobel Prize three years later as Sakharov was barred from travelling abroad because of his activism.

An early supporter of Russia’s first president Boris Yeltsin, Bonner quit his right’s commission over his decision in 1994 to launch the first Chechen war which killed tens of thousands in a Muslim region.

She spent her last years in the US after expressing concern over Russia’s progress under Vladimir Putin, an era that has seen the state win back control of major television stations and rights groups facing a new wave of restrictions.

Sakharov died in 1989 aged 68 in the closing years of the Soviet regime, becoming a public critic of Mikhail Gorbachev after being allowed to return to Moscow during the last Soviet leader’s Perestroika era.

After a ceremony in Boston, Bonner will be buried next to her husband at Moscow’s Vostryakovo cemetery.

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