|The Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought is awarded to those who carry the spirit of Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov (1921-1989). With this in mind, the Parliament selects Laureates who, like Sakharov, dedicate their lives to peaceful struggle for human rights.
A pioneering nuclear physicist, Sakharov's political activity was spurred by his concern at the escalating arms race and the threat of nuclear war. In 1968 he published an essay expressing these concerns and advocating peaceful coexistence between the USSR and its Cold War enemies, and as punishment was banned from all military-related research. Undeterred by such efforts to suppress his dissenting views, Sakharov embarked on a relentless crusade for human rights, and in 1970 he co-founded the Committee on Human Rights in the USSR.
As pressure from the Soviet state increased, so did Sakharov's resolve in his fight for freedom of expression and other fundamental rights. His courage was recognised in 1975, when he was awarded the Nobel Peace prize and described by the Nobel Peace Committee as "a spokesperson for mankind". However, Sakharov continued to be persecuted by the state, and in 1980 he was arrested and sent into internal exile, where he would remain for six years.
Sakharov's willingness to sacrifice his own freedom to the cause of human rights is a quality that is shared by every Sakharov Laureate. As 1990 Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi said upon receiving the award, she and her fellow Laureates strive to create societies worthy of Andrei Sakharov's ideals of freedom and dignity.