29 August 1985* (Pb) Sakharov and Bonner

Politburo, chaired by Gorbachev, discusses conditions on which to grant SAKHAROV’s request that his wife Elena BONNER be allowed to make a trip abroad for medical treatment. [R 29 Aug 85, Pb] 4 pp.


[page one of four]

Top Secret

Single Copy
(Draft Minutes)

29 August 1985

In the chair

Comrades in attendance:

G.A. Aliyev, V.I. Vorotnikov, N.I. Ryzhkov,
V.M. Chebrikov, E.A. Sheverdnadze, Demichev,
Dolgikh, V.V. Kuznetsov, S.L. Sokolov,
B.N. Yeltsin, L.N. Zaikov, M.V. Zimyanin,
I.V. Kapitonov, V.P.Nikonov



[page two]


GORBACHEV. At the end of July this year I received a letter from the notorious Sakharov. He requested permission for his wife Bonner to travel abroad for medical treatment and to see relations.

CHEBRIKOV. This is an old story, it’s been going on for twenty years now. During that period various situations have arisen. The necessary measures were taken with regard to Sakharov and to Bonner. Through all these years, however, actions that would violate legality were not permitted. It’s very import and should be emphasised.

Now Sakharov is 65 and Bonner is 63. Sakharov’s health is not brilliant. At present he is being tested for cancer since he has begun to lose weight.

As a political figure Sakharov has virtually lost his standing and has said nothing new recently. Perhaps it would make sense to let Bonner go abroad for three months. According to our present law someone can interrupt their exile for a definite period (Bonner, as you know, is in exile). Of course, once she gets to the West she could make a declaration there, receive some prize or other, and so on. It also can’t be excluded that she might make a trip to the USA from Italy, where she is going for treatment. Permission for Bonner to travel abroad would appear a humane step.

She may behave in one of two ways after that. One, she returns to Gorky. Two, she remains abroad and begins to raise the question of re-uniting the family, i.e. that Sakharov should be given permission to leave. In this case there might be an appeal by official figures in Western countries, and also certain representatives of Communist Parties. But we cannot let Sakharov out of the country. The Ministry for Medium Engineering [i.e. the atomic industry] objects since Sakharov knows in detail the entire way that our nuclear weapons developed.

Specialists believe that if Sakharov is given a laboratory he can continue to work in the field of military research. Sakharov’s behaviour is shaped by the influence of Bonner.


[page three]


GORBACHEV. That’s Zionism for you.

CHEBRIKOV. Bonner has total influence over him, 100 per cent. We expect that without her his behaviour could change. He has two daughters and one son from his first marriage. They behave well and could exercise a certain influence on their father.

GORBACHEV. Could we not do as follows, and ensure that Sakharov states in his letter that he understands he cannot go abroad? Could we not get such a declaration from him?

CHEBRIKOV. This matter, it seems, should be resolved now. If we take a decision just before your meetings with Mitterrand and Reagan it would be interpreted as a concession on our part, and that’s undesirable.

GORBACHEV. Yes, we must take a decision.

ZIMYANIN. We should have no doubt that Bonner will be used against us in the West. However, her attempts to refer to the re-uniting with the family can be rebutted by our scientists, who could issue a statement with the necessary declarations. Comrade Slavsky [Minister for Medium Engineering] is right: we cannot let Sakharov leave the country. We cannot expect decent behaviour from Bonner, however. She’s a wild beast in a skirt, a protégée of imperialism.

GORBACHEV. Which will cause more damage: letting Bonner go abroad or not?

SHEVARDNADZE. Of course, there are serious doubts about permitting Bonner to go abroad. However, we shall, at the same time, make political gains from doing so. We must take a decision now.

DOLGIKH. Can Sakharov not be influenced?

RYZHKOV. I am in favour of letting Bonner go abroad. It’s a humane step. If she stays there then, of course, there’ll be a commotion. However, we shall then have an opportunity to influence Sakharov. Now he’s even running off to hide in the hospital to feel a little freer.

SOKOLOV (Minister of Defence). It seems to me we must do it, we can’t be the worse for doing so.

KUZNETSOV. It’s a difficult case. If we do not allow Bonner to go for treatment this could be used in propaganda against us.


[page four]


ALIEV. It’s hard to give a clear-cut answer to this question. At present Bonner is under control. She has grown more spiteful over recent years and once she is in the West she will let it all out. Bourgeois propaganda will have a specific person for holding various kinds of press conference and other anti-Soviet operations. The situation will become more complicated if Sakharov asks to join his wife. So there is an element of risk here. However, we must take that risk.

KAPITONOV. If we let Bonner go, this business will go on for a long time. She will have cause to refer to the re-unification of the family.

GORBACHEV. Perhaps we should behave as follows. We shall confirm that we have received the letter, let us say, and paid it due attention and issued the necessary instructions. We must let it be understood that we could meet the request for Bonner to travel abroad but it all depends on what she will do there. For the time being it’s expedient to restrict ourselves to that.

[signature] A. Lukyanov




1. Notes by translator and editor are bracketed, thus [ ]
2. Text written by hand is indicated in italic script, and
3. by underlined italic script when a handwritten phrase, figure or word
has been added to a previously typed document.

Translation, John Crowfoot