Quietness of Commitment

12 December 2014

Next Sunday will mark the 25th year since died the renowned scientist and physicist, academician and the Noble prize laureate, whose outstanding scientific merits stepped back into the shadow of his courageous human rights activity in the late Soviet area. Resistance, exile to Gorky, and final return to social life (along with Solzhenitsyn) — to signify the new time had come. The yesterday’s persecuted became a living ethical standard. Today Russian Human Rights Commissioner Ella Pamfilova recalls Andrey Sakharov.

Ella Pamfilova: I first saw Andrey Mr Sakharov back in 1989. Those were the last years of the enormous country of the Soviet Union. Just imagine: the large Kremlin Palace of Congresses is in the seethe of political passions and emotions of an impressive gathering. A vast number of members of parliament make it similar to an anthill. In this impressive gathering I was a young woman who had worked "in production" for 12 years at a Moscow power-producing enterprise, and was sitting in the first line just opposite the platform, while right behind me, a bit to the right, there was a place of Mr Sakharov. And I remember a wave of whisper: "Andrey Dmitrievich… Sakharov…," either with reverent respect, or with bewilderment, resentment or inapprehension, while never in an indifferent tone. Nobody felt indifferent to him.

The main feeling I’ve had of this person — he was beyond vanity. He carried himself as if he did not notice at all the passions boiling around. He seemed to be a man always focused on a very important idea, absorbed in some serious internal contemplation and feelings. In all that noise and hubbub he was very calm, unhurried and focused, and seemed a very home-loving person. Even his clothing he was wearing reminded of a man who had just got up from his study’s desk and entered the hall.

But as soon as this cosy and home-loving person ascended the platform, and one could hear his soft voice, which sometimes even seemed "weak", everyone could feel his incredible firmness. When he spoke he was not paying attention to any negative responses of the audience, or the passions seething around, or somebody’s aversion. The same way as before, he was focused on some his principal thought, idea, which he wanted to hand down. He spoke unruffled, as if breaking through the whole of that field, the whole of the hall. As if being a ray of light, his message was possibly directed towards us, to our times and into another society. I had literally a feeling of a ray through the hall. I can especially realize this from my experience of today.

I came across him a few times in the Interregional Deputies Group, but then I felt myself, of course, an ordinary person among stars and was listening more, heeded him and marvelled at him. And I tried to memorise the feeling of a man who was strongly committed to something most important, while outside he was gentle and calm. He was sure that you don't have to scream, apply force or pressure, or be aggressive. You just need to formulate the idea, accurately and clearly, which disturbs you, which you live through. It’s not even a thought, it’s a mental feeling. And it is sure to sprout in due time and place, so it will become audible. Even if now only a few are able to hear it. That’s the commitment of his that one doesn’t need to thrust his or her thought upon people because the thought will find its own way and begin to live in those who will support it, was very important for him. So, as far as he realised his own internal force, he could not admit any aggression — neither in his actions, nor in his voice. Andrey Sakharov is an antipode of aggression.

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