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Davis Center Acquires Archives

By Margaret W. Ho, Crimson Staff Writer

A new acquisition will provide the university formerly known as the “Kremlin on the Charles” with a new window into the history of the Soviet Union.

The Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies plans to initiate a fellowship and a human rights program in conjunction with the Andrei Sakharov Archives that have found a new home at Harvard.

While the Nobel Peace Prize winner’s claim to fame is arguably as the father of the Soviet hydrogen bomb, Sakharov later gained notoriety for his political dissidence against communism.

The archive—which includes a handwritten copy of the physicist’s thesis, personal papers that chart his scientific and political activities and family papers—has already begun its move from its former home at Brandeis University to Harvard, according to a staff member at the Davis Center.

Though the archive itself will be housed and made available to the public in Houghton Library, the Davis Center has a number of related human rights programs in the works, the staff member said.

Associates at the Davis Center and staffers at Harvard College Library confirmed the move.

“We just had a dinner last week with [Sakharov’s widow] Elena Bonner and the leadership of the Davis Center to celebrate the moving of the archive,” said Joshua Rubenstein, the Northeast regional director of Amnesty International USA and a Davis Center associate. Rubenstein has extensively researched the archives for an upcoming book.

Director of Communications for Harvard College Library Beth Brainard said the library system hopes to augment Sakharov’s papers with further acquisitions in the near future.

“It’s going to be the centerpiece of a collection that we intend to build around this era of Soviet dissidents,” she said.

Aside from opening the archives to the public once it has completed its move, the Davis Center plans to create a fellowship and initiate a series of related programs.

“The more active aspect of it is that there will be a program on human rights,” said a Davis Center staff member who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “What we’re expecting is that there will be an annual scholar selected who will talk about human rights in the Soviet Union.”

The fellowship, to be named in Sakharov’s honor, would designate a “visiting scholar or activist from the former Soviet Union,” the Davis Center staffer said.

An undergraduate non-credit course focusing on contemporary human rights issues or “an ongoing seminar to which all members of the university community would be invited” are also possibilities, the staff member said.

Rubenstein also said that Sakharov’s step-daughter Tatiana Yankelevich, who is also assistant director of the Andrei Sakharov Archives and Human Rights Center at Brandeis, would be working on the related programming and symposiums.

In implementing such programming, the Davis Center hopes to address current problems in the Eastern European area.

“There seems to be a deterioration of human rights in the former Soviet Union,” the staff member said, pointing to the prominent role of the Federal Security Service (FSB)—the post-Soviet successor to the Committee for State Security (KGB). “Many people are intimidated and fearful.”

Though several asserted the archives were a donation from Bonner, others also pointed to Brandeis’ financial capabilities as responsible for the move.

“This is a gift to Harvard courtesy of Elena Bonner,” Associate Librarian of Harvard College for Collections Jeffrey L. Herrell said.

“I do know that there were financial issues at Brandeis that necessitated finding a new institutional home for the archives,” wrote Executive Director of the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies Carol R. Saivetz, who sits on the advisory board for the Andrei Sakharov Archives and Human Rights Center at Brandeis and who is also a research associate at the Davis Center.

Brandeis simply didn’t have as many resources, the Davis Center staff member said, describing the move as a “happy marriage.”

“This adds to Harvard’s research capabilities [and] provides an important program to the Harvard community, including undergraduates, which is something we want to do more of,” the staff member said.

Bonner donated the papers to Brandeis in 1993.

Yankelevich did not return repeated phone calls.

Director of the Davis Center Timothy J. Colton was out of town and could not be reached for comment.

—Staff writer Margaret W. Ho can be reached at mwho@fas.harvard.edu.

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