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  • News and Notes

Moscow Hosts Sakharov Congress

The First International Andrei Sakharov Memorial Congress on "Peace, Progress, and Human Rights" opened on 21 May 1991, the 70th anniversary of Sakharov's birth, with an audience of two thousand guests, including Mikhail Gorbachev, Boris Yeltsin, scholar Robert Conquest, U.S. labor leader Lane Kirkland, and President Mário Soares of Portugal. Speeches by such noted figures as Alexander Dubček and physicist and human fights activist Yuri Orlov were followed by a remarkable concert in which pianist Sviatoslav Richter, cellist Mstislav Rostropovich, and violinist Vladimir Spivakov paid tribute to the memory of Andrei Sakharov.

For the next four days, scientists and scholars debated the two primary themes of the Congress: "The Consequences of Chernobyl for the USSR and the World" and "The USSR and Eastern Europe on the Road from Totalitarianism to Democracy." Among their extensive findings and proposals were a plea for "intense efforts to improve all aspects of management, training, and maintenance" of Soviet nuclear reactors, and a recommendation that no law or regulation take effect until it is published in an Official Register and widely disseminated to the public.

The chairman and the guiding spirit of the event was Sakharov's widow Elena Bonner, who was ably assisted in the year-long planning and preparation for the Congress by executive director Yuri Samodurov. Their efforts provided a forum for Soviet intellectuals and more than 200 foreign participants to commemorate Sakharov's contribution to the rebirth of civil society in the USSR. True to his spirit, the Congress identified critical problems in the Soviet Union and suggested constructive approaches to solving them. It provided a timely reaffirmation of Sakharov's commitment to freedom, the rule of law, and parliamentary democracy. [End Page 123]

Havel, Chamorro Receive Democracy Award

Presidents Václav Havel of the Czech and Slovak Federal Republic and Violeta Chamorro of Nicaragua were presented with the National Endowment for Democracy's 1991 Democracy Award at an April 16 dinner ceremony in Washington following the Endowment's two-day conference on "The Unfinished Revolution." The Democracy Award is presented every other year in recognition of outstanding contributions to furthering the cause of democracy.

After an invocation given by the Dalai Lama, Congressman Dante Fascell presented Havel's award, which was accepted on his behalf by Foreign Minister Jiří Dienstbier. Dienstbier stated: "In choosing as this year's Democracy Award recipients the bearers of the highest offices in two countries that have only recently emerged in the family of democratic nations, you have reminded the people in democratic movements around the world struggling under terrible conditions for what the free world considers to be essential and inalienable human rights that their efforts are not in vain, that no situation is so hopeless, no defeat so definite that it cannot be turned to victory."

President Chamorro's award was presented by Senator Nancy Kassebaum, who recognized her courage and commitment to national reconciliation in Nicaragua. In her acceptance speech, Chamorro noted that in Nicaragua "the advent of democracy did not occur through violence or force—it took place solely through free elections." She concluded with a plea to the democratic world: "New democracies need moral and effective solidarity. We need help from all of you so that the disastrous economic situation that we inherited from the mistakes of the previous regime does not . . . handicap the development of our growing democracy."

The program concluded with remarks by Vice-President Quayle, who stated, "Presidents Havel and Chamorro represent democratic statesmanship at its very finest--brave, principled, and committed to the defense of human rights and democratic values."

Meeting in Romania on Post-Communist Societies

Intellectuals and political activists from Eastern Europe and the United States met in Timisoara on March 25-27 for a conference on "Power and Opposition in Post-Communist Societies" sponsored by the Foreign Policy Research Institute (Philadelphia) and the University of Maryland. East European participants included representatives from the Union of the Democratic Forces of Bulgaria, the Hungarian Alliance of Free Democrats, the Civic Alliance of Romania, the Social Democratic League of Yugoslavia, the Social Democratic Party of Moldavia, and [End Page 124] Charter '77 of the Czech...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-3214
Print ISSN
1045-5736
Pages
pp. 123-126
Launched on MUSE
2008-01-01
Open Access
No
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