Andrei Sakharov Research Centre for Democratic Development

On 18 December, Vytautas Magnus University (VMU) hosted the grand opening of its new subdivision, Andrei Sakharov Research Centre for Democratic Development. Focusing on issues of human and civil rights, the centre will conduct research into the politics in Central and Eastern European countries analyzing whether they fulfill their international commitments to protect human and civil rights.

Andrei Sakharov was one of the bravest critics of the Soviet regime who eventually became the symbol of the struggle for fundamental human rights. After gaining prominence as the inventor of the Soviet hydrogen bomb, the scientist became concerned about the consequences his invention would have on the humanity’s future and began raising awareness of the dangers of nuclear arms. In the USSR, Andrei Sakharov was seen as a dangerous dissident. His efforts contributed to the signing of the Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty in 1963 and the establishment of the Committee on Human Rights seven years later, which was the result of joint work by Sakharov and his peers. In recognition of his achievements, Sakharov was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1975. Because of the activist’s consistent attempts to liberate other Soviet dissidents and criticism of the regime, Sakharov was exiled to the isolated city of Gorky (Nizhny Novgorod) in order to restrict his foreign connections. The European Parliament has established the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, which is awarded to individuals or organizations that fight for human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Head of the center – prof. Robert Van Voren



A discussion was held during the event by Sakharov’s daughter, researcher Tatiana Yankelevich from the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies at Harvard University (USA), political scientist and analyst Lilia Shevtsova from the Chatham House (UK), founders of the Moscow School of Civic Education Lena Nemirovskaya and Yury Senokosov (Russia), Co-Director of the Institute for Statecraft Chris Donnelly (UK), Senior Russia Analyst at Radio Free Europe Brian Whitmore (Czech Republic), Project Director of Freedom House Lithuania Vytis Jurkonis, Director of European Security Programme, Vilnius Institute for Policy Analysis Simas Čelutka, and VMU representatives.