Yelena Georgievna Bonner (Russian: Еле́на Гео́ргиевна Бо́ннэр; 15 February 1923 – 18 June 2011) was a human rights activist in the former Soviet Union and wife of the physicist Andrei Sakharov. During her decades as a dissident, Bonner was noted for her characteristic blunt honesty and courage.
Yelena Georgievna Bonner
Елена Георгиевна Боннэр
Lusik Georgievna Alikhanova
15 February 1923
|Died||18 June 2011 (aged 88)|
|Citizenship||Soviet Union (1923–1991), Russian Federation (1991–2011)|
|Alma mater||Herzen State Pedagogical University of Russia, First Pavlov State Medical University of St. Peterburg|
|Occupation||nurse during World War II, physician, human right activist|
|Known for||Human rights activism, participation in the Moscow Helsinki Group|
|Movement||Dissident movement in the Soviet Union|
|Spouse(s)||Andrei Sakharov (1972–1989; his death), Ivan Semyonov (until 1965)|
|Children||Tatyana Yankelevich (born 1950), Alexey Semyonov (born 1956)|
Robert Schuman Medal
Giuseppe Motta Medal
Order of the Cross of Terra Mariana
Order of Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk
Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland
Truman-Reagan Medal of Freedom
Bonner was born Lusik Georgievna Alikhanova in Merv, Turkmen SSR, USSR (now Mary, Turkmenistan). Her father, Georgy Alikhanov (Armenian name Gevork Alikhanyan),  was an Armenian who founded the Soviet Armenian Communist Party, and was a highly placed member of the Comintern; her mother, Ruf (Ruth Bonner), was a Jewish Communist activist. She had a younger brother, Igor, who became a career naval officer. Her family had a summer dacha in Sestroretsk and Bonner had fond memories there.
In 1937, Bonner's father was arrested by the NKVD and executed as part of Stalin's Great Purge; her mother was arrested a few days later, and served eight years in the Gulag near Karaganda, Kazakhstan, followed by nine years of internal exile. Bonner's 41-year-old maternal uncle, Matvei Bonner, was also executed during the purge, and his wife internally exiled. All four were exonerated (rehabilitated) following Stalin's death in 1953. Serving as a nurse during World War II, Bonner was wounded twice, and in 1946 was honorably discharged as a disabled veteran. After the war she earned a degree in pediatrics from the First Leningrad Medical Institute, presently First Pavlov State Medical University of St. Peterburg.
Marriage and childrenEdit
In medical school she met her first husband, Ivan Semyonov. They had a daughter, Tatiana, in 1950, and a son, Alexey, in 1956. Her children emigrated to the United States in 1977 and 1978, respectively.
Bonner and Semyonov separated in 1965, and eventually divorced. In October 1970, while attending the trial of human rights activists Revol't (Ivanovich) Pimenov and Boris Vail in Kaluga, Bonner met Andrei Sakharov, a nuclear physicist and human rights activist; they married in 1972. The year before they met, 1969, Sakharov had been widowed from his wife, Klavdia Alekseyevna Vikhireva, with whom he had two daughters and a son.
Beginning as early as the 1940s, Bonner had helped political prisoners and their families. Although Bonner had joined the Soviet Communist Party in 1964 while she was working as a physician, only a few years later she was becoming active in the Soviet human rights movement. Her resolve towards dissidence was strengthened in August 1968 after Soviet bloc tanks rolled into Czechoslovakia in order to crush the Prague Spring movement. That event strengthened her belief that the system could not be reformed from within.
At the Kaluga trial in 1970, Bonner and Sakharov met Natan Sharansky and began working together to defend Jews sentenced to death for attempting an escape from the USSR in a hijacked plane. Under pressure from Sakharov, the Soviet regime permitted Yelena Bonner to travel to the West in 1975, 1977 and 1979 for treatment of her wartime eye injury. When Sakharov, awarded the 1975 Nobel Peace Prize, was barred from travel by the Soviet authorities, Bonner, in Italy for treatment, represented him at the ceremony in Oslo.
Bonner became a founding member of the Moscow Helsinki Group in 1976. When in January 1980 Sakharov was exiled to Gorky, a city closed to foreigners, the harassed and publicly denounced Bonner became his lifeline, traveling between Gorky and Moscow to bring out his writings. Her arrest in April 1984 for "anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda" and sentence to five years of exile in Gorky disrupted their lives again. Sakharov’s several long and painful hunger strikes forced the new Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev to let her travel to the U.S. in 1985 for sextuple bypass heart surgery. Prior to that, in 1981, Bonner and Sakharov went on a dangerous but ultimately successful hunger strike to get Soviet officials to allow their daughter-in-law, Yelizaveta Konstantinovna ("Lisa") Alexeyeva, an exit visa to join her husband, Bonner's son Alexei Semyonov, in the United States.
In December 1986, Gorbachev allowed Sakharov and Bonner to return to Moscow. Following Sakharov's death on 14 December 1989, she established the Andrei Sakharov Foundation, and the Sakharov Archives in Moscow. In 1993, she donated Sakharov papers in the West to Brandeis University in the U.S.; in 2004 they were turned over to Harvard University. Bonner remained outspoken on democracy and human rights in Russia and worldwide. She joined the defenders of the Russian parliament during the August Coup and supported Boris Yeltsin during the constitutional crisis in early 1993.
In 1994, outraged by what she called “genocide of the Chechen people”, Bonner resigned from Yeltsin's Human Rights Commission and was an outspoken opponent to Russian armed involvement in Chechnya and critical of the Kremlin for allegedly returning to KGB-style authoritarianism under Vladimir Putin. She was also critical of the international "quartet" two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict and has expressed fears about the rise of anti-semitism in Europe. In 1999, Yelena Bonner received the Truman-Reagan Medal of Freedom.
Last years and deathEdit
From 2006, Bonner divided her time between Moscow and the United States, home to her two children, five grandchildren, one great-granddaughter, and one great-grandson. She died on 18 June 2011 of heart failure in Boston, Massachusetts, aged 88, according to her daughter, Tatiana Yankelevich. She had been hospitalized since 21 February.
Works and awardsEdit
Bonner was the author of Alone Together (Knopf 1987), and Mothers and Daughters (Knopf 1992), and wrote frequently on Russia and human rights. She was a recipient of many international human rights awards, including the Rafto Prize, the European Parliament’s Robert Schuman Medal, the awards of International Humanist and Ethical Union, the World Women's Alliance, the Adelaida Ristori Foundation, the U.S. National Endowment for Democracy, the Lithuanian Commemorative Medal of 13 January, the Czech Republic Order of Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, and others.
Depiction in mediaEdit
- The Sunday Times Magazine, The Sunday Times, 18 December 2011, page 64
- Sakharov's widow Yelena Bonner dies at 88 in U.S. – media Archived 21 June 2011 at the Wayback Machine, RIA Novosti, 19 June 2011.
- Stanley, Alessandra. Schwirtz, Michael (19 June 2011). "Yelena Bonner, Russian Rights Activist, Dies at 88". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 25 June 2011. Retrieved 2 February 2012.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
- Beckerman, Gal (22 June 2011). "Remembering Yelena Bonner – Natan Sharansky Reminisces About His Ally and Friend". The Jewish Daily Forward (issue of 1 July 2011). Archived from the original on 23 June 2011. Retrieved 24 June 2011.
[...] Bonner suggested that, in addition to Sakharov’s assessment of the Soviet Union and the state of the dissident movement, they provide the new president with a list of political prisoners. By memory, she then wrote out the names of the 16 most difficult cases.
- Schmemann, Serge (19 June 2011). "Elena Georgievna Bonner, A True Human Rights Activist for 40 Years". “The New York Times”. Archived from the original on 4 April 2015. Retrieved 2 February 2012.
- Bonner, Elena (1992). Description of Bonner found in Antonina W. Bouis, 'Translator's Introduction' in Bonner's memoir Mothers and Daughters (2nd ed.). New York: Vintage. ISBN 978-0-679-74335-4.
- Yelena Bonner biography Archived 6 October 2009 at the Wayback Machine (In Russian)
- Official site of Moscow Helsinki Group Archived 19 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine(In Russian)
- "Yelena Bonner". The Economist. 23 June 2011. Archived from the original on 4 November 2012. Retrieved 30 August 2012.
- Drell, Sidney D., and Sergei P. Kapitsa (eds.), Sakharov Remembered, pgs. 3, 92. New York: Springer, 1991.
- Adler, Nanci (2004). The Gulag survivor: beyond the Soviet system. Transaction Publishers. p. 212. ISBN 978-0765805850.
- "Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features » One Woman Army". www.jewishideasdaily.com. Archived from the original on 18 June 2012. Retrieved 26 April 2018.
- "On Israel and The World" Archived 24 May 2009 at the Wayback Machine, Address by Bonner at the Freedom Forum in Oslo.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 28 August 2012. Retrieved 4 September 2012.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- http://motta.gidd.eu.org/#!medal-winners-2004/cqa4 Archived 22 February 2014 at the Wayback Machine Giuseppe Motta Medal Website
- Robert Bernstein "Why We Need A New Human Rights Organization", 24 February 2011. Archived 7 March 2011 at the Wayback Machine
Books, articles and interviewsEdit
- Bonner, Elena (1988) . Alone together (3 ed.). New York: Vintage Books. ISBN 978-0394755380.
- Bonner, Elena (1986). Un exil partagé [A shared exile] (in French). Paris: Seuil. ISBN 978-2020093941.
- Bonner, Elena (1986). Soli insieme in esilio con Andrej Sacharov [Alone together in exile with Andrei Sakharov] (in Italian). Alessandria: Garzanti-Vallardi.
- Bonnėr, Elena (1987). לבד ביחד [Alone together] (in Hebrew). מסדה.
- Bonner, Jelena (1998) . In Einsamkeit vereint. Meine Jahre mit Andrej Sacharow in der Verbannung [Alone together. My years with Andrei Sakharov in exile] (in German) (2 ed.). München, Zürich: Piper. ISBN 978-3492115223.
- Bonner, Jelena (1993) . Mütter und Töchter – Erinnerungen an meine Jugend 1923 bis 1945 [Mothers and daughters – memories of my youth 1923–1945] (in German) (2 ed.). München, Zürich: Piper. ISBN 978-3492034401.
- Боннэр, Елена (1990). Постскриптум. Книга о горьковской ссылке [Postscript: A book about the Gorky exile] (in Russian). Moscow: Интербрук.
- Bonner, Elena (1991). Звонит колокол… Год без Андрея Сахарова [The bell tolls… A year without Andrei Sakharov] (in Russian). Moscow: ПИК.
- Bonner, Elena (1992). Mothers and daughters. Hutchinson. ISBN 978-0091749118.
- Bonner, Elena (1994). Дочки-матери [Mothers and daughters] (in Russian). Moscow: Прогресс, Литера.
- Bonner, Elena (1996). Вольные заметки к родословной Андрея Сахарова [Free notes to the ancestry of Andrei Sakharov] (in Russian). Moscow: Права человека. ISBN 978-5771200170.
- Cox, Caroline; Eibner, John; Bonnėr, Elena (1993). Ethnic cleansing in progress: war in Nagorno Karabakh. Institute for Religious Minorities in the Islamic World. ISBN 978-3952034521.
- Bonner, Elena (2003). Madri e figlie [Mothers and daughters] (in Italian). Spirali. ISBN 978-8877706331.
- Glucksmann, André; Bonner, Elena (2013). На захисті свободи. Діалоги Андре Ґлюксмана з Оленою Боннер [Protecting freedom. Dialogues by André Glucksmann to Elena Bonner] (in Ukrainian). Kiev: Дух і Літера. ISBN 9789663783130.
- Articles & interviews
- Bonner, Yelena (16 May 1986). "Yelena Bonner tells of medical abuse of her husband". Science. 232 (4752): 821. Bibcode:1986Sci...232..821H. doi:10.1126/science.3704629.
- Bonner, Yelena (2 June 1986). "A quirky farewell to America". Newsweek: 45.
- Shcharansky, Anatoly; Bonner, Yelena; Alexeyeva, Ludmilla (26 June 1986). "The tenth year of the Watch". The New York Review of Books.
- Sajarov, Andrei; Bonner, Elena (1989). "Al simposio de Madrid sobre las relaciones comerciales y económicas Este-Oeste" [Madrid symposium on East-West trade relations and economics]. Política Exterior (in Spanish). 3 (12): 45–47. JSTOR 20642878.
- Bonner, Elena (17 May 1990). "On Gorbachev". The New York Review of Books.
- Bonner, Elena (16 August 1990). "For whom the bell tolls". The New York Review of Books.
- Bonner, Elena (11 October 1990). "The shame of Armenia". The New York Review of Books.
- Bonner, Elena; Orlov, Yuri (18 July 1991). "Armenia: an open letter". The New York Review of Books.
- Bonner, Elena (10 October 1991). "On Sakharov's memoirs". The New York Review of Books.
- Bonner, Yelena (Spring 1992). "The new Europe: from totalitarianism to democracy". Queen's Quarterly. 99 (1): 84.
- Bonner, Elena (25 June 1992). "My secret past: the KGB file". The New York Review of Books.
- Bonner, Elena (1 October 1992). "Looking to the future". Current History. 91 (567): 305.
- Bonner, Elena (22 April 1993). "Yeltsin and Russia: two views". The New York Review of Books.
- Bonner, Elena; Goldin, Alexander (Summer 1994). "Indian summer of communism: observations of an amateur". World Policy Journal. 11 (2): 19–25. JSTOR 40468607.
- Bonner, Elena (2 February 1995). "A letter to Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin". The New York Review of Books.
- Bonner, Elena (Summer 1995). "Nationalism, ethnic strife and human rights". The John Marshall Law Review. 28 (4): 769–774. Archived from the original on 16 October 2015.
- Bonner, Elena; Halverson, Karen; Shelley, Louise; Willerton, John (Summer 1995). "Development of the democratic institutions & the rule of law in the former Soviet Union: a round table discussion". The John Marshall Law Review (28): 865–882. Archived from the original on 17 October 2015.
- Bonner, Yelena (May 1995). "Sorry? Are you Jewish?". Index on Censorship. 24 (3): 144–150. doi:10.1080/03064229508535967.
- Bonner, Elena; Bouchard, Julie (December 1999). "La Tchétchénie sous l'emprise russe" [Chechnya under Russian influence]. Esprit (in French). 259 (12): 169–172. JSTOR 24278089.
- Bonner, Elena (8 March 2001). "The remains of totalitarianism". The New York Review of Books.
- Bonner, Elena (July–August 2001). "El totalitarismo ruso permanece: propaganda y mentiras" [Russian totalitarianism remains: propaganda and lies]. Política Exterior (in Spanish). 15 (82): 7–12. JSTOR 20645122.
- Bonner, Elena (12 April 2002). "An appeal to world society". Russian Seattle.
- Bukovsky, Vladimir; Bonner, Elena (10 March 2003). "An open letter to President Bush". FrontPage Magazine.
- Bonner, Elena (17 June 2003). "Vladimir Potemkin". The Wall Street Journal.
- Gewertz, Ken (4 November 2004). "Bonner points to still-powerful KGB: former Soviet dissidents say that present-day Russia shows little improvement over dark days of old regime". Harvard University Gazette.
- Bonner, Elena (December 2005). "Sakharov is Tokamak's originator". Physics Today. 58 (12): 15. Bibcode:2005PhT....58Q..15B. doi:10.1063/1.2169425.
- Harris, Zelda; Richter, Elihu (7 July 2010). "Andrei Sakharov, Elena Bonner and Gilad Schalit". The Jerusalem Post.
- Rubin, Julia (22 May 1996). "Sakharov's widow spurns Yeltsin – but some dissidents say he's the lesser of two evils". The Seattle Times.
- Winehouse, Amy; Bonner, Yelena; Benacerraf, Baruj; Falk, Peter; Goldreich, Arthur (January 2011). "Farewell". Jewish Quarterly. 58 (3): 72–73. doi:10.1080/0449010X.2011.10707160.
- De Boer, S. P.; Driessen, Evert; Verhaar, Hendrik (1982). "Bonner, Elena Georgievna". Biographical dictionary of dissidents in the Soviet Union: 1956–1975. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers. p. 62. ISBN 978-9024725380.
- Hermann, Anton (November 1987). "Elena Bonner and Andrei Sakharov". Quadrant. 33 (11): 78–79.
- Klose, Kevin (1986). Russia and the Russians – inside the closed society. W.W. Norton Incorporated. pp. 161–198. ISBN 978-0393303124.
- Lichterman, Boleslav (2011). "Elena Georgievna Bonner: Soviet paediatrician, dissident, and human rights activist". BMJ. 343 (6085): 695. doi:10.1136/bmj.d6085.
- Simone, Alexandre (1987). "Elena Bonner. Un exil partagé" [Elena Bonner. A shared exile]. Politique étrangère (in French). 52 (1): 220–221.
- "Elena Bonner: heroic figure for Karabagh". The Armenian Weekly. 29 June 2011.