Russian human rights defender Yuri Orlov dies at 96

October 1, 2020

Yuri Orlov
Human rights activist and Soviet dissident Yuri Orlov speaks at the American Jewish Committee’s annual meeting, May 14, 1987, at New York’s Grand Hyatt Hotel.AP Photo/Marty Lederhandler

Cornell University professor emeritus and Russian human rights leader Yuri Orlov is dead at age 96, the Moscow Helsinki Group announced Monday. Orlov died Sunday, 27 September 2020 according to the human rights group that Orlov founded in 1976. A cause of death was not named.

Orlov was a nuclear physicist and a Soviet dissident who became an advocate for human rights during the Cold War, co-founding the Soviet branch of Amnesty International before launching the Moscow Helsinki Group to monitor the Soviet Union’s compliance with the 1975 Helsinki Accords. According to his biography, he was a lifelong activist, getting banned from scientific work in Moscow in the 1950s after giving a pro-democracy speech; spending 16 years in exile in Armenia, where he became an expert on particle acceleration; returning to the U.S.S.R. in 1972; and getting arrested in 1977 by the KGB, who sent him to a gulag labor camp in Siberia for “anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda.”

Orlov was freed in 1986 and stripped of his citizenship, and deported to the U.S. as part of a prisoner swap with American journalist Nicholas Daniloff for Soviet spy Gennady Zakharov. Orlov met with President Ronald Reagan at the White House that year and became an American citizen in 1993. Orlov moved to Ithaca and joined Cornell’s Newman Laboratory in 1987 as a senior scientist. He was later elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, wrote a memoir (1991′s “Dangerous Thoughts”) and became a Cornell University professor of physics and government in 2008, teaching seminars on human rights and graduate physics.

Orlov authored or co-authored more than 200 scientific papers and technical reports since arriving in the West. His physics research investigated systematic errors, spin coherence time and other theoretical issues related to the proposed measurement of the proton, electron and deuteron Electric Dipole Moments. His work on the theoretical foundations of quantum mechanics focused on the origin of quantum indeterminism.

Orlov won the Carter-Menil Human Rights Prize of 1986 and the Andrei Sakharov Prize in 2006.

“He lived a long and active life, teaching his beloved physics to the last and continuing to stand by the human rights movement,” the Moscow Helsinki Group said.

https://www.syracuse.com/news/2020/09/cornell-professor-russian-human-rights-leader-yuri-orlov-dies-at-96.html

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