Nikitin’s speech to the AAAS

Publish date: January 22, 1999

Written by: Alexander Nikitin

Aleksandr Nikitin's videorecorded speech to the AAAS on 23 January 1999. Nikitin was prevented from personally receiving the AAAS' Science and Human Rights award due to his being held in city arrest by the Russian security police.
Converted document

Aleksandr Nikitin’s videorecorded speech to the AAAS on 23 January 1999.
Nikitin was prevented from personally receiving the AAAS’ Science and Human Rights award due to his being held in city arrest by the Russian security police.

Dear friends and colleagues,

Please let me express how deeply I appreciate this high award. What happened today was perhaps one of the most important things in my life. Scientists of the United States rewarded my work with a high prize.

On the one hand, I am proud and happy. But on the other hand, I understand that I have much more to do before my name has a right to stand in the line with the names of scientists who have been already awarded with this high prize. What has been done is just the start.

Many scientists spent a lot of time creating things that destroy all the living and pollute the environment. I think it is time to stop. Humanity will survive if it understands that it is now time to get rid of the results of the military confrontation of the two systems. Many people already agree that environmental conflicts must be solved and ecological catastrophes must be prevented on moral ground. A new world outlook must be created. But one must always remember that we do not have a lot of time to create a new, nature-friendly world view. It must be created before the Earth and its civilisation is destroyed. Therefor, we must work together. Working together will help us save the time and come up with a good result. We must reject the old stereotypes, state secrets that do not protect people but pose a real threat to humanity.

The world is in need of a complex plan of environmental salvation, where the actions, common for all countries, would conceit with the local, national actions. Nobody will survive alone.

That was our view of environmental problems when we in Bellona started to work on the report, “The Russian Northern Fleet. Sources of Radioactive Contamination.” Bellona is a small group. We set a goal of solving a regional problem related to accumulation of nuclear fuel and radioactive waste in the Barents Sea region and in the White Sea region.

It is not only a problem of the Russian territories and of people who lived in Murmansk and Arkhangel’sk regions. It is a problem of Scandinavia and of Europe. It is a problem of the northern seas and oceans. In no other region in the world the density of nuclear instalments is as high as there. In no other region in the world the spent nuclear fuel and radioactive waste are stored in such terrible conditions. In no other sea region there are as many decommissioned nuclear submarines that contain nuclear fuel in their reactors.

I don’t know of another region where as many potentially nuclear and radioactive dangerous activities would be carried out on a daily basis. And finally, we don’t know where there would be as many nuclear sites that are not controlled not only by international, but not even by Russian State safety inspections in the field of nuclear energy. These reasons, let alone the reasons I have not named here, kept us from being ignorant to the situation in the Kola Peninsula and Severodvinsk.

As we worked on our report, we encountered a counteraction of the old system, which Russia inherited from the Soviet Union. The military industrial complex, the army and the Federal Security Service (FSB – KGB) are spine of this system. At the moment, they are losing their society status and their influence on people. The young generation is not as afraid of the security services as were the Soviet people in the times of Stalin and Andropov. And many don’t like this. In the FSB investigators’ offices, I saw portraits of Lenin and Dzerzhinsky. These people are nostalgic; they wait for the old times to come back.

Russia has not yet become a civilised righteous country. The fact that fascist, nationalistic and anti-Semitic ideologies are widespread and getting stronger testifies that in Russia, the movement towards a civil society has stopped. The ideas to revive the totalitarian regime and dictatorship (“the strong hand,” – “law and order”) as a priority way to solve social and economical problems gains more and more support and finds its ways into the Russian society.

As I finish my speech, I would like to make an offer to you and other U.S. scientists. First of all, we should announce open cooperation and help between the countries in the field of safe usage of nuclear energy or any other energy that is dangerous to humans and to environment. In other words, the United States and other countries should share all their achievements in the field of safety with Russia, and vice versa. We must remember that the nuclear threat has no borders.

And second, in order to stop the threat of reviving a totalitarian regime in Russia, you should ask the politicians who care about the democratic development of the world to see maintenance and growth of the grounds for democratic society in Russia as a priority.

I wish you all good health. Thank you for your attention.