Sakharov recognized the huge psychological and social consequences of the decades of Josef Stalin's totalitarian regime and its war on the Soviet people. In his 1968 manifesto, he wrote: "We are often told lately not to 'rub salt into wounds.' This is usually being said by people who suffered no wounds. Actually only the most meticulous analysis of the past and its consequences will now enable us to wash off the blood and dirt that befouled our banner."
Sakharov was one of the first vocal supporters of the Crimean Tatar people and other ethnic groups that had been forcibly resettled under Stalin. Sakharov was prominent in his defense of Pyotr Grigorenko and other dissidents who were prosecuted for their support of the Crimean Tatars.
Sakharov and other dissidents were among the first in the post-Stalinist era to be handed the "foreign agents" label by the Soviet government. The Soviet government file on Sakharov and Yelena Bonner originally ran to 583 volumes of raw reports, but they were ordered destroyed in 1989. Under Yeltsin, an abridged 146 volumes were handed over to Bonner and subsequently published.
Sakharov firmly believed that the United States and the Soviet Union should overcome their animosity and pool their resources to combat environmental degradation and poverty in the poorest countries. In his 1968 manifesto, he warned that "carbon dioxide from the burning of coal is altering the heat-reflecting qualities of the atmosphere." "Sooner or later, this will reach a dangerous level," he said, calling for an international program of "geohygiene."