Ms. Bonner was a prominent activist even before she met Sakharov, the father of the Soviet hydrogen bomb, at the trial of a fellow dissident in 1970. The two married in 1972 and together became symbols of resistance against Soviet political repression.
Headstrong and sharp-tongued with a no-nonsense voice deepened by years of chain-smoking acrid Russian cigarettes, Ms. Bonner helped lead a group that monitored violations of the 1975 Helsinki Accords, in which the Soviet government had promised to respect human rights and uphold fundamental freedoms.
Ms. Bonner and her group were inundated by “the constant flood of people coming to our door, all sorts of people with all sorts of problems,” she once told The Washington Post. “There are so many phone calls — they would keep not just one wife busy, but a whole institute of wives.”
The work drew threats and harassment and landed many activists in jail — or, if they were lucky, in exile. In 1980, Sakharov was banished to Gorky, 250 miles from Moscow, after he publicly criticized the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
Ms. Bonner became her husband’s sole link to the West, ferrying his writings to Moscow and bringing him news of the outside world. State media called Ms. Bonner a CIA agent, a Zionist and a greedy schemer whose seductions had turned Sakharov against his own country.
In 1984, she too was exiled to Gorky after being convicted of slandering the Soviet state. Isolated from family and forbidden from communicating via telephone, the couple lived under constant KGB surveillance.
“Whenever the authorities did not like something, it was our car that suffered,” Ms. Bonner wrote in “Alone Together,” her 1986 memoir of their shared exile. “Either two tires would be punctured, or a window smashed or smeared with glue. This was how we knew that we had done something bad by their standards.”
Ms. Bonner’s memoir is, in part, a love story of mutual sacrifice. Sakharov, in an effort to persuade authorities to allow an ailing Ms. Bonner to travel overseas for medical care, mounted a series of hunger strikes totaling about 200 days and endured Orwellian force-feedings that left him depleted and ill.
Ms. Bonner was eventually granted a temporary visa to the United States, where she had coronary bypass surgery in the mid-1980s. She might have stayed in the United States — where her mother and two children had settled a decade before — but she gave up the freedoms of the West to go back to her husband and their tightly controlled life together.
While in the United States, she visited Washington, an experience she described as “phantasmagoric.” She was feted at the National Academy of Sciences, which she visited as a representative of her husband. She met actor Jason Robards, who played her husband in the 1984 TV movie “Sakharov.”