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Semiconductors such as silicon and GaAs appear attractive for use in high voltage devices because of their high bulk dielectric strength. Typically, however, such devices fail at a voltage well below that expected due to a poorly understood, surface-related breakdown process. In this letter we present empirical results which show that such breakdown of long silicon p+-i-n+ devices can be inhibited by the application of weak visible or near-infrared illumination. These results suggest a technique for avoiding surface flashover in practical high voltage devices, and provide information about the physical mechanisms responsible for initiating flashover.