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Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn ( , ) (December 11, 1918 – August 3, 2008) was aSovietmarker


novelist, dramatist, and historian. Through his writings he made the world aware of the Gulag, the Soviet Unionmarker's forced labor camp system – particularly The Gulag Archipelago and One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, his two best-known works. Solzhenitsyn was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1970. He was exiled from the Soviet Union in 1974. and returned to Russiamarker in 1994. Solzhenitsyn is the father of Ignat Solzhenitsyn, a conductor and pianist.


In the Soviet Union

Early Years

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was born in Kislovodskmarker, RSFSR (now in Stavropol Krai, Russiamarker) to a young Ukrainian widow, Taisiya Solzhenitsyna (née Shcherbak), whose father had risen, it seems, from humble beginnings, much of a self-made man, and acquired a large estate in the Kuban region by the northern foothills of the Caucasus. During World War I, Taisiya went to Moscow to study. While there she met Isaakiy Solzhenitsyn, a young army officer, also from the Caucasus region (the family background of his parents is vividly brought to life in the opening chapters of August 1914, and later on in the Red Wheel novel cycle).

In 1918, Taisia became pregnant with Aleksandr. Shortly after this was confirmed, Isaakiy was killed in a hunting accident. Aleksandr was raised by his widowed mother and aunt in lowly circumstances; his earliest years coincided with the Russian Civil War; by 1930 the family property had been turned into a collective farm. Solzhenitsyn stated his mother was fighting for survival and they had to keep his father's background in the old Imperial Army a secret. His educated mother (who never remarried) encouraged his literary and scientific learnings and raised him in the Russian Orthodox faith; she died in 1944.

As early as 1936 Solzhenitsyn was developing the characters and concepts for his epic work August 1914 – some of the chapters he wrote then still survive .Solzhenitsyn studied mathematics at Rostov State University, while at the same time taking correspondence courses from the Moscowmarker Institute of Philosophy, Literature and History (at this time heavily ideological in scope; as he himself makes clear, he did not question the state ideology or the superiority of the Soviet Union before he had spent some time in the camps). On April 7, 1940, while at the university, Solzhenitsyn married a chemistry student Natalia Alekseevna Reshetovskaya. They divorced in 1952 (a year before his release from the Gulag); he remarried her in 1957 and they divorced again in 1972. The following year he married his second wife, Natalia Dmitrievna Svetlova, a mathematician who had a son from a brief prior marriage. He and Svetlova (b. 1939) had three sons: Yermolai (1970), Ignat (1972), and Stepan (1973).


During World War II Solzhenitsyn served as the commander of a sound-ranging battery in the Red Army, was involved in major action at the front, and twice decorated. A series of writings published late in his life, including the early uncompleted novel Love the Revolution!, chronicle his WWII experience and his growing doubts about the moral foundations of the Soviet regime.


In February 1945, while serving in East Prussia, Solzhenitsyn was arrested for writing derogatory comments in letters to a friend, Nikolai Vitkevich, about the conduct of the war by Joseph Stalin, whom he called "Oosatiy" ("the whiskered one,") "Khozyain" ("the master"), and "Balabos", (Odessa Yiddish for "the master"). He was accused of anti-Soviet propaganda under Article 58 paragraph 10 of the Soviet criminal code, and of "founding a hostile organization" under paragraph 11. Solzhenitsyn was taken to the Lubyanka prison in Moscow, where he was beaten and interrogated. On July 7, 1945, he was sentenced in his absence by Special Council of the NKVD to an eight-year term in a labor camp. This was the normal sentence for most crimes under Article 58 at the time.

The first part of Solzhenitsyn's sentence was served in several different work camps; the "middle phase," as he later referred to it, was spent in a sharashka, special scientific research facilities run by Ministry of State Security, where he met Lev Kopelev, upon whom he based the character of Lev Rubin in his book The First Circle, published in a self-censored or “distorted” version in the West in 1968. In 1950, he was sent to a "Special Camp" for political prisoners. During his imprisonment at the camp in the town of Ekibastuzmarker in Kazakhstanmarker, he worked as a miner, bricklayer, and foundry foreman. His experiences at Ekibastuz formed the basis for the book One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. While there he had a tumor removed, although his cancer was not then diagnosed.

In March 1953 after the expiry of Solzhenitsyn's sentence, he was sent to internal exile for life at Kok-Terek in southern Kazakhstanmarker, as was common for political prisoners. His undiagnosed cancer spread, until, by the end of the year, he was close to death. However, in 1954, he was permitted to be treated in a hospital in Tashkentmarker, where his tumor went into remission. These experiences became the basis of his novel Cancer Ward and also found an echo in the short story "The right hand." It was during this decade of imprisonment and exile that Solzhenitsyn abandoned Marxism and developed the philosophical and religious positions of his later life; this turn has some interesting parallels to Dostoevsky's time in Siberia and his quest for faith a hundred years earlier. Solzhenitsyn gradually turned into a philosophically-minded Christian as a result of his experience in prison and the camps. He repented for what he did as a Red Army captain and in prison compared himself with the perpetrators of the Gulag: "I remember myself in my captain's shoulder boards and the forward march of my battery through East Prussia, enshrouded in fire, and I say: 'So were we any better?'" His transformation is described at some length in the fourth part of The Gulag Archipelago ("The Soul and Barbed Wire"). The narrative poem The Trail (written without benefit of pen or paper in prison and camps between 1947 and 1952) and the twenty-eight poems composed in prison, forced-labor camp, and exile also provide crucial material for understanding Solzhenitsyn's intellectual and spiritual odyssey during this period. These "early" works, largely unknown in the West, were published for the first time in Russian in 1999 and excerpted in English in 2006.

After Liberation

After Khrushchev's Secret Speech in 1956 Solzhenitsyn was freed from exile and exonerated. After his return to European Russia, Solzhenitsyn was, while teaching at a secondary school during the day, spending his nights secretly engaged in writing. In his Nobel Prize acceptance speech he wrote, "during all the years until 1961, not only was I convinced I should never see a single line of mine in print in my lifetime, but, also, I scarcely dared allow any of my close acquaintances to read anything I had written because I feared this would become known."

In the 1960s while he was publicly known to be writing Cancer Ward, he was simultaneously writing Gulag Archipelago. The KGB found out about this..

Finally, when he was 42 years old, he approached Alexander Tvardovsky, a poet and the chief editor of the Noviy Mir magazine, with the manuscript of One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. It was published in edited form in 1962, with the explicit approval of Nikita Khrushchev, who defended it and declared at the presidium of the Politburo hearing on whether to allow its publishing, "There’s a Stalinist in each of you; there’s even a Stalinist in me. We must root out this evil." The book became an instant hit and sold-out everywhere. During Khrushchev's tenure, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich was studied in schools in the Soviet Union and three more short works of Solzhenitsyn's, including his acclaimed short story Matryona’s Home, were published in 1963. These would be the last of his works published in the Soviet Union until 1990.

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich brought the Soviet system of prison labor to the attention of the West. It caused as much a sensation in the Soviet Union as it did the West—not only by its striking realism and candour, but also because it was the first major piece of Soviet literature since the twenties on a politically charged theme, written by a non-party member, even by a man who had been to Siberia for "libelous speech" about the leaders, and still it had not been censored. In this sense, the publication of Solzhenitsyn's story was an almost unheard of instance of free, unrestrained discussion of politics through literature. Most Soviet readers realized this, but after Khrushchev had been ousted from power in 1964, the time for such raw exposing works came quietly, but perceptibly, to a close.


Solzhenitsyn did not give in but tried, with the help of Tvardovsky, to get his novel, The Cancer Ward, legally published in the Soviet Union. This had to get the approval of the Union of Writers, and though some there appreciated it, the work ultimately was denied publication unless it was to be revised and cleaned of suspect statements and anti-Soviet insinuations (this episode is recounted and documented in The Oak and the Calf).

The publishing of his work quickly stopped; as a writer, he became a non-person, and, by 1965, the KGBmarker had seized some of his papers, including the manuscript of The First Circle. Meanwhile Solzhenitsyn continued to secretly and feverishly work upon the most subversive of all his writings, the monumental Gulag Archipelago. The seizing of his novel manuscript first made him desperate and frightened, but gradually he realized that it had set him free from the pretenses and trappings of being an "officially acclaimed" writer, something which had come close to second nature, but which was becoming increasingly irrelevant (the circumstances of how he actually survived in this period without any income from his books are obscure; he had quit his teaching post when he broke through as a writer).

After the KGB had confiscated Solzhenitsyn's materials in Moscow, during 1965–1967 the preparatory drafts of The Gulag Archipelago were turned into finished typescript in hiding at his friends' homes in Estoniamarker. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn had befriended Arnold Susi, a lawyer and former Estonian Minister of Education in a Lubyanka Prison cell. After completion the original Solzhenitsyn's handwritten script was kept hidden from the KGB in Estonia by Arnold Susi's daughter Heli Susi until the collapse of the Soviet Union.

In 1969 Solzhenitsyn was expelled from the Union of Writers. In 1970, Solzhenitsyn was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. He could not receive the prize personally in Stockholmmarker at that time, since he was afraid he would not be let back into the Soviet Union. Instead, it was suggested he should receive the prize in a special ceremony at the Swedishmarker embassy in Moscowmarker. The Swedish government refused to accept this solution, since such a ceremony and the ensuing media coverage might upset the Soviet Unionmarker and damage Sweden's relations with the superpower. Instead, Solzhenitsyn received his prize at the 1974 ceremony after he had been deported from the Soviet Union.

The Gulag Archipelago was composed during 1958–1967. This work was a three-volume work on the Soviet prison camp system, though Solzhenitsyn never had all seven parts before himself at any given time. The Gulag Archipelago has sold over thirty million copies in thirty-five languages. It was based upon Solzhenitsyn's own experience as well as the testimony of 256 former prisoners and Solzhenitsyn's own research into the history of the penal system. It discussed the system's origins from the founding of the Communist regime, with Lenin himself having responsibility, detailing interrogation procedures, prisoner transports, prison camp culture, prisoner uprisings and revolts, and the practice of internal exile. The Gulag Archipelago’s rich and varied authorial voice, its unique weaving together of personal testimony, philosophical analysis, and historical investigation, and its unrelenting indictment of communist ideology made The Gulag Archipelago one of the most consequential books of the twentieth century. The appearance of the book in the West put the word gulag into the Western political vocabulary and guaranteed swift retribution from the Soviet authorities.

During this period, he was sheltered by the cellist Mstislav Rostropovich, who suffered considerably for his support of Solzhenitsyn and was eventually forced into exile himself.

In the West

On February 12, 1974, Solzhenitsyn was arrested and on the next day he was deported from the Soviet Union to Frankfurtmarker, West Germanymarker and stripped of his Soviet citizenship. The KGB had found the manuscript for the first part of The Gulag Archipelago and, less than a week later, Yevgeny Yevtushenko suffered reprisals for his support of Solzhenitsyn.

U.S. military attache William Odom managed to smuggle out a large portion of Solzhenitsyn's archive, including the author's membership card for the Writers' Union and Second World War military citations; Solzhenitsyn subsequently paid tribute to Odom's role in his memoir "Invisible Allies" (1995).

In Germany, Solzhenitsyn lived in Heinrich Böll's house in Cologne. He then moved to Zurich, Switzerlandmarker before Stanford Universitymarker invited him to stay in the United Statesmarker to "facilitate your work, and to accommodate you and your family." He stayed on the 11th floor of the Hoover Towermarker, part of the Hoover Institution, before moving to Cavendish, Vermontmarker in 1976. He was given an honorary Literary Degree from Harvard Universitymarker in 1978 and on Thursday, June 8, 1978 he gave his Commencement Address condemning, among other things, materialism in modern western culture.

Over the next 17 years, Solzhenitsyn worked on his cyclical history of the Russian Revolution of 1917, The Red Wheel. By 1992, four "knots" (parts) had been completed and he had also written several shorter works.

Despite spending two decades in the United States, Solzhenitsyn did not become fluent in spoken English. He had, however, been reading English-language literature since his teens, encouraged by his mother . More importantly, he resented the idea of becoming a media star and of tempering his ideas or ways of talking in order to suit television. Solzhenitsyn's warnings about the dangers of Communist aggression and the weakening of the moral fiber of the West were generally well received in Western conservative circles, alongside the tougher foreign policy pursued by U.S. President Ronald Reagan. At the same time, liberals and secularists became increasingly critical of what they perceived as his reactionary preference for Russianmarker patriotism and the Russian Orthodox religion. Solzhenitsyn also harshly criticised what he saw as the ugliness and spiritual vapidity of the dominant pop culture of the modern West, including television and much of popular music: "...the human soul longs for things higher, warmer, and purer than those offered by today's mass living habits ... by TV stupor and by intolerable music."

Despite his criticism of the “weakness” of the West Solzhenitsyn always made clear that he admired the political liberty which was one of the enduring strengths of western democratic societies. In a major speech delivered to the International Academy of Philosophy in Liechtenstein on September 14, 1993, Solzhenitsyn implored the West not to "lose sight of its own values, its historically unique stability of civic life under the rule of law—a hard-won stability which grants independence and space to every private citizen." In a series of writings, speeches, and interviews after his return to his native Russia in 1994, Solzhenitsyn spoke about his admiration for the local self-government he had witnessed first hand in Switzerland and New England during his western exile.

Return to Russia

In 1990, his Soviet citizenship was restored, and, in 1994, he returned to Russia with his wife, Natalia, who had become a United States citizen. Their sons stayed behind in the United States (later, his oldest son Yermolai returned to Russia to work for the Moscow office of a leading management consultancy firm). From then until his death, he lived with his wife in a dacha in Troitse-Lykovo (Троице-Лыково) in west Moscowmarker between the dachas once occupied by Soviet leaders Mikhail Suslov and Konstantin Chernenko.

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Solzhenitsyn called for a restoration of the Russian monarchy. The writer, however, deplored what he considered Russia's spiritual decline, increasingly adopting Western materialistic values, but in the last years of his life he praised President Vladimir Putin for Russia's revival.

After returning to Russia in 1994, Solzhenitsyn published eight two-part short stories, a series of contemplative "miniatures" or prose poems, a literary memoir on his years in the West (The Grain Between the Millstones) among many other writings.

All of Solzhenitsyn's sons became U.S. citizens. One, Ignat, has achieved acclaim as a pianist and conductor in the United States.


Solzhenitsyn died of heart failure near Moscow on August 3, 2008, at the age of 89. A burial service was held at Donskoy Monastery, Moscowmarker, on Wednesday, August 6, 2008. He was buried on the same date at the place chosen by him in Donskoy necropolis. Russian and world leaders paid tribute to Solzhenitsyn following his death.


The most complete 30-volume edition of Solzhenitsyn’s collected works is soon to be published in Russia. The presentation of its first three volumes, already in print, recently took place in Moscowmarker. On June 5, 2007 then Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree conferring on Solzhenitsyn the State Prize of the Russian Federation for his humanitarian work. Putin personally visited the writer at his home on June 12, 2007 to present him with the award. Like his father, Yermolai Solzhenitsyn has translated some of his father's works. Stephan Solzhenitsyn lives and works in Moscow. Ignat Solzhenitsyn is the music director of The Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia.

KGB operations against Solzhenitsyn

On 19 September 1974, Yuri Andropov approved a large-scale operation to discredit Solzhenitsyn and his family and cut his communications with Soviet dissidents. The plan was jointly approved by Vladimir Kryuchkov, Philipp Bobkov, and Grigorenko (heads of First, Second and Fifth KGB Directorates). The residencies in Genevamarker, Londonmarker, Parismarker, Romemarker and other European cities participated in the operation. Among other active measures, at least three StB agents became translators and secretaries of Solzhenitsyn (one of them translated the poem Prussian Nights),keeping KGB informed regarding all contacts by Solzhenitsyn.

KGB sponsored a series of hostile books about Solzhenitsyn, most notably a "memoir published under the name of his first wife, Natalia Reshetovskaya, but probably mostly composed by Service", according to historian Christopher Andrew. Andropov also gave an order to create "an atmosphere of distrust and suspicion between PAUK and the people around him" by feeding him rumors that everyone in his surrounding was a KGB agent and deceiving him in all possible ways. Among other things, the writer constantly received envelopes with photographs of car accidents, brain surgery and other frightening illustrations. After the KGB harassment in Zurich, Solzhenitsyn settled in Cavendish, Vermontmarker, reduced communications with others and surrounded his property with a barbed wire fence. His influence and moral authority for the West diminished as he became increasingly isolated and critical of the Western individualism. KGB and CPSU experts finally concluded that he alienated American listeners by his "reactionary views and intransigent criticism of the US way of life", so no further active measures would be required.

Accusations of collaboration with NKVD

In his book The Gulag Archipelago Solzhenitsyn states that he was recruited to report to the NKVD on fellow inmates and was given a code-name Vetrov, but due to his transfer to another camp he was able to elude this duty and never produced a single report.

In 1976, after Solzhenitsyn was expelled from the Soviet Unionmarker a report signed by Vetrov surfaced. After a copy of the report was obtained by Solzhenitsyn he published it together with a refutation in the Los Angeles Times (published 24 May 1976). In 1978 the same report was published by journalist Frank Arnau in a socialist Western German magazine Neue Politik. According to Arnau the report was used in the prosecution and death sentence of a group of Ukrainian nationalists incarcerated at Ekibastuz. In 1985 Solzhenitsyn was accused of collaboration in an open letter by fellow prisoners Yakubovich and Lev Kopelev.

However, according to Solzhenitsyn the report is a falsification by the KGBmarker. He claimed that the report is dated 20 January 1952 while all Ukrainians were transferred to a separate camp on January 6 and they had no relation to the uprising in Solzhenitsyn's camp on January 22. He also claimed that the only people who might in 1976 have access to a "secret KGB archive" were KGB agents themselves. Solzhenitsyn also requested Arnau to put the alleged document to a graphology test but Arnau refused.

In 1990 the report was reproduced in Soviet Voyenno-Istoricheskiy Zhurnal among the memoirs of L.A. Samutin, a former ROA soldier and GULAG inmate who was an erstwhile supporter of Solzhenitsyn, but later became his critic. According to Solzhenitzyn publishing of the memoirs was canceled at the request of Samutin's widow who stated that the memoirs were in fact dictated by the KGB).

Views on Atheism, History and Politics

Solzhenitsyn on the failing of atheism:

Over a half century ago, while I was still a child, I recall hearing a number of old people offer the following explanation for the great disasters that had befallen Russia: "Men have forgotten God; that's why all this has happened."Since then I have spent well-nigh 50 years working on the history of our revolution; in the process I have read hundreds of books, collected hundreds of personal testimonies, and have already contributed eight volumes of my own toward the effort of clearing away the rubble left by that upheaval. But if I were asked today to formulate as concisely as possible the main cause of the ruinous revolution that swallowed up some 60 million of our people, I could not put it more accurately than to repeat: "Men have forgotten God; that's why all this has happened.

Edward E. Ericson, Jr., "Solzhenitsyn – Voice from the Gulag," Eternity, October 1985, pp. 23, 24.

Historical views

During his years in the west, Solzhenitsyn was very active in the historical debate, discussing the history of Russiamarker, the Soviet Unionmarker and communism. He tried to correct what he considered to be western misconceptions.

On Russia and the Jews

Solzhenitsyn also published a two-volume work on the history of Russian-Jewish relations (Two Hundred Years Together 2001, 2002). This book stirred controversy and some viewed it as antisemitic. This book became a best-seller in Russia. Solzhenitsyn begins his book with a plea for "patient mutual comprehension" on the part of Russians and Russian Jews. The author writes that the book was conceived in the hope of promoting "mutually agreeable and fruitful pathways for the future development of Russian-Jewish relations."

There is sharp division on the allegation of antisemitism. From Solzhenitsyn's own essay "Repentance and Self-Limitation in the Life of Nations", he calls for Russians and Russian Jews alike to take responsibility for the "renegades" in both communities who supported a totalitarian and terrorist regime after 1917. At the end of chapter 15, he writes that Jews must answer for the "revolutionary cutthroats" in their ranks just as Russians must repent "for the pogroms, for...merciless arsonist peasants, for...crazed revolutionary soldiers." It is not, he adds, a matter of answering "before other peoples, but to oneself, to one's consciousness, and before God."

Similarities between Two Hundred years together and an antisemitic essay titled “Jews in the USSR and in the Future Russia”, attributed to Solzhenitsyn, has led to inference that he stands behind the anti-Semitic passages. Solzhenitsyn himself claims that the essay consists of manuscripts stolen from him, and then manipulated, forty years ago. However, according to the historian Semyon Reznik, textological analyses have in fact proven Solzhenitsyn's authorship.

In 1984 Solzhenitsyn was interviewed by Nikolay Kazantsev, a monarchist Russian-Argentinian journalist, for "Nasha Strana", a russophone newspaper in Buenos-Airesmarker. In the interview he said: "We (Russia) are walking a narrow istmus between Communists and the World Jewry. Neither is acceptable for us... And I mean this not in the racial sense, but in the sense of the Jewry as a certain world view. The Jewry is embodied in "Fevralism" (i.e. democracy). Neither side is acceptable to us in the case the War breaks out." He also described the United States as a "province of Israel".

A prominent dissident writer Vladimir Voynovich, interviewed for Radio Freedom on the first anniversary of Solzhenitsyn' death, has stated that Solzhenitshyn harbored antisemitic sentiments all his life, as attested by the 1964 manuscript he later developed into "200 Years Together", and that he deliberately concealed them, because he knew this would have prevented him from receiving the Nobel Prize.

On new Russian "democracy"

In his recent political writings, such as Rebuilding Russia (1990) and Russia in Collapse (1998), Solzhenitsyn criticized the oligarchic excesses of the new Russian 'democracy,' while opposing any nostalgia for Soviet communism. He defended moderate and self-critical patriotism (as opposed to extreme nationalism), argued for the indispensability of local self-government to a free Russia, and expressed concerns for the fate of the 25 million ethnic Russians in the "near abroad" of the former Soviet Union. He also sought to "protect" the national character of the Russian Orthodox church and fought against the admission of Catholic priests and Protestant pastors to Russia from other countries. For a brief period, he had his own TV show, where he freely expressed his views. The show was cancelled because of low ratings, but Solzhenitsyn continued to maintain a relatively high profile in the media.

The West

Delivering the commencement address at Harvard in 1978, he called the United States spiritually weak and mired in vulgar materialism. Americans, he said, speaking in Russian through a translator, suffered from a "decline in courage" and a "lack of manliness." Few were willing to die for their ideals, he said. He condemned both the United States government and American society for its “hasty” capitulation in Vietnam. He criticized the country’s music as intolerable and attacked its unfettered press, accusing it of violations of privacy. He said that the West erred in measuring other civilizations by its own model. While faulting Soviet society for denying fair legal treatment of people, he also faulted the West for being too legalistic: "A society which is based on the letter of the law and never reaches any higher is taking very scarce advantage of the high level of human possibilities."

Shortly after his death, professor Richard Pipes, a history professor at Harvard, wrote of him: "Solzhenitsyn blamed the evils of Soviet communism on the West. He rightly stressed the European origins of Marxism, but he never asked himself why Marxism in other European countries led not to the gulag but to the welfare state. He reacted with white fury to any suggestion that the roots of Leninism and Stalinism could be found in Russia’s past. His knowledge of Russian history was very superficial and laced with a romantic sentimentalism. While accusing the West of imperialism, he seemed quite unaware of the extraordinary expansion of his own country into regions inhabited by non-Russians. He also denied that Imperial Russia practiced censorship or condemned political prisoners to hard labor, which, of course, was absurd.".

Russian culture

In his 1978 Harvard address, Solzhenitsyn argued over Russian culture, that the West erred in "denying its autonomous character and therefore never understood it "

Communism, Russia and nationalism

Solzhenitsyn emphasized the significantly more oppressive character of the Soviet totalitarian regime, in comparison to the Tsarist Russian Empiremarker. He asserted that Imperial Russia did not practice any real censorship in the style of the Soviet Glavlit, that political prisoners typically were not forced into labor camps in spite of the existence of the katorga, and that the number of political prisoners was only one ten-thousandth of those in the Soviet Union. He noted that the Tsar's secret service was only present in the three largest cities, and not at all in the army. He compared Bolsheviks with Jacobins of the Reign of Terror of Francemarker.

He believed that revolutionary violence comes from the teachings of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, arguing Marxism is violent. His conclusion is Communism will always be totalitarian and violent everywhere it exists, not just in a specific country. He considered purely Russian conditions to be of secondary importance.

According to Solzhenitsyn, Russians were not the ruling nation in the Soviet Union. He believed that all ethnic cultures have been oppressed in favor of an atheistic Soviet culture. Russian culture was even more oppressed than the smaller minority cultures, since the regime was more afraid of ethnic uprisings among Russians than among other peoples. Therefore, Solzhenitsyn argued, Russian nationalism and the Orthodox Church should not be regarded as a threat by the West but rather as allies.

Solzhenitsyn said that for every country, great power status deforms and harms the national character and that he has never wished great power status for Russia. He rejected the view that the USA and Russia are natural rivals, saying that before the [Russian] revolution, they were natural allies and that during the American Civil War, Russia supported Lincoln and the North [in contrast to Britain and France, which supported the Confederacy], and then they were allies in the First World War. But beginning with communism, Russia ceased to exist and the confrontation was not at all with Russia but with the Communist U.S.S.R.

World War II

Solzhenitsyn criticized the Allies for not opening a new front against Nazi Germanymarker in the west earlier in World War II. This resulted in Soviet domination and oppression of the nations of Eastern Europe. Solzhenitsyn claimed the western democracies apparently cared little about how many died in the east, as long as they could end the war quickly and painlessly for themselves in the west. While stationed in East Prussia as an artillery officer, Solzhenitsyn witnessed war crimes against the civilian German population by Soviet "liberators" as the elderly were robbed of their meager possessions and women were gang-raped to death. He wrote a poem entitled "Prussian Nights" about these incidents. In it, the first-person narrator seems to approve of the troops' crimes as revenge for German atrocities, expressing his desire to take part in the plunder himself. The poem describes the rape of a Polish woman whom the Red Army soldiers mistakenly thought to be a German.


In his Gulag Archipelago Solzhenitsyn rejected the view that it was Stalin who created the Soviet totalitarian state. He argued that it was Lenin who started the mass executions, created a planned economy, founded the Cheka which would later be turned into the KGBmarker, and started the system of labor camps later known as Gulag.

Mikhail Sholokhov

Solzhenitsyn was the most prominent of the Nobel Laureate Mikhail Sholokhov's many detractors. He alleged that the work which made Sholokhov's international reputation, And Quiet Flows the Don was written by Fyodor Kryukov, a Cossack and Anti-Bolshevik, who died in 1920, possibly in retaliation for Sholokhov scathing opinion re "One Day of Ivan Denisovich". Solzhenitsyn claimed that Sholokhov found the manuscript and published it under his own name. These rumors first appeared in the late 1920s, but an investigation upheld Sholokhov's authorship of "Silent Don" and the allegations were denounced as malicious slander in Pravda.

A 1984 monograph by Geir Kjetsaa and others demonstrated through statistical analyses that Sholokhov was indeed the likely author of Don. And in 1987, several thousand pages of notes and drafts of the work were discovered and authenticated.

During the second world war, Sholokhov's archive was destroyed in a bomb raid, and only the fourth volume survived. Sholokhov had his friend Vassily Kudashov, who was killed in the war, look after it. Following Kudashov's death, his widow took possession of the manuscript, but she never disclosed the fact of owning it. The manuscript was finally found by the Institute of World Literature of Russia's Academy of Sciences in 1999 with assistance from the Russian Government. An analysis of the novel has unambiguously proved Sholokhov's authorship. The writing paper dates back to the 1920s: 605 pages are in Sholokhov's own hand, and 285 are transcribed by his wife Maria and sisters.

The Sino-Soviet Conflict

In 1973, near the height of the Sino-Soviet conflict, Solzhenitsyn sent a Letter to the Soviet Leaders to a limited number of upper echelon Soviet officials. This work, which was published for the general public in the Western world a year after it was sent to its intended audience, beseeched the Soviet Union's authorities to
Give them their ideology! Let the Chinese leaders glory in it for a while. And for that matter, let them shoulder the whole sackful of unfulfillable international obligations, let them grunt and heave and instruct humanity, and foot all the bills for their absurd economics (a million a day just to Cuba), and let them support terrorists and guerrillas in the Southern Hemisphere too if they like. The main source of the savage feuding between us will then melt away, a great many points of today's contention and conflict all over the world will also melt away, and a military clash will become a much remoter possibility and perhaps won't take place at all [author's emphasis].

Vietnam war

Once in America, Solzhenitsyn urged the United States to continue its involvement in the Vietnam War.

In his commencement address at Harvard University in 1978 (A World Split Apart), Solzhenitsyn alleged that many in the U.S. did not understand the Vietnam War. He rhetorically asks if the American antiwar proponents now realize the effects their actions had on Vietnam: "But members of the U.S. antiwar movement wound up being involved in the betrayal of Far Eastern nations, in a genocide and in the suffering today imposed on 30 million people there. Do those convinced pacifists hear the moans coming from there?"

During his time in the West, Solzhenitsyn made a few controversial public statements: notably, he characterized Daniel Ellsberg as a traitor.

Kosovo War

Solzhenitsyn strongly condemned the bombing of Yugoslavia during the Kosovo War, saying "there is no difference whatsoever between NATOmarker and Hitler."

The Holodomor

Solzhenitsyn said that Ukrainian efforts to have the 1930s famine, the Holodomor, recognised as a genocide against Ukrainian people is an act of historical revisionism. He believed that the famine was caused by the nature of the Communist regime, under which all peoples suffered. It was not an assault by the Russian people against the people of Ukraine, and that the wish to view it as such is only a recent development, according to him

Western culture

...there also exists another alliance — at first glance a strange one, a surprising one—but if you think about it, in fact, one which is well-grounded and easy to understand.
This is the alliance between our Communist leaders and your capitalists.
This alliance is not new.
The very famous Armand Hammer, who is flourishing here today, laid the basis for this when he made the first exploratory trip into Russia, still in Lenin's time, in the very first years of the Revolution.

And if today the Soviet Union has powerful military and police forces—in a country which is by contemporary standards poor—they are used to crush our movement for freedom in the Soviet Union—and we have western capital to thank for this also.

Testimony to the U.S. Congress, July 8, 1975.

Until I came to the West myself and spent two years looking around, I could never have imagined to what an extreme degree the West had actually become a world without a will, a world gradually petrifying in the face of the danger confronting it...All of us are standing on the brink of a great historical cataclysm, a flood that swallows up civilization and changes whole epochs.

Modern world

He described the problems of both East and West as "a disaster" rooted in atheism and Dechristianisation. He referred to it as "the calamity of an autonomous, irreligious humanistic consciousness."

It has made man the measure of all things on earth—imperfect man, who is never free of pride, self-interest, envy, vanity, and dozens of other defects.
We are now paying for the mistakes which were not properly appraised at the beginning of the journey.
On the way from the Renaissance to our days we have enriched our experience, but we have lost the concept of a Supreme Complete Entity which used to restrain our passions and our irresponsibility.

Published works and speeches

  • The Solzhenitsyn Reader: New and Essential Writings, 1947-2005, edited by Edward E. Ericson, Jr. and Daniel J. Mahoney, ISI Books (2009)
  • A Storm in the Mountains
  • One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (1962; novella)
  • An Incident at Krechetovka Station (1963; novella)
  • Matryona's Place (1963; novella)
  • For the Good of the Cause (1964; novella)
  • The First Circle (1968; novel)
  • Cancer Ward (1968; novel)
  • The Love-Girl and the Innocent (1969; play), aka The Prisoner and the Camp Hooker or The Tenderfoot and the Tart.
  • Nobel Prize delivered speech (1970)The speech was delivered to the Swedish Academymarker in writing and not actually given as a lecture.
  • August 1914 (1971). The beginning of a history of the birth of the USSR in an historical novel. The novel centers on the disastrous loss in the Battle of Tannenberg marker in August, 1914, and the ineptitude of the military leadership. Other works, similarly titled, follow the story: see The Red Wheel (overall title).
  • The Gulag Archipelago (three volumes) (1973–1978), not a memoir, but a history of the entire process of developing and administering a police state in the Soviet Union.
  • Prussian Nights (Finished in 1951, first published in 1974; poetry)
  • Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's speech at the Nobel Banquet at the City Hall in Stockholm, December 10, 1974
  • Aleksandr Isaevich Solzhenitsyn, A Letter to the Soviet leaders, Collins: Harvill Press (1974), ISBN 0-06-013913-7
  • The Oak and the Calf (1975)
  • Lenin in Zürich (1976; separate publication of chapters on Lenin, none of them published before this point, from The Red Wheel. They were later incorporated into the 1984 edition of the expanded August, 1914.)
  • Warning to the West (1976; 5 speeches (translated to English), 3 to the Americans in 1975 and 2 to the British in 1976)
  • Harvard Commencement Address (1978) link
  • The Mortal Danger: Misconceptions about Soviet Russia and the Threat to America (1980)
  • Pluralists (1983; political pamphlet)
  • November 1916 (1983; novel in The Red Wheel sequence)
  • Victory Celebration (1983)
  • Prisoners (1983)
  • Godlessness, the First Step to the Gulag. Templeton Prize Address, London, May 10 (1983)
  • August 1914 (1984; novel, much-expanded edition)
  • Rebuilding Russia (1990)
  • March 1917 (1990)
  • April 1917
  • The Russian Question (1995)
  • Russia under Avalanche (Россия в обвале,1998; political pamphlet) (Complete text in Russian:)
  • Two Hundred Years Together (2003) on Russian-Jewish relations since 1772, aroused ambiguous public response.

See also



  • Björkegren, Hans, and Kaarina Eneberg Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn: A Biography, Henley-on-Thames: Aiden Ellis, 1973. ISBN 0-85628-005-4.
  • Daprà Veronika: "A.I. Solzhenitsyn: The Political Writings." Università degli Studi di Venezia, 1991; Prof.Vittorio Strada, Dott.Julija Dobrovol'skaja;
  • Ericson, Edward E. Jr. and Klimoff, Alexis, The Soul and Barbed Wire: An Introduction to Solzhenitsyn, ISI books, 2008.
  • Guardian (London). August 3, 2008.
  • Mahoney, Daniel J., Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn: The Ascent From Ideology, Rowman & Littlefield, 2001.
  • Moody, Christopher. Solzhenitsyn. Edinburgh: Oliver & Boyd, 1973. ISBN 0-05-002600-3.
  • Nivat, Georges, Le phénomène Soljénitsyne, Fayard, 2009.
  • Pontuso, James F., Assault on Ideology: Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s Political Thought 2nd ed. Lanham, Md. Lexington Books, 2004. ISBN 978-0739105948
  • Scammell, Michael Solzhenitsyn: A Biography. London: Paladin, 1986. ISBN 0-586-08538-6.
  • Thomas, D.M.: Alexander Solzhenitsyn: A Century in his Life. New York 1998, St. Martin’s Press. ISBN 0312180365
  • Victor A. Pogadaev. Solzhenitsyn: Tanpa Karyanya Sejarah Abad 20 Tak Terbayangkan – "Pentas", Jil. 3, Bil. 4 Oktober-Disember 2008. Kuala Lumpur, hlm. 60–63

Further reading

Reference works
  • Edward J. Brown, “Solzhenitsyn and the Epic of the Camps,” in his Russian Literature Since the Revolution (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University, 1982), pp. 251–291
  • Michael Lydon, “Alexander Solzhenitsyn,” in his Real Writing: Word Models of the Modern World (New York: Patrick Press, 2001), pp. 183–251
  • Mahoney, “Solzhenitsyn on Russia’s ‘Jewish Question,’” Society (November–December 2002): 104–109
  • Rufus W. Mathewson, Jr., “Solzhenitsyn,” in his The Positive Hero in Russian Literature (Stanford, Cal.: Stanford University Press, 1975), pp. 279–340
  • Mary McCarthy, “The Tolstoy Connection,” Saturday Review, 16 September 1972, pp. 79–96
  • Modern Fiction Studies, special Solzhenitsyn issue, 23 (Spring 1977)
  • David Remnick, “The Exile Returns,” New Yorker (14 February 1994): 64–83
  • Leona Toker, “The Gulag Archipelago” and “The Gulag Fiction of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn,” in her Return from the Archipelago: Narrative of Gulag Survivors (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2000), pp. 101–121, 188–209
  • Dariusz Tolczyk, “A Sliver in the Throat of Power,” in his See No Evil: Literary Cover-Ups and Discoveries of the Soviet Camp Experience (New Haven, Conn. & London: Yale University Press, 1999), pp. 253–310
  • Transactions of the Association of Russian-American Scholars in the U.S.A., 29 (1998)
  • Urmanov, ed., “Odin den’ Ivana Denisovicha” A. I. Solzhenitsyna: Khudozhestvennyi mir. Poetika. Kul’turnyi kontekst (Blagoveshchensk: BGPU, 2003)
  • Zvezda, special Solzhenitsyn issue (June 1994)

External links

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