and Soviet novelist, dramatist, and historian. Through his often-suppressed writings, he helped to raise global awareness of the Gulag
, the Soviet Union
's forced labor camp system – particularly in The Gulag Archipelago
and One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich
, two of his best-known works. Solzhenitsyn was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature
Justice is conscience, not a personal conscience but the conscience of the whole of humanity. Those who clearly recognize the voice of their own conscience usually recognize also the voice of justice.
One should never direct people towards happiness, because happiness too is an idol of the market-place. One should direct them towards mutual affection. A beast gnawing at its prey can be happy too, but only human beings can feel affection for each other, and this is the highest achievement they can aspire to.
Blow the dust off the clock. Your watches are behind the times. Throw open the heavy curtains which are so dear to you — you do not even suspect that the day has already dawned outside.
It is not because the truth is too difficult to see that we make mistakes. It may even lie on the surface; but we make mistakes because the easiest and most comfortable course for us is to seek insight where it accords with our emotions — especially selfish ones.
If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?
In our country the lie has become not just a moral category but a pillar of the State.
For us in Russia, communism is a dead dog, while, for many people in the West, it is still a living lion.
and Soviet novelist, dramatist, and historian. Through his often-suppressed writings, he helped to raise global awareness of the Gulag
, the Soviet Union
's forced labor camp system – particularly in The Gulag Archipelago
and One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich
, two of his best-known works. Solzhenitsyn was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature
in 1970. He was expelled from the Soviet Union in 1974, but returned to Russia in 1994 after the Soviet system had collapsed.
Early yearsAleksandr Solzhenitsyn was born in Kislovodsk
(now in Stavropol Krai
, Russia). His mother, Taisiya Solzhenitsyna (née Shcherbak) was Ukrainian
. Her father had apparently risen from humble beginnings, as something of a self-made man. Eventually, he acquired a large estate in the Kuban
region in the northern foothills of the Caucasus
. During World War I, Taisiya went to Moscow to study. While there she met and married Isaakiy Solzhenitsyn, a young officer in the Imperial Russian Army
origins and fellow native of the Caucasus region. The family background of his parents is vividly brought to life in the opening chapters of August 1914, and in the later Red Wheel
In 1918, Taisia became pregnant with Aleksandr. Shortly after her pregnancy was confirmed, Isaakiy was killed in a hunting accident. Aleksandr was then 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
. Later, Solzhenitsyn recalled that his mother had fought for survival and that 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 a planned epic work on the First World War and the Russian Revolution. This eventually led to the novel August 1914 – some of the chapters he wrote then still survive. Solzhenitsyn studied mathematics at Rostov State University. At the same time he took correspondence courses from the Moscow 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 until he spent time in the camps.
On 7 April 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 (1973) 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).
WWIIDuring 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 World War II experience and his growing doubts about the moral foundations of the Soviet regime.
ImprisonmentIn 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 Khozyain
" ("the master"), and "Balabos", (Yiddish
rendering of Hebrew
baal ha-bayiθ for "master of the house"). 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 7 July 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
(i.e., a special scientific research facility 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 (an English translation of the full version was eventually published by Harper Perennial in October 2009). In 1950, he was sent to a "Special Camp" for political prisoners. During his imprisonment at the camp in the town of Ekibastuz
in Kazakhstan, 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
. One of his fellow political prisoners, Ion Moraru
, remembers that Solzhenitsyn spent some of his time at Ekibastuz writing. While there he had a tumor removed, although his cancer was not diagnosed at the time.
In March 1953 after the expiry of Solzhenitsyn's sentence, he was sent to internal exile for life at Kok-Terek in the northeastern region of Kazakhstan, very close to the current border with Russia, 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 Tashkent
, where his tumor went into remission. His experiences there 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 Fyodor Dostoyevsky'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 some of his actions as a Red Army captain, and in prison compared himself to 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 28 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 prisonAfter 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 The Gulag Archipelago. The KGB found out about this. Finally, aged 42, he approached Aleksandr 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 at the presidium of the Politburo hearing on whether to allow its publishing, and added: "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 as were 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 of a sensation in the Soviet Union as it did in 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, indeed a man who had been to Siberia for "libelous speech" about the leaders, and yet its publication had been officially permitted. 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.
PersecutionsSolzhenitsyn made an unsuccessful attempt, 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
. 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 KGB
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 The 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.
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 Estonia. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn had befriended Arnold Susi
, a lawyer and former Estonian Minister of Education in a Lubyanka
Prison cell. After completion, Solzhenitsyn's original 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 Stockholm
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 Swedish embassy in Moscow. The Swedish government refused to accept this solution, however, since such a ceremony and the ensuing media coverage might upset the Soviet Union 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, seven part work on the Soviet prison camp system (Solzhenitsyn never had all seven parts of the work in front of him at any one 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 Archipelagos 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 WestOn 12 February 1974, Solzhenitsyn was arrested and deported the next day from the USSR to Frankfurt
, West Germany 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
, Switzerland before Stanford University
invited him to stay in the United States to "facilitate your work, and to accommodate you and your family." He stayed on the 11th floor of the Hoover Tower
, part of the Hoover Institution
, before moving to Cavendish
, Vermont in 1976. He was given an honorary Literary Degree from Harvard University
in 1978 and on Thursday, 8 June 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 (for example, before being denied the opportunity by then-president Gerald Ford
, Ford administration staffers Richard Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld
advocated on Solzhenitsyn's behalf to speak directly to the president about the Soviet threat), 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 Russian nationalism
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 14 September 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. He "praised 'the sensible and sure process of grassroots democracy
, in which the local population solves most of its problems on its own, not waiting for the decisions of higher authorities.'"
Return to RussiaIn 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 Moscow between the dachas once occupied by Soviet leaders Mikhail Suslov
and Konstantin Chernenko
. A staunch believer in traditional Russian culture, Solzhenitsyn expressed his disillusionment with post-Soviet Russia and called for a restoration of the Russian monarchy
. 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.
DeathSolzhenitsyn died of heart failure near Moscow on 3 August 2008, at the age of 89. A burial service was held at Donskoy Monastery
, Moscow, on Wednesday, 6 August 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.
, Solzhenitsyn expressed his admiration for President Vladimir Putin
's attempts to restore a sense of national pride in Russia. Putin signed a decree conferring on Solzhenitsyn the State Prize of the Russian Federation
for his humanitarian work and personally visited the writer at his home on 12 June 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 SolzhenitsynOn 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 Geneva, London, Paris, Rome 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
, Vermont, 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 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 NKVDIn 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 Union
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. However, according to Solzhenitsyn the report is a fabrication by the KGB
. He claimed that the report is dated 20 January 1952 while all Ukrainians were transferred to a separate camp on 6 January and they had no relation to the uprising in Solzhenitsyn's camp on 22 January. 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, publication of the Samutin 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 politicsRegarding atheism, Solzhenitsyn declared:
On Russia and the JewsSolzhenitsyn also published a two-volume work on the history of Russian-Jewish relations (Two Hundred Years Together 2001, 2002). This book stirred controversy and caused Solzhenitsyn to be widely accused of anti-Semitism
The book became a best-seller in Russia. Solzhenitsyn begins this work 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 anti-Semitism
. From Solzhenitsyn's own essay "Repentance and Self-Limitation in the Life of Nations", he calls for Russians and Jews alike to take moral responsibility for the "renegades" from both communities who enthusiastically supported a Marxist dictatorship after the October Revolution
. At the end of chapter 15, he writes that Jews must answer for the "revolutionary cutthroats" in their ranks just as Russian Gentiles must repent "for the pogrom
s, for those 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." Writing of Solzhenitsyn's novel, August 1914 in the New York Times on 13 November 1985, the American historian Richard Pipes
commented: "Every culture has its own brand of anti-Semitism. In Solzhenitsyn's case, it's not racial. It has nothing to do with blood. He's certainly not a racist; the question is fundamentally religious and cultural. He bears some resemblance to Dostoevsky, who was a fervent Christian and patriot and a rabid anti-Semite. Solzhenitsyn is unquestionably in the grip of the Russian extreme right's view of the Revolution, which is that it was the doing of the Jews".
According to D. M. Thomas, Elie Wiesel
said Solzhenitsyn is not an anti-Semite. "he is too intelligent, too honest, too courageous, too great a writer." He says he wishes Solzhenitsyn were more sensitive to Jewish suffering, but believes the insensitivity is unconscious. This statement however predates the publication in 2001 of "200 Years Together" by at least 3 years.
Similarities between Two Hundred years together and an anti-Semitic 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 proven Solzhenitsyn's authorship.
In 1984 Solzhenitsyn was interviewed by Nikolay Kazantsev, a monarchist Russo-Argentine journalist, for Nasha Strana, a Russia-language newspaper based in Buenos Aires
. In the interview he said: "We (Russia) are walking a narrow isthmus 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".
Russian dissident writer Vladimir Voynovich, interviewed for Radio Liberty on the first anniversary of Solzhenitsyn' death, has said that Solzhenitshyn harbored anti-Semitic sentiments all his life, as attested by the 1964 manuscript he later developed into "200 Years Together". Voynovich further alleged that Solzhenitsyn deliberately concealed this anti-Semitism, because he knew this would have prevented him from receiving the Nobel Prize.
On new Russian "democracy"In some of his later 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 radical 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 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 WestDelivering the commencement address at Harvard University
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 the Vietnam War
. 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 Solzhenitsyn's death, 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
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 cultureIn 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 nationalismSolzhenitsyn emphasized the significantly more oppressive character of the Soviet totalitarian regime, in comparison to the Russian Empire
of the House of Romanov. He asserted that Imperial Russia did not practice any real censorship in the style of the Soviet Glavlit, that political prisoners typically were not always forced into labor camps, and that the number of political prisoners and exiles was only one ten-thousandth of those in the Soviet Union. He noted that the Tsar's secret police, or Okhrana, was only present in the three largest cities, and not at all in the Imperial Russian Army
In a speech commemorating the Vendée Uprising, Solzhenitsyn compared Lenin's Bolshevik
s with Jacobins
of the French Revolution
. However, he commented that, while the French Reign of Terror
ended with the execution of Maximilien Robespierre
, its Soviet equivalent raged unabated from 1917 until the Khrushchev thaw
in the 1950s.
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 Marxism. Russian culture was even more repressed than any other culture in the Soviet Union, since the regime was more afraid of ethnic uprisings among Russian Christians than among any other ethnicity. 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 Soviet Union.
World War IISolzhenitsyn criticized the Allies
for not opening a new front against Nazi Germany
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.
StalinismIn his The 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 KGB
, and started the system of labor camps later known as Gulag
Mikhail SholokhovSolzhenitsyn 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 in the Life 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 And Quiet Flows the 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 ConflictIn 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
Vietnam warOnce in America, Solzhenitsyn urged the United States to reconsider its attitudes to the Vietnam War
(which had ended in April 1975). 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 Anti-War Movement ever realized 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 United States, Solzhenitsyn made several controversial public statements: notably, he accused Pentagon Papers
leaker Daniel Ellsberg
Kosovo WarSolzhenitsyn strongly condemned the bombing of Yugoslavia during the Kosovo War
, saying "there is no difference whatsoever between NATO and Hitler
The HolodomorSolzhenitsyn has stated that the ongoing Ukrainian effort to have the 1930s famine, the Holodomor
, recognized as an act of genocide against the Ukrainian people
is in fact historical revisionism
. According to Solzhenitsyn, the famine was caused by the nature of the Communist regime
, under which all peoples suffered. As such it was not an assault by the Russian people against the Ukrainian people, and the wish to represent it as such is only recent and politically motivated.
Solzhenitsyn's views on this matter are in line with those of several historians of the period (such as Dmitri Volkogonov
and Aleksandr Bushkov
) as well as the official stance of the Russian Government. This view suggests that policies of collectivization and mass seizure of property that lead to the Ukrainian famine of the 1930s were a result of the political (communist) and economic (favoring rapid industrial growth over consumption) policies of the Soviet Union, and not racial hatred against the Ukrainians.
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 DenisovichOne Day in the Life of Ivan DenisovichOne Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich is a novel written by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, first published in November 1962 in the Soviet literary magazine Novy Mir . The story is set in a Soviet labor camp in the 1950s, and describes a single day of an ordinary prisoner, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov...
- An Incident at Krechetovka StationAn Incident at Krechetovka StationAn Incident at Krechetovka Station is a novella written by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and published in the Russian magazine Novy Mir in 1963. It is the only work of prose written by the author that is set in World War II. In later editions of the novella, the author changed the name of the station to...
- Matryona's PlaceMatryona's PlaceMatryona's Place, , sometimes translated as Matryona's Home , is a novella written in 1959 by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. It is Solzhenitsyn's most read short story, and was first published in Novy Mir in 1963...
- For the Good of the Cause (1964; novella)
- The First CircleThe First CircleIn the First Circle is a novel by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn released in 1968. A fuller version of the book was published in English in 2009....
(1968; novel). Translated into English by Henry CarlisleHenry CarlisleHenry Coffin Carlisle was a translator, novelist, and anti-censorship activist.Carlisle, with his wife Olga Andreyeva Carlisle, was notable for translating Alexander Solzhenitsyn's work into English...
and Olga Carlisle.
- Cancer Ward (1968; novel)
- The Love-Girl and the InnocentThe Love-Girl and the InnocentThe Love-Girl and the Innocent is a play in four acts by Russian author Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. It is set over the course of about one week in 1945 in a Joseph Stalin-era Soviet prison camp...
(1969; play), a.k.a. The Prisoner and the Camp Hooker or The Tenderfoot and the Tart.
- Nobel Prize delivered speech (1970)The speech was delivered to the Swedish AcademySwedish AcademyThe Swedish Academy , founded in 1786 by King Gustav III, is one of the Royal Academies of Sweden.-History:The Swedish Academy was founded in 1786 by King Gustav III. Modelled after the Académie française, it has 18 members. The motto of the Academy is "Talent and Taste"...
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 TannenbergBattle of Tannenberg (1914)The Battle of Tannenberg was an engagement between the Russian Empire and the German Empire in the first days of World War I. It was fought by the Russian First and Second Armies against the German Eighth Army between 23 August and 30 August 1914. The battle resulted in the almost complete...
in August 1914, and the ineptitude of the military leadership. Other works, similarly titled, follow the story: see The Red WheelThe Red WheelThe Red Wheel is a cycle of novels by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, retelling and exploring the passing of Imperial Russia and the birth-pangs of the Soviet Union...
- The Gulag ArchipelagoThe Gulag ArchipelagoThe Gulag Archipelago is a book by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn based on the Soviet forced labor and concentration camp system. The three-volume book is a narrative relying on eyewitness testimony and primary research material, as well as the author's own experiences as a prisoner in a gulag labor camp...
(three volumes) (1973–1978), not a memoir, but a history of the entire process of developing and administering a police statePolice stateA police state is one in which the government exercises rigid and repressive controls over the social, economic and political life of the population...
in the Soviet Union. Translated into English by Henry CarlisleHenry CarlisleHenry Coffin Carlisle was a translator, novelist, and anti-censorship activist.Carlisle, with his wife Olga Andreyeva Carlisle, was notable for translating Alexander Solzhenitsyn's work into English...
and Olga Carlisle.
- Prussian NightsPrussian NightsPrussian Nights is a long poem by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, a captain in the Soviet Red Army during the Second World War. Prussian Nights describes the Red Army's march across East Prussia, and focuses on the traumatic acts of rape and murder that Solzhenitsyn witnessed as a participant in that...
(Finished in 1951, first published in 1974; poetry)
- Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's speech at the Nobel Banquet at the City Hall in Stockholm, 10 December 1974
- Aleksandr Isaevich Solzhenitsyn, A Letter to the Soviet leaders, Collins: Harvill Press (1974), ISBN 0-06-013913-7
- The Oak and the CalfThe Oak and the CalfThe Oak and the Calf, subtitled Sketches of Literary Life in the Soviet Union, is a memoir by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn about his attempts to have his work published in his own country. The book was begun in April 1967 when Solzhenitsyn was 49 years old, but supplements were added by the author in...
- Lenin in Zürich (1976; separate publication of chapters on Lenin, none of them published before this point, from The Red WheelThe Red WheelThe Red Wheel is a cycle of novels by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, retelling and exploring the passing of Imperial Russia and the birth-pangs of the Soviet Union...
. 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 WheelThe Red WheelThe Red Wheel is a cycle of novels by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, retelling and exploring the passing of Imperial Russia and the birth-pangs of the Soviet Union...
- Victory Celebration (1983)
- Prisoners (1983)
- Godlessness, the First Step to the Gulag. Templeton Prize Address, London, 10 May (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 TogetherTwo Hundred Years Together"Two hundred years together" is a 2-volume historical essay by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.Solzhenitsyn published this two-volume work on the history of Russian-Jewish relations in 2001 and 2002. The book stirred controversy and is viewed by many historians as unreliable in both factual data and...
(2003) on Russian-Jewish relations since 1772, aroused ambiguous public response.
TV documentaries on SolzhenitsynIn 1998, Russian filmmaker Alexander Sokurov
shot TV documentary Besedy s Solzhenitsynym (The Dialogues with Solzhenitsyn
) of four parts. The documentary shot in Solzhenitsyn’s home shows his everyday life and covers his reflections on Russian history and literature.
On 12 December 2009, the Russian channel Rossiya K showed the French television documentary L'Histoire Secrète de l'Archipel du Goulag made by Jean Crépu and Nicolas Miletitch
and translated into Russian under the title Taynaya Istoriya “Arkhipelaga GULAG” (Secret History: The Gulag Archipelago). The documentary covers events related to creation and publication of The Gulag Archipelago
- Secret History: The Gulag Archipelago (online in Russian)
- Secret History: The Gulag Archipelago (online in English)
- Alexander DolgunAlexander DolgunAlexander Dolgun was a survivor of the Soviet Gulag who wrote about his experiences in 1975 after being allowed to leave the Soviet Union and return to his native United States.- Pre-Gulag years :...
- Alexander GalichAlexander GalichAlexander Galich , was a Russian poet, screenwriter, playwright, and singer-songwriter. Galich is a pen name, a sort of acronym of his last name, first name, and patronymic: Ginzburg Alexander Arkadievich. He adopted this name to conceal his Jewish ancestry in the face of antisemitism in the Soviet...
- Mask of SorrowMask of SorrowThe Mask of Sorrow is a monument perched on a hill above Magadan, Russia, commemorating the many prisoners who suffered and died in the Gulag prison camps in the Kolyma region of the Soviet Union during the 1930s, 40s, and 50s. It consists of a large stone statue of a face, with tears coming from...
- Lydia ChukovskayaLydia ChukovskayaLydia Korneievna Chukovskaya was a Soviet writer and poet. Her deeply personal writings reflect the human cost of Soviet totalitarianism, and she devoted much of her career to defending dissidents such as Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and Andrei Sakharov...
- Harry WuHarry WuHarry Wu is an activist for human rights in the People's Republic of China. Now a resident and citizen of the United States, Wu spent 19 years in Chinese labor camps. In 1992, he founded the Laogai Research Foundation. In 1996 the Columbia Human Rights Law Review awarded Wu its second Award for...
- 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)
- The Nobel Prize in Literature 1970
- The Nobel Prize Internet Archive's page on Solzhenitsyn
- Negative Analysis of Alexander Solzhenitsyn by the Stalin SocietyStalin SocietyThe Stalin Society is a British discussion group for individuals who see Joseph Stalin as a great Marxist-Leninist and wish to preserve what they believe is his positive legacy...
- A World Split Apart: Solzhenitsyn's 1978 Commencement Address to the graduating class at Harvard University
- Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn: "Saving the Nation Is the Utmost Priority for the State" Moscow News 2 May 2006
- Der Spiegel interviews Alexander Solzhenitsyn: 'I Am Not Afraid of Death' Der Spiegel 23 July 2007
- Vermont Recluse Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
- Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn – Obituary and public tribute
- The Solzhenitsyn Reader: New and Essential Writings, 1947–2005
- Alexander Solzhenitsyn's Profile
- The Leaders and the Dreamers – Russia Profile