Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

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Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
Александр Солженицын
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn 1974crop.jpg
Solzhenitsyn in 1974
BornAleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn
(1918-12-11)11 December 1918
Kislovodsk, Russian SFSR
Died3 August 2008(2008-08-03) (aged 89)
Moscow, Russia
  • Novelist
  • essayist
Alma mater Rostov State University
Notable works
Notable awards
  • Natalia Alekseyevna Reshetovskaya
    (1940–52; 1957–72)
  • Natalia Dmitrievna Svetlova
    (1973–2008; his death)
  • Yermolai Solzhenitsyn (born 1970)
  • Ignat Solzhenitsyn (born 1972)
  • Stepan Solzhenitsyn (born 1973)
  • (all with Natalia Svetlova)

Aleksandr [lower-alpha 1] Isayevich [lower-alpha 2] Solzhenitsyn [lower-alpha 3] ( /ˌslʒəˈntsɪn, ˌsɒl-/ ; [2] 11 December 1918 – 3 August 2008) [3] [4] [5] was a Russian novelist, historian, and short story writer. He was an outspoken critic of the Soviet Union and communism and helped to raise global awareness of its Gulag forced labor camp system. He was allowed to publish only one work in the Soviet Union, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (1962), in the periodical Novy Mir . After this he had to publish in the West, most notably Cancer Ward (1968), August 1914 (1971), and The Gulag Archipelago (1973). Solzhenitsyn was awarded the 1970 Nobel Prize in Literature "for the ethical force with which he has pursued the indispensable traditions of Russian literature". [6] Solzhenitsyn was afraid to go to Stockholm to receive his award for fear that he would not be allowed to reenter. He was eventually expelled from the Soviet Union in 1974, but returned to Russia in 1994 after the state's dissolution.

Soviet Union 1922–1991 country in Europe and Asia

The Soviet Union, officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), was a socialist state in Eurasia that existed from 1922 to 1991. Nominally a union of multiple national Soviet republics, its government and economy were highly centralized. The country was a one-party state, governed by the Communist Party with Moscow as its capital in its largest republic, the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic. Other major urban centres were Leningrad, Kiev, Minsk, Alma-Ata, and Novosibirsk. It spanned over 10,000 kilometres east to west across 11 time zones, and over 7,200 kilometres north to south. It had five climate zones: tundra, taiga, steppes, desert and mountains.

Communism socialist political movement and ideology

In political and social sciences, communism is the philosophical, social, political, and economic ideology and movement whose ultimate goal is the establishment of the communist society, which is a socioeconomic order structured upon the common ownership of the means of production and the absence of social classes, money, and the state.

Gulag government agency in charge of the Soviet forced labor camp system

The Gulag was the government agency in charge of the Soviet forced-labor camp-system that was set up under Vladimir Lenin and reached its peak during Joseph Stalin's rule from the 1930s to the early 1950s. English-language speakers also use the word gulag to refer to any forced-labor camp in the Soviet Union, including camps which existed in post-Stalin times. The camps housed a wide range of convicts, from petty criminals to political prisoners. Large numbers were convicted by simplified procedures, such as by NKVD troikas or by other instruments of extrajudicial punishment. The Gulag is recognized by many as a major instrument of political repression in the Soviet Union.



Early years

Solzhenitsyn was born in Kislovodsk, RSFSR (now in Stavropol Krai, Russia). His mother, Taisiya Zakharovna (née Shcherbak), was of Ukrainian descent. [7] [8] Her father had risen from humble beginnings to become a wealthy landowner, acquiring a large estate in the Kuban region in the northern foothills of the Caucasus. [9] During World War I, Taisiya went to Moscow to study. While there she met and married Isaakiy Semyonovich Solzhenitsyn, a young officer in the Imperial Russian Army of Cossack origin 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 novels. [10]

Kislovodsk City in Stavropol Krai, Russia

Kislovodsk is a spa city in Stavropol Krai, Russia, in the North Caucasus region of Russia which is located between the Black and Caspian Seas. Population: 128,553 (2010 Census); 129,788 (2002 Census); 114,414 (1989 Census).

Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic Republic in the USSR (1922–1991) and sovereign state (1917–1922 and 1990–1991)

The Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, previously known as the Russian Soviet Republic and the Russian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic, as well as being unofficially known as the Russian Federation, Soviet Russia, or simply Russia, was an independent state from 1917 to 1922, and afterwards the largest, most populous and most economically developed of the 15 Soviet socialist republics of the Soviet Union (USSR) from 1922 to 1990, then a sovereign part of the Soviet Union with priority of Russian laws over Union-level legislation in 1990 and 1991, during the last two years of the existence of the USSR. The Russian Republic comprised sixteen smaller constituent units of autonomous republics, five autonomous oblasts, ten autonomous okrugs, six krais and forty oblasts. Russians formed the largest ethnic group. The capital of the Russian SFSR was Moscow and the other major urban centers included Leningrad, Novosibirsk, Yekaterinburg, Nizhny Novgorod and Samara.

Stavropol Krai First-level administrative division of Russia

Stavropol Krai is a federal subject of Russia. It is geographically located in the North Caucasus region in Southern Russia, and is administratively part of the North Caucasian Federal District. Stavropol Krai has a population of 2,786,281 (2010).

In 1918, Taisiya became pregnant with Aleksandr. On 15 June, shortly after her pregnancy was confirmed, Isaakiy was killed in a hunting accident. Aleksandr was raised by his widowed mother and his 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; [11] [12] she died in 1944. [13]

Russian Civil War multi-party war in the former Russian Empire, November 1917-October 1922

The Russian Civil War was a multi-party war in the former Russian Empire immediately after the two Russian Revolutions of 1917, as many factions vied to determine Russia's political future. The two largest combatant groups were the Red Army, fighting for the Bolshevik form of socialism led by Vladimir Lenin, and the loosely allied forces known as the White Army, which included diverse interests favouring political monarchism, economic capitalism and alternative forms of socialism, each with democratic and anti-democratic variants. In addition, rival militant socialists and non-ideological Green armies fought against both the Bolsheviks and the Whites. Eight foreign nations intervened against the Red Army, notably the former Allied military forces from the World War and the pro-German armies. The Red Army eventually defeated the White Armed Forces of South Russia in Ukraine and the army led by Admiral Aleksandr Kolchak to the east in Siberia in 1919. The remains of the White forces commanded by Pyotr Nikolayevich Wrangel were beaten in Crimea and evacuated in late 1920. Lesser battles of the war continued on the periphery for two more years, and minor skirmishes with the remnants of the White forces in the Far East continued well into 1923. The war ended in 1923 in the sense that Bolshevik communist control of the newly formed Soviet Union was now assured, although armed national resistance in Central Asia was not completely crushed until 1934. There were an estimated 7,000,000–12,000,000 casualties during the war, mostly civilians. The Russian Civil War has been described by some as the greatest national catastrophe that Europe had yet seen.

A kolkhoz was a form of collective farm in the Soviet Union. Kolkhozes existed along with state farms or sovkhoz. These were the two components of the socialized farm sector that began to emerge in Soviet agriculture after the October Revolution of 1917, as an antithesis both to the feudal structure of impoverished serfdom and aristocratic landlords and to individual or family farming.

Russian Orthodox Church autocephalous Orthodox Christian church, headquartered in Moscow, Russia

The Russian Orthodox Church, alternatively legally known as the Moscow Patriarchate, is one of the autocephalous Eastern Orthodox Christian churches. The Primate of the ROC is the Patriarch of Moscow and all Rus'. The ROC, as well as the primate thereof, officially ranks fifth in the Orthodox order of precedence, immediately below the four ancient patriarchates of the Greek Orthodox Church, those of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem. Since 15 October 2018, the ROC is not in communion with the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, having unilaterally severed ties in reaction to the establishment of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, which was finalised by the Ecumenical Patriarchate on 5 January 2019.

As early as 1936, Solzhenitsyn began developing the characters and concepts for a planned epic work on World War I and the Russian Revolution. This eventually led to the novel August 1914; some of the chapters he wrote then still survive.[ citation needed ] 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.[ citation needed ]

World War I 1914–1918 global war originating in Europe

World War I, also known as the First World War or the Great War, was a global war originating in Europe that lasted from 28 July 1914 to 11 November 1918. Contemporaneously described as "the war to end all wars", it led to the mobilisation of more than 70 million military personnel, including 60 million Europeans, making it one of the largest wars in history. It is also one of the deadliest conflicts in history, with an estimated nine million combatants and seven million civilian deaths as a direct result of the war, while resulting genocides and the 1918 influenza pandemic caused another 50 to 100 million deaths worldwide.

Russian Revolution 20th-century revolution leading to the downfall of the Russian monarchy

The Russian Revolution was a pair of revolutions in Russia in 1917 which dismantled the Tsarist autocracy and led to the rise of the Soviet Union. The Russian Empire collapsed with the abdication of Emperor Nicholas II and the old regime was replaced by a provisional government during the first revolution of February 1917. Alongside it arose grassroots community assemblies which contended for authority. In the second revolution that October, the Provisional Government was toppled and all power was given to the Soviets.

World War II

Solzhenitsyn as an officer in the Red Army in 1943 Solzhenitsyn 1.jpg
Solzhenitsyn as an officer in the Red Army in 1943

During the war, Solzhenitsyn served as the commander of a sound-ranging battery in the Red Army, [14] was involved in major action at the front, and was twice decorated. He was awarded the Order of the Red Star on 8 July 1944 for sound-ranging two German artillery batteries and adjusting counterbattery fire onto them, resulting in their destruction. [15]

In land warfare, artillery sound ranging is a method of determining the coordinates of a hostile battery using data derived from the sound of its guns firing. The same methods can also be used to direct artillery fire at a position with known coordinates.

Red Army 1917–1946 ground and air warfare branch of the Soviet Unions military

The Workers' and Peasants' Red Army, frequently shortened to Red Army was the army and the air force of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, and, after 1922, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. The army was established immediately after the 1917 October Revolution. The Bolsheviks raised an army to oppose the military confederations of their adversaries during the Russian Civil War. Beginning in February 1946, the Red Army, along with the Soviet Navy, embodied the main component of the Soviet Armed Forces; taking the official name of "Soviet Army", until its dissolution in December 1991.

Order of the Red Star Soviet military award

The Order of the Red Star was a military decoration of the Soviet Union. It was established by decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR of 6 April 1930 but its statute was only defined in decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR of 5 May 1930. That statute was amended by decrees of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR of 7 May 1936, of 19 June 1943, of 26 February 1946, of 15 October 1947, of 16 December 1947 and by decree No 1803-X of 28 March 1980.

A series of writings published late in his life, including the early uncompleted novel Love the Revolution!, chronicles his wartime experience and his growing doubts about the moral foundations of the Soviet regime. [16]

While serving as an artillery officer in East Prussia, Solzhenitsyn witnessed war crimes against local German civilians by Soviet military personnel. Of the atrocities, Solzhenitsyn wrote: "You know very well that we've come to Germany to take our revenge" for Nazi atrocities committed in the Soviet Union. [17] The noncombatants and the elderly were robbed of their meager possessions and women and girls were gang-raped. A few years later, in the forced labor camp, he memorized a poem titled "Prussian Nights" about a woman raped to death in East Prussia. In this poem, which describes the gang-rape of a Polish woman whom the Red Army soldiers mistakenly thought to be a German,[ citation needed ] the first-person narrator comments on the events with sarcasm and refers to the responsibility of official Soviet writers like Ilya Ehrenburg.

In The Gulag Archipelago , Solzhenitsyn wrote, "There is nothing that so assists the awakening of omniscience within us as insistent thoughts about one's own transgressions, errors, mistakes. After the difficult cycles of such ponderings over many years, whenever I mentioned the heartlessness of our highest-ranking bureaucrats, the cruelty of our executioners, 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?'" [18]


In February 1945, while serving in East Prussia, Solzhenitsyn was arrested by SMERSH for writing derogatory comments in private letters to a friend, Nikolai Vitkevich, [19] about the conduct of the war by Joseph Stalin, whom he called "Khozyain" ("the boss"), and "Balabos" (Yiddish rendering of Hebrew baal ha-bayit for "master of the house"). [20] Also he had talks with the same friend about the need of a new organisation against the Soviet regime. [21]

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. [22] [23] Solzhenitsyn was taken to the Lubyanka prison in Moscow, where he was interrogated. On 9 May 1945, it was announced that Germany had surrendered and all of Moscow broke out in celebrations with fireworks and searchlights illuminating the sky to celebrate the victory in the Great Patriotic War as Russians call the war with Germany. [24] From his cell in the Lubyanka, Solzhenitsyn remembered: "Above the muzzle of our window, and from all the other cells of the Lubyanka, and from all the windows of the Moscow prisons, we too, former prisoners of war and former front-line soldiers, watched the Moscow heavens, patterned with fireworks and crisscrossed with beams of searchlights. There was no rejoicing in our cells and no hugs and no kisses for us. That victory was not ours". [24] On 7 July 1945, he was sentenced in his absence by Special Council of the NKVD to an eight-year term in a labour camp. This was the normal sentence for most crimes under Article 58 at the time. [25]

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). [26] 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. [27] While there Solzhenitsyn had a tumor removed. His cancer was not diagnosed at the time.

In March 1953, after his sentence ended, Solzhenitsyn was sent to internal exile for life at Birlik, [28] a village in Baidibek district of South Kazakhstan region of Kazakhstan (Kok-terek rural district). [29] [30] [ better source needed ] His undiagnosed cancer spread until, by the end of the year, he was close to death. 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, gradually becoming a philosophically-minded Eastern Orthodox Christian as a result of his experience in prison and the camps. [31] [32] [33] 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-labour 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. [34] [35]

Marriages and children

On 7 April 1940, while at the university, Solzhenitsyn married Natalia Alekseevna Reshetovskaya. [36] They had just over a year of married life before he went into the army, then to the Gulag. They divorced in 1952, a year before his release, because wives of Gulag prisoners faced loss of work or residence permits. After the end of his internal exile, they remarried in 1957, [37] divorcing a second time in 1972.

The following year Solzhenitsyn married his second wife, Natalia Dmitrievna Svetlova, a mathematician who had a son from a brief prior marriage. [38] He and Svetlova (born 1939) had three sons: Yermolai (1970), Ignat (1972), and Stepan (1973). [39]

Solzhenitsyn's adopted son Dmitri Turin died on March 18, 1994, aged 32, at his home in New York City due to a heart attack. [40]

After prison

After Khrushchev's Secret Speech in 1956, Solzhenitsyn was freed from exile and exonerated. Following his return from exile, 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 that "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." [41]

In 1960, aged 42, he approached Aleksandr Tvardovsky, a poet and the chief editor of the Novy 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 publication, and added: "There's a Stalinist in each of you; there's even a Stalinist in me. We must root out this evil." [42] The book quickly sold out and became an instant hit.[ citation needed ] In the 1960s, while he was publicly known to be writing Cancer Ward, he was simultaneously writing The Gulag Archipelago. 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 short story "Matryona's Home", 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 labour 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 candor, but also because it was the first major piece of Soviet literature since the 1920s 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 to an end.[ citation needed ]

Later years in the Soviet Union

Every time when we speak about Solzhenitsyn as the enemy of the Soviet regime, this just happens to coincide with some important [international] events and we postpone the decision.

Andrei Kirilenko, a Politburo member.

Solzhenitsyn made an unsuccessful attempt, with the help of Tvardovsky, to get his novel 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. [43]

After Krushchev's removal in 1964, the cultural climate again became more repressive. Publishing of Solzhenitsyn's 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 well-known of all his writings, 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 1965–67, 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. [44] [45]

In 1969, Solzhenitsyn was expelled from the Union of Writers. In 1970, he 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 because such a ceremony and the ensuing media coverage might upset the Soviet Union and damage Swedish-Soviet relations. Instead, Solzhenitsyn received his prize at the 1974 ceremony after he had been expelled from the Soviet Union.

The Gulag Archipelago was composed from 1958 to 1967. It 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 one time). The book was based upon Solzhenitsyn's own experience as well as the testimony of 256 [46] former prisoners and Solzhenitsyn's own research into the history of the Russian penal system. It discussed the system's origins from the founding of the Communist regime, with Vladimir Lenin having responsibility, detailing interrogation procedures, prisoner transports, prison camp culture, prisoner uprisings and revolts, and the practice of internal exile. The Gulag Archipelago has sold over thirty million copies in thirty-five languages.

According to fellow gulag historian Anne Applebaum, 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 influential books of the 20th century. [47]

Solzhenitsyn and his long-time friend Mstislav Rostropovich at the celebration of Solzhenitsyn's 80th birthday RIAN archive 6624 Alexander Solzhenitsyn and Mstislav Rostropovich.jpg
Solzhenitsyn and his long-time friend Mstislav Rostropovich at the celebration of Solzhenitsyn's 80th birthday

Even though The Gulag Archipelago was not published in the Soviet Union, it was extensively criticized by the Party-controlled Soviet press. An editorial in Pravda on 14 January 1974 accused Solzhenitsyn of supporting "Hitlerites" and making "excuses for the crimes of the Vlasovites and Bandera gangs." According to the editorial, Solzhenitsyn was "choking with pathological hatred for the country where he was born and grew up, for the socialist system, and for Soviet people." [48]

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. [49]

In August 1971, the KGB allegedly made an attempt to assassinate Solzhenitsyn using an unknown biological agent (most likely ricin) with an experimental gel-based delivery method. The attempt left him seriously ill but was unsuccessful. [50] [51]

Expulsion from the Soviet Union

In a discussion of its options in dealing with Solzhenitsyn the members of the Politburo considered his arrest and imprisonment and his expulsion to a socialist country. [52] Guided by KGB chief Yury Andropov, and with encouraging statements from Willy Brandt, it was decided to deport the writer directly to West Germany. [53]

In the West

Solzhenitsyn with Heinrich Boll in Langenbroich, West Germany, 1974 De schrijver staat de pers te woord, rechts naast hem Heinrich Boll, Bestanddeelnr 927-0020.jpg
Solzhenitsyn with Heinrich Böll in Langenbroich, West Germany, 1974

On 12 February 1974, Solzhenitsyn was arrested and deported the next day from the Soviet Union to Frankfurt, West Germany and stripped of his Soviet citizenship. [54] 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.[ citation needed ] U.S. military attaché 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). [55]

In West Germany, Solzhenitsyn lived in Heinrich Böll's house in Langenbroich. He then moved to Zürich, 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, the press, the lack of spirituality and traditional values as well as anthropocentrism in Western culture. [56]

Over the next 17 years, Solzhenitsyn worked on his dramatized 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 almost 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.[ citation needed ] 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 (e.g. Ford administration staffers Richard Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld advocated on Solzhenitsyn's behalf for him to speak directly to President Gerald Ford about the Soviet threat), [57] prior to and alongside the tougher foreign policy pursued by US 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." [58]

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. [59] [60] 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.'" [61] Solzhenitsyn's patriotism was inward-looking. He called for Russia to "renounce all mad fantasies of foreign conquest and begin the peaceful long, long long period of recuperation," as he put it in a 1979 BBC interview with Janis Sapiets. [62]

KGB operations against Solzhenitsyn

On 8 August 1971, Solzhenitsyn was poisoned with what was later determined to be ricin, but survived. [63] [64]

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). [65] 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. [65]

The 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. [65] Andropov also gave an order to create "an atmosphere of distrust and suspicion between Pauk [lower-alpha 4] 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 Zürich, 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. [65]

Return to Russia

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn looks out from a train, in Vladivostok, summer 1994, before departing on a journey across Russia. Solzhenitsyn returned to Russia after nearly 20 years in exile. A solzhenitsin.JPG
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn looks out from a train, in Vladivostok, summer 1994, before departing on a journey across Russia. Solzhenitsyn returned to Russia after nearly 20 years in exile.

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). From then until his death, he lived with his wife in a dacha in Troitse-Lykovo 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 in works such as Rebuilding Russia, and called for the establishment of a strong presidential republic balanced by vigorous institutions of local self-government. The latter would remain his major political theme. [66] Solzhenitsyn also 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. Once back in Russia Solzhenitsyn hosted a television talk show program. [67] Its eventual format was Solzhenitsyn delivering a 15-minute monologue twice a month; it was discontinued in 1995. [68] Solzhenitsyn became a supporter of Vladimir Putin who said he shared Solzhenitsyn's critical view towards the Russian Revolution. [69]

All of Solzhenitsyn's sons became US citizens. [70] One, Ignat, is a pianist and conductor. [71] Elder son Yermolai works for the Moscow office of McKinsey & Company, a leading management consultancy firm, where he is now a senior partner. [72]


Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and many Russian public figures attended Solzhenitsyn's funeral ceremony, 6 August 2008 Funeral of Alexander Solzhenitsyn-3.jpg
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and many Russian public figures attended Solzhenitsyn's funeral ceremony, 6 August 2008

Solzhenitsyn died of heart failure near Moscow on 3 August 2008, at the age of 89. [54] [73] A burial service was held at Donskoy Monastery, Moscow, on Wednesday, 6 August 2008. [74] He was buried the same day in the monastery in a spot he had chosen. [75] Russian and world leaders paid tribute to Solzhenitsyn following his death. [76]


The Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn Center supports explorations into the life and writings of the author and hosts the official English-language site dedicated to Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. The center strives to advance the legacy of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn in the English-speaking world through the promotion of a better understanding of his life, thought, and works.

Views on history and politics

"Men have forgotten God"

Regarding atheism, Solzhenitsyn declared:

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." [77]

On Russia and the Jews

Naftaly Frenkel (far right) and head of GULAG Matvei Berman (center) at the White Sea-Baltic Canal works, July 1932 Frenkel2.jpg
Naftaly Frenkel (far right) and head of GULAG Matvei Berman (center) at the White Sea–Baltic Canal works, July 1932

OGPU officer Naftaly Frenkel, whom Solzhenitsyn identified as "a Turkish Jew born in Constantinople", is represented as having played a role in the organisation of work in the Gulag. Solzhenitsyn wrongly claimed that Frenkel was the “nerve of the Archipelago” and wrote of Frenkel in The Gulag Archipelago: "I have a feeling that he really hated this country." [78] His claims about Frenkel are unfounded and they even contain several anti-Semitic stereotypes. [69]

In his 1974 essay "Repentance and Self-Limitation in the Life of Nations", [79] Solzhenitsyn called for Russian Gentiles and Jews alike to take moral responsibility for the "renegades" from both communities who enthusiastically created a Marxist–Leninist police state after the October Revolution. In a November 13, 1985, review of Solzhenitsyn's novel August 1914 in The New York Times , Jewish 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 Fyodor Dostoyevsky, who was a fervent Christian and patriot. 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". [80]

In his 1998 book Russia in Collapse, Solzhenitsyn excoriated the Russian extreme right's obsession with anti-Semitic and anti-Masonic conspiracy theories. [81]

Jewish Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel wrote that Solzhenitsyn was "too intelligent, too honest, too courageous, too great a writer" to be an anti-Semite. [82]

In 2001 Solzhenitsyn published a two-volume work on the history of Russian-Jewish relations ( Two Hundred Years Together 2001, 2002). [83] A bestseller in Russia, the book triggered renewed accusations of anti-Semitism. [84] [85] [86] [87] 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. [87] [88] According to the historian Semyon Reznik, textological analyses have proven Solzhenitsyn's authorship. [89]

On post-Soviet Russia

Solzhenitsyn with Vladimir Putin Vladimir Putin with Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn-1.jpg
Solzhenitsyn with Vladimir Putin

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 extreme nationalism), urged 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.

Solzhenitsyn refused to accept Russia's highest honor, the Order of St. Andrew, in 1998. Solzhenitsyn later said: "In 1998, it was the country's low point, with people in misery; ... Yeltsin decreed I be honored the highest state order. I replied that I was unable to receive an award from a government that had led Russia into such dire straits." [90] In a 2003 interview with Joseph Pearce, Solzhenitsyn said: "We are exiting from communism in a most unfortunate and awkward way. It would have been difficult to design a path out of communism worse than the one that has been followed." [91]

In a 2007 interview with Der Spiegel , Solzhenitsyn expressed disappointment that the "conflation of 'Soviet' and 'Russian', against which I spoke so often in the 1970s, has not passed away in the West, in the ex-socialist countries, or in the former Soviet republics. The elder political generation in communist countries is not ready for repentance, while the new generation is only too happy to voice grievances and level accusations, with present-day Moscow [as] a convenient target. They behave as if they heroically liberated themselves and lead a new life now, while Moscow has remained communist. Nevertheless, I dare [to] hope that this unhealthy phase will soon be over, that all the peoples who have lived through communism will understand that communism is to blame for the bitter pages of their history." [90]

Criticism of the West

Once in the United States, Solzhenitsyn sharply criticized the West. [92] In his commencement address at Harvard University in 1978, [56] Solzhenitsyn said: "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?" [93]

Solzhenitsyn in 1998 Alexander Solzhenitsyn in Moscow, December 1998.jpg
Solzhenitsyn in 1998

Solzhenitsyn 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. Delivering 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." Solzhenitsyn also argued that the West erred in "denying [Russian culture's] autonomous character and therefore never understood it". [56]

Solzhenitsyn was critical of NATO's eastward expansion towards Russia's borders. [94] In 2006, Solzhenitsyn accused NATO of trying to bring Russia under its control; he claimed this was visual because of its "ideological support for the 'colour revolutions' and the paradoxical forcing of North Atlantic interests on Central Asia". [94] In a 2006 interview with Der Spiegel he stated "This was especially painful in the case of Ukraine, a country whose closeness to Russia is defined by literally millions of family ties among our peoples, relatives living on different sides of the national border. At one fell stroke, these families could be torn apart by a new dividing line, the border of a military bloc." [90]

Solzhenitsyn criticized the 2003 invasion of Iraq and accused the United States of the "occupation" of Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq. [95]

Criticism of Communism and pan-Slavism

Monument to Alexander Solzhenitsyn in Moscow, December 2018 The monument to Solzhenitsyn in Moscow 2.jpg
Monument to Alexander Solzhenitsyn in Moscow, December 2018

Solzhenitsyn 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, [96] that political prisoners typically were not forced into labor camps, [97] 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.[ citation needed ]

Shortly before his return to Russia, Solzhenitsyn delivered a speech in Lucs-sur-Boulogne to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Vendée Uprising. During his speech, Solzhenitsyn compared Lenin's Bolsheviks with the Jacobin Party during the French Revolution. He also compared the Vendean rebels with the Russian, Ukrainian, and Cossack peasants who rebelled against the Bolsheviks, saying that both were destroyed mercilessly by revolutionary despotism. However, he commented that, while the French Reign of Terror ended with the toppling of the Jacobins and the execution of Maximilien Robespierre, its Soviet equivalent continued to accelerate until the Khrushchev thaw of the 1950s. [98]

According to Solzhenitsyn, Russians were not the ruling nation in the Soviet Union. He believed that all the traditional culture of all ethnic groups were equally oppressed in favor of an atheism and Marxist–Leninism. 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. [99]

In "Rebuilding Russia," an essay first published in 1990 in Komsomolskaya Pravda Solzhenitsyn urged Soviet Union to grant independence to all the non-Slav republics, which he claimed were sapping the Russian nation and he called for the creation of a new Slavic state bringing together Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and parts of Kazakhstan that he considered to be Russified. [7]

According to Daniel J. Mahoney, "...if one opens almost any page of Solzhenitsyn's 1994 essay "The Russian Question" at the End of the Twentieth Century" one finds Solzhenitsyn attacking the cruelties and injustice of serfdom, faulting Tsarist authorities for their blindness about the need for political liberty in Russia, and for their wasting of the nation's strength in unnecessary and counterproductive foreign adventures. Moreover, he attacks Pan-Slavism, the idea that Russia had a mission to unite Slavic peoples and to come to the defense of the Orthodox wherever they were under threat, as a 'wretched idea'." [100]

The Holodomor

Solzhenitsyn gave a speech to AFL–CIO in Washington, D.C., on 30 June 1975, where he mentioned how the system created by Bolsheviks in 1917 caused dozens of problems in the Soviet Union. [101] He described how this system "in time of peace, artificially created a famine, causing 6 million people to die in the Ukraine in 1932 and 1933." Following this, he stated that "they died on the very edge of Europe. And Europe didn't even notice it. The world didn't even notice it—6 million people!" [101] Solzhenitsyn opined on 2 April 2008 in Izvestia that the 1930s famine in the Ukraine was no different from the Russian famine of 1921 as both were caused by the ruthless robbery of peasants by Bolshevik grain procurements. [102] He claimed that the "provocatory shriek about a 'genocide' was started in the minds of Ukrainian chauvinists decades later, who are also viciously opposed to 'Moskals.'" The writer cautioned that the genocidal claim has its chances to be accepted by the West due to the general Western ignorance of Russian and Ukrainian history. [102]

Solzhenitsyn's philosophy plays a key role in the 2012 film Cloud Atlas , where a character previously kept ignorant and subservient is illegally educated, and is shown reading and quoting his works. [103]

TV documentaries on Solzhenitsyn

In October 1983, French literary journalist Bernard Pivot made an hour-long TV interview with Solzhenitsyn at his rural home in Vermont, U.S. Solzhenitsyn discussed his writing, the evolution of his language and style, his family and his outlook on the future—and stated his wish to return to Russia in his lifetime, not just to see his books eventually printed there. [104] [105] Earlier the same year, Solzhenitsyn was interviewed on separate occasions by two British journalists, Bernard Levin and Malcolm Muggeridge. [104]

In 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. [106] [107] [108] [109] [110]

On 12 December 2009, the Russian channel Rossiya K showed the French television documentary L'Histoire Secrète de l'Archipel du Goulag [The Secret History of the Gulag Archipelago] [111] made by Jean Crépu and Nicolas Miletitch [112] and translated into Russian under the title Taynaya Istoriya "Arkhipelaga Gulag" (Тайная история "Архипелага ГУЛАГ). The documentary covers events related to creation and publication of The Gulag Archipelago . [111] [113] [114]

Published works and speeches

See Also


  1. Often Romanized to Alexandr or Alexander.
  2. His father's given name was Isaakiy, which would normally result in the patronymic Isaakievich; however, the forms Isaakovich and Isayevich both appeared in official documents, the latter becoming the accepted version.
  3. Russian :Алекса́ндр Иса́евич Солжени́цын, IPA:  [ɐlʲɪˈksandr ɪˈsaɪvʲɪtɕ səɫʐɨˈnʲitsɨn]
  4. KGB gave Solzhenitsyn the code name Pauk, which means "spider" in Russian.

Related Research Articles

<i>The Gulag Archipelago</i> book by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

The Gulag Archipelago is a three-volume text written between 1958 and 1968 by Russian writer and historian Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. It was first published in 1973, followed by an English translation the following year. It covers life in the gulag, the Communist Soviet forced labour camp system, through a narrative constructed from various sources including reports, interviews, statements, diaries, legal documents, and Solzhenitsyn's own experience as a gulag prisoner.

Butyrka prison

Butyrka prison is a prison in the Tverskoy District of central Moscow, Russia. It was the central transit prison in Tsarist Imperial Russia. During Soviet times, it held many political prisoners. Currently, Butyrka remains the largest of Moscow remand prisons. Overcrowding continues to be a problem. In December 2018, Russia’s Federal Penitentiary Service announced that it will close the prison, as well as Moscow’s Krasnaya Presnya prison.

<i>In the First Circle</i> book

In the First Circle is a novel by Russian writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, released in 1968. A more complete version of the book was published in English in 2009.

<i>One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich</i> novel by the Russian author Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich is a novel by Russian writer 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 in the life of ordinary prisoner, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov.


Katorga was a system of penal labor in the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union. Prisoners were sent to remote penal colonies in vast uninhabited areas of Siberia and Russian Far East where voluntary settlers and workers were never available in sufficient numbers. The prisoners had to perform forced labor under harsh conditions.

Solovki prison camp

The Solovki special camp, was set up in 1923 on the Solovetsky Islands in the White Sea as a remote and inaccessible place of detention, primarily intended for socialist opponents of Soviet Russia's new Bolshevik regime. At first, the Anarchists, Mensheviks and Socialist Revolutionaries enjoyed a special status there and were not made to work. Gradually, prisoners from the old regime joined them and the guards and the ordinary criminals worked together to keep the "politicals" in order.

Lubyanka Building Popular name for the headquarters of the KGB and affiliated prison on Lubyanka Square in Moscow, Russia

Lubyanka is the popular name for the headquarters of the FSB and affiliated prison on Lubyanka Square in Meshchansky District of Moscow, Russia. It is a large Neo-Baroque building with a facade of yellow brick designed by Alexander V. Ivanov in 1897 and augmented by Aleksey Shchusev from 1940 to 1947. It was previously the national headquarters of the KGB; Soviet hammers and sickles can still be seen on the building's facade.

Alexander Ginzburg Russian journalist, poet, human rights activist and dissident

Alexander (Alik) Ilyich Ginzburg, was a Russian journalist, poet, human rights activist and dissident.

This is a bibliography of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's works.

Alexander 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.

The 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. Though Solzhenitsyn says he conceived the idea in 1938 and gathered notes for Part 1, August 1914 in the weeks when he led a Red Army unit into Eastern Prussia, the location of much of that part, in 1945, it was only in early 1969 that he actually sat down to write this historical novel. August 1914 was finished in late 1970, submitted for publication to Soviet printing houses, but turned down. Instead, it appeared abroad, at YMCA Press in Paris, without Solzhenitsyn's knowledge.

Sukhanovo Prison

Sukhanovka, short for Sukhanovskaya osoborezhimnaya tyur'ma 'Sukhanovo special-regime prison,' was a prison established by the NKVD under N. I. Yezhov in 1938 for "particularly dangerous enemies of the people" on the grounds of the old Ekaterinskaia Pustyn' Monastery near Vidnoye, just south of Moscow. Known officially as Special Object 110, it was said to be worse than the Lubyanka, Lefortovo, or Butyrka prisons in Moscow itself. From 1958 it was a jail hospital. During 1992 the prison was returned to the church as a monastery and on November 17, 1992, the first vows were made within its walls.

Anatoly Marchenko Soviet dissident

Anatoly Tikhonovich Marchenko was a Soviet dissident, author, and human rights campaigner, who became one of the first two recipients of the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought of the European Parliament when it was awarded to him posthumously in 1988.

Elizaveta Denisovna Voronyanskaya was an assistant of the Russian writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and typist for the manuscript of his book The Gulag Archipelago (1973), a history of the Gulag forced-labour camps in the Soviet Union.

<i>The Oak and the Calf</i> book by Aleksandr Solzjenitsyn

The Oak and the Calf, subtitled Sketches of Literary Life in the Soviet Union, is a memoir by Russian writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, about his attempts to publish work in his own country. Solzhenitsyn began writing the memoir in April 1967, when he was 49 years old, and added supplements in 1971, 1973, and 1974. The work was first published in Russian in 1975 under the title Бодался теленок с дубом. It has been translated into English by Harry Willetts.

Matryonas Place 1959 novella by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Matryona's Place, sometimes translated as Matryona's Home, is a novella written in 1959 by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. First published by Aleksandr Tvardovsky in the Russian literary journal Novy Mir in 1963, it is Solzhenitsyn's most read short story.

Andrey Ignatyevich Aldan-Semyonov was a Russian writer, who was imprisoned in the Far Eastern Soviet Gulag camps from 1938 to 1953. Along with Boris Dyakov and Yury Pilyar, he published his memoirs of Gulag life as part of the second wave of Russian literature on the Soviet camp experience, after Georgy Shelest published his Kolyma Notes and Alexander Solzhenitsyn his One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich.

Art and culture took on a variety of forms in the forced labor camps of the Gulag system that existed across the Soviet Union during the first half of the twentieth century. Theater, music, visual art, and literature played a role in camp life for many of the millions of prisoners who passed through the Gulag system. Some creative endeavors were initiated and executed by prisoners themselves, while others were overseen by the camp administration. Some projects benefited from prisoners who had been professional artists; others were organized by amateurs. The robust presence of the arts in the Gulag camps is a testament to the resourcefulness and resilience of prisoners there, many of whom derived material benefits and psychological comfort from their involvement in artistic projects.

The Solzhenitsyn Aid Fund was a charity foundation and support network set up by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and Alexander Ginzburg that distributed funds and material support to political and religious prisoners across the Soviet Union throughout the 1970s and 1980s.


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External video
Nuvola apps kaboodle.svg Presentation by D.M. Thomas on Alexander Solzhenitsyn: A Century in His Life, February 19, 1998, C-SPAN

Further reading


  • Burg, David; Feifer, George (1972). Solzhenitsyn: A Biography. New York: Stein & Day.
  • Glottser, Vladimir; Chukovskaia, Elena (1998). Слово пробивает себе дорогу: Сборник статей и документов об А. И. Солженицыне (Slovo probivaet sebe dorogu: Sbornik statei i dokumentov ob A. I. Solzhenitsyne), 1962–1974[The word finds its way: Collection of articles and documents on AI Solzhenitsyn] (in Russian). Moscow: Russkii put'.
  • Korotkov, AV; Melchin, SA; Stepanov, AS (1994). Кремлевский самосуд: Секретные документы Политбюро о писателе А. Солженицыне (Kremlevskii samosud: Sekretnye dokumenty Politburo o pisatele A. Solzhenitsyne)[Kremlin lynching: Secret documents of the Politburo of the writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn] (in Russian). Moscow: Rodina.
  • ; Melchin, SA; Stepanov, AS (1995). Scammell, Michael, ed. The Solzhenitsyn Files. Catherine A. Fitzpatrick (tr.). Chicago: Edition q.
  • Labedz, Leopold, ed. (1973). Solzhenitsyn: A Documentary Record. Bloomington: Indiana University.
  • Ledovskikh, Nikolai (2003). Возвращение в Матренин дом, или Один день' Александра Исаевича (Vozvrashchenie v Matrenin dom, ili Odin den' Aleksandra Isaevicha)[Return to Matrenin house, or One Day' Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn] (in Russian). Riazan': Poverennyi.
  • Pearce, Joseph (2001). Solzhenitsyn: A Soul in Exile. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.
  • Reshetovskaia, Natal'ia Alekseevna (1975). В споре со временем (V spore so vremenem)[In a dispute over time] (in Russian). Moscow: Agentsvo pechati Novosti.
  • (1975). Sanya: My Husband Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. Elena Ivanoff transl. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill.

Reference works

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  • ; Struve, Petr Berngardovich (1986). Woehrlin, William F, ed. De Profundis[Out of the Depths]. William F. Woehrlin (tr.). Irvine, CA: C Schlacks, Jr.
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