The renowned Russian author and Nobel Prize laureate Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn passed away in the early hours of Monday in Moscow. Preliminary information, passed to Interfax from sources in Moscow literary circles, indicate that the famous writer died of a stroke.
Aleksandr Isaevich Solzhenitsyn was born in Kislovodsk on 11 December 1918. During World War II, he fought at the front as an artillery officer, but, he started to think critically on public affairs. In January 1945, he was arrested and spent eight years in labour camps for remarks about Stalin in his letters. In the winter of 1952, he was diagnosed with cancer, and he received his first operation for it whilst he was still in the camp. After his release from custody in 1953, he taught mathematics in provincial schools in Ryazan.
Solzhenitsyn only became widely-known after the publication of his novella One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (Odin den Ivana Denisovicha) by Aleksandr Tvardovsky in the “thick journal” Novy Mir (New World) in 1962. Several of his stories and poems were published in the Soviet Union. His reputation increased with the novels The First Circle (v Kruge Pervom) and Cancer Ward (Rakovy Korpus).
However, he received his greatest acclaim for his historical/polemical works about Russian in the 20th century. Due to the publication of Ivan Denisovich, he received many letters from former prisoners, which became the basis for The Gulag Archipelago (Arhipelag GULag), a work dedicated to the Stalinist terror. Over two decades, from 1962 to 1974, he actively fought the communist régime in the USSR. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1970, and the academy cited “the ethical force with which he has pursued the indispensable traditions of Russian literature”. In Paris, the first version of the novel August 1914 (Avgust Chetyrnadtsatogo) was published in 1971. On 13 February 1974, he was expelled from the USSR by the Soviet government. In 1976, he moved with his family from Europe to Cavendish in Vermont (USA), where he worked on the novel-cycle, The Red Wheel (Krasnoye Koleso).
During the era of perestroika, the attitude to Solzhenitsyn changed in the USSR, and many of his works were published in Russia for the first time. His Russian citizenship was restored at the beginning of the 90s, and he returned to Russia on 27 May 1994, flying from the USA to Vladivostok with his family, and, after travelling through the entire length of the country by train, he finished his journey in Moscow, where he settled, having returned to his native homeland for good.
4 August 2008
Aleksandr Isaevich was a man of uncompromising honesty and integrity. Therefore, his words on the present twisting of the truth by the contemporary Ukrainian nationalist government, spoken earlier this year, bear repeating. In an interview with the newspaper Izvestiya, he explained that the famine was caused by the corrupt ideals of the Communist regime, under which all suffered equally. It was not an assault by the Russian people against the people of the Ukraine, and that the wish to view it as such is only a recent development.
“This provocative outcry of genocide was voiced only decades later. At first, it thrived secretly in the stale chauvinist minds opposing the ‘bloody Russians’. Now, it has got hold of political minds in the modern Ukraine. It seems they’ve surpassed the wild suggestions of the Bolshevik propaganda machine. ‘To the parliaments of the world’… what a nice teaser for Western ears. They have never cared about our history. All they need is a fable, no matter how loony it appears”.
We should heed such wisdom. There is no room in our contemporary world for such dishonest “revisions of history”. Let us honour a great man, an honest patriot, and pious Orthodox Christian by not only listening, but, by acting upon his words. Let us oppose all revisers of history, be they of the left or of the right. That would be a fitting memorial to Aleksandr Isaevich.