“He was an outstanding personality”, that was the recurring theme of the outpouring of public and official responses to the death of the Nobel prize-winning Russian writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn who died on Moscow in the early hours of Monday. He was 89.
“We shall remember him as an strong and courageous man whose extensive literary output and public activity will forever remain an example of his selfless service to the people, his Motherland, and the ideals of humanism”, in the words of a message of condolences sent to the writer’s widow and his three sons by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. Similar messages have poured in from President Dmitri Medvedev and fellow heads of state and government from around the world, including French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who said, “Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn rightfully has a place in the pantheon of world literature. His indomitable spirit, unshakeable ideals, and a life filled with trials and tribulations made him a direct heir of Fyodor Dostoyevsky”.
Human rights activist Vladimir Lukin said, “First of all, one realises the magnitude of Solzhenitsyn’s personality. He was an outstanding writer, philosopher, publicist, and political warrior, but, not only that. His personality left an indelible imprint on 20th century Russian and world history. It reminds me of the old Russian proverb, ‘What is written by the pen cannot be cut down by the axe’. Therefore, no axe, wielded with whatever power, can cut down what was written by the pen of Solzhenitsyn”.
Messages of grief and admiration came in from millions of ordinary Russians. The famous poet Andrei Voznesensky said, “For Russians, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s departure from life means parting with a whole era where he had the role of a prophet and spiritual visionary. Solzhenitsyn’s stance changed the outlook of a whole generation of people blinded by the outward appearance of the Soviet régime”. Culture Minister Alexander Avdeyev said that Solzhenitsyn was a “righteous public man”; the famous theatre director Yuri Lyubimov agreed with him, saying, “Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was necessary as a symbol in today’s world, where guideposts have disappeared and one sees nothing but the degradation of moral values”. Fr Vsevolod Chaplin said, “Aleksandr Isaevich, both for his contemporaries and for our descendants, shall remain a model of internal freedom and human dignity. His words and participation in the Russian public dialogue shall be sorely missed”.
4 August 2008
Voice of Russia World Service