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John Wayne's Holster: Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, 1918-2008
John Wayne's Holster
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Thursday, August 07, 2008

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, 1918-2008

The world suffered a great loss over the past weekend with the death of Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn. Here is an exerpt from a WashingtonTimes article on Solzhenitsyn's legacy. The full article can be found here.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, who died Sunday of heart failure at age 89, was a titan in Russian literature and politics of the 20th century. He survived the Stalinist purges, World War II, eight years in the gulag, a successful battle with cancer, and communist denunciation. After spending 18 years exiled in America, he made a triumphant return to his homeland in 1994.

His life reflects the tragedy of 20th century Russia, which suffered the turmoil of wars and revolution. Sixty million people were killed by the communist Soviet regime. Some 27 million died in World War II.

Solzhenitsyn was arrested and imprisoned for eight-years in a labour camp for critical comments he made about Lenin and Stalin in a personal letter to a friend. His experience in the Soviet gulag system was documented in a number of his books, such as One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich and The First Circle. However, it is for his novel The Gulag Archipelago, for which he is best known. Collectively, these works revealed to the world the horrible truth about Soviet totalitarianism.

Following his release from prison, Solzhenitsyn was forced into exile and stipped of his Soviet citizenship. He eventually took refuge in the United States, but never accepted the western lifestyle as his own. In fact, he was a rather harsh critic of west in general, and the United States in particlar. His commencement address to the Harvard class of 1978 is scathing, but paifully on target. In my opinion, it would make a nice addition to summer reading programs for all high school students.

It is no understatement to say that Solzhenitsyn contributed greatly, more so even than Reagan and Thatcher, to the collapse of the Soviet Union. I think Solzhenitsyn's role in the demise of Soviet communism is best summed up by a statement from the New York Times Russian languange blog, where one writer under the pen name Xaliavschik stated:
"[Solzhenitsyn] smashed the Soviet regime. After he published The Gulag Archipelago and displayed the underbelly of the union, nobody in the world (among thinkers and intellectuals) believed in the prospects of communism."

Solzhenitsyn was laid to rest yesterday in a Moscow monastary. Hopefully, for Russia's sake, and for her future, he will not be forgotten.


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