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Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn (Алекса́ндр Иса́евич Солжени́цын) (born December 11, 1918) is a Russian novelist, dramatist and historian. He was responsible for thrusting awareness of the Soviet forced labor system on the non-Soviet world.

He was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature in 1970 and was exiled from the Soviet Union in 1974.

Born in Kislovodsk, Russia, Solzhenitsyn fought in the Red Army during World War II. He became a captain before he was arrested in 1945 for criticizing Joseph Stalin in letters to his brother-in-law. He was imprisoned for eight years, from 1945 to 1952, under the draconian Article 58 law. He spent time in a sharashka, a white-collar prison labor compound. He wrote about this in The First Circle.

He also spent time at hard manual work in labor camps of the Gulag system. He wrote about this in One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich and The Gulag Archipelago.

Solzhenitsyn was exiled from the Soviet Union for his book The Gulag Archipelago.
Solzhenitsyn was exiled from the Soviet Union for his book The Gulag Archipelago.

The novel about Ivan Denisovich brought the Soviet system of forced labor to the attention of the West, but it was his monumental history of the massive Soviet concentration camps for both criminal and political prisoners that made it impossible for either the West or the Soviet Union to ignore the realities of the Communist regime. No longer was this an issue for anti-communists only; all Western democracies had to confront it.

In 1974, Solzhenitsyn was exiled, after the KGB had found the manuscript for the first part of "The Gulag Archipelago". He first settled in Zürich, Switzerland, and later in Vermont, USA. In 1990 his Soviet citizenship was restored, and in 1994 he returned to Russia.

Despite an enthusiastic welcome on his first arrival in America, followed by respect for his privacy, he had never been comfortable outside his homeland. However radical he might have been in the USSR, outside that context he appeared to some to be a reactionary, particularly in his Russian nationalism and his religious orthodoxy. At any rate, he was hardly the "Cold War prize" some had thought him.

He is very much considered a radical outsider, as he frequently blames Jews, Georgians, Latvians and other minorities for the mishaps that befell Russia in the 20th century.

In May 1997, Solzhenitsyn was elected full member (academician) of the Russian Academy of Science. In 1997 he established his own prize in literature ($25,000).

Alexander Solzhenitsyn met with President Boris Yeltsin in 1994 and President Vladimir Putin in 2000.

Published works

Further reading

  • Edited and with an introduction by Michael Scammell, translated under the supervision of Catherine A. Fitzpatrick, The Solzhenitsyn Files: Secret Soviet Documents Reveal One Man's Fight Against the Monolith, edition q, 1995, hardcover, ISBN 1-883695-06-6

External links

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Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Last updated: 12-13-2004 17:13:39