Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn [a] [b] 11 December — 3 August   was a Russian novelist, philosopher, historian, short story writer and political prisoner. Solzhenitsyn was an outspoken critic of the Soviet Union and Communism and helped to raise global awareness of its Gulag labor camp system. After serving in the Soviet Army during World War II , he was sentenced to spend eight years in a labour camp and then internal exile for criticizing Josef Stalin in a private letter. Although the reforms brought by Nikita Khrushchev freed him from exile in , the publication of Cancer Ward , August , and The Gulag Archipelago beyond the Soviet Union angered authorities, and Solzhenitsyn lost his Soviet citizenship in
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Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn [a] [b] 11 December — 3 August   was a Russian novelist, philosopher, historian, short story writer and political prisoner. Solzhenitsyn was an outspoken critic of the Soviet Union and Communism and helped to raise global awareness of its Gulag labor camp system. After serving in the Soviet Army during World War II , he was sentenced to spend eight years in a labour camp and then internal exile for criticizing Josef Stalin in a private letter. Although the reforms brought by Nikita Khrushchev freed him from exile in , the publication of Cancer Ward , August , and The Gulag Archipelago beyond the Soviet Union angered authorities, and Solzhenitsyn lost his Soviet citizenship in He was flown to West Germany, and in he moved with his family to the United States, where he continued to write.
With the dissolution of the Soviet Union , his citizenship was restored in , and four years later he returned to Russia, where he remained until his death in He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature "for the ethical force with which he has pursued the indispensable traditions of Russian literature".
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 , and in the later Red Wheel novels. In , 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 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;   she died in As early as , 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 ; some of the chapters he wrote then still survive. 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.
During the war, Solzhenitsyn served as the commander of a sound-ranging battery in the Red Army ,  was involved in major action at the front, and was twice decorated.
He was awarded the Order of the Red Star on 8 July for sound-ranging two German artillery batteries and adjusting counterbattery fire onto them, resulting in their destruction. A series of writings published late in his life, including the early uncompleted novel Love the Revolution!
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. 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,  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?
In February , while serving in East Prussia , Solzhenitsyn was arrested by SMERSH for writing derogatory comments in private letters to a friend, Nikolai Vitkevich,  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". 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 On 9 May , 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.
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". This was the normal sentence for most crimes under Article 58 at the time. The first part of Solzhenitsyn's sentence was served in several work camps; the "middle phase", as he later referred to it, was spent in a sharashka 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 an English translation of the full version was eventually published by Harper Perennial in October During his imprisonment at the camp in the town of Ekibastuz in Kazakhstan, he worked as a miner, bricklayer, and foundry foreman.
One of his fellow political prisoners, Ion Moraru , remembers that Solzhenitsyn spent some of his time at Ekibastuz writing. His cancer was not diagnosed at the time. In March , after his sentence ended, Solzhenitsyn was sent to internal exile for life at Birlik,  a village in Baidibek district of South Kazakhstan region of Kazakhstan Kok-terek rural district.
In , 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. The narrative poem The Trail written without benefit of pen or paper in prison and camps between and 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 and excerpted in English in They divorced in , 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 ,  divorcing a second time in The following year Solzhenitsyn married his second wife, Natalia Dmitrievna Svetlova, a mathematician who had a son from a brief prior marriage.
After Khrushchev's Secret Speech in , 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 , 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.
In , 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 , 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. 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 These would be the last of his works published in the Soviet Union until 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 s 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 , the time for such raw exposing works came to an end. Andrei Kirilenko , a Politburo member. Solzhenitsyn made an unsuccessful attempt, with the help of Tvardovsky, to have his novel Cancer Ward legally published in the Soviet Union.
This required the approval of the Union of Writers. Though some there appreciated it, the work was ultimately denied publication unless it was to be revised and cleaned of suspect statements and anti-Soviet insinuations. After Khrushchev's removal in , the cultural climate again became more repressive.
Publishing of Solzhenitsyn's work quickly stopped; as a writer, he became a non-person , and, by , 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 —67, the preparatory drafts of The Gulag Archipelago were turned into finished typescript in hiding at his friends' homes in Estonia.
In , Solzhenitsyn was expelled from the Union of Writers. In , 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 ceremony after he had been expelled from the Soviet Union. The Gulag Archipelago was composed from to It was a three-volume, seven-part work on the Soviet prison camp system.
The book drew from Solzhenitsyn's experiences and the testimony of  former prisoners and Solzhenitsyn's own research into the history of the Russian penal system. It discusses 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.
According to 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 it one of the most influential books of the 20th century. On 8 August , the KGB allegedly attempted to assassinate Solzhenitsyn using an unknown chemical agent most likely ricin with an experimental gel-based delivery method.
Although 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 accused Solzhenitsyn of supporting "Hitlerites" and making "excuses for the crimes of the Vlasovites and Bandera gangs. 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.
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 capitalist country willing to take him.
On 12 February , Solzhenitsyn was arrested and deported the next day from the Soviet Union to Frankfurt , West Germany and stripped of his Soviet citizenship. Solzhenitsyn paid tribute to Odom's role in his memoir Invisible Allies He was given an honorary literary degree from Harvard University in and on 8 June he gave a commencement address, condemning, among other things, the press, the lack of spirituality and traditional values, and the anthropocentrism of Western culture.
On 19 September , Yuri Andropov approved a large-scale operation to discredit Solzhenitsyn and his family and cut his communications with Soviet dissidents. 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.
The KGB also 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. Among other things, the writer constantly received envelopes with photographs of car accidents, brain surgery and other frightening illustrations. 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.
Over the next 17 years, Solzhenitsyn worked on his dramatized history of the Russian Revolution of , The Red Wheel. By , 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. 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.
From Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository. English: Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. Deutsch: Alexander Issajewitsch Solschenizyn. Italiano: Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. Donskoe Cemetery.
ISBN 13: 9788609001109
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