Alexander Solzhenitsyn was a titan in Russian literature and politics of the 20th century. As a child, I read his “One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich” and later smuggled “The Gulag Archipelago” and “The Cancer Ward”, which were illegal in the USSR and available as the underground Samizdat hand-typed copies only.
True, Solzhenitsyn’s life was full of contradictions. He was a harsh critic of the West, of liberal democracy, and of America, which gave him shelter and protection for 18 difficult years of exile.
Solzhenitsyn has embraced today’s Russian rulers, the KGB officers, whose predecessors tormented him and millions of other GULag victims, has received the State Award from hands of Vladimir Putin, and has not criticized the recent strangulation of freedom in Russia, over which the Putin regime presided.
Yet, Solzhenitsyn’s books and life had an effect of a thermonuclear explosion, which scoured the legitimacy of communism. Mikhail Gorbachev recognized his great role in bringing the Soviet empire to an end, and so should we, his contemporaries, who lived through those momentous developments and who benefited from the man’s talent, moral stature and courage.