Solzhenitsyn, Aleksandr Isayevich


Solzhenitsyn, Aleksandr Isayevich
(1918–2008)
   Novelist, historian, and nationalist ideologue. Born to a young widow in Kislovodsk on 11 December 1918, Solzhenitsyn’s youth was shaped by the Russian Civil War and the subsequent collectivization of his family’s farm. He studied mathematics at Rostov State University before serving in the Red Army during World War II. In 1945, in a personal letter, a passing reference to Joseph Stalin’s conduct of the war resulted in Solzhenitsyn’s arrest for distributing anti-Soviet propaganda; he was sentenced to eight years of hard labor and internal exile thereafter. His experiences in the gulag served as inspiration for his novels The First Circle, The Cancer Ward, The Gulag Archipelago, and One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. While the latter text was published with the backing of Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, Solzhenitsyn was ultimately declared a nonperson in response to the international controversy generated by his novels. He was deported to West Germany in 1974; he then moved to Vermont in the United States, where he lived in semi-isolation, railing against the dangers of Communism while harshly condemning Western culture as spiritually bankrupt. In 1990, his citizenship was restored; he returned to Russia in 1994. His polemic views on Soviet history, anti-Semitism, condemnation of democracy, and belief in Russian supremacy kept him in the political spotlight long after the dismantling of the gulags. Solzhenitsyn, while not actively involved in politics, has served as an intellectual anchor for the resurgence of Russian Orthodoxy, rejection of Western values, and a reconstitution of an all-Russia state including Ukraine, Belarus, and northern Kazakhstan. For several years, he headed a Sunday morning television show that discussed the issues of morality and nationalism; the program became quite controversial and was discontinued. Solzhenitsyn died from heart failure at the age of 89.

Historical Dictionary of the Russian Federation. . 2010.

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