Solzhenitsyn’s Writings (Part II)

Thanks to Alvin Kapusta (Ukrainian diaspora who worked in Wash. D.C. in the State Department) and his saving newspaper and magazine clippings about Solzhenitsyn.  I typed out the best quotes I could find about Solzhenitsyn from Kapusta’s files (Box #2) archived at Hoover Institution at Stanford University in California.  This happened while I was at Stanford the summer of 2005 for three days but I also made photo copies of some of the more important articles that Kapusta saved out. 

The following quotes I typed shows the flurry of publicity around Solzhenitsyn recent arrival to the U.S. in the mid-1970s.  Celebrity status swirled around such a controversial character as Solzhenitsyn was but regrettably our U.S. news media is not reporting much about this great man’s departing.  Perhaps because he since left the U.S. for his motherland of Russia in about 1994 when it was “safe” for him to return.  I’m wondering how the Russian press is carrying his story of his death and his many writings that exposed the lies of the Soviet era.  Just curious.


1) “Solzhenitsyn:  The Past as Prologue” October 17, 1976


“A Warning to the West” by Alexandr Solzhenitsyn

Article critiquing Solzhenitsyn by Simon Karlinsky, the author of “The Sexual Labyrinth of Nikolai Gogol” to be published in Nov. [1976]


Quote from Solzhenitzyn: “By some chance of history, we have trodden the same path seventy or eighty years before the West.” Declared during his televised BBC interview on March 1, 1975.  “And now it is with a rather strange sensation that we look at what is happening to you; many social phenomena that happened in Russia before its collapse are being repeated.  Our experience is of vital importance to the West, but I am not convinced that you are capable of assimilating it without having gone through it to the end yourselves.”


…now that he [A.I. Solzhenitsyn] is in the West, Solzhenitsyn has somewhat damaged his credibility by his intransigent anti-Marxism and his fervent avowals of his Christian faith.  In many Western eyes, this makes him a reactionary.  But the very existence of a Solzhenitsyn is a living refutation of our simplistic categories, of our compulsive pigeonholing of people into conservative, liberal or radical niches.  In today’s Soviet Union, the Christian faith offers a haven of integrity and decency…


In 1935, at the time of the famine caused by forced collectivization and of the proliferating GULAG camps, the brilliant American critic Edmund Wilson stood before a statue of Lenin in Leningrad, feeling sure that this was the man who had opened up “to humanity as a whole a future of which for the first time they were to recognize themselves the masters, with the power to create without fear whatever they had minds to imagine.”…

Solzhenitsyn’s evaluation of conditions in the West may at times be based on insufficient knowledge.  His facts about the Russian revolution and the ensuring development of Soviet society, however, are unassailable.  Disagreement with him on this or that point of interpretation is possible, even desirable.  But to ignore his facts and his warning would be suicidal.


2) Friday, Oct. 15, 1976, The Washington Star

John P. Roche “Solzhenitsyn portrays a ferocious Lenin”

“Aristotle argued that the only way one can discover the true character of a regime is to analyze in depth the characteristics of its leadership…”

In the late 1930s a number of revolutionary exiles from Lenin’s and Stalin’s Russia used to gather at The Leader office, then on East Fifteenth Street in New York.  These old social revolutionaries, Mensheviks and Kerenskyites would sit around drinking tea and talking simultaneously.  I knew no Russian, so I asked Sol Levitas, then the magazine’s guiding genius, what it was all about.  “John,” he said, “they still don’t know what happened.” It’s a shame they are not alive to read Solzhenitsyn—they would find out.”


3) Sept. 2, 1976 Rowland Evans and Robert Novak “The Hostility toward Solzhenitsyn”


Two days after the Republican National platform extolled A.I. Solzhenitsyn as a “great beacon of human courage and morality” one of Henry Kissinger’s top aides used the word “fascist” in describing the anti-communist Russian novelist. The comments were made August 19, [1976] by the highly respected, Winston Lord, State Dept. policy planning director


Carter foreign policy advisors see him as a “slightly balmy nineteenth century Russian mystic”


Thus, the bipartisan foreign policy establishment has been successful in downgrading A.I. Solzenitsyn since his triumphant arrival here a year ago.  He has been a key target of the détente-ists, both in the Kremlin and on the State Department seventh floor.


Lord thought A.I.Solzhenitzen’s views could threaten world peace.

Since Solzhenitsyn is neither a right wing republican nor a fascist and might be considered rather moderate considering his life’s experience, the real objection is not to his ideology but to the threat he poses to détente.  That threat was expressed bluntly in the State Department memorandum to the White House on June 26, 1975“We recommend that the President [Ford] not receive Solzhenitzen.”

While that recommendation is now conceded to be a political error, the philosophy behind the memorandum flourishes in the Ford administration.  When Winston Lord told student interns that the Russian expatriate’s political views threaten world peace, he was unveiling the hard concensus of the US foreign policy establishment, which now seems the conventional wisdom in Washington.”


4) “Will the Real Lenin Please Stand Up?” By Robert G Kaiser, July 18, 1976 Critique of A.I. Solzhenitsyn book “Lenin in Zurich

Kaiser member of the Washington Post and former Moscow correspondent, is the author of Russia: the People and the Power”


“As a symbol and with the books he has written, A.I.Solzhenitsyn has done extraordinary damage to the reputation of the Soviet Union.  Almost singlehandedly he has recreated the horrors of the Stalin era for an entire generation–horrors now ignored and denied in Moscow.  Thanks to his fame and his defiance, the entire world has a vivid example of the intolerance of the Soviet regime for dissidence of almost any kind.  As a polemicist since his expulsion from the USSR, Solzhenitsyn has won unprecedented publicity for the anti-Soviet cause he now so ardently promotes. 

There is reason to believe that Solzhenitsyn is pleased by his ability to infuriate the men in Moscow who could not tolerate his presence in the country they rule.”


First Circle was an intriguing portrait, and persuasive too. But probably wrong, indeed, probably seriously flawed.  I once had the good fortune to be able to discuss Solzhenitsyn’s Stalin with Milovan Djilas, who knew Stalin well at the time Solzhenitsyn tried to describe him.  Djilas admired the art of Solzhenitsyn’s description, but dismissed its substance as oversimplified.  “You cannot describe Stalin,” Djilas said, “unless you take into account his brilliance.  Solzhenitsyn did not understand how brilliant Stalin was.”

More serious are the liberties Solzhenitsyn has taken with the historical record to suggest certain political alliances and motivations which would tend to discredit Lenin, particularly in Russia. 


5) The Stanford Observer, June 1976

“…the Soviet Union ‘constantly serves up programmed lies,’ says Solzhenitsyn


The Nobel Laureate charged that “committed socialist circles in the West passionately grab up…false Soviet information.  As a result, the historian is subjected, as it were, to a wretching, sidewise hurricane that hurls sand in his eye, twists his whole body, and turns his head toward a more comfortable- but false-tack.”  In hopes of getting close to source material, some scholars “pay with cautious and discreet formulations, so as not to anger their hosts in the USSR,” he added, “Like any compromise with truth, however, the price is not worth paying.”

Generalizations about ingrained “perennial Russian slavery” and “Asiatic tradition” brought to the West by revolutionary émigrés decades ago, “dangerously mislead contemporary scholars and hinder them from understanding the essential socialistic nature of what has happened in the USSR…”

The last century of Russian history has been “buried and hidden” from scholars, he said, but the collections of the Hoover Institution and it staff have been “of inestimable value” in searching out the facts.  It includes “a great deal of material that in the USSR has either been consigned to mandatory burning or to eternal concealment from human eyes.”

No serious Western scholar of Russian and Soviet history can bypass the Hoover Institution, and there are now many such scholars, especially in the US.  That is a wonderful thing.

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