Posts tagged Solzhenitsyn

Photos of CCCP helicopter from 1993

Sorry I missed posting my blog yesterday, I was trying to locate my copy of Solzhenitsyn’s “Gulag Archipelago” where I want to read the last chapter that is about the Kengir Uprising in 1954.  Once I read that, I will post about it. I also want to go visit the Karaganda area (not too far from Astana) where this event happened when the political prisoners said: “Enough is enough!!!” They ran off the prison guards and administrators and enjoyed 40 days of freedom and their own self-governance.

Not much is known about this amazing act of bravery but since Stalin had died the year before in 1953, there were also other smaller uprisings in Kazakhstan and Siberia where the gulag systems were packed.  Naturally, the big USSR tanks came rolling in and snuffed out the Kengir uprising, that unusual period of freedom for the inmates. Many of these prisoners had been unjustly accused of some crime and had no business being in prison.  They wanted to be loyal subjects of the Soviet Union, but it was always a tightrope balancing act to know how to walk correctly during the CCCP (Cyrillic for USSR) period.

In lieu of more words, I’ll just post a couple of OLD, but interesting photos that I took back in 1993 when I first met Ken.  We went on an antiquated Aeroflot helicopter ride one early Sunday morning from Almaty area to a lake with some U.S. Embassy and Peace Corps people. (Brave for us to trust this relic) Quite romantic actually and my grandma used to say that was our first date, not quite but almost.

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The Embrace of Stalinism – Books of Memory (Part III)

The Embrace of Stalinism by Arseny Roginsky

16 – 12 – 2008

Books of memory

Books of memory are one reference point about the memory of Stalinism. These books, published in the majority of Russian regions, form a library of almost 300 volumes. They contain a total of over one and a half million names of people who were executed, sentenced to imprisonment in camps, or deported. This is a serious achievement, especially if we recall the difficulties in accessing many of our archives which contain materials about the terror.

However, these books do almost nothing for the formation of national memory. Firstly, they are regional books, and the contents of each one individually do not form the image of a national catastrophe, but rather a picture of a “local” disaster. The regional compartmentalization is matched by methodological discrepancies: each book of memory has its own sources, its own principles of selection, its own size and format for presentation of biographical information. This is because there is no common state program for publishing books of memory. The federal government also balks from its duty here.

Secondly, these memories are hardly a public matter: only a small number of copies are printed, and they are not even always received by regional libraries.

Memorial has posted a database on the Internet which unites the data base of the books of memory, supplemented by data from the Russian Interior Ministry, and also from Memorial itself. Here there are over 2,700,000 names. In comparison with the scale of the Soviet terror, this is a very small figure, and if work continues at this rate it will take several decades to compile a complete list if work.

Museums of terror

Museums. Here things are also not as bad as one might expect. True, Russia still no national Museum of state terror which could play an important role in crystalising the image of the terror in popular consciousness. There are fewer than ten local museums dedicated to the subject of the terror. But still, according to our information, the topic features occasionally in the exhibitions, and mainly in the archives, of around 300 museums across the country (mainly regional and city museums of local studies).

However, the common problems of memory of the terror play their part here too. In the exhibitions, the theme of the camps and labor settlements are usually embedded in displays about the industrialization of the region. The repressions themselves – arrests, sentences, shootings – are generally consigned to biographical stands and window displays. On the whole, the terror is represented in a very fragmented way, and only included in the history of the country in a provisional way.

Memorial places

Memorial places connected with the terror. Today these are mainly burial sites: mass graves of people shot during the Great Terror, and large camp cemeteries. But the secret surrounding the shooting was so great, and so few sources have been found on this topic, that today we only know of around 100 burial sites of people shot in 1937-1938 – less than a third of the total, according to our calculations. For example, despite much searching, it has not been possible to find even the graves of the victims of the famous “Kashketin shootings” near the Brick Factory by Vorkuta. As for camp cemeteries, we only know a few dozen of the several thousand that once existed.

In any case, the cemeteries are again only a memory of the victims.

Buildings connected with the terror in cities do not become places of memory – regional offices a d buildings of the OGPU/NKVD, prison buildings and camp offices. Industrial objects built by political prisoners also do not become places of memory – canals, railways, mines, factories, combines and houses. It would be very easy to turn them into “places of memory” – simply by hanging a memorial plaque by the entrance to the factory, or at a railway station.


Another means of furnishing popular consciousness with historical concepts and images is mass culture, primarily television. Television programs about the Stalinist era are quite numerous and diverse: glamorous pro-Stalinist kitsch such as the TV series “Stalin-life” compete with talented and conscientious screen adaptations of works by Shalamov and Solzhenitsyn. Viewers can choose their own preferred vehicles for reading the era. It would appear, alas, that the number of viewers who choose “Stalin-life” is growing, while the number who choose Shalamov is shrinking. This is inevitable. Those whose world outlook is formed by anti-Western rhetoric and endless rants by TV political analysts about this great country that is surrounded by enemies on all sides hardly need to be told which image of the past best accords with this outlook. And no amount of Shalamovs or Solzhenitsyns are going to change their minds.

School history curriculum

Finally, the most important institution for controlling collective ideas of the past is the school history curriculum. Here (and also to a significant degree in journalism and documentary television programs), the state’s policy on history, unlike in many areas discussed above, is pro-active. This has the effect of making one appreciate that neglecting historical memory is not as dangerous as using history as a political tool.

In the new history textbooks, Stalinism is presented as an institutional phenomenon, even an achievement. But the terror is portrayed as a historically determined and unavoidable tool for solving state tasks. This concept does not rule out sympathy for the victims of history. But it makes it absolutely impossible to consider the criminal nature of the terror, and the perpetrator of this crime.

The intention is not to idealise Stalin. This is the natural side-effect of resolving a completely different task – that of confirming the idea of the indubitable correctness of state power. The government is higher than any moral or legal assessments. It is above the law, as it is guided by state interests that are higher than the interests of the person and society, higher than morality and law. The state is always right – at least as long as it can deal with its enemies. This idea runs through the new textbooks from beginning to end, and not only where repressions are discussed.

Conclusion: our historical memory is divided, fragmentary, passing away. It has been pushed to the periphery of popular consciousness. Those who hold onto the memory of Stalinism in the sense that we use these words are very much in the minority today. Whether or not this memory can become embedded nationwide; what information and what values need to assimilated by popular consciousness, what needs to be done here – this is the topic for another discussion. Clearly, society and the state need to work together on this. Clearly, historians have a special role in this process. They bear a special responsibility.

This paper was read at a conference on the History of Stalinism in Moscow on 5 December 2008

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Taking Exception to Kazakhstan being a “Dumping Ground”

Writing about Kazakhstan’s history is a highly complex one, no wonder I was having trouble writing my paper for an upcoming TESOL conference in Denver, Colorado.  After I had a long talk with a fellow American expat who has lived in Almaty for 16 years, I was able to create a handout with three graphic tables showing Kazakhstan’s different eras. Once done, I made swift progress with my paper titled “Kazakhstan’s Orality vs. Infoliteracy: What’s a Teacher to Do?”


Yesterday afternoon I had talked to a Kazakh man who teaches Kazakhstan’s history at our university and I showed him my one page handout.  He said that only because I’m an American could I get away with stating what they all know to be true.  I think I fulfill a purpose at our university in finding out from the oral histories of people in Kazakhstan, not just for Kazakhs but for Koreans, Ukrainians, Jews, Germans, Uyghurs, etc.  For the most part, the Kazakhs are known as a very peaceable people but with very clear memories still of what happened in their own families and country.  I, as the American, can be neutral when finding out as a curious outsider, what actually happened during the 70 year era of the Soviet Union. Any information about the inner workings of this totalitarian state formerly known as the U.S.S.R. had been purposely blocked.  Still is, not much is written in our American history textbooks and they are mostly all positive and glowing about the former socialist state.


Last night I stayed longer at the office than I had intended but it was meant to be since I got negative feedback from a Russian colleague friend of mine about my one page handout.  I simply showed her the three figures and she immediately took exception with Kazakhstan being known as the Soviet Union‘s “dumping ground.”  She loudly disagreed with me on that term.  I said that I have to give my American audience in Denver some kind of quick, historical background before I can really talk about “infoliteracy.”  She said that I was very biased.  She also stated that it means that if her mother came down from Russia that I’m saying that her mother was “garbage!!!” 


NO, what I meant was that there were many nationalities (Korean, German, Ukrainian, etc.) who were dumped off of railroad cars in the middle of nowhere in Kazakhstan. Often the oral testimonies I’ve heard is that the Kazakh people helped these exiled people find food and shelter.  My friend kept shaking her head and arguing with me.  She said that we as Americans used to be called a “melting pot” but now better known as a “salad bowl.”  Yes, those are much nicer terms than “dumping ground.”  I’m wondering what term she would use instead to help explain the throwing together of about 120 different nationalities in Kazakhstan???  Apparently, Stalin wrote a book in Russian titled “The Nationalities Question” or something like that.  Supposedly Stalin had his own agenda about mixing things up.

However, I am trying to put myself in my Russian friend’s shoes with how she feels. And she DOES FEEL strongly about this issue. Alexander Solzhenitsyn was in the Karaganda penal system as a political prisoner and perhaps he was the first to coin the phrase that Kazakhstan was the USSR’s “dumping ground” in his famous book “One Day in the Life of…” Solzhenitsyn was a Russian nationalist, through and through.  But for my friend, Kazakhstan is where she was born as a kind of Russian “immigrant” and her Russian parents had jobs here in Almaty with the communist party. 


If one does a quick google search, there are other authors who write using the word “dumping ground” and Kazakhstan together. True, there were many other different “dumping grounds” that Stalin used such as Siberia, it was not just Kazakhstan.  Yet the network of gulags encompassed about one third the land mass of Kazakhstan, so that’s a LOT of prisoners from other former republics of the USSR to keep behind barbed wire.

In the very well built up memorial at ALZHIR about 20 kilometers outside of Kazakhstan’s capital in Astana, you can watch a video at the end of your tour of the three tiered building.  In this video, President Nazarbayev states his purpose in putting money into this memorial in order to remember these sad facts of Kazakhstan’s Soviet history.  In so many words he says, “It is not Kazakhstan’s fault that it was used as a ‘dumping ground’ for the USSR.”  He further stated that too often Kazakhstan is blamed for housing all the political prisoners, however, the Kazakhs had no say in what was happening on their own soil.  The directives came from Moscow and the politically elite.

From a historical point of view, many Russians and Ukrainians came voluntarily to Kazakhstan to open virgin farming land (there is some good land) during the Czarist period.  Particularly at end of 19th and early 20th century during the Stolypin land reforms, which might be vaguely analogous to the US Homestead Act.  It gave peasants and small farmers the right to own land. Unfortunately, I don’t think my friend’s parents came down for the farming that failed on Kazakhstan’s soil.  No, apparently my friend’s mother taught history as a school teacher during the Soviet era.  My guess is that she promoted whatever was in the Soviet approved textbooks that were published in Moscow.  That would certainly have the Russian bias to it and thus NOT the Kazakhs take on history.  No wonder my friend takes extreme exception to my using the term “dumping ground” when referring to Kazakhstan.


Earlier yesterday I had been talking to an Australian friend of mine who has had similar encounters with Russians who were born in Kazakhstan and who have this strange “derangement disorder” of not confessing to the sordid side of their communist past.  The Kazakh man who currently teaches his own Kazakh history is right, he could never say what I had put in my handout.  I’m beginning to wonder how Kazakhstan’s history will ever get sorted out with the pressures from the Soviet past still looming large.  I’m sorry that my friend thinks I’m biased but sadly she does not see herself having her own biases.  Anyway, we have to agree that we disagree on issues relating to USSR history and Kazakhstan


What I found with a quick google search:

 Stalin’s Dumping Ground, By Jeri Laber

As representatives of Helsinki Watch, a colleague and I traveled southeast in the Soviet Union, almost to the Chinese border, to visit the vast and little-known Soviet republic of Kazakhstan, where serious abuses of human rights have occurred, not just in recent years but also in the past.[1] Kazakhstan‘s steppelands were among Stalin’s favored sites for labor camps and exile communities, and we had been told, accurately as it turned out, that the region would reveal the scars of the Stalin years more vividly perhaps than any other Soviet republic.






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“Turn-of-phrases” – Part III

The following are quotes taken from Colin Thubron’s book titled “The Lost Heart of Asia.”  He has some insightful perspectives, even though they are dated.  Much has happened in Kazakhstan since Thubron visited in the early 1990s.


“Next morning I flew to Karaganda, the second city of Kazakhstan.  This was no more than a feint into the heart of a steppeland spreading thinly peopled towards Siberia, for you could travel it for weeks and encounter no one.  Far down, under the wings of our groaning Tupolev, drifted an unchanging, dun-coloured earth, where cloud-shadows moved in grey lakes and there was no glint of life.  It was hard to look on it without misgiving.  In these secretive deserts and the grasslands lapping them to the north, the Russians had for decades concealed an archipelago of labour camps, nuclear testing sites, ballistic missiles and archaic heavy industry.  It was the dumping ground of unwanted nations.  Around the handful of those exiles it hammered into stature – Dostoevsky soldiered here in disgrace, Solzhenitsyn festered – millions more succumbed into death or obscurity.  Trotsky spent two years banished in Almaty, before the murderer’s ice-pick found him in Mexico.”


From time to time the land had floated visions.  In the late 1950s Russians and Ukrainians flooded into the northern steppes to plant a hundred million acres of wheat and barley on Kruschev’s ‘Virgin Lands’ (lands not virgin at all, but Kazakh pastures) and for a few years the scheme flowered spectacularly, before soil erosion called it to heel…” (p. 337)


“But the testing sites near Semipalatinsk have left half a million people ill with radioactive sickness, some of them – in Stalin’s time – exposed intentionally as guinea-pigs.  Over a region now riddled with unfissioned plutonium, some 500 bombs, exploded over forty years, have undermined a bewildered populace with cancers, leukemia, heart disease, birth defects and blindness, so that the first act of an independent Kazakhstan in 1990 was to ban all tests on its territory.  All across this blighted country, lead smelters and copper foundries, cement and phosphates works still plunge the skies and waters in poisonous effluent, and some two million Kazakhs and Russians are rumoured chronically sick from the pollution.” (p. 337)


In Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan the author met a writer named Kadyr.  He informed Thubron of the following problem:  “We’ve hundreds of writers, but no money…and our publishers can’t get paper.  It used to come to us from Russia, but now everything’s atrophied.  So at last we have our freedom to write – but no paper!” His lank hair and glasses lent him a juvenile charm which drifted on and off.  An ingrained wariness pervaded him.  Questions turned him vague. ‘There was always too much that we couldn’t say. We couldn’t draw on our traditions or write our own history.  Now our spiritual situation is richer, far richer, but our material one is hopeless.”

‘What did you used to write about?’

‘My novels were about nature,’ he said quickly, as if exculpating himself from something, ‘how the mountains sit in people’s spirits, and how people relate to them and to one another.  There are inhabitants of Bishkek like that, and I suppose I’m one of them…People call us ‘the mountain people’ because we’ve never really left the wilds.”

To write about the mountains, I supposed, was a covert way of expressing patriotism.

‘It wasn’t dangerous,’ he said, ‘Nature is nature, whoever is in power.’”

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One Day at a Time: Solzhenitsyn Kept on Writing

I suppose I have “kept on writing” too an inherited trait from my mother’s side of the family.  Her older relatives commonly wrote letters back and forth from Norway to North Dakota and consequently my mom and *I* wrote lots of letters which I have stored away from my Philippine and China teaching days. 


I have many journals too but the one I miss the most was a five year journal (1983-1988).  I had mailed a hardshell, Samsonite suitcase back to Minnesota from Harbin, Heilongjiang China in spring of 1988. (Imagine 20 years ago) Everything I packed in the locked suitcase arrived safely to my local post office except my small stone, Chinese chop and my five year diary.  As you watch the Olympics, and the opening night was meant to impress, keep in mind what is considered “private and personal” in a land of communism.


Glad to still have my travel journal from my trip to another communist country of the former Soviet Union where I noted the following on Day 19 of my 36 day tour, May 22, 1976.


We arrived into one of the four Moscow airports at 2:30 p.m. Our bus ride to Sputnik showed the bleak country with dismal housing and yards.  They were about 60 years old and sectioned off with fences.  All over could be seen women of stocky build in drab coats and scarves on their heads.  Their faces all the same – wide set, plain eyes, white skin, stern and sober.  We had a tour of the subways and they were immaculate, I was impressed.


On Day 27, May 30, 1976 I was going through culture shock when we arrived at Warsaw, Poland.  What a contrast from what I had seen in Russia:


But you can’t explain the Russian people, because they have duo personalities.  Cold and reserved on the public front but very warm and hospitable on a personal level.  It was like being in another world, mystical and ungraspable in all respects for my Western, capitalistic mind.  It was hard to acknowledge the fact that such a difference of mindsets would limit us in our movement far as to churches or other places of our interest.


Perhaps Solzhenitsyn had a duo personality and really did love America and the free air he breathed even though he steadfastly worked away on his writing about Russia and didn’t get to know many Americans or our culture.  The following helps explain Solzhenitsyn better and is from Christopher Hitchens column titled:  “The Man Who Kept on Writing”


But it seems that Solzhenitsyn did have a worry or a dread, not that he himself would be harmed but that none of his work would ever see print. Nonetheless—and this is the point to which I call your attention—he kept on writing. The Communist Party’s goons could have torn it up or confiscated or burned it—as they did sometimes—but he continued putting it down on paper and keeping a bottom drawer filled for posterity. This is a kind of fortitude for which we do not have any facile name. The simplest way of phrasing it is to say that Solzhenitsyn lived “as if.” Barely deigning to notice the sniggering, pick-nose bullies who followed him and harassed him, he carried on “as if” he were a free citizen, “as if” he had the right to study his own country’s history, “as if” there were such a thing as human dignity.

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One Day at a Time – Day 23 of 36

As I continue to read through my diary entries of traveling in Moscow and Leningrad the summer of 1976, I came upon something of interest on Day 23 of our 36 day trip.  You see, I keep looking for clues of what Solzhenitsyn was referring to when he lambasted the Harvard academics at what is now considered his infamous speech to the 1978 Harvard graduates. Solzhenitsyn’s heart remained firmly fixed in Russia while his physical presence was supposedly transplanted in a much safer U.S.  He had some important wisdom to impart to these fledgling, American academicians. 


Now after all these years, Solzhenitsyn is considered a “prophet” while others would deride him as a doomsdayer for the future of our democratic country.  However, I think from what I observed 32 years ago while traveling such a short time in Russia, Solzhenitsyn was right about many things but perhaps not on target about what he could not possibly understand as a Russian who was NOT immersed in American life.  He tenaciously held on to life in his Motherland and looked forward to the day he could return to Russia in 1994.  Did Solzhenitsyn as a prophet predict that he would be able to return to Russia and live there for another 14 years in the very place that put him through gulag hell?  I wonder.


Columnist Cal Thomas had his remarks about Solzhenitsyn’s passing with his recent article titled “Solzhenitsyn did the work of a prophet.”


“The Russian novelist observed that a ‘decline in courage’ has affected the West and especially, ‘the intellectual elite, causing an impression of loss of courage by the entire society…Should one point out that from ancient times decline in courage has been considered the beginning of the end?’…What about America’s emphasis on individual rights? Solzhenitsyn said the result has been to ignore the welfare of the many: ‘The defense of individual rights has reached such extremes as to make society as a whole defenseless against certain individuals.  It is time, in the West, to defend not so much human rights as human obligations.


There was more to disturb the self-satisfied intellectual elite.  Surely faculty members at Harvard must have gnashed their teeth in the face of this remonstrance: ‘Destructive and irresponsible freedom has been granted boundless space.  Society appears to have little defense against the abyss of human decadence, such as, for example, misuse of liberty for moral violence against young people, motion pictures full of pornography, crime and horror.’  According to Solzhenitsyn, life organized around laws and the individual has shown an inability to ‘defend itself against the corrosion of evil.’”


I really need to find the script of Solzhenitsyn’s speech to Harvard and read it in its entirety.  The following is my observation of Russian communist thought as spoken by our tour guide named Olga on May 26, 1976:


“Olga was asked if she liked the monastery (part of our spirituality tour) and she stated that she hated the church because during the Revolution, the church was revolting against the people who accepted the communist regime.  She said that they didn’t care about the people and persecuted them, they even burned stars into them and beat them.  She thought that the church was far too rich and selfish while the people starved and needed help. 


Once when Kathy (my friend in tour) was taking a picture of a cute little boy on a trainer bicycle as about 4 others had done, Olga reproached her.  Kathy didn’t know what to say to, “Don’t take that picture, you want to make him think he is a hero?” The whole mindset is for the good of the group, no one is to stand out unless he’s done something bad, then he is punished by peer group displeasure.  They also don’t know how to accept praise, Olga was embarrassed when she was complimented on her grammar.”

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“The Calf Gored the Oak” Solzhenitsyn (Part IV)

1) Washington Post Feb. 11 1975: “When the Calf Meets the Oak” from a Russian proverb, the book traces the combat that Solzhenitsyn (the calf) led against Soviet totalitarianism (the oak) from his public emergence in 1961 to his exile on Feb. 13, 1974.


A Russian view of the Gulag Archipelago by Yuri V. Bondarev

Criticizing Solzhenitsyn’s book “Every artist of every country only harms himself by remaining for long in a state of constant resentment, for resentment devours his talent, and the writer becomes so biased that the bias devours truth itself.”

Yuri V. Bondarev is a writer who won a Lenin Prize for Literature in 1972.  This was asked by the New York Times for a critique of Mr. Solzhenitsyn’s book


2) Book reviews from the Economist Jan. 10, 1976

“Walls of Hate”

Professor Andrei Sakharov’s short book “My Country and the World” describes Russia’s totalitarian challenge as perhaps the greatest threat to the world’s wellbeing and appeals to the non-communist half of the world not to lose its nerve in the face of that challenge.  Professor Sakharov has hard things to say about western “liberal left faddishness”


3) The Wall Street Journal, Tues. Dec. 18, 1975

Russia’s voices of Dissent by Edmund Fuller


From Under the Rubble edited by Solzhenitsyn

Gulag Archelpelago – chapters “the Soul and Barbed Wire” 55 memorable pages – Women in camp


Solzhenitsyn went to Alaska in June 1976 in search of old Russian colonies in the state.   Went to Sitka, which was named New Archangle, headquarters for the Russian American fur company.  It was there on Oct. 18, 1867 that Alaska was transferred from czarist Russia to the US after and payment of 7.2 million dollars.


4) “The Strangled Cry of Solzhenitsyn,” National Review, August 29, 1975

Editor’s Note: William F. Buckley Jr. p. 929-938

Quotes throughout text:

But the proud skyscrapers stand on, point to the sky, and say: it will never happen here.  This will never come to us, It is not possible here.

We are slaves, but we are striving for freedom. You, however, were born free.  If so, then why do you help our slave owners?

And these two crises, the political crisis of today’s world and the oncoming spiritual crisis, are occurring at the same time.

Has the Berlin Wall convinced anyone?  No again.  It’s being ignored.  It’s there, but it doesn’t affect us.  We’ll never have a wall like that.

Yet the western press writes seriously that the first free elections took place in Portugal.  Lord save us from such free elections.

For communists to have a dialogue with Christianity!  In the Soviet Union this dialogue was a simple matter; they used machine guns and revolvers.

In the meantime, you’ve been outplayed in West Berlin, you’ve been skillfully outplayed in Portugal.  In the Near East you’ve been outplayed.  One shouldn’t have such a low opinion of one’s opponent.

The tanks rumble through Budapest.  It is nothing.  The tanks roar into Czechoslovakia.  It is nothing.  No one else could have been forgiven, but Communism can be excused.

And the person who signs these treaties with you now—these very men and no others – at the same time give orders for persons to be confined in mental hospitals and prisons.

Take the SALT talks alone: in these negotiations your opponent is continually deceiving you.  Either he is test radar in a way which is forbidden by the agreement; or he is violating the limitations on the dimensions of missiles. (picture showing Ford signing something with Breshnev with Kissinger in background)


5) Solzhenitsyn to speak here June 30 at Meany’s invitation June 19, 1975

Meany AFL-CIO President he is distrustful of détente with the Soviet Union, told the Senate Foreign relations committee last year that it is a “one way street in which the Soviet Union maintains all of its basic political objectives, which are fundamentally antagonistic to the west, while it acquires from the West the technology it needs to help overcome the disastrous economic consequences of totalitarianism.”


6) Snubbing Solzhenitsy (Rowland Evans and Robert Novak) July 17, 1975


The affair seems out of character for Ford and it points to pervasive foreign policy influence over the president by Kissinger, wearing duel hats as Secretary of State and national security advisor.


7) “[Capitol] Hill audience Hears Solzhenitsyn” July 16, 1976, Washington Post

Warned American senators and members of Congress yesterday that the ordeal in Vietnam “was the least of the long chain of similar trials which await your country in the near future.”


8. George F Will, July 11, 1975 Washington Post

“Solzhenitsyn and the President”

“The US government may have to expel Alexandr Solzhenitsyn from the republic, not only as a hands-across-the-barbed-wire gesture of solidarity with its détente partner, the Soviet government but also to save the President and his attendants from nervous breakdowns.”


Mingling at the Memorial [Lincoln] July 1975 by Michael Kernan

Longtime friend and defence Mstislav Rostropovich, conductor of National Symphony met with A.I. Solzhenitsyn at Lincoln Memorial


Politiken, Copenhagen, June 19, 1975 “How the Calf Gored the Oak” just published in Paris by Samuel Rachlin



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Solzhenitsyn’s Writings (Part III)

The following is the third of a four part series of notes I took on Solzhenitsyn while at Hoover Institute June of 2005.  I looked through the archived files of Alvin Kapusta to find that he had followed this famous Russian Solzhenitsyn very closely.  Even though Kapusta was a Ukrainian diaspora from North Dakota originally, he must have seen how Solzhenitsyn’s cause he championed would help that of the forgotten Ukrainians during the 1930s.  As I recall, Kapusta had a State Department position in Washington, D.C. so I’m sure he may have had an opportunity to meet with Solzhenitsyn at some point during his career.  The following are mostly titles and/or quotes taken from different articles from newspapers covering Solzhenitsyn’s recent arrival to the U.S. in the 1970s. 

1) The Listener April 29, 1976 “Lenin’s false promises—Solzhenitsyn on his new book” interview with Robert Robinson with A.I. Solzhenitsyn


2) Los Angeles Times Sun. April 25, 1976 “Lenin in Zurich”-Demythifying Supermarx” by Robert Kirsch – Lenin in Zurich


Book reviews Times Literary supplement London, April 1976 “A single-minded man” by Michael Scammell

Last paragraph – Nevertheless Lenin in Zurich is not, in the last analysis, history, nor is it biography.  For not the least of Solzhenitsyn’s audacities is the proud claim he is making for the art of fiction. History, he seems to be saying, is not up to this job, has made a hash of the past.  Biography likewise.  Now it is time for the artist to take a hand.  Impertinence? Certainly. And again one is reminded of Tolstoy, particularly, the Tolstoy of War and Peace.


3) The Japan Times Monday, April 19, 1976 “Solzhenitsyn on the Attack” by Max Lerner


Alexandr Solzhenitsyn is again waging a one-man campaign, as he did inside the Soviet Union.  This time it is a campaign to awaken the West—the western European peoples and America as well—to the dangers of its own weakness in the face of Soviet expansionism


“Solzhenitsyn Working in California” by John Berthelsen, May 6, 1976

The Hoover center’s most prized collection on the revolution is the Okhrana archives, the files of the czarist secret police. “Not even the Soviets themselves have these documents” they were received during the 1920s from the last czarist ambassador to France, who moved to Switzerland after the fall of the imperial Russia.  Their existence was concealed from the world until the death of the ambassador, who feared that the Bolsheviks would kill him when they learned of them.  Contained in the files, are czarist secret police dossiers on the full range of Russian revolutionaries, including Lenin and Stalin.

Solzhenitsyn was working on a volume of his book on the year 1917


4) April 4, 1976 Washington Post “Solzhenitsyn Warning”

Last summer Alexandr I. Solzhenitsyn’s speech to an AFL-CIO banquet became Washington’s political event of the year.  In a fiery, largely extemporaneous address, the exiled Russian writer sounded a passionate warning: “freedom, he said, was in retreat all over the world; détente was turning out to be a policy of surrender.; the West must make a firm stand against communist totalitarianism.


Another review of A.I.Solzhenitsyn’s book Lenin in Zurich by Bertram D. Wolfe, professor of Russian History emeritus in University of California Davis and presently senior researcher at Hoover Institution.  Author of  An Ideology in Power also writing a book “A Life in Two Centuries


5) The following are titles of various newspaper articles and t.v. interviews with Solzhenitsyn:

Book reviews Modern age, Chicago, Summer 1976 “The Anatomy of Perdition” by J.M. Lalley

The Gulag Archipelago: an experiment in literary investigation vol. 2


Solzhenitsyn In Zurich, an interview “Encounter” April 1976

Lenin in Zurich is a sequel to August 1914


Here is not the Vladimir Ilyich of the “little Lenin library” and the Soviet hagiographers, or even the two dimensional portraits of western historical biographies.


Radio tv Reports In. 4435 Wis. Ave. NW, Wash. D.C. 20016

Program Firing Line

March 27, 1976

Full text transcribed of interview with Malcolm Muggeridge and Mr. Levine and Solzhenitsyn was interviewed by Buckley, Conducted by Michael Charlton of the BBC staff


The Washington Post, Sat. March 27, 1976 “The ‘Imminent’ Fall of the West” by Richard M. Weintraub

Muggeridge went so far as to call Solzhenitsyn, the “greatest man alive today”


La Quinzaine Litteraraire, Paris, March 16, 1976

The Solzhenitsyn Line by Roger Dadoun translated from French into English


Medvedev vs. Solzhenitsyn. March 13, 1976


Historian’s criticism points up differences among dissidents by Peter Osnos, Washington Post Foreign service

Medvedev denounces Solzhenitsyn and is lighter on Andreis Sakharov, the Nobel prize winning dissident physicist

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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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