Monday, 4 August 2008

Another Iconic image the sad passing of Solzhenitsyn

Like the Spitfire this icon came to symbolise freedom from oppression. However Solzhenitsyn was human not machine he will be missed for his courage and insight. A true brave soul who let the world know the full truth behind the supposed Soviet utopia. Doubtless the fantasist dingbats such as those here will portray him as a class traitor or similar nonsense, from the BBC:

Alexander Solzhenitsyn, who has died at the age of 89, played a significant role in ending communism. His novels were beautifully crafted, damning indictments of the repressive Soviet regime.
Born into a family of Cossack intellectuals, Alexander Solzhenitsyn graduated in mathematics and physics, but within weeks the Soviet Union was fighting Hitler for its survival.
Solzhenitsyn served as an artillery officer and was decorated for his courage, but in 1945 was denounced for criticising Stalin in a letter.
He spent the next eight years as one of the countless men enduring the gulags. He was one of the lucky ones to survive.
There followed a period of internal exile in Kazakhstan during which Solzhenitsyn was successfully treated for stomach cancer.
Instant celebrity
On his return to European Russia, he was allowed, following Nikita Khrushchev's denunciation of Stalin, to publish his largely autobiographical One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, in 1962.

Solzhenitsyn spent eight years in labour camps. This made him an instant celebrity. But with the subsequent fall from power of the reformist Khrushchev, the KGB stepped up its harassment of Solzhenitsyn, forcing him to publish his work abroad.
His novels The First Circle and Cancer Ward were further damning allegories of the Soviet system.
In 1970, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. But he refused to attend the award ceremony in Stockholm for fear of not being allowed back home.
In 1973, the first of the three volumes of The Gulag Archipelago was published in the West. He had been hiding the work from the authorities, fearful that people mentioned in it would suffer reprisals.
Branded a traitor
But his former assistant, Elizaveta Voronyanskaya, revealed its location after being interrogated by the KGB after which she hanged herself.
So Solzhenitsyn decided to publish it. The Gulag Archipelago offered a detailed account of the systematic Soviet abuses from 1918 to 1956 in the vast network of prison and labour camps.

He exposed Stalin's tyranny. Its publication led to a violent campaign against Solzhenitsyn in the Soviet press which denounced him as a traitor.
In early 1974, even Solzhenitsyn's world reputation could not prevent his arrest. But rather than put him on trial, the Soviet authorities stripped him of his citizenship and expelled him from the country.
In exile, he continued to be a source of controversy, notably when he issued a series of documents which cast serious doubt on Mikhail Sholokhov's authorship of the novel And Quiet Flows the Don.
Many of his utterances were discursive and even baffling, and the admiration for him was not entirely uncritical.
Eventually, he settled in Vermont in the USA with his second wife and their three sons. Here, he completed the other two volumes of The Gulag Archipelago.
Return to Russia
Prussian Nights, a long narrative poem about the Red Army's vengeful advance into East Prussia in 1945, was published in 1977. He was said to have composed the poem and committed it to memory 25 years before, during his years in prison.

But Solzhenitsyn also rejected liberalism, dismissing the notion of democracy introduced by Gorbachev and Yeltsin as a myth. He was equally scathing of Western liberalism.
He returned to Russia in 1994 and told the Russian parliament, the Duma, that post-communist Russians were not living in a democracy.
He denounced politicians as being corrupt, and appeared regularly on television to voice his disapproval of the country which had first reviled and then embraced him.
In 2000, his book, Two Hundred Years Together, again covered sensitive ground in exploring the position of Jews in Soviet society.
He denied some charges of anti-Semitism. Gradually, his own people no longer had quite the desire to listen so carefully to his criticisms.
But former President Vladimir Putin courted his approval towards the end of the author's life, personally visiting his home in 2007 to award him the State Prize of the Russian Federation for his humanitarian work.
In 2006, the first Russian film based on one of his novels - The First Circle (V Krugu Pervom) - was shown on Russian state television, four decades after it was published.
The 10-part TV film depicted the terror of Stalin's regime, describing the Soviet Union as a huge prison camp.
Also in 2006, Solzhenitsyn, then 87, castigated Nato, accusing it of trying to bring Russia under its control.
He accused the organisation of "preparing to completely encircle Russia and deprive if of its sovereignty".
By then, Alexander Solzhenitsyn had already secured his place in history as one of the greatest Russian writers of the 20th Century.


Mick Hall said...

I suppose I am one of those people you regard as being dingbat fantasist, yet I will ignore your silly insult directed at unrepentant communist as I feel it is important that you understand many leftist admired Solzhenitsyn greatly, and if you were a little less intolerant you would know that before he was even born, communists, socialists and anarchists were exposing the crimes of Stalin and paid for their opposition with their lives. Still I digress

His work was magnificent and reeked of Russia, indeed when he was exiled his writing lost something.

My own favorites are The Love Girl and the Innocent and of course The Gulag Archipelago.


Goat said...

Paul, I did not publish your comment to Bar on my blog because he is just a guest poster at the Barnyard. It is my site and respectfully request you change your blogroll listing to reflect that. I appreciate the linkage fully but it should be goats barnyard or the barnyard. Bar's blog is For Zion's Sake at

Paul said...

Mick Hall, thanks for posting but I refuse to accept that anyone who exhorts a political creed that killed untold millions in the twentieth century is anything other than a dingbat fantasist. Marxism failed utterly an along the way it murdered what 100 million? Who knows how many Pol Pot, Stalin and Mao slaughtered under it's banner? That said I share your sadness at the passing of the great Solzhenitsyn.

Goat, roger that I have amended my blog roll thanks for your reply.

Mick Hall said...


I am not hear to defend marxism, I will leave that to the Marxists, but if you use your argument one could claim because Hitler and his regime were pro capitalism and gained most of its funding in the early days from Germanys major capitalists, then all capitalists are dingbats as the outcome of Hiterite Germany was 50 million dead, is that what you think.

Paul said...

Mick, thanks for replying. I will be blunt, reality check they were national SOCIALISTS

Mick Hall said...


Sorry but history does not agree with you, anyone within the Nazi Party who was gullible to believe the national socialism crap were removed from power in the night of the long knives or sidelined soon after.

People can call themselves what they like but it does not make it so, one only has to study the German economy 1933-45 to understand it was run along capitalist lines, indeed fascism is the system that capitalists use to maintain power when all else fails.

Goat said...

Thanks Paul and I will add you to my blogroll as well. I have not read any of Solthenitsyn's works but I have read his friend and fellow dissident Natan Sharansky's "The Case For Democracy". It was one of the most powerful books I have ever read. Yes we lost another giant in the fight for freedom and liberty with his passing but perhaps his death will inspire more to read his books.

Paul said...

Mick, thanks for replying. Firstly however it is rather disingenuous to say 'indeed fascism is the system that capitalists use to maintain power when all else fails.' Fascism flourished in far fewer places than capitalism. Besides thinking along the same vein one could say that Stalinism is the system Socialists use to maintain their hold on power. Your views on Nazi Germany are interesting but ignore key facts. Facts as have been recorded by Shirer in his 'The rise and fall of the third Reich' and to a lesser extent Gitta Sereny's work on Albert Speer. Namely Nazi Germany was not capitalist; it had a planned economy and state nationalisation of industry under the control of said Speer. But supposing we do accept Nazi Germany as capitalist. That kind of ignores the central role played by the worlds most powerful capitalist country in bringing about Nazi Germany's downfall; the USA. Without American industry Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan could not have been defeated.

One thing we do agree on is anyone supporting Nazi ideology is a dingbat. It is a regrettable fact however that still in the 21st century certain individuals remain infatuated with communism. Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot and numerous others lauded over a system that failed utterly and along the way murdered far more that the Nazis, yet impressionable individuals still seem attracted to it.

Mick Hall said...


I do not feel we differ that much as far as Nazism or indeed Lenin, Pol Pot, Stalin and Mao type communism is concerned and as you are on the political right and I on the left, that is quiet an agreement.

Never the less the capitalist mode of production is also based on private ownership, and whilst Nazi Germany had a planed economy, ownership remained in private hands. If anything the Hitlerite economy was far less centralized than for example than the of UK, for example women were not conscripted into industry in Germany until late into the war and then only half heartedly.

Finally even though we both deplore the USSR's stalinism, it is doubtful if the war in Europe would have been victorious by 1945 without the valiant solders of the Red Army.

best regards

Paul said...

Mick, indeed we agree to disagree. However I would go further than you do with regards to the Soviet Army. I am in no doubt whatsoever that ww2 (certainly the German part) could not have been won without the part played by the USSR. It is a shame that many Russian troops talked of how they wished for change after the war and yet were rewarded with more Stalinism. It is also deeply tragic that the heroic sacrifice of so many was marred by the Soviet Army's excesses against the German population in 1945, vengeance is not justice.

Gabriel said...

I suppose that I am the 'dingbat fantasist' referred to...Apart from the inane personal antipathy of the comment which says more about the author than the target, I have to say that your assumption about my attitude to Solzhenitsyn is wrong. I regret his passing and believe he contributed greatly to life in the USSR when his exposé of the life of the Gulag prisoners 'One day in the life of Ivan Denisovitch' was published in the USSR. No one seeks to defend the tragic deaths committed at the height of Stalinism...however there has to be a question of how much that atmosphere of paranoia was generated by the antipathy of the west to socialism from the start, beginning with the invasion of the USSR in 1917 by 17 western nations.I think that if one condemns the ideas of communism by the failings of its implementation, then we would have to condemn all christians as advocates of the inquisition, or all muslims as supporters of Al Qaeda. One has also I feel to consider, just how many innocent lives were lost as a direct result of capitalisms development, imperialism, and imperialist that token no one but a 'dingbat fantasist' could support the existence of free market capitalism...Its just too simplistic a slur, and I am rather embarrassed for you, that you can hold such a simplistic view of the relationship between an ideal and its actual implementation, which sadly, due to human erring involves a huge gap.

Tales from the Birch Wood. said...

Great Blog.

Well done!

Paul said...

Gabriel, I've only just noticed your comment so am late in responding. It seems the best you can offer is paraphrase you, 'Capitalism is just as bad'. Well I'm afraid it aint because capitalism unlike Marxism survives and flourishes due to the human spirit. Is capitalism without problems? of course not but it does give the individual choice as well as the opportunity to better themselves. Countries like India and China are proof of how that can happen. Oh and as to poverty etc well good job that never existed in the Soviet Union then!

I'm afraid however much I enjoy debating with you that your comment about how Stalin's excesses were in some way due to the west inducing his paranoia is plain silly. Marxism needs a tyrant to function and so the likes of Mao, Stalin and Pol Pot were natural exponents of such a system. First we see a violent revolution that literally exterminates those it deems 'bourgeois' then of course the imperative is on suppressing 'counter revolutionaries' we know where that leads history shows us.

Finally as to the 'invasion' in 1917 being aimed at curtailing the reds? I've heard this drivel before from washed out leftie academics usually over their fourth lunchtime pint. The facts are that Trotsky asked the west to garrison Murmansk so it did not fall to the Kaiser's Germany. That was the issue in 1917/18 fighting a war of survival against Germany not suppressing poor people in Russia.