SOLZHENITSYN AND HIS BATTLE FOR RUSSIA’S SOUL
Der Spiegel recently had an interview with Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn ( hat tip to M. Gemmill). At 88, Solzhenitsyn has lost neither his mental acuity nor his uncompromising vision of Russia that made him the most feared of dissidents by Soviet leaders, until his expulsion from the USSR in 1974, four years after being awarded the Nobel Prize. Some excerpts of Solzhenitsyn’s answers from the interview:
“The prize in 1990 was proposed not by Gorbachev, but by the Council of Ministers of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, then a part of the USSR. The prize was to be for “The Gulag Archipelago.” I declined the proposal, since I could not accept an award for a book written in the blood of millions.
…I have grown used to the fact that, throughout the world, public repentance is the most unacceptable option for the modern politician.
….Vladimir Putin — yes, he was an officer of the intelligence services, but he was not a KGB investigator, nor was he the head of a camp in the gulag. As for service in foreign intelligence, that is not a negative in any country — sometimes it even draws praise.
….Only an extraordinary person can turn opportunity into reality. Lenin and Trotsky were exceptionally nimble and vigorous politicians who managed in a short period of time to use the weakness of Kerensky’s government. But allow me to correct you: the “October Revolution” is a myth generated by the winners, the Bolsheviks, and swallowed whole by progressive circles in the West.
….However, when you say “there is nearly no opposition,” you probably mean the democratic parties of the 1990s. But if you take an unbiased look at the situation: there was a rapid decline of living standards in the 1990s, which affected three quarters of Russian families, and all under the “democratic banner.” Small wonder, then, that the population does not rally to this banner anymore. And now the leaders of these parties cannot even agree on how to share portfolios in an illusory shadow government.”
Solzhenitsyn has never been a voice of liberalism or even Russian nationalism in the traditional pan-Slavic, imperial and chauvinistic sense the term is usually meant. Rather he has propagated Russophilism, even to the extent of using archaic Russian words without modern foreign antecedents, when possible, in his writings. Solzhenitsyn’s emphasis on the unique cultural and spiritual traditions of old Russia is one that excludes other peoples – including those like Jews and Ukrainians- who have been deeply intertwined with or innately part of Russian history.
Part of Solzhenitsyn’s thunderous moral denunciation of the monstrosities of the Soviet system were because of the ruin of the old Russian patrimony under the profoundly alien doctrines of Communism, a Western import. I would not be surprised if Solzhenitsyn traced the origin of Russia’s sad history to Peter the Great as much as to Vladimir Lenin.