Sunday, August 3, 2008

In memoriam: Aleksandr Solzhenistyn

If you've read One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich or The Gulag Archipelago, then you know who Aleksandr Solzhenistyn was. Along with the late Andrei Sakharov, he spoke out defiantly about the Soviet Union's system of dealing with dissidents. For a time, Solzhenistyn was stripped of his Soviet citizenship for his beliefs and he lived in exile in the States; it was only in 1990 that he was "rehabilitated" under Gorbachev's glasnost policies and permitted to return to his homeland, which he did in 1994. At home, he was one of the few allowed to open criticize what Russian "democracy" had evolved into, which is really the rule of the oligarchs.

To be fair, he was also rather a superpatriot, defending the Russian Orthodox Church's ability to stop evangelicals from entering the country and could also be accused of a certain amount of anti-Semitism. However, he was also absolutely right to condemn the West for its complacency in a changing world; that its demise could very well come through its arrogance and not because of a rise in Communism or terrorism.

Mr. Solzhenistyn died today outside of Moscow at the age of 89. He was the oldest Nobel laureate in the Literature category. The world of the printed word is quite empty without him.

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