He is a bad novelist and a fool. The combination usually makes for great popularity in the US.
– Gore Vidal (Views from a Window)
Alexander Solzhenitsyn was a charlatan and a buffoon of epic proportions. He coined and popularized the emotionally-charged propaganda term gulag in his bad work of fiction known as the “The Gulag Archipelago.” The book was promoted in the West and taken without question as a true and unbiased account of life in the Soviet penal system. In fact, it was translated by a man named Thomas P. Whitney who had a background in intelligence (what a shocker!). Mr. Whitney was an analyst with the OSS during the second world war. The OSS, or Office of Strategic Services, was the precursor to the CIA.
Solzhenitsyn supposedly gathered the stories of scores of prisoners in the Soviet labor camps spread throughout the country. By the way, the term gulag is nothing more than an acronym taken from “Main Camp Administration;” a shortened form of the full name of the penal system which was called “Main Administration of Corrective Labor Camps and Labor Settlements.” The sound of hard consonants must evoke some kind of emotional response that is decidedly negative. Gulag sure sounds a lot more menacing than “Main Camp Administration.”
Solzhenitsyn was picked up by state security while he was an officer in the Red Army during WWII, or the Great Patriotic War, as it is still known in Russia. His correspondence, primarily that between him and his close friend, Nikolai Vitkevich, was intercepted. In their letters they spoke of “Resolution No. 1” which was their plan for a “war after the war” in which they would right the so-called wrongs of Stalinism. They mocked Stalin as a “big shot” and as “the moustachioed one.” As the Soviet Union was under massive attack by the Wehrmacht and fighting for its very survival the Soviet leadership could not be expected to have a sense of humor about this sort of thing. Solzhenitsyn was arrested and charged with anti-Soviet propaganda and founding a hostile organization. The traitor could have faced the death penalty for his crimes, but instead received a sentence of 8 years in the labor camps.
The type of people who were prisoners in this “gulag archipelago” was truly shocking according to the narration from a documentary called, erroneously, Great Hearts of Courage, about Solzhenitsyn’s sorry life:
“Doctors, lawyers, teachers, priests, scientists, professional people of all kinds – anyone with the courage or indiscretion to speak the truth.” [In other words, bourgeois scum of all kinds.] (GHC)
After Solzhenitsyn lied in order to pass himself off as a nuclear scientist, he was moved to a much cozier prison for scientists to work on the nuclear project. While here, Solzhenitsyn began to transform. In his own words:
“I began to move ever so slowly toward a position of an idealist [sic], supporting the primacy of the spiritual over the material and, secondly, patriotic and religious. In other words, I began to return slowly and gradually to all my former childhood views.” (GHC)
Solzhenitsyn was not the first, nor will he be the last, person to find religion in prison. In other words, he began to return to his previous reactionary and conservative upbringing. He returned to his “childhood views.” Also while in prison Solzhenitsyn reportedly “memorized hundreds and hundreds of pages of text” – the stories of his fellow prisoners; their tales of suffering. One might conjecture whether these stories were truly memorized or invented.
Solzhenitsyn goes further in his nonsense:
“Freedom is not to grab and take as much as possible from neighbors or from somebody else. Feelings have been given us for freedom, but God gave us freedom of choice [sic]. Before my exile I wrote that freedom consists of being able to act and to think independently of external pressures and external enemies. That is freedom. In the Gospel it says: ‘Understand truth and truth will make you free.’ This is fascinating.” (GHC)
For Solzhenitsyn, freedom came from God. Is it any wonder that he was quickly handed the Nobel Prize by the West and that they broadcast, through Radio Free Europe (a CIA proprietary) excerpts of his crappy book, “The Gulag Archipelago”, as well as working overtime to smuggle copies of the same into the USSR and eastern Europe? Solzhenitsyn defected to the West and settled in Vermont for a time. He was a staunch supporter of U.S. imperialism, urging at one point for the U.S. to return to Vietnam and finish the job on the commies there. In time, Solzhenitsyn began to pine away for the glory days of the Tsar and his anti-Semitism became increasingly apparent to the point where even his previous imperialist backers had to abandon him. The only people who seem to invoke his name these days are nutbags from the far right like Alex Jones.
Solzhenitsyn was an anti-communist, reactionary buffoon and the world is well rid of him.
- Wikipedia: Alexander Solzhenitsyn
- Wikipedia: Gulag
- Thomas, D.M., Alexander Solzhenitsyn: A Century in His Life, St. Martin’s Press: New York, 1998.
- (GHC) Great Hearts of Courage: Alexander Solzhenitsyn (documentary), New Dimension Media, 2009
- Fox, Margalit, Thomas P. Whitney, Solzhenitsyn Translator, Dies at 90, New York Times, December 12, 2007.