Tag: Solzhenitsyn

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We continue our small reading group of Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago, vol. 1, to help us understand what is happening today. You can read the original post: The Gulag Archipelago, V. 1: Ch. 1&2. For the next two weeks (Sept. 16-30), we continue with Chapter 5, “First Cell, First Love,” and Chapter 6, “That Spring.” […]

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We continue our small reading group of Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago, vol. 1, to help us understand what is happening today. You can read the original post: The Gulag Archipelago, V. 1: Ch. 1&2. For the next two weeks, we continue with Chapter 3, “The Interrogation,” and Chapter 4, “The Bluecaps.” In “The Interrogation,” the […]

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This is a members-only post on Ricochet's Member Feed. Want to read it? Join Ricochet’s community of conservatives and be part of the conversation. Join Ricochet for Free.

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I was thinking of starting a Gulag Group to read and comment on all 7 Parts in three volumes of Alexandr Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago over the next nine months, but the functionality in posts is much better. Solzhenitsyn is a magnificent literary writer, a Christian and ironist whose works are hard to read but […]

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This week on “The Learning Curve,” Cara and Gerard talk with Ignat Solzhenitsyn, a pianist, conductor laureate of the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia, principal guest conductor of the Moscow Symphony Orchestra, and son of the Nobel Prize-winning Russian writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. They discuss his father’s legacy, his courageous work to debunk the Soviet Union’s utopian myths, and key lessons American educators and students should draw from his life, writings, and battle with Soviet communism. They also explore his warning to Western democracies in his historic “A World Split Apart” Harvard Commencement speech, about their own crippling “short-sightedness,” “loss of will,” and crisis of spirit. Ignat describes his family’s 20-year exile in rural Vermont, recounted in his father’s newly released memoir, Between Two Millstones, Book 2, in which Solzhenitsyn expounds on the vital importance of local self-government, the rule of law, liberty, and what he called “self-limitation.” Ignat describes the education he and his brothers received at home, his own impression of the strengths and weaknesses of American education, and what inspired him to become a classical musician and conductor. He concludes with a reading from one of his father’s works.

Related: 2018 op-ed by Jamie Gass: “As we mark 100th anniversary of Solzhenitsyn’s birth, we appreciate importance of historical literacy

‘Men Have Forgotten God; That’s Why All This Happened’

 

“Over half a century ago, while I was still a child, I recall hearing a number of older people offer the following explanation for the great disasters that had befallen Russia: ‘Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.’” – Alexander Solzhenitsyn, May, 1983

I cannot help thinking that this is also the lesson to be learned both from COVID-19 and the riots that have visited American cities.

If you number yourself among those who believe in God, then you humble yourself with the knowledge that nothing happens by chance and that world events are the result of heavenly decrees – which may be brought on by human activity or the lack thereof.

Quote of the Day: Courage

 

“A decline in courage may be the most striking feature, which an outside observer notices in the West in our days. The Western world has lost its civil courage, both as a whole and separately, in each country, each government, each political party, and, of course, in the United Nations. Such a decline in courage is particularly noticeable among the ruling groups and the intellectual elite, causing an impression of loss of courage by the entire society. Of course, there are many courageous individuals, but they have no determining influence on public life.” – Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

How much of our government today is marked by a lack of courage? We see it most clearly in the response to the COVID-19 epidemic. The states, counties, and cities whose leaders are most frightened are the ones maintaining the lockdown longest. Especially the politicians who fear the electorate and mistrust the common sense of the average person.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn at 100

 

Arrested three months before the defeat of Hitler’s Germany, his first reaction was like that of the millions he would later write about: “Me? What for?” A decorated captain of an artillery battery that had fought its way deep into East Prussia, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was at the time a committed Marxist-Leninist. He even fantasized he was being whisked to a meeting with Stalin. In fact, military censors had read his letter exchanges with a boyhood friend, also in the army, in which they criticized Stalin (“the mustachioed one”) for having deviated from the path laid down by Lenin.

It was more than enough to earn Solzhenitsyn a sentence of eight years imprisonment in the labor camps, to be followed by “perpetual exile.” He served all eight years in various camps, plus three years exiled to distant Kazakhstan, where he worked as a teacher of high school mathematics before his sentence was annulled in 1956 in the wake of Khrushchev’s “de-Stalinization.”

Born 100 years ago today, Solzhenitsyn was educated in the sciences, but his lifelong love was literature and writing. In the camps, where writing was prohibited, Solzhenitsyn used matchsticks and rosary beads as mnemonic devices to preserve 12,000 lines of his verse that he would later publish. What brought him to his country’s and the world’s attention, however, was the publication in 1962 of his One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, a fictional but semi-autobiographical account of a day in the life of a Soviet political prisoner (zek) in Stalin’s time.

ACF Middlebrow #12: Comedy & Communism

 

The new Middlebrow podcast deals with comedy and communism, spurred by the recent movie The Death of Stalin, which Flagg Taylor (@FlaggTaylor) and I both wanted to succeed. Unfortunately, it is a failure. More on this on the podcast, as well as some talk about Milan Kundera, Ilf and Petrov, Solzhenitsyn and Leo Strauss, Vaclav Havel and Vaclav Benda, an English-translation book of whose essays Flagg has just edited, The Long Night of The Watchman. Flagg is also the co-editor, with our friend Carl Scott, of Totalitarianism on Screen, about the great movie The Lives of Others (won the Oscar for Best Foreign Picture in 2006), which dealt with the secret police in Communist East Germany, and which we discussed on the podcast last year. So now we match our conversation on tragedy and communism with one on comedy. Listen, share, and give us a rating/review!

On Finishing The Gulag Archipelago

 

solzhenitsyn 1I’ve been threatening to write a longish post on Alexander Solzhenitsyn (I’ve been reading books by him and about him for a year).  And I still plan to do so.

But I could not help but share a couple of brief thoughts now. Last night, I finished Volume 3 of The Gulag Archipelago. It has been, at the same time, one of the most horrifying and edifying experiences of my life.

Horrifying in its seemingly endless recounting of venality, starvation, slave labor, cruelty, and death. (Estimates are dodgy, but it’s quite clear that between 5 million and 10 million men and women died in the Soviet slave labor camps: the Gulag Archipelago.)