Solzhenitsyn and His Dual Legacy

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn 1918-2008

A titan of 20th century literature, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn entered the pantheon of the Russian greats last week, taking his place alongside Leo Tolstoy, Fyodor Dostoevsky, and Ivan Turgenev. His legacy is now being debated furiously since different people saw his worth in different ways. Americans tend to applaud his anti-communism and his exposure of Stalin’s prison camp system in The Gulag Archipelago while Russians today turn towards his denunciation of modernism and rabid consumerism that are hallmarks of Materialism.

Solzhenitsyn was an anomaly in his time since he was not only rejected in his homeland thanks to his uncovering of the brutality of the Gulag system, but also because he was rejected in his exile by his hosts whom he criticized for their rampant materialism.

John Laughland takes a look at the great man and this tug of war over his legacy in Solzhenitsyn and the Russian Question. Here’s an excerpt:

The death of Alexander Solzhenitsyn produced predictable reactions from Western commentators. Yes, they said, he was a moral giant for so bravely exposing the evils of the Soviet penitential system in The Gulag Archipelago; but he later compromised his moral stature by failing to like the West and by becoming a Russian nationalist.

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