Alexander Solzhenitsyn, RIP


Russian author Alexander Solzhenitsyn died at his Moscow home yesterday, at the age of 89. From a Reuters account:

Long banned from publication, Solzhenitsyn owed his initial fame to Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, who allowed the publication in 1962 of his "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich", which described the horrifying routine of labor camp life.

He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1970 for his work, including "Gulag Archipelago", a chronicle of his own and thousands of other prison camp experiences.

Four years later, he was stripped of his citizenship and put on a plane to West Germany for refusing to keep silent about his country's past. He became an icon of resistance to the totalitarian system from his American home in Vermont.

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Solzhenitsyn eventually moved back to Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union. He became a controversial character for various reasons, not the least of which were charges of anti-Semitism. After taking the measure of Solzhenitsyn's diatribes against Western-style democracy and materialism and his attitudes toward Russian Jews, reason contributor Cathy Young concluded in 2004:

While the writer's role in Soviet-era history undoubtedly deserves respect, that does not require blindness to his flaws.

Solzhenitsyn's anti-communism, it is increasingly clear, was never a defense of individual freedom. It was a defense of a different kind of collectivism: ethnic, religious, and traditionalist. This is far from the only time that such a mind-set—anti-secular, anti-modern, anti-individualist—has been linked to prejudice against those who don't fit into the collective.

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