Perspectives: Why everyone should be able to spell ‘Solzhenitsyn’

Alexander Solzhenitsyn speaks in Langenbroich, West Germany, Feb. 14, 1974 | Photo by Bert/Anefo Verhoeff via Wikimedia Commons, St. George News

OPINION — I was recently surprised to learn that last week, Alexander Solzhenitsyn would have turned 100. The late Russian author and dissident was a persuasive and courageous voice against totalitarianism.

The wisdom he brought to his writing remains relevant and insightful enough that he should be a household name. The clarity of Solzhenitsyn’s thinking is a product of a person who has given serious contemplation to what he’s saying.

He was born just two months after the Bolshevik Revolution and raised in a Russian Orthodox household during a time when religion was strictly forbidden and discouraged. This discreet Christian upbringing provided the firm foundation for Solzhenitsyn’s worldview.

For making some unflattering remarks about Josef Stalin in a letter to a fellow army officer, Solzhenitsyn was arrested and sentenced to 8 years in the gulag.

Falsely accused of “anti-Soviet activities,” he could have grown bitter or jaded from the abuse and deprivation he experienced daily. Instead, he focused on the lessons he was learning:

Bless you prison, bless you for being in my life. For there, lying upon the rotting prison straw, I came to realize that the object of life is not prosperity as we are made to believe, but the maturity of the human soul.

Not exactly the words of a person intent on seeing himself as a victim, right? Nor would someone seeking to absolve himself from his commitment to truth suggest:

You can resolve to live your life with integrity. Let your credo be this: Let the lie come into the world, let it even triumph. But not through me.

His understanding of human nature and how it contributed to the rise of the regime that sought to subjugate him was the product of firsthand experience on the receiving end of tyranny. His suffering at their hands gave him an undeniable moral high ground.

He recognized the mistakes that he and his fellow citizens had made in believing that by going along with their leaders’ lies, they would escape the attendant oppression. He wrote of how he and others “burned in the camps” with the knowledge that they should have resisted when they had the chance.

They simply didn’t realize that by the time the mass arrests came, they had nothing to lose by refusing to go along. Their loss of freedom was the product of a gradual acceptance of surrendering more and more self-determination to their authorities. He lamented:

If…if…We didn’t love freedom enough. And even more – we had no awareness of the real situation…. We purely and simply deserved everything that happened afterward.

Even so, Solzhenitsyn was willing to speak the truth even when it was unpopular and risky to do so. He spoke as a friend and he spoke without anger but the truth was not always welcomed.

One of his finest gems was this one:

“To stand up for truth is nothing. For truth, you must sit in jail.”

His truthful and unflinching writings about the years he spent in his nation’s prison labor camp system were met with extreme disapproval by the Soviet authorities. In 1974, he was arrested for treason and exiled from his native land and came to America.

Once in the West, Solzhenitsyn outraged many of the intellectuals and politicians who had initially welcomed him with open arms by warning them of similar ethical mistakes they were making.

As writer Charley Reese noted:

His criticisms of our Western culture were valid. He never criticized the American people, but aimed at the elite who, at that time, were compromising with tyrants all over the place and spouting a materialistic philosophy.

His writing almost certainly hastened the collapse of the Soviet Union and decisively exposed his former leaders’ deceptions before the world. You’d think that this would have left a bad taste in the mouth of current Russian leaders.

Instead, Solzhenitsyn is rightly being celebrated as a hero in his fatherland and held up an example of one of the finest Russians to have ever lived.

Vladimir Putin was among the dignitaries present in Moscow last week speaking at the unveiling of a statue of Solzhenitsyn and celebrating his centenary. The base of the statue bears some of his best and undeniably Christian quotes.

Again, the late Charley Reese explains:

The key to understanding Solzhenitsyn is that he was a devout Christian. That never got much play in the American press, but he never played the part of a professional Christian. Nevertheless, his Christian beliefs were deep and are at the root of his thinking.

How odd is it that Putin, who is alleged to be actively taking over the world, is encouraging young people in Russia to read and emulate the patriotic example of Solzhenitsyn?

Read his writings for yourself and you’ll start to realize why this great man’s name should be more broadly recognized and shared.

Bryan Hyde is an opinion columnist specializing in current events and liberty viewed through what he calls the lens of common sense. The opinions stated in this article are his own and may not be representative of St. George News.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @youcancallmebry

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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  • bikeandfish December 17, 2018 at 9:33 pm

    What is your point about Putin at the end? Do you actually believe Putin is sincerely honoring someone who supports the values you believe Solzhenitsyn stood for? Its getting to the point where it seems like a counter culture is developing that supports Putin. That is the gist I’m picking up here. If that is the case than I find it sadly ironic. Putin is not a friend to liberal and republican ideals that founded this country. He is not a leader that respects individual liberty in any real fashion unless it supports his authoritarian regime.

  • commonsense December 18, 2018 at 5:16 am

    As one studies the life of Solzhenitsyn, it appears the current FBI and Deep State are much like the KGB of his day, a power unregulated by laws and exclusively about control. Imagine a special counsel (without the consent of the electorate) deciding if a sitting president, duly elected by the people, should be allowed to govern? Where is the precedent?

    • bikeandfish December 18, 2018 at 6:31 am

      You do realize the special counsel can’t actually indict and prosecute a sitting president, correct? For anything to happen to Trump (as it did with Clinton) the House would have to start impeachment proceedings. If they recommend impeachment than the Senate has to do the same.

      Such a process is consistent with concerns about democratic representation you presented.

  • KR567 December 18, 2018 at 8:12 am

    LOL …..what a load of ……. !

  • Utahn December 18, 2018 at 10:25 am

    Everyone should read his books. Read “The Gulag Archipelago”, if you want to see how political dissidents can be treated. It is amazing he survived… Don’t think it can happen here?

    This was one of my favorite quotes:
    “What would things been like [in Russia] if during periods of mass arrests people had not simply sat there, paling with terror at every bang on the downstairs door and at every step on the staircase, but understood they had nothing to lose and had boldly set up in the downstairs hall an ambush of half a dozen people?” ~ Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

    • Comment December 18, 2018 at 4:48 pm

      It’s a quaint little quote, but your average person doesn’t have the psychological makeup to become a revolutionary. People are generally sheep. Your average sheep is scared to death of stepping out of line. And no one wants to put their own life at risk.
      “Glad it was the neighbor and not me” is going to be the average person’s resolve. And there’s probably a reason so many rulers have prominent traits of narcissism and psychopathy.

    • Kilroywashere December 18, 2018 at 5:31 pm

      UTAHN, a brilliant insightful comment of relevant information. May I add for all the political diatribe making Putin the spotlight, maybe the fact the Putin 2019 Calender is #1 in Japan will shed some light. On that note Frontline did a great piece on Putin. 3 years ago, Putins Way.

  • commonsense December 18, 2018 at 4:09 pm

    If impeachment is indicated the House should initiate the action. Appointing a special counsel on the basis of a non factual document is way outside the Constitution. The Deep State has so permeated the bureaucracy that draining the swamp in Wash DC is going to be monumental.
    Doesn’t this feel like the USSR just before the fall? Unbridled power in the hands of appointed bureaucrats opposing the will of the people and truth being trampled under the boots of the KGB.

    • Comment December 18, 2018 at 4:52 pm

      Guess what, your donald is part of this “deep state”. He is as interconnected as any of the DC swamp creatures. Part of the scam is that he PRETENDS not to be. He’s got you fooled. The whole administration is a bunch of criminals.

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