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Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn in 1974

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn is a Russian author, born 1918, died 2008. Spent quite a while in The Gulag. Won a Nobel Prize in 1970, although he didn't collect it until 1974.

Would memorise a lot of his works in case the drafts were seized by the KGB. The seizure of The Gulag Archipelago (and suicide of the person who had it in her possession as a result of her arrest) forced him into early publication.

His career contains several striking comparisons to that of Fyodor Dostoevsky, particularly his embrace of Christianity after imprisonment in Siberia. He's a highly controversial figure among Russian patriots: many of them denounce him as one of the architects of The Great Politics Mess-Up and a "traitor and liar" (helped by the fact that his name is based on the word stem "to lie"), but some sympathize with his conservative political views, though in the West criticism usually focuses on his borderline or actual anti-Semitic sentiments, and his critique of "democracy" (which he claimed led to the rise of the Russian oligarchs) and his romanticized and simplistic view of Russia's past.

His most famous works are:

  • One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich- the first major account in the USSR of Stalinist repression.
  • The First Circle
  • The Gulag Archipelago- Major (and pretty accurate) account of the Soviet gulag system. This one got him kicked out of the Soviet Union. The original Russian title is a rhyme, Arkhipelag GULag. Its impact on global politics was huge- the previously accepted view that Stalin was an aberration from Lenin's vision became seriously questionable and effectively destroyed those parties on the left who still supported Marxism-Leninism.
  • The Cancer Ward - Life in a Cancer Ward in Soviet Russia Uzbekistan.