Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn (Александр Исаевич Солженицын), born December 11, 1918 in Kislovodsk, Russia, is a novelist, dramatist and historian. He was responsible for thrusting awareness of the Soviet forced labor system on the non-Soviet world.

He was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature for 1970 and was exiled from the Soviet Union in 1974.

Solzhenitsyn fought in the Red Army during World War II. He became a captain before he was arrested in 1945 for criticizing Joseph Stalin in letters to his brother in law. He was imprisoned for eight years, from 1945 to 1952, using the draconian Article 58 law. He spent time in a Sharashka or a white-collar prison slave-labor compound. He wrote about this in The First Circle.

He also spent time at hard manual-labor camps, or the Gulag system. He wrote about this in A day in the life of Ivan Denisovich and The Gulag Archipelago.

The novel about Ivan Denisovich brought the Soviet system of forced labor to the attention of the West, but it was his monumental history of the massive Soviet concentration camps for both criminal and political prisoners that made it impossible for either the West or the Soviet Union to ignore the realities of the Communist regime. No longer was this an issue for anti-communists only; all Western democracies had to confront it.

In 1974, Solzhenitsyn was exiled, after the KGB had found the manuscript for the first part of "The Gulag Archipelago". He first settled in Zürich, Switzerland, and later in Vermont, USA. In 1990 his Soviet citizenship was restored, and in 1994 he returned to Russia.

Despite an enthusiastic welcome followed by respect for his privacy, he had never been comfortable outside his homeland. However radical he might have been in the USSR, outside that context he appeared to some to be a reactionary, particularly in his Russian nationalism and his religious orthodoxy. At any rate, he was hardly the "Cold War prize" some had thought him.

His ex-wife Nastasya Resehtovskaya, wrote a book about her life and their relationship. In this book she bitterly talks of some of his less charming characteristics. She says he wanted to have sexual affairs with other women because he felt it would give him the inspiration to write another book.

Published works:

  • One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (1962)
  • The First Circle (1968)
  • The Cancer Ward (1968)
  • August 1914 (1971). The beginning of a history of the birth of the USSR in an historical novel. The novel centers on the disastrous loss in the Battle of Tannenberg (1914) in August, 1914. Other works, similarly titled, follow the story.
  • The Gulag Archipelago (three volumes) (1973-78), not a memoir, but a history of the entire process of developing and administering a police state in the Soviet Union.
  • The Oak and the Calf (1975)
  • The Mortal Danger: Misconceptions about Soviet Russia and the Threat to America (1980)
  • October 1916 (1983)
  • Three Plays (1986)
  • Rebuilding Russia (1990)
  • March 1917
  • April 1917
  • The Russian Question (1995)
  • Invisible Allies (1997)

Further reading

  • Edited and with an introduction by Michael Scammell, translated under the supervision of Catherine A. Fitzpatrick, The Solzhenitsyn Files: Secret Soviet Documents Reveal One Man's Fight Against the Monolith, edition q, 1995, hardcover, ISBN 1-883695-06-6

External Links