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Lest We Forget A Cold War Hero: Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

24 December 2010 @ 12:18

As I’m preparing to shutdown my original site, I’ve been reading through some of the writings I published there from April of 2008 through December 2009.  While some are rather embarrassing because of the style [or lack, thereof] or due to my poor communications skills at the time, several are worthy, I think, of re-airing here. 

When we speak of the persons who helped win The Cold War, we usually only mention three names: Ronald Reagan, Pope John Paul The Great, and Margaret Thatcher.  But there is a fourth who must be included: Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.  Here is my essay on the man upon learning of his death…

Two people helped me become a solid, unrelenting anti-communist and, eventually, an anti-Leftist: Ronald Reagan and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. The former through his speeches, writings, and public comments; the latter through his writings, speeches, and interviews. I first became aware of him through news reports of his ongoing struggle against the Soviet authorities. In the days before, during, and after he was exiled from his beloved Russia, I was riveted by the news accounts of his plight.

Solzhenitsyn also helped me become a better human being [a still ongoing and slow process]. The strength he found throughout his many and terrible adversities at the hands of the Bolsheviks has and continues to inspire me in my worst moments.

In the 1970’s, I was a teenager and aspiring writer. His works of fiction nourished me and encouraged me. The beauty of his words, most especially his prose poems and novel Cancer Ward, inspired me. This last fact actually led me to abandon my first attempt at a novel after it’s first draft: as I read what I had written, I realized that it was nothing but a poor imitation of the his work; my voice was not my own but, rather, his — so influenced had I been by the majesty of his words. So influenced was I that I used a quote from him as my quote in my high school yearbook: “…people also have the right not to know…. The right not to have their divine souls stuffed with gossip, nonsense, vain talk.”

You may notice in various writings on this site that when I refer to the communist regime in Russia, I use the term, not widely in vogue, “Bolshevik”. It is because of Solzhenitsyn that I do so. Too many in the West ascribed the failures and horrors of the regime to individual persons, most especially Stalin. “If only Russia had true communism!” they would say, “Then you would see that it works!”. Solzhenitsyn taught me that the horrors were begun by Lenin and Trotsky; they opened the first gulags. All of Russia’s rulers from 1917 through 1990 were cut from the same cloth and committed atrocities using various methods be they gulags, show trials, firing squads, torture, exile, and consignment to mental institutions [We will never forget!].

While I have never wavered in my belief that Western Civilization is superior to all others, he helped me see that it was not perfect and opened my eyes to some of its defects. Unlike those on the Left who practice a self-hate of the culture that allows them to exist, Solzhenitsyn never saw the West as evil. His warnings were delivered, as he put it, “not from an adversary but from a friend”. His last words in his speech at Harvard in 1978 inspired me during some of the darkest days of The Cold War:

If the world has not come to its end, it has approached a major turn in history, equal in importance to the turn from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance. It will exact from us a spiritual upsurge, we shall have to rise to a new height of vision, to a new level of life where our physical nature will not be cursed as in the Middle Ages, but, even more importantly, our spiritual being will not be trampled upon as in the Modern era.

This ascension will be similar to climbing onto the next anthropologic stage. No one on earth has any other way left but — upward.

There is only one way left and it is upward. Recall that this was the age of the sad and pathetic presidency of Jimmy Carter and of bold Soviet aggression all across the world; a time when the United States showed a glass jaw to that world. Solzhenitsyn’s message was one of hope. He knew that those peoples of the Christianity-based nations were spiritually superior to the soulless drones of the Left. He knew that, if we mustered the will, we could defeat the evil confronting us. Reagan was similarly inspiring. Solzhenitsyn’s tribute to him upon the former President’s death displayed their connection:

In July 1975, I concluded my remarks in the reception room of the U.S. Senate with these words: “Very soon, all too soon, your government will need not just extraordinary men – but men of greatness. Find them in your souls. Find them in your hearts. Find them within the breadth and depth of your homeland.” Five years later, I was overjoyed when just such a man came to the White House.

In an age of rampart relativism, Solzhenitsyn, Reagan, and John Paul The Great helped me to understand that there was good and evil in the world. This core belief of his [‘Remember, there is such a thing as good and evil’] was one of the main reasons the soft Left turned against him. When they discovered that this particular dissident was not like the others who were squishy liberal at best, in the mold of the Mensheviks at worst, they turned on him, denouncing him as an out-of-touch reactionary. I remember some Leftists even accused him being semi-deranged and delusional as a result of his imprisonment. Solzhenitsyn committed the sin, in their eyes, of believing that there are absolute truths. He had seen the evidence first-hand.

For many, the lasting images of Solzhenitsyn are: the serious Russian and the sad man in the uniform of the gulag. But please do not forget the included here: the man, who despite all of the terrible afflictions and calumnies he has suffered, is a soul at peace, smiling and laughing. Solzhenitsyn was infused with the joy of life and of The Living God.

Rest in peace, Aleksandr Isayevich. Know that when you reach the eternal you shall be greeted with these words: Well done, good and faithful servant, well done.

[Originally published in August of 2008]

  1. 24 December 2010 @ 22:29 22:29

    “But please do not forget the included here: the man, who despite all of the terrible afflictions and calumnies he has suffered, is a soul at peace, smiling and laughing. Solzhenitsyn was infused with the joy of life and of The Living God.”

    He would love being remembered in this way.

    His 1975 advice to the US Senate: unfortunately, we have been looking for that man of greatness, with greatness in his soul, for too long a time now. If there’s another Reagan on our radar, he’s ducking it.

    Sending you and yours Christmas blessings, Bob and many merry merries.

  2. bobbelvedere permalink*
    30 December 2010 @ 16:54 16:54

    Dame Maggie: Thank you for the very kind words. Somewhere out there are some folks with great potential to be great American Heroes. They will, I think, arise in the coming months and years.

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