Solzhenitsyn's Russia

May 29, 1994

In his 18 years as a reclusive writer in Cavendish, Vt., Alexander Solzhenitsyn created an ideal Russia. It existed in his mind, within the walls of his household and in the forests of birch trees, which had the same sun and blue sky that on good days can be seen in Russia.

He saw few visitors besides his family, had virtually no contact with the outside world. Instead, he applied the grueling self-discipline he adopted during his years in Stalin's gulags.

He got up at 6 every morning and spent the rest of the day writing, completing "The Red Wheel," his four-volume history of events leading to the 1917 Russian Revolution. No one knows whether that exhaustive and long-winded history will ever be published in full. Few people in the West are that interested in the subject.

As for Russians, they no longer have endless time to read about past history that has little relevance to matters at hand. Like millions of Westerners, they are hustling to make a living.

We wish Mr. Solzhenitsyn well as he returns to his native Russia. But we fear he is in for a tremendous disappointment.

Crime and corruption are rampant, Western pop music, pulp literature and pornography prevalent. He will have a tough time trying to reconcile his idealized view of Russia with the rudeness and greed he will encounter or with the country's disregard for thoughtful writing and high culture.

As a painstaking chronicler of the gulags, Mr. Solzhenitsyn made his contribution not only to history but to a public realization at home and abroad of the true nature of communism. The country that oppressed and exiled him no longer exists, however. It was replaced by another that is still taking its first steps on a long road to economic prosperity, cultural fulfillment and rule of law.

Anticipating the collapse of communism, Mr. Solzhenitsyn wrote 1991 that "we must take care not to be crushed beneath its rubble instead of gaining liberty." As he moves to Moscow, he may realize that life in Vermont offered more inner peace. Russia may be eternal, but it, too, changes.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.