The brutal Soviet *dictatorship emerged from the chaos following World War I to dominate nearly half the world for most of the 20th century (1917-1991). During this period western journalists and governing officials served as *shills and apologists for the immoral actions of the *Kremlin. The inhumanity of this system of *oppression and imprisonment was exposed through a series of books smuggled out by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, one of its victims. Solzhenitsyn had been imprisoned for a critical statement against *Stalin in a letter and endured the tortures of the *Gulug until expelled in 1974. The fact that he won the *Nobel Prize for literature in 1970 made him a political “hot potato”, too embarrassing for the Soviets to hold on to. During his 20 year residence in the United States, Solzhenitsyn rebuked and exposed the *West for its fundamental *kinship with Soviet tyranny, united in their rejection of biblical *Christianity.
Who was Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn? (1918 -present) Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was a Russian dissident and author, whose works exposed the terror and brutality of Soviet tyranny during most of the twentieth century.
Historical context. The Russian Revolution was birthed in 1917 out of the turmoil and confusion attending the end of World War I. The Bolsheviks under Trotsky, Stalin and Lenin took over a revolution in progress and transformed it into the most brutal dictatorship the world had yet seen. Lenin, as a student of the French Revolution, had observed that the reason for its failure was the lack of severity and thoroughness of its instigators. Lenin was not about to repeat that mistake. “If you are going to make an omelet, you’ve got to crack a few eggs,” was how Stalin put it. Their bloody legacy left a crimson stain on a shroud of death and torture that covered nearly three-quarters of the twentieth century.
According to historian Fr. Flexander Schmemann, Soviet brutality may be traced to the influence of the Mongol invasions of 1237-40. “The Russian character was completely coarsened and poisoned by ‘Tartarism’”, which he goes on to describe as “lack of principle and a repulsive combination of prostration before the strong with oppression of everything weak.” (1)
Summary of Solzhenitsyn’s teaching. Solzhenitsyn exposed the crushing tyranny of the Soviet Politburo in its ruthless oppression of the Russian people. As a young Army Captain, he was sentenced to ten years in the Gulag for a derogatory remark about Stalin in a private letter. After his release, he estimated that 66 million people died in the Archipelago and in the Stalinist purges, but noted ruefully that God alone knows the true figure. Hitler’s concentration camps paled in comparison, but Hitler alone bears the stigma of evil incarnate in the Western psyche. By contrast, the Soviet masters were lifted up to the world as the paragon of enlightened socialism.
Implications for subsequent history. As the works of Solzhenitsyn, trickled out of the Soviet Union they begin to have an impact on public opinion in the United States and Europe. Intellectuals in France especially, were turned against Marxism. In excruciating detail his histories and novels exposed the evil of the Soviet regime and the hypocrisy of the West in condoning it. For example, Solzhenitsyn recounted the visit of Eleanor Roosevelt, a Western icon and media darling, to his prison camp and her subsequent portrayal of it as an enlightened institution for the correction of deviants. The “Gulag Archipelago” documents at great length the horrors of the Soviet prison chain, its “ships” and “ports”, and its slave caravans. The arrests, the interrogations, the torture, the murders – all are chronicled. One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich is a short novel that vicariously escorts the reader into the heart of the system in the person of one of its victims.
In 1970 Solzhenitzyn, while still in prison, was awarded the Nobel prize for literature for his expose of the prison system (Gulag Archipelago) and strong-arm tactics of the secret police. Like a fragment of indigestible food, the Russian Bear disgorged the dissident from its bowels in 1974, unable to cope with the geopolitical embarrassment. Solzhenityn was unceremoniously stripped of his Soviet citizenship and deported to West Germany.
During his 20-year sojourn in America, the Western media was ambivalent in its handling of Solzhenitsyn. Generally respectful of his notoriety, they were stunned by his stinging indictment of Western culture in his address to the graduating class at Harvard in 1978. He thrust in the blade and twisted with his observation that two systems differed only in degree, not in kind. “Humanism which has lost its Christian heritage cannot prevail in the competition,” he warned, “In our Eastern countries, Communism has suffered a complete ideological defeat; it is zero and less than zero. And yet Western intellectuals still look at it with considerable interest and empathy, and this is precisely what makes it so immensely difficult for the West to withstand the East.” (2)
Biblical analysis. The Soviet Union provides a showcase model of what happens to a society that rejects God and his law. When it was all said and done, Solzhenitzyn’s diagnosis was simple: “Man has forgotten God, that is why all this has happened.” He was echoing the words of the prophet Jeremiah, …”Wherefore hath the Lord done thus unto this great city? Then they shall answer, because they have forsaken the covenant of the Lord their God, and worshipped other gods, and served them” (Jer. 22:8,9).
The complicity of East and West in a crime of this magnitude is breathtaking in its audacity. Crimes that would be despised in a petty hoodlum are held in respectful awe when elevated to a national scale. The law of God commands us to “keep thee far from a false matter; and the innocent and righteous slay thou not: for I will not justify the wicked.” (Ex. 23:7). While the Soviet tyranny slaughtered millions of innocent men, women and children, the West not only looked the other way, but made a special effort to justify the wicked.
Corrective or Prescriptive Actions: In spite of the ruthlessness of the Soviet regime, Solzhenitsyn did not excuse the Russian people for permitting it to gain a foothold. Unlike the Scots under Wallace, they acquiesced meekly to the yoke of slavery. Solzhenitsyn devotes an entire chapter of the “Gulag Archipelago” to analyzing the psychology of “The Arrest” and the meekness with which he himself submitted to the summons of a pair of plain-clothed police when they came for him. God likewise holds the entire culture responsible for the sins of its leaders. Should we ever be placed in such a situation, we must determine ahead of time to give up all in order to fight or flee before it is too late.