Let’s revisit Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn, the man who did the Capitalism proud. The only person whose accounts in form of two books, are the sacred texts so far to have been used by the West to attack the Soviet history.
He was a Cossack intellectual, meaning a Cossack elite.
Who is a Cossack? In the 15th century, the Cossack society was a loose federation of independent military units, entirely separate and sovereign.
The two states they represented, Cossacks of Zaporizhia and Don Cossack State had a unique warrior culture, whose main source of income was the pillaging their neighbors although they didn’t shy from plundering other neighbors. They were famous also for their raids against the Ottoman Empire. Ottoman Empire, led by a Sultan was one of the mightiest empires in Europe, whose fight against the Russia in Crimean War was notable.
The Russians initially had used their advanced defense mechanisms and out-maneuvered the Ottomans using their Armenian allies within the empire. They of course subsequently persecuted the Armenians in a genocidal fashion. It was not until the Communist revolution in Russia that the Russian forces retreated, leading to Ottoman victory on this front.
Not only was he a Cossack intellectual who supported the interests of the elite section of the ruling regimes in the pre-revolution period, but his prerogative was in highlighting the glories of Tsarist period! In presenting alternatives to the Soviet regime, Solzhenitsyn tended to reject Western emphases on democracy and individual freedom and instead favored the formation of a benevolent authoritarian regime that would draw upon the resources of Russia’s traditional Christian values.
Authoritarian traditional Christian rule!
In other words he represented the counter-revolutionary ethos that wanted Tsar regime back. For whom the communists were infidels. The primary resistance to the Holocaust is well known silence of the Vatican since Hitler was fighting Stalin and the Church wanted the ouster of Communism at any cost, even if it would mean the Jewish extermination. Solzhenitsyn of course was not in any way opposition to the Vatican’s silence. Far from it, at first notice, America’s silence over Jewish question was welcomed by him, a country he would make home for 20 years.
On the contrary, what had been provided in the USSR then? Lenin (and please…not Stalin) had while categorically espousing the interests of the revolutionary class of peasants and workers, had clearly stated, “confiscation of all properties”. Majority of people who were in spirits with the movement of course did allow for the confiscation to take place. Several countries in the world indeed went ahead for wealth distribution. Mythically Robin Hood still continues to do so.
But what was happening was contrary to everything Solzhenitsyn believed in. A purged Christianity was unacceptable to the largest groups of believers in the world. Solzhenitsyn became their voice. He helped them compare the Gulags with the Nazi Holocaust. Of course the plights of the Armenians, Africans-Americans, Japanese-Americans of those days also were excused. For the plights of the Jews in Germany, a supremacist country whom Soviet Union contributed the most in defeating, there were none among the Allies who would stand up. Solzhenitsyn remained blind to the reality out of his desire to overthrow the Communism and replace it with traditional Christian values. Apparently after he wrote a letter to Stalin, he was sent to the camp, which formed the base for two of his books: Gulag Archipelago and One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. These books apparently rocked the world!
It led the media to focus on the new victims: the Gulago. Nazis were called even subtler than the Soviets! Of course contextualizing it, it will seem natural that they felt it the same way all along. One side Hitler supported by the Christians (yes the Catholics), whose common enemy of course was Communism. And on the other Stalin and the non-believers. And of course the Red Army famously defeating the White Army of the imperial Russia and nullifying every White Order.
Solzhenitsyn, unfazed by the divided ideologies, and possibly because of it, authored a fiction “One Day in the Life…”which was widely targeted for the American audience. Naturally! And the other book “Gulag ..” whose most compelling chapter was claimed to have been a recollection of incidents by fellow prisoner Georgi Tenno, who was invited by Solzhenitsyn to be the co-author. Tenno refused the offer.
And what happened to Solzhenitsyn at the labor camp which has been used by the western critics of communism to be of even more gruesome than the Nazi camps?
He was political prisoner after war years for 8 years, for his criticism of Soviet policies, and holding talks with religious forces. 8 years? Yes.
After that, the same draconic system produced a fine mathematics teacher of him and he began to write. Leading Soviet literary periodical Novy Mir (“New World”) also published his short novel “One Day in the Life..” Soon after he could publish his works abroad thanks to the interests generated by this novel. In 1960’s he had several foreign publications of ambitious works including V kruge pervom (The First Circle). Rakovy korpus (1968; Cancer Ward) talked about his hospitalization and successful treatment for terminally diagnosed cancer during his forced exile in Kazakstan during the mid-1950s.
Something interesting happened in 1970. He was awarded Nobel Prize, but he did not go to receive it claiming that he shall not be allowed to re-enter the country. But at the same time, he was quite conveniently publishing his works abroad. He went on to publish a celebration of German military in Avgust 1914 (1971; August 1914), a historical novel treating Germany’s crushing victory over Russia during World War I, the Battle of Tannenburg!
In December 1973 he published first part of Arkhipelag Gulag (The Gulag Archipelago) in Paris! The news circulated that he was arrested and was being tried for treason. According to his logic, the punishment should have been death! Like previously under Stalin, people believed millions were killed in the camps he was at. Only he was saved to tell the story?…like previously it was believed that he would be killed in exile in hospital. Cancer and he was cured? So that he will tell the story? And now what happens? On Feb. 12, 1974, he is charged. And the next day, on Feb 13, 1974, he is exiled? Where to and how long? Still unharmed by the most evil empire?
Sounds incredible? Well, in December he goes and gleefully received his Nobel Prize! In 1975, he produces another novel Lenin v Tsyurikhe: glavy (Lenin in Zurich: Chapters). He settles in the Unites States, especially aware that he was, of America’s role in the Holocaust. Of course he mentions nothing about America and Holocaust.
Then on, he surges forward. Two more series of Gulag comes up. He refuses to call it his landmark book. Instead says history of Russia as he was working on was. And safely returns to his country of dreams, the Christian Russia in 1994.
So much ado about Gulag!
Two things emerge in this discourse. History as we all have studied thus far, can be a very twisted text, and sometimes sacred at that. Leading us not to question the upfront issues. First, comparing Gulag with Nazi camps is horrendous. That’s missing the whole point, actually. The people who kept silent during Nazi extermination were among the people who were sent to the camp in Soviet Union. No logic of passivity can work if one advocates pacifism by claiming that we could allow the Hitler to go on mass murdering people on gas chambers by calling Jews, Negroes and Communists did not deserve to live. To such claims many world leaders did not openly oppose and the Vatican too remained stoic. All aided this process only because they were scared of the spectre of Communism.
We live today to reflect much of bogus that have been taught to us as sacred. We were told Columbus discovered America! That Native Americans were Christians. And that the religious leaders all pray for peace. That the greatest democracy was greatest democracy even when its presidents owned slaves. That color of the skin could determine the intelligence of human beings. That intelligence was to be measured by a Binet Scale. That Communists were out to destroy the world. And what if the Russians Came?
Secondly, what was Gulag? And why were people so shocked by it? And who were the people at the Gulag? Do people even talk if there are 100,000 people at the Gulags now, in 2005? What were they traditionally doing? What do they continue to do? Is the Church against the Gulags now? Or as they as stoic as they were in case of Jews? Are these people in Gulags not Jews now? Or are they the converts? One can read about them now and imagine, what a fateful twist in history is this.