Jamie Glazov is Frontpage Magazine's managing editor. He holds a Ph.D. in History with a specialty in U.S. and Canadian foreign policy. He edited and wrote the introduction to David Horowitz�s Left Illusions. He is also the co-editor (with David Horowitz) of The Hate America Left and the author of Canadian Policy Toward Khrushchev�s Soviet Union (McGill-Queens University Press, 2002) and 15 Tips on How to be a Good Leftist.
Alexander Solzhenitsyn died several months ago, on August 3, 2008, at the age of 89. Frontpage Symposium has gathered a distinguished panel to discuss the significance of the dissident�s life and work. Our guests are:
Natan Sharansky, a former Soviet dissident and political prisoner who is the co- author (with Ron Dermer) of The Case For Democracy: The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny and Terror. Mr. Sharansky has been awarded the Congressional Gold Medal of Freedom for his courageous fight for liberty. He formerly served as Minister for Jerusalem and Diaspora Affairs.
Richard Pipes, a Professor Emeritus at Harvard who is one of the world's leading authorities on Soviet history. He is the author of 19 books, the most recent being his new autobiography Vixi: Memoirs of a Non-Belonger.
Pavel Litvinov, a Russian physicist, writer, human rights activist and former Soviet-era disisdent.
Yakov Krotov, a Russian Orthodox priest, but not in the established Russian Orthodox Church. He is a historian, essayist and free-lanced journalist who leads a live broadcast on "Radio Liberty" in Moscow titled "From the Christian Point of View." Christians of all denominations, people of all faiths and non-believers participate in the program.
Dr. Natalia Sadomskaya, a former Russian dissident. She is an anthropologist who worked in the1960s in the Mikhlukho-Makhlay Institute of Ethnographie. She participated in the first dissident demonstration on Pushkin Square against the arrest of Siniavsky and Daniel and also signed letters of protest against the arrest of Aleksander Ginzburg. In 1974 she emigrated to the U.S. with her husband and Russian dissident Boris Shragin. In America she taught Cultural Anthropology in Amherst College, Queens College (CUNY) and Columbia University (N.Y). In 1994, she returned to Russia. She taught Social Anthropology at the Russian State University for the Humanities.
Natasha (right) with her husband,
former Russian dissident, Boris Shragin.
Lt. Gen. Ion Mihai Pacepa, the highest official ever to have defected from the Soviet bloc. In 1989, Ceausescu and his wife were executed at the end of a trial where most of the accusations had come word-for-word out of Pacepa's book Red Horizons, republished in 27 countries. He is the author of Programmed to Kill: Lee Harvey Oswald, the Soviet KGB, and the Kennedy Assassination.
David Satter, a senior fellow of the Hudson Institute and a visiting scholar at the Johns Hopkins University Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). He is the author of Darkness at Dawn: The Rise of the Russian Criminal State.
Yuri Yarim-Agaev, a former leading Russian dissident and a member of the Moscow Helsinki Group. Upon arriving in the United States after his forced exile from the Soviet Union, he headed the New York-based Center for Democracy in the USSR. He is a Distinguished Visiting Fellow with the Hoover Institution.
Dr. Theodore Dalrymple, a retired physician (prison doctor and psychiatrist), a contributing editor to City Journal and the author of the new book, Not With a Bang But a Whimper: The Politics and Culture of Decline.
FP: Natan Sharansky, Pavel Litvinov, Dr. Natalia Sadomskaya, Richard Pipes, Yakov Krotov, Lt. Gen. Ion Mihai Pacepa, David Satter, Yuri Yarim Agaev and Dr. Theodore Dalrymple, welcome to Frontpage Symposium.
David Satter, let�s begin with you. What were your thoughts upon Solzhenitsyn�s death?
Satter: On learning of Solzhenitsyn�s death I had a sense of the end of an era. I grew up politically with Solzhenitsyn. As a teenager in the 1960s, I once asked my father whether it was true that there were slave labor camps in the Soviet Union. He said that if they had existed, we would have the accounts of survivors. After Solzhenitsyn and the publication of �One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich,� it was no longer possible to say that there were no first hand accounts.
Many people, including millions of Soviet citizens, were deceived about the atrocities of the communist regime. More than anyone else, Solzhenitsyn dispelled those fatal illusions. His contribution to literature and to truth is indelible. I also, however, on learning of Solzhenitsyn�s death felt a sense of sadness that in his later years, he strayed from the path of universal values and supported the Putin regime. In this, he demonstrated spiritual weaknesses that were not so evident in the years when he valiantly resisted Soviet totalitarianism.
Solzhenitsyn made a monumental contribution to the destruction of Soviet communism. Many episodes from his books are simply unforgettable � the telephone call in the opening scene in The First Circle, Eleanor Roosevelt�s visit to the Butyrka Prison, the discovery of a prehistoric salamander in an ice lens by starving prisoners in The Archipelago Gulag. This rare artistic talent was used to bear witness to some of the greatest crimes of the century. In this way, Solzhenitsyn combined great art and riveting political relevance.
In his later years, however, Solzhenitsyn exhibited many of the traits that he criticized in his books. He fought for freedom and told Russians �live not by lies� when it was a matter of opposing communism but praised Putin who waged a genocidal war in Chechnya and reimposed censorship. He told the West to interfere in Soviet affairs in the 1970s but when the West interfered too much 30 years later, he joined the hierarchs of the Russian Orthodox Church, many of them former KGB informers, in casting doubt on the universal validity of human rights.
I believe that ultimately Solzhenitsyn�s political views are far less important than his work and his contribution to the fall of communism. It is his masterpieces that will be remembered and his political views will be only a footnote just as Dostoevsky�s bizarre political pronouncements are a footnote to his immortal works. As Russia reverts back to dictatorship, however, Solzhenitsyn�s own political evolution should not be completely ignored. Russia�s great weakness is its failure to value the truth for its own sake.
Solzhenitsyn struck a blow against this tendency in his opposition to Soviet totalitarianism which promoted an ideology that he came to reject. It would have been better for his legacy and better for Russia if he could have brought himself to denounce the new tyranny that is developing in Russia today.
FP: Thank you Dr. Satter.
Lt. Gen. Ion Mihai Pacepa, your thoughts on Solzhenitsyn? And what do you make of the man who struck such a blow against communism, and in such a courageous and heroic way, ending his life by supporting the Putin regime. How do we understand this?
Pacepa: There is little I can add to Dr. Satter�s comments, with which I am in full agreement. Perhaps, however, I can look at Solzhenitsyn the man from a slightly different angle.
To fully understand why such a legendary fighter against political terror ended up supporting Putin�s terrorist regime, one should first take a closer look at the country that produced Solzhenitsyn. In 1854, Tsar Nicholas I confined Russian sociologist Petr Chaadayev as insane because of his unorthodox, but realistic, view of his country:
�Russia is a whole separate world, submissive to the will, caprice, fantasy of a single man, whether his name be Peter or Ivan, no matter�in all instances the common element is the embodiment of arbitrariness. Contrary to all the laws of the human community, Russia moves only in the direction of her enslavement and the enslavement of all the neighboring peoples. For this reason it would be in the interest not only of other peoples but also in that of her own that she be compelled to take a new path.�
Russia�s recent arbitrary invasion of Georgia and recognition of her Abkazia and Ossetia provinces as independent countries make Chaadayev�s definition timeless.
Ninety years later, Solzhenitsyn also rebelled against the �fantasy of a single man,� this time named Stalin, and he was also confined as insane. Chaadayev died in the insane ward. Solzhenitsyn survived, but he remained in that �whole separate world,� called Russia for he was as Russian as the balalaika. In 1970, when he got the Nobel Prize, Solzhenitsyn refused to go to Oslo to receive it, fearing he might not be allowed to return to his Russia.
After he was exiled in 1974 and eventually settled in Vermont, Solzhenitsyn continued to live in that �separate world� called Russia. He never stopped fighting Soviet terror, but he then also began fighting the pro-Western Russian dissidents for being too supportive of individualism and pluralism. �Russia,� Solzhenitsyn argued, had �its own path, rooted in national identity, traditional faith, and community rather than individual rights and secular democracy.�[i]
When the Soviet Union collapsed, Solzhenitsyn rushed back to his Russia. There he labeled Gorbachev�s concessions to democracy as anarchy, and he blasted Yeltsin for dismantling the Russian state. Solzhenitsyn never understood American democracy. The only form of government he really knew was the historically Russian samoderzhaviye, in which a feudal lord ruled the country with the help of his personal political police. Thus, he fell for the �fantasy� of another feudal aristocrat. Putin, he explained, inherited a ransacked and bewildered country, and he started to do whatever was possible for its restoration. That seems to be the drama of most Russians. Generations of them have kidded themselves about the glorious state of their country, and Putin makes them feel proud again.
Solzhenitsyn�s contribution to the destruction of Soviet Communism, however, should not be shadowed by his misunderstanding of Western democracy. Dachau and Auschwitz became museums of freedom, to assure the world that the Holocaust would never be repeated. Solzhenitsyn�s Gulag Archipelago has become another museum of freedom. This dramatic eyewitness testimony demolished the moral standing of the Soviet Union, and it now motivates people around the world to prevent Kremlin-style political genocide from being repeated. Only giants could achieve such a gargantuan accomplishment, and Solzhenitsyn is indeed a giant.
FP: Thank you Lt. Gen Pacepa. Solshenitsyn was indeed a giant and deserves much praise and respect for his stand against the Soviet Empire.
But the stances he held toward Russia�s authoritarian character and Western pluralism were quite sad. His attacks on pro-Western Russian dissidents were, in my view, mean-spirited, uncalled for and unfortunate. I know that my father, Yuri Glazov, a Russian dissident, very much valued Solzhenitsyn for his courage and work, and as a professor in the West, my dad taught Solzhenitsyn's texts to his students with a great admiration and passion. But he was very hurt by Solzhenitsyn�s attacks on dissidents.
Dr. Natalia Sadomskaya, let me turn to you.
Your views of Solzhenitsyn and what our guests have had to say? What lingered behind, in your view, Solzh�s attacks on his fellow dissidents?
Sadomskaya: As to the �rapprochement� between Solzhenitsyn and Putin, the mystery is easily solved if one reads �The Letter to the Leaders� written in 1973 and published by �Samizdat� in 1974. It was the same year that Solzhenitsyn was exiled from the USSR.
His views, which he brought with him to the West, were like these: addressing Brezhnev and the others, he emphasized his national homogeny with the communist leaders, saying, �I am trying to say here the main thing: that I regard as salvation and good for our people, with whom all of us � both you and myself surely belong by birth.�
It�s not a slip of tongue. His meaning was: �I wish good for all the nations, and the closer to us, the more dependent on us, the warmer the wish. Yet primarily I care for the good of namely the Russian and the Ukranian peoples because of our incomparable sufferings.�
Here is what he then wrote to the leaders about democracy:
�Here in Russia, due to a complete absence of habit, democracy had existed for only eight months � from February to October, 1917. Groups of emigrants, former c-d & s-d, who are still living, are still proud of that democracy, stating it was wrecked by alien forces. In fact, though, that democracy was their disgrace: they had so ambitiously called out to it and promised it, but succeeded in establishing only something messy, a caricature of democracy; they proved first and foremost unprepared for it themselves, and Russia proved even more so. In the recent half a century Russia could have only become even less prepared for democracy, for a multi-party parliamentary system. A sudden introduction of democracy at present might come to be another sorry repetition of 1917. For a thousand years Russia had lived under an authoritarian regime and at the turn of the 20th century it still retained the people�s physical and spiritual health.
Yet there was a very important condition fulfilled: that authoritarian regime had a strong moral base: Orthodoxy.
But the Russian intelligentsia that for over a century had been doing their best to fight the authoritarian regime, what have they achieved with their great losses for themselves and for the common people as well? The result was certainly contrary to the desired one. Then, probably, we should admit that the chosen way was wrong and premature? Probably, for the near future, whether we like it or not, whether we assign it so or not, an authoritarian regime is by all means predestined for Russia. Probably it is the only one Russia is mature for.� (�Letter to the Leaders�)
Solzhenitsyn�s negative attitude to the pre-revolutionary opposition intelligentsia very soon turned into irritation against dissident emigrants. He saw that in the West, having attained freedom, they supported those very forms of democracy and parliamentarism he considered premature and dangerous for Russia. And when the dissidents tried to talk to him politically, he accused them of Russophobia.
Solzhenitsyn�s denial of the dissident intelligentsia was especially clearly expressed in 1982, in his article �Our Pluralists� (Collection of articles �On Return of Breath�, Vagrius, Moscow, 2004). Though earlier he didn�t like the Soviet intelligentsia very much either, calling its representatives �obrazovantsy� � i.e. educated ignoramuses. (Article �Obrazovanshchina� in the collextion �From Under Boulders� � �Iz pod glyb�).
Such were his spirits when, twenty years later, he came back to Russia. He was showered on with favors and privileges. He was awarded the country�s highest order. He was invited to appear on TV, to speak in the Duma. But he was displeased with Yeltsin, who had destroyed the Great Power, as well as with the democrats-westerners, and the orgy of multi-party politics. He refused to accept the award from Yeltsin.
Yet in Putin, Solzhenitsyn saw the ruler who could implement his program � and he was not mistaken. And he accepted the order.
They both did not like the democrats of the �90s. They had a common dislike of the flourishing Western democracies. Solzhenitsyn was not at all worried by the fact that only one �united� party was now ruling the country. He never raised his voice against the closures of TV channels, or against demonstrations scattered, or in defence of pensioners debased. He kept silence.
Well, and what about the people?
During the two burial services for Solzhenitsyn, in the Academy of Sciences and in the Donskoy Monastery, there were no more than a thousand mourners present. But, as a compensation, there were the president and the ex-president, and the mayor of Moscow.
Sharansky: When I was active in the Soviet dissident movement in the beginning of the 1970s, there were two clear camps. The first was led by Andrei Sakharov and was focused on fighting for universal human rights. The other, led by Solzhenitsyn, was fueled by a strong Russian identity. In a sense, this was a continuation of the classic divide among the Russian intelligentsia between �Westerners� and Slavophiles.
I was fully in the Sakharov camp. I was also part of the Soviet Jewry/Zionist movement, which had serious disagreements with Solzhenitsyn. For instance, he was critical of the Jackson amendment, which was so important for our movement. Whereas Sakharov understood that any expansion of freedom inside the USSR was a victory for the human rights struggle and should therefore be embraced, Solzhenitsyn thought too much energy was being wasted on ensuring freedom of emigration when the entire regime had to go.
But while the differences between the camps were real and would later, as many of the previous writers correctly mentioned, result in profound disagreements, those differences paled in comparison to our common struggle against Soviet totalitarianism.
The main challenge for all dissidents � democrats, Zionists, nationalists, etc. � was to convince the West that the Soviet regime was evil and that there was no place for appeasement. In this effort, Solzhenitsyn contributed more than anyone to unmasking that evil. His widely read books had a huge impact, and as a spokesman for the dissident movement, I can tell you that when I mentioned �The Gulag Archipelago,� everyone knew what I was talking about. By painting such a vivid and powerful picture of evil, he gave all dissidents an indispensable reference point for our struggle.
When the Iron Curtain fell, the differences between the camps came to the surface again. On one side were the democrats, heirs to the legacy of Sakharov. On the other was Solzhenitsyn, who put Russian identity first. Against the KGB, the forces of identity and freedom stood on the same side of the barricades. Today, unfortunately they often find themselves on different sides. And Solzhenitsyn was always a champion of identity more than a champion of freedom.
In a sense, Solzhenitsyn believed that one had to choose between being a man of his people and a man of the world. As I argue in my latest book, Defending Identity, this is a false choice. We can be both, as long as our commitment to our own unique history, people and faith is coupled with a firm commitment to freedom and democracy. For all his great insight, this was something that Solzhenitsyn never saw.
With Solzhenitsyn, one must also address the issue of anti-Semitism. In the Gulag Archipelago, he writes about some Jews as heads of the camps and in important KGB positions. While this is true, it is clear that he writes about Jewish (and other minority) support for the Soviet regime with a special bitterness and disdain. It is as if he wants his readers to understand that a kind of foreign element oppresses the Russian people.
In his book, 200 Years Together, he analyzes the history of antisemitism in Russia and of Russian-Jewish relations. Sadly, his explanation of the many anti-Jewish laws and double standards applied towards Jews turns into understanding and even justification.
But to call him an antisemite would be unjust. His writing stems from a love of his own people rather than a hatred of others. He was more biased in favor of Russia than he was biased against Jews.
FP: Thank you Natan Sharansky. Solzhenitsyn definitely was a hero, as you note, for contributing "more than anyone to unmasking evil." He exposed the Evil Empire and in so doing lent a major hand to its eventual destruction -- and he must always be credited for that. But a critic can ask a legitimate question: How does it make sense that a person can write with "understanding and even justification" about the oppression of Jews and at the same time for it to be unfair to call that person an antisemite?
Pipes: Aleksander Solzhenitsyn strikes me as a remarkably contradictory personality. On the one hand, he stood up with great courage to the Soviet regime and paid for this courage a hard prize in the form of incarceration in the Gulag and expulsion abroad. On the other hand, he recently agreed with Putin that the dissolution of the USSR was "the worst geopolitical tragedy of the twentieth century." What is one to make of this?
His knowledge of Russian and Western history was most superficial even though he talked about in an authoritative manner. He glamorized tsarism and, as in his Harvard Commencement speech, condemned the West for its excessive freedom and "legalism."
He is no spiritual guide for Russia. My impression is that the Russians pretty much ignored him on his return home and neither read his books nor listened to his TV program. I believe that in the long run, he will be little more than a blip in Russia's twentieth century history.
FP: Surely the Gulag Archipelago and the heroic figure who wrote it will never become a blip is Russia�s twentieth century history? Well perhaps if Soviet era-worshippers like Putin succeed in writing history books.
Recognizing Solzh�s greatness in this context, of course, does not exonerate him from the dark elements that we have discussed here so far (i.e. regret over the collapse of the USSR, anti-Semitism, criticism of dissidents, opposition to liberal pluralism, etc.)
Yuri Yarim-Agaev, what do you make of the remarkably contradictory personality that Dr. Pipes refers to and that has been discussed so far in this discussion?
Yarim-Agaev: I would not call Solzhenitsyn controversial. The fact that I do not agree with a man does not make in itself him controversial. And though I disagree with Solzhenitsyn on many important issues, I must give him credit for the comprehensive and consistent position to which he adhered for most of his life. Accepting KGB officer Putin was not an inconsistency. There was no room for such confusion in a man who brilliantly defined communist power by four letters: CKGB. That was a retreat from his position, the weakness of an old man who wanted to believe that he would see the light at the end of the tunnel before he died.
I feel it somehow wrong to start talking about one of the greatest men of the 20th century by discussing a rather inconsequential mistake of his old age. We should define first the broader context of his life and achievements. We should judge him first and foremost by his deeds, which had a great effect on our history and civilization, not by the quotes from his little known works, which had barely any influence.
To me Solzhenitsyn�s main legacy is the exposure of communism with such precision and power that that totalitarian ideology could never recover from the heavy blow. The Gulag Archipelago influenced not only liberal-minded intellectuals, but the Soviet ruling elite as well.
Solzhenitsyn also had a great impact on Western intellectual life and politics. He may be considered the godfather of neo-conservatism, which played a decisive role in dismantling Soviet communism and disarming that terrible ideology.
Now giving proper weight to his actions, let us consider in its totality possibly the strongest argument against Solzhenitsyn: his attitude toward Jews. His most zealous critics accused him of outright anti-Semitism, quoting writings known to very limited audience, which hardly influenced any real events. What they forget is what a great effect Solzhenitsyn had on opening up the Soviet Union and Jewish emigration. His writings and actions helped thousand of Jews to emigrate and escape very real and tangible anti-Semitism.
Even in the very specific case of the Jackson-Vanik amendment, Solzhenitsyn's overall contribution was positive. He could have spoken against it, but that did not have any effect. The amendment was never repealed and is still in place. Yet, Solzhenitsyn�s writings had a real effect on neoconservatives who were greatly responsible for initiating Jackson-Vanik amendment and getting it passed through Congress.
FP: Pavel Litvinov?
Litvinov: Alexander Solzhenitsyn's contribution to the fall of communism is tremendous, and we have to continue to be grateful to him. The fall of communism in the Soviet Union brought about the end of the Russian empire, which, of course, was not intended by him. But, ironically, together with the explosive force of his great books, he revived a hopelessly outdated worldview and reactionary vision of Russian history. In the 19th century, Russian cultural life was dominated by an ideological fight between slavophiles and Westernizers. Slavophiles, according to Solzhenitsyn, were right and Westernizers wrong. But somehow Westernizers deceived the Russian people and won, meanwhile showing their real face as communists.
Today, the civilized world knows the true answer: the western way with market capitalism and respect for human rights is right, and socialism and authoritarian nationalism is wrong. But the slavophile's view, although outdated, still is capable of poisoning life in Russia. That view is inseparable today from anti-Semitism and xenophobia. There is a sad symbolism in the fact that the prisoner of the Gulag Alexander Solzhenitsyn accepted the Russian state prize from unrepentant former KGB agent Vladimir Putin.
The central question today is how to transform today's world to make this intellectual victory into a real victory in Russia, in the Muslim world and everywhere. This is a problem in Russia as well as in the Muslim world and everywhere. And the ally in this fight is the other great Russian physicist Andrei Sakharov, who consistently defended the democratic worldview and saw Russia as a part of the larger world -- a view which still eludes many of his countrymen today. Today we know even better how insignificant are genetic differences between peoples, how in fact we are all indeed one family and we should relentlessly remind it to everybody and ourselves. At the same time, we must be ready to defend our civilisation and its values. And that defense means using force when necessary. Dissident movements in the countries of the former Soviet Empire had a unique message to the Western World: you must believe in freedom and be ready to relentlessly take a stand in its defense.
Krotov: I guess I am the youngest among participants: born in 1957, my father was imprisoned on political grounds in 1958-1976 (18 years in Mordovia). I was charmed by Solzhenitsyn in my youth, but now I have few harsh words to say.
I don't think it is possible to speak about the downfall of Soviet communism. It is very much alive, it has only changed its face. It became less repressive, and due to this more sophisticated, versatile and powerful. This makes Russian despotism stronger than ever. The Kremlin said farewell to Communism, but Communist ideas never meant anything real in Bolshevistic reality. The "Soviets" never possessed real power; it was concentrated in the hands of the nomenclature.
Even in 1990-1992 it was a mistake to speak about the downfall of Communism, and many people after that paid with their lives for the optimistic proclamations of intellectuals and the practical political decisions of the West based on them.
So, in this context, what do we make of the claim that Solzhenitsyn made a monumental contribution to the destruction of this peculiar type of despotism, which was prevailing in Russia from 1918-1991? He is no hero. His naive and straightforward self-appraisal depreciated even his real (quite moderate) contribution to political changes. And yes, certainly, Solzhenitsyn took risks, but many people risked much more.
His literary talent is very moderate. The Nobel Prize went to him and not to Shalamov.
Well, the Nobel Prize was given to Sienkiewicz when Tolstoy was still alive. Solzhenitsyn�s only literary achievement is the style of Archipelago, but he never managed to repeat this success. He only made thing worse in his futile attempts to reproduce this piece of luck mechanically by reinforcing this style.
Solzhenitsyn is a complete analogue to a legion of petty-thinking imitators of counter-revolutionary Romanticism of De Maistre et al. Iyeremia Meschersky and not Dostoyevsky is his prototype. Dostoyevsky described Solzhenitsyn in details as Foma Opiskin. The high estimation of Solzhenitsyn is a very bad sign, meaning that Russian despotism is rooted not only and not mainly in the nomenclature and in the Lubyanka, but in the intellectual milieu.
I cannot even rebuke Solzhenitsyn for being one of the makers of the modern modernized Russian despotism. He supported the evolution of a regime, but the regime is very self-confident and strong in itself and was not in need of his help. Although the Kremlin paid him.
In the end, Solzhenitsyn betrayed his own motto "to live without a lie.� Did he live up to his own motto when he received from the nomenclature in the 1990s various gifts, which included a flat and a villa (previously held by Malenkov from the Politburo)? Did he live up to his own motto when he proclaimed a forgiveness of the KGB when he returned to Russia?
For most Russians born after 1970, Solzhenitsyn is and forever will be absent from cultural memory. His texts are dead and have been dead for many years. Only some political memories made some people his adherents.
FP: There are, without doubt, some very disappointing elements about Solzhenitsyn � as are being brought up here in terms of his relation to Putin and the KGB upon his return, in terms of his rejection of Western freedom, etc. But Gulag Archipelago is not dead and it will never be dead. It will live on as a testament against the monstrosity of the Soviet experiment and of socialism in practice everywhere. And Solzhenitsyn deserves credit for that. And if Russians who were born after 1970 do not know about Solzhenitsyn then that says something about them and not about Solzhenitsyn, and perhaps it explains why those who do not understand the past are bound to repeat it.
Dalrymple: It is true that one might see the present regime as a reconfiguration rather than a destruction of the old, but there is a very important difference, at least from the non-Russian's point of view: and that is that, whatever else one might say about Mr. Putin, no one in the rest of the world is likely to take him as an ideological inspiration or start a revolution in imitation of him and his ideas. In other words, all that Moscow-as-the-Third-Rome kind of stuff, with Marxism as its justification, is now dead, and for its death (a very good thing) I think Solzhentitsyn was in part responsible. His nationalism is unlikely to prove attractive to others, especially those coming from countries in contiguity with Russia, and so he helped to make Russia just one country among others and not the focus of world-wide dreaming.
I agree with Professor Pipes that he was a contradictory man. I am not sure how much of a criticism that is of him, however. Which of us is not contradictory? Who does not believe in the rule of law and yet rails against the law's delay? Who does not believe in popular sovereignty and yet is appalled when he sees it in action? We love freedom but are frequently appalled by the use to which freedom is put (by other people). True, we have to make a choice between the alternatives, and we choose what we think are the least bad ones; but Solzhenitsyn did point to real weaknesses in our culture, even if his proposed solutions were far worse than those weaknesses. It is not easy to be wholly consistent in one's pronouncements, especially if one pronounces a lot.
I think Solzhenitsyn wanted to save something from the utter wreckage of 20th Century Russian history. Of no country is it so easily possible to see history as a record of oppression, disaster and misery, punctuated by only a few cultural achievements. He wanted to think that there was some good essence in Russia, and it helped to contrast this with a bad essence elsewhere. This is dangerous, but it is human, all too human. And it did at least encourage him to examine seriously the part played by ideology in the disaster. When all is said and done, there was a difference in degree of evil between Tsarism and that of Leninism.
FP: Thank you Dr. Dalrymple. As always, words of wisdom.
Yakov Krotov raised Varlam Shalamov. Thank you Mr. Krotov, for I think this will help focus our discussion in the next round in some vital ways.
Shalamov was a Gulag survivor and author of the famous The Kolyma Tales, a description of Soviet hell.
Krotov raises the issue that Shalamov should have received the Nobel Prize in Literature instead of Solzhenitsyn. Or maybe along with Solzhenitsyn? So interesting question: Why didn�t he? Is it because he was more or less unknown in the West? If so, why was he not that known?
What meaning is there in that one political dissident ended up in the West and then came back to receive privileges from the inheritors of the same system, while another remained in Russia, fighting to the end with dignity and without surrender � and ended up, with a broken body from the freezing Gulag years, dying in an isolated ward in a mental house where the KGB placed him? (The details here of his final days are clouded by some mystery and up for debate)
Almost nothing is known about the polemics between Shalamov and Solzhenitsyn. These polemics are, undoubtedly, essential for our understanding of not only Solzhenitsyn and Shalamov, but also of the Soviet regime and, even more so, of the deepest philosophical questions relating to what it means to be human. Can our guests pinpoint the main argument in their polemics? What was their significance and consequence? We know that Solzhenitsyn saw potential redemption in suffering such as that which the Gulag inflicts, while Shalamov saw such suffering as something that only demoralizes and breaks the human spirit and ultimately degrades man, making him sub-human.
I�d like the panel to touch on these themes.
Satter: I think Solzhenitsyn is far better known than Shalamov because he was much more political. �One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich� made him an international celebrity overnight. His novels and �Archipelago Gulag� were all aimed at exposing the reality of the communist system. Shalamov depicted the depths of depravity and cruelty perhaps better than Solzhenitsyn but he was less concerned to convey a political message. As it happened, the message that Solzhenitsyn conveyed was very much in demand.
Natan Sharansky (who I last saw in Moscow moments before he was arrested) makes an interesting point about the relationship between identity and democracy. He writes that Solzhenitsyn did not understand that it is possible to be committed to one�s own unique history and also to freedom and democracy. The general point is a good one but in the case of Russia, I�m not sure it�s true. Russia�s political culture, as it has existed traditionally, is not friendly to freedom and democracy. On the contrary, the emphasis in democracy on the value of the individual is missing in Russia. There is not a sense in Russia that the individual has irreducible value. On the contrary, he is seen as a means to an end, usually as defined by the state. I believe that to defend democracy in Russia, it is necessary to reject aspects of the Russian tradition. This is what Andrei Sakharov tried to do. It is what Solzhenitsyn refused to do and this refusal made his final embrace of Putin sadly logical.
Natan also talks about the book, �200 Years Together,� in which Solzhenitsyn politely suggests that Jews were always a foreign element in Russia and did not share his love for the country that persecuted them. Highlights of the book are the claims that Jews were overrepresented among the Bolsheviks and the NKVD (true, at least for a while), that they found �soft� jobs in the Gulag (did someone do a survey?) and that they spent their time during the Second World War away from the front (in fact, Jews had a higher percentage of �Heroes of the Soviet Union� than any other nationality). This is not the place to dwell on this book. But it is interesting for what it shows about Solzhenitsyn�s attitude toward Russians. The tendency to blame Russia�s misfortunes on Jews allows Russians to avoid looking at their own tradition. Without the Jews, the West and the other outsiders who ruined Russia, there is a real problem understanding where Russia�s misfortunes come from. In light of the problems of present day Russia, people who share Solzhenitsyn�s outlook would be better off to forget about the Jews and look for the sources of Russia�s tragedy in aspects of themselves.
Pacepa: Our Symposium has blown up into an arresting cyclone. That is undoubtedly because Jamie has put together an outstanding panel, and because of Solzhenitsyn�s impressive stature. But we should keep our feet on the ground. With all due respect, I disagree with Yuri Agayev�s conclusion that Solzhenitsyn was �the godfather of neo-conservatism� and that he �played a decisive role in dismantling communism.�
Solzhenitsyn was not a conservative, and he went to great lengths to show that. He was not even a democrat. Solzhenitsyn did not believe in individual freedom�the collective wellbeing was what mattered to him. He described Western democracy as �a disaster� rooted in agnosticism and atheism. He despised the power of the law�the power of the ruler was all that counted for him. Nor was economic freedom a goal for Solzhenitsyn, who believed in a market ruled by the state. No wonder he ended up endorsing Putin�s �managed democracy.�
In his 1978 commencement address at Harvard, Solzhenitsyn, speaking in Russian, accused American democracy of making �man the measure of all things on earth�the imperfect man, who is never free of pride, self-interest, envy, vanity and dozens of other defects.� He blamed American democracy for being legalistic: �Wherever the tissue of life is woven of legalistic relations, there is an atmosphere of mediocrity, paralyzing man�s noblest impulses.� Solzhenitsyn never understood the American�or any other�form of Western democracy. Unfortunately, nor did he understand Soviet communism, and he was never able to dig down to its roots.
Despite twenty years spent in the West, Solzhenitsyn remained a reformed Marxist. He blamed Europe for the evil of Soviet communism, but he was unwilling�or unable�to explain why Marxism had led to gulags only in Russia. He was also incapable of seeing that in Russia communism devolved into the traditionally tsarist form of autocracy in which, behind a facade of Marxism, a feudal czar ruled the country with the help of his personal political police. When Professor Richard Pipes, one of the world�s leading authorities on Russia, traced the Soviet terror to the Russian tradition of police state going back to the 16th century�s Ivan the Terrible, Solzhenitsyn labeled Pipes�s studies as either �a Polish� or a �Jewish version of Russian history,� owing to the fact that the famous historian was born in Poland of Jewish heritage.
After Solzhenitsyn returned to Moscow and endorsed Putin, he fell into the KGB�s anti-Semitic trap. In 2002, Solzhenitsyn published Two Hundred Years Together, a two-volume history of Russian-Jewish relations, in which he lays the blame for Soviet communism on the Jews, and he �documents� that Zionism has historically been an enemy of Russia. This is a familiar theme to me from the years I spent at the top of the KGB�s intelligence community.
In the 1970s I was given a tour of the infamous KGB interrogation complex Lefortovo, built in the shape of a K as a bizarre tribute to Catherine the Great. There I saw a large exhibit documenting the KGB�s merciless intelligence war against Jewish traitors, which had started some two hundred years earlier and become an important chapter in the history of the Kremlin�s gosbezopasnost (state security service). I was shown the torture chamber used to extort confessions from the �Jewish anarchists� seized by the Okhrana after Tsar Alexander II was assassinated in 1882. I set foot in the office where Martyn Latsis�one of the deputies of Cheka founder Feliks Dzerzhinsky�signed the documents authorizing the Cheka to shoot tens of thousands of �bourgeois Jews� who were �sabotaging the people�s revolution.� I saw the cell where on March 12, 1938 the Cheka, by then upgraded to State Political Directorate, had forced the founder of the Third International, Nikolay Bukharin, to �voluntarily� write his �last confession� of the �dastardly crimes� he had committed on behalf of American Zionism. I also saw the cell where Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg, who saved thousands of Jews from the gas chambers during World War II, had been secretly held after being kidnapped from Hungary in 1945.
Over the years, the Russian, Soviet and now again Russian political police has changed its name many times, from Okhrana to Cheka, to GPU, to OGPU, to NKVD, to NKGB, to MGB, to MVD, to KGB, to MSB, to MB, to FSK, to FSB, and the anagram game continues to this day. Lefortovo, however, has remained a monument to the unchanging hatred of Russia�s political police for the Jews. It is unfortunate that, toward the end of his life, Solzhenitsyn became a port-parole of the KGB�s anti-Semitism.
In the 1960s, when I first walked throughout Manhattan, I felt dwarfed by the majesty of its skyscrapers. Now they are part of my daily life. In 1964, when One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich was published in Russia, I felt dwarfed by Solzhenitsyn�s courage. Now, when I know that Khrushchev allowed that book to be published in Russia because it served his purpose, and when I also know that Solzhenitsyn endorsed the KGB officers who are currently running Russia, he has ceased dwarfing me any longer. Solzhenitsyn may still be a skyscraper in Russia, but I agree with Professor Pipes that he will be little more than a blip in the history of the twentieth century.
Sadomskaya: Our discussion has fallen into two parts, one concerning the identity of Solzhenitsyn, and the other concerning Russian identity. I think these themes are to be regarded separately, as the two are not at all the same.
In Russia there have always existed at least two (if not more) trends of comprehending our own history. There used to be and still exists the trend towards openness, towards the Western model of democracy, and there also used to be � and still exists - the trend for isolationism, for rejection of the Western model of development.
Solzhenitsyn as a thinker tried to concentrate our attention on only one of these traditions, regarding only the latter to be �genuinely Russian�. One shouldn�t fall into this trap. Even the slavophile Kireevsky published his magazine under the title �Evropeets� (�The European�).
The same refers to anti-Semitism. The Russian Okhranka, KGB, and even Solzhenitsyn with his �200 Years Together� are not the whole Russia. He chose the trend to suit his own nature or, maybe, that of his family.
As to Shalamov, he was surely much stronger as a writer than Solzhenitsyn, though he had no awards and died in poverty. And I agree with Mr. Satter: it was in a large part due to Solzhenitsyn being so politically-minded and headstrong that he succeeded to become so well-known. With all that, he was not just ambitious � he was lusting for glory, while the true artist Shalamov had never made an effort to push himself through to fame.
Solzhenitsyn saw the enemy outside and rather often was reduced to using psychological cliches; the subtle intellectual Shalamov presented a deep analysis of human nature in critical circumstances.
Solzhenitsyn�s writings are a continuation of Socialist realism. Shalamov�s works follow A. Chekhov�s tradition.
FP: Thank you Natalia Sadamoskaya.
At the risk of repetition, I would like to reiterate a point about Solzhenitsyn. Many of the facts being raised here today that reveal very unredeeming aspects of Solzhenitsyn cannot be denied � and they must be raised and discussed for the sake of truth and for the accuracy of the historical record. But in the context of these realities, I think we must always keep one thing in mind. A quote from Bernard-Henri Levy in his new book, Left in Dark Times, perhaps says it best:
�No other modern book has ever, as far as I know, unleashed an explosion like The Gulag Archipelago. It was a worldwide earthquake whose unexpected power I�d so much like the generations who didn�t experience it to feel everything we knew without believing, or believed without seeing, or saw but didn�t understand: by the millions, suddenly, by the tens of millions all across the world, we knew, believed, saw, and understood. . . .The Communist dream dissolved in the furnace of a book.� (p.58)
Sharansky: The quote above captures very well the significance of Solzhenitsyn�s book. Something that was so critical in unmasking such a horrific evil will always be much more than a blip.
Reading the remarks of this distinguished panel, one might get the impression that the demise of the Soviet Union was inevitable. But few in the free world believed this at the time.
We dissidents knew that the regime was weak, that it could be toppled, but that it needed a West that believed in the power of its own ideals -- a West that would abandon the course of appeasement, embrace moral clarity and confront the regime.
There were so many who wanted to understand, to sympathize, to find common ground, and there were so few who were really prepared to confront the regime.
If before it was politically correct to sympathize and draw a moral equivalence with the Soviet Union, the Gulag Archipelago made support for this regime something of an embarrassment. That was a critical stage in the struggle.
As to the argument that there were people like Shalamov who were both more talented and who suffered more, this is true. What differentiated Solzhenitsyn was not his towering literary talent or the extent of his suffering but the fact that he succeeded where so many others had fallen short. In secret, he meticulously collected and prepared material over many years and he became a voice for all those who dreamed to unmask the truth, who tried to unmask the truth, but who were unable to tell the world the true story of the horrors they were subject to. That is why his name will remain the symbol of the unmasking of Soviet evil even though so many others contributed to it.
As to his book, 200 years together, I agree with Yuri Yarim-Agaev, that this book will be forgotten. For antisemites, his critique lacks bite. For Jews, his arguments are nonsense. For the rest, it is simply boring.
As to David Satter�s view that in Russia it is impossible to be committed to one�s unique history and to be committed to democracy, I respectfully disagree. While David invokes Sakharov as evidence of this inherent incompatibility, in fact Sakahrov drew his inspiration in his struggle for democracy from the history of the noble spirit of Russia�s intellegentsia.
With me in prison were many fervent Russian Orthodox Christians who were also staunch democrats. They were true to their Russian identity and firm believers in democracy.
Once people discover an identity or freedom that they have been denied, they often become zealous in safeguarding it. In Russia, people were deprived of both freedom and identity. That is why some of us who discovered both, cherished both. Part of the reason why Solzhenitsyn was such a skeptic or even critic of democracy may have been that his patience for its propensity for appeasement was very limited.
Yarim-Agaev: By the number of participants our panel looks more like a public opinion poll rather than a symposium. I can try to address only a few points made by others, and place them into the context of our discussion.
For almost a century communism eliminated cultures, religions, and millions of people through the system of gulags, which it developed not only in Russia, but throughout the world wherever it came to power, including Romania. This totalitarian ideology was the main threat to our entire civilization.
Fortunately, as a global ideology communism collapsed by 1991 and cannot be resurrected. Communism still remains the ruling political system in China, North Korea, and Cuba--though not in Russia. Yet without ideological backing its days are numbered. In Russia we see only the remnants of communist political structures, which without the context of political power and ideology are weak and will finally go away.
One may argue that the end of communism was inevitable. It is more difficult to prove that its peaceful departure without destroying Russia and the rest of the world was predetermined as well. Such a departure required at some moment a critical combination of weakness on the part of the communist leadership and strength of the West. Dissidents deserve credit for contributing to both parts of that combination, and Solzhenitsyn�s personal impact cannot be overestimated.
Here I rely on facts, not on my, or someone else�s, feelings toward Solzhenitsyn or analysis of his philosophy, which are quite irrelevant. When I speak about Solzhenitsyn�s influence on neoconservatives, I follow the testimonies of the leaders of that movement, one of which was quoted at this symposium. Only they can say for a fact how Solzhenitsyn affected them, and they testify that his influence was positive and strong.
As for the bipolar model of Westerners and Slavophiles, I believe it was superficial even in the 19th century and is totally outdated now. Starting with the twentieth century the main political struggle has shifted from nationalism vs. internationalism, to left vs. right. A more comprehensive analysis would consider at least three major political forces: socialism, democratic capitalism, and nationalism. To combine the first two into one, of Westerners, is to ignore political realities of the 20th century, when the second and third forces were united against the most extreme form of socialism--communism.
Solzhenitsyn�s story merely confirms my point. The main opposition which he encountered upon arrival in the West came from the left, who rejected him--not for being a Russian nationalist, but for denouncing socialism. Most American conservatives (Richard Pipes being among the few exceptions) were on Solzhenitsyn�s side. They could hardly be considered less Westerner than their counterparts on the left; they had little sympathy for Russian nationalism, and many Jews among neo-conservative leaders would hardly approve any form of anti-Semitism. Yet they realized that at that moment, the main focus was on the struggle of democracy against communism, rather than of America against Russia.
The split in the dissident and human-rights community also started along the left-right line, long before the end of the Soviet Union. However artificial and superficial, that division took place in the 1980s upon the arrival of many dissidents in the West. I remember how I was told with apparent disgust, �Your Reagan,� not �Your Ivan the Terrible.� Only much later, around the late 1990s, did we see the second split on the right into western democrats and Russian nationalists.
My main concern, however, is not the order in which dissidents split, but that it happened too early. I do not agree that dissidents have been always divided in two camps of Westerners and Slavophiles. First, it would be difficult to assign to either of those camps Alexander Ginsburg, Tatyana Velikanova, and many other leading human rights activists who kept their loyalty and high respect to both Sakharov and Solzhenitsyn. Second, from my personal experience, being so closely associated with Sakharov, and the utmost Westerner, I still considered Solzhenitsyn as a close ally, rather than the one belonging to the opposite camp.
The camp opposite to me was Brezhnev and Andropov, as it was for most dissidents. Our differences were secondary to our unity against communist oppressors. And we should have kept that unity until the complete eradication of communism. That could have helped to translate our intellectual victory into a political one.
We lost our focus, though, which was quite uncharacteristic for dissidents, but so typical for the intellectual community in general. This very panel shows how easy it is to drift from major issues to discussions on who was the better writer or who deserved the Nobel Prize. We are not a panel of literary critics but rather of political and human rights activists. With due appreciation for the refined taste and erudition of the panelists, shouldn�t we focus more on political aspects, even when it concerns awards for literature?
From that standpoint, do we really regret that the Nobel Prize did not go to Shalamov? Have we really forgotten what a boost to our morale Solzhenitsyn�s Nobel Prize was, what a sign of support by the democratic world to all dissidents, to all who opposed communism? I doubt that that would have been the case had the prize gone to Shalamov. Wasn�t that much more important than whose literary style was more refined?
I believe that Solzhenitsyn�s Nobel Prize contributed to the earlier and harmless departure of communism. Aren�t we forgetting that we were facing a real threat to our civilization? What was more important then: to take every step to save us from possible catastrophe or to sit on radioactive ashes reading the last copy of Shalamov�s Kolyma Tales and enjoying the fact that he was properly awarded?
As to Solzhenitsyn�s literary style, I would give it high marks only for the fact that millions of people managed to read through three volumes of The Gulag Archipelago and understood this quite complicated book. I hope that we will measure up to his style and that our readers will also be able to get to the end of this symposium.
Litvinov: Solzhenitsyn did not like democratic capitalism in the U.S. and did not want it for Russia. The opposite of communism for him meant a paternalistic authoritarian state of a different kind based on Russian authoritarian tradition. For most of us, we take the opposite to communism to mean a democratic capitalism.
We can argue forever if and when Russia will be on a genuinely democratic path or when it will inevitably fall back on its all too familiar police state matrix.
But I will never forget that by the mid-1960s all Russia read �One Day of Ivan Denisovich� and it became clear that the Stalinist labor camp regime had been really dead in the USSR no matter what else geriatric Soviet leaders could try to do to revive it.
In the 1970-s, after the publication of Gulag Archipelago, very few people in the West could keep alive any illusions about the possibility of humane state socialism.
And for this we must be grateful to Alexander Solzhenitsyn.
Krotov: Solzhenitsyn's phenomenon says a lot about liberty and about humanism. Why did the West make an idol of the author of Gulag Archipelago? Everything which was "collected" by Solzhenitsyn was well known in the West beforehand. The book didn't make any revolution in conscience. The revolution in Western conscience made an idol from this book. The date of this revolution was 1968. Archipelago can be compared with Webber's "Superstar". Webber didn't say anything knew about Lord Jesus Christ, Solzhenitsyn didn't say anything unknown beforehand in the West about Communist atrocities. The West itself has changed its attitude towards religion and towards Communism. And this change marked some obvious progress in understanding humanity, a step from an anti-personalistic world-view to personalism and humanism.
Archipelago differs from "Jesus Christ superstar" as Gorbachev, Yeltsin or Putin differ from Jesus Christ. Archipelago said farewell to Communism only in order to replace Communism with a new, more subtle (and more dangerous) sort of imperialism. Despotism and suffering of the Russian people are not the essence of Russian Communism and, to speak more generally, of Russian slavery. Imperialism and militarism are the main issue. Soldiers can suffer from the stupidity of their generals, still, they are not victims, they are soldiers. Russia is still dangerous to the world, as we've been dangerous in the XVIth c., and in 1913, because it is a unique case of a country with a highly militarized psychology which can begin an atomic world war, which can commit suicide�together with the whole planet.
Communism and its downfall are of a very small importance in this context. Moreover, Soviet Communism was less dangerous than modern Russian imperialism. "Moscow-as-the-Third-Rome" is now alive with Russian Orthodoxy combined with Russian Nazism (in its KGB version). This is much worse that Moscow-as-the-Third-Rome in Marxist skin.
Solzhenitsyn's name "will remain the symbol of the unmasking of Soviet evil" (as Mr. Scharansky said, and I admire Mr. Scharansky much more than Solzhenitsyn). But Solzhenitsyn's name will also remain the symbol of masking some evil which is much more dangerous and much more essential to Russian reality�the evil of anti-humanism, militarism, expansionism. Western support of Solzhenitsyn masked a sad fact: as a political entity, the West didn't oppose Russian Communism. Both Leftists and Rightists, Liberals and Conservatives of the West were too lazy, egoistic and blind. If Archipelago was as great a book as some participants of our discussion stated, then the West wouldn't betray Georgia (and Ukraine) as it did in 2008.
FP: I am not sure how wise it is to blame Solzhenitsyn for every dead sparrow that falls from the sky. The failure of Gulag Archipelago is demonstrated by the West not going to war with Putin�s Russia over Georgia? I am not sure how much legitimacy -- or logic -- there is to such a charge.
I am also not sure how much wisdom there is in diminishing the evil and threat of the Soviet regime in comparison to whatever has followed. And if everyone in the West knew about what Solzhenitsyn compiled in the Gulag Archipelago, then that masterpiece wouldn�t have been the landmark watershed that it was and remains.
The sad, tragic and dark elements of Solzhenitsyn have been outlined in this discussion -- as they should be. But they do not rob this great dissident of his bravery and of his monumental achievement in fuelling the shattering of a monstrous regime.
Final word goes to you Dr. Dalrymple.
Dalrymple: Since I am the last to contribute, I shall try to be fair and judicious.
It seems to me that we have asked three fundamental questions:
i) What is the literary standing or status of Solzhenitsyn?
ii) What was his political effect in practice, in the Soviet Union and the West.
iii) Did or do his less attractive opinions detract from one or both of the above?
Let us take the first question first. Will anyone, other than specialists in Soviet and Russian history, read him in a hundred years' time, for what he tells us about the human condition sub specie aeternitatis? Here it seems to me that he will be in what Somerset Maugham called the first rank of the second-raters (where he put himself). I am reminded of Trigorin's self-proclaimed epitaph in The Seagull: He was a good writer, but not as good as Turgenev. But it seems unfair to criticize every writer because he is not as good as someone else. Which of us would ever put pen to paper if he were to be compared all the time with Shakespeare? But we wouldn't want there to be only Shakespeare.
It seems to me undeniable that he had a great effect in the Soviet Union and the West. It is possible of course that this tells us more about the West than about Solzhenitsyn. It seems to me also undeniably true that he told us nothing that we could, and should, have know before. But as Gide remarked, everything has been said before, but it has to be repeated. Solzhenitsyn confronted western intellectuals with evidence in such a way that they could not deny it any longer, and surely he deserves credit for that. The fact that some people suffered even more than he does not make him any the less of a brave man � far braver than I, for example.
Finally, his undoubtedly unsavoury opinions on some subjects. Can he match Dostoyevsky for the viciousness and stupidity of his anti-Semitism, however? Surely not. But who thinks that Dostoyevsky's insights into human psychology and the real wellsprings of revolutionism are any the less valuable for that? Also, it seems to me that some charity is in order regarding Solzhenitsyn's age when he espoused Putinism. Not only is judgment sometimes impaired with age, but so too does the fight go out of some people, especially those who have suffered in their own flesh and blood.
In summary: Great as a man? Yes. Flawed? Yes. Of the first rank as a writer? Possibly not. Which of us on the panel equals him?
FP: True enough.
And lest we forget: Solzhenitsyn made sure that the royalties and sales income for Gulag Archipelago were transferred to the Solzhenitsyn Foundation which, in turn and in secret, funneled it to aid Gulag survivors and their families in the Soviet Union.
Before we go, I would like to thank my mother, and former Russian dissident, Marina Glazov, for providing many of the ideas, questions -- and suggestions for guests -- for this symposium.
Natan Sharansky, Pavel Litvinov, Dr. Natalia Sadomskaya, Richard Pipes, Yakov Krotov, Lt. Gen. Ion Mihai Pacepa, David Satter, Yuri Yarim Agaev and Dr. Theodore Dalrymple, thank you for joining this special Frontpage Symposium on Alexander Solzhenitsyn.
It was an honor to be amongst all of you.
[i] Cathy Young, �Solzhenitsyn�s tarnished legacy,� The Boston Globe, August 6, 2008.