Friday, February 6, 2015

Alexander Solzhenitsyn Warned the West of Its Tilt Toward Totalinarianism

By Wendy Murray

“When you're cold, don't expect sympathy from someone who's warm.”
― Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

On February 14 in 1974 authorities in the Soviet Union officially charged writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn (1918 to 2008) with treason. He was sent into exile and his Russian citizenship revoked.

Having publicly criticized totalitarian rule under the Soviet system, his writings were censored and condemned in his homeland, but held up and praised in the West. He raised global awareness of Soviet system of forced labor camps, called the GULAG (the Russian term Glavnoye Upravleniye ispravitelno-trudovyh Lagerey, or "Chief Administration of Corrective Labour Camps") where The Gulag Archipelago (three volumes) and One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich.
dissidents went who criticized the system. Solzhenitsyn spent 11 years in the GULAG, documented in his books

(Go here for a list of all his books.)

He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1970, "for the ethical force with which he has pursued the indispensable traditions of Russian literature." He was expelled from the Soviet Union in 1974 and took up residency in rural Vermont, but returned to Russia in 1994 after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. He died  in August, 2008.

June 8, 1978, Solzhenitsyn gave the commencement address at Harvard University, called "A World Split Apart" in which he warned that Western nations are as vulnerable to totalitarian rule has the East has been and are in fact becoming inclined to it:

"A decline in courage may be the most striking feature which an outside observer notices in the West in our days. The Western world has lost its civil courage, both as a whole and separately, in each country, each government, each political party, and, of course, in the United Nations. Such a decline in courage is particularly noticeable among the ruling groups and the intellectual elite, causing an impression of loss of courage by the entire society. Of course, there are many courageous individuals, but they have no determining influence on public life."

The video of his address is below: He speaks in Russian with simultaneous translation. The first 2 minutes alone are worth watching as he is introduced and his work put into its historical context. At the time the address was received with mix sentiment, as Solzhenitsyn leveled harsh criticism of Western self-interest and materialism: "The defense of individual rights has reached such extremes as to make society as a whole defenseless against certain individuals. . . . It is time, in the West, to defend not so much human rights as human obligations.”