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December 16, 2003 by AK

Solzhenitsyn turned 85…

… on Dec. 11. There wasn’t much response in the Russian press, even less in the Western media. Putin, of course, sent Solzh a congratulatory letter (so tragicomical, so Russian). My feeling is that most Russian public intellectuals don’t want to listen to Solzhenitsyn any longer. Blame his didactic posturing, his unacceptance of modernity and post-modernity, his inflexibility. Blame the apparent fact that he is not a philo-Semite. Solzehnitsyn’s recent book, 200 Years Together, an inquiry into the co-existence of the Jews and the goyim in the Russian and Soviet empires, is indeed controversial. I, for one, have a problem with his treatment of Jews and Russians as two separate peoples co-existing within a common geographic area, as well as his implied references to group guilt. However, however one feels about that particular book, Solzhenitsyn is a supporter of Zionism (read his praise of Zhabotinsky) and it’s hard to even imagine Solzh speaking in favor of Arafat & Co.

There are a few popular misconceptions about Solzhenitsyn, most likely due to his critics’ unwillingness to read his voluminous writings. His recent work is poor literature; his Russian is unreadable; he is a chauvinistic imperialist; he is intolerant and hateful; his views are anti-democratic, etc., etc. I’ll try to debunk some of these in the next post.


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