Early Life and Influences (09:07)
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was born in 1918 in Kislovodsk, Russia; he studied math and physics at Rostov University. Though religious at first, he was influenced by atheist and Marxist ideas. He joined the military in 1941 and wrote extensively. When his letters to a friend were intercepted, he was arrested for criticizing the Stalinist regime.
Prison Sentence (07:33)
Solzhenitsyn was sentenced to eight years and hard labor. He worked at a brick factory in Lubyanka and then transferred to the prison research institute. He spent the remaining years at a labor camp in Kazakhstan where he wrote and memorized thousands of poems; after his release he went into exile.
Return to Russia and Writing Fame (08:29)
During exile, Solzhenitsyn taught, wrote, and was treated for cancer. He returned to Russia where he continued teaching and reunited with his wife. Inspired by Nikita Khrushchev’s anti-Stalinist sentiment, Solzhenitsyn sent “One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich” to the literary journal; it was successful across Russia and the world.
Censorship and Publication (07:51)
As Leonid Brezhnev came to power, Solzhenitsyn published his last work in “Novy Mir” and began compiling first-hand accounts of prisoners through a secret network. In Moscow, he met his new wife and other dissidents, and was harassed by the KGB as he was finishing “Gulag Archipelago.”
Exile and "The Red Wheel" (06:36)
Soviet authorities arrested Solzhenitsyn in 1974, sending him to Zurich where he focused his study on Lenin. In 1976, his family moved to Vermont, where he devoted time to researching and writing the history of the revolution. Solzhenitsyn and his wife contacted many emigres to create a collection of Russian memory.
Return to Russia and Memoirs (07:16)
Upon returning to Russia in 1994, Solzhenitsyn was inspired by the landscape and people. He wrote miniatures and two memoirs, which reinforced truths about his life and characterized Western and Soviet culture. Solzhenitsyn developed essays on the Russian condition.
Credits: Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (00:44)
Credits: Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
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