Light a candle in memory of Alexander Solzhenitsyn

Light a candle in memory of Alexander Solzhenitsyn

I must confess that I have a weakness I suppose, if you want to call it that, for Russian writers—Fyodor Dostoyevsky is still by far my favourite novelist. One of my heroes of the faith, the Russian Orthodox, moral and spiritual heavyweight of the 20th century was 1970 Nobel Literature Prize winner, Alexander Solzhenitsyn.

I found his One Day in the Life of Ivan Denesovich and Gulag Archipelago the most courageous literature of the last century. Solzhenitsyn was, in my estimation, a contemporary prophet. I believe that God spared his life first as a soldier in World War II, then as a citizen of Stalin’s forced labour camps, and, in the aftermath of that, as the subject of persecution by the KGB for publishing Gulag Archipelago. I think that the Nobel Committee was most insightful in awarding Solzhenitsyn their Prize; it may have been one of the factors that saved his life. However, in spite of the West’s criticism of the Soviet authorities, the latter decided to strip Solzhenitsyn of his citizenship and expel him from Russia. His intellectual rigour was—he could even memorize an entire novel because he was deprived of pen and paper—amazing.

With the eyes of a prophet, Solzhenitsyn had insights into both the Soviet version of Communism and Western democracies. He was critical of both, exposing the truth without compromise. He critiqued both for what he regarded as their moral-spiritual corruption. For that he was persecuted and largely ignored—the prophet has no honour in their own time and place. However, as Jesus’ Beatitude confirms: “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:10-12) I believe that Alexander Solzhenitsyn was a living testimony to this Beatitude. Thank God for the life of Alexander Solzhenitsyn, grant him eternal rest in you, O Lord. I am going to light a candle—and I encourage you to do the same—in memory of Alexander Solzhenitsyn. You can read one version of his obituary here.