Aug 05 2008

WorldView: Goodbye, Solzhenitsyn

Published by at 3:48 pm under Uncategorized

Like most young Canadians starting out in post-secondary education, I flirted with the ideas of communism that seemed larger than life on campus (and oddly invisible in the real post-Soviet world of 1990s-era Winnipeg).

I didn’t particularly like the idea of a worker’s paradise, since the phrase struck my lazy self as a bit of an oxymoron. But most of my academic colleagues seemed awfully comfortable with the idea of Canada as a socialist counterweight to the free-market colossus to our south in much the same way that much of Canada’s academia today seems locked into an uncomfortable unspoken alliance with thuggish religious fanatics opposed to the USA — not to mention our own way of life.

Reading Alexander Solzhenitsyn‘s works at the still-formative age of 18 thankfully turned me away from my commie sympathizer leanings. Anyone who has read the Gulag Archipelago — or any of the Russian writer’s other works, from One Day In the Life of Ivan Denisovich to Cancer Ward — understands why it is so important to treat communism and other ideologically extreme political dead-end movements with absolute contempt.

Solzhenitsyn had the courage to write. He was banished from his homeland and charged with treason by the Soviet Union’s ruthless leadership for the words that he wrote. But in the end, Solzhenitsyn’s words made a difference.

He won’t be soon forgotten.

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One response so far

One Response to “WorldView: Goodbye, Solzhenitsyn”

  1. Steve P in Bethesda, Md.on 17 May 2009 at 4:44 am

    Yes, yes, yes! I, too, encountered Solzhenitsyn my first year of college. And I, too, would have identified myself comfortably as a Marxist at that point. But for me that was 1973-74, and the world looked rather different than it does today. The Viet Nam war, while winding down, was still going on. Leonid Brezhnev was Secretary General of the Soviet Communist Party. Solzhenitsyn was still living in the USSR, but The Gulag Archipelago was just beginning to appear in the west — and he was soon to feel again the weight of the Soviet system coming down on him. Reading his work was a revelation, and while I remained critical of what my own country was doing at the time, I could no longer entertain any fantasies about communism. Solzhenitsyn has remained an intellectual hero of mine ever since. Thanks for your essay.

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