December 18, 2014


Soviet novelist and Nobel Prize winner who achieved international fame in the early 1960s with the publication od Odin den iz zhizni Ivana Denisovicha (1962, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich) describing life in a forced-labour camp during the Stalin era.

Solzhenitsyn was born into a family of Cossack intellectuals and brought up primarily by his mother who was a teacher (his father was killed in an accident before his birth).

He attended the University of Rostov-na-Donu graduating in mathematics and took correspondence courses in literature at the Moscow State University.

He fought in World War II achieving the rank of captain of artillery.

In 1945 he was arrested for writing a letter in which he criticized Stalin and was imprisoned for eight years after which he spent three more years in a detention camp.
Rehabilitated in 1956 he was allowed to settle in Ryazan in central Russia where he became a mathematics teacher and began to write.

In 1962 Solzhenitsyn´s One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich was published in the Soviet journal Novy Mir and its popularity was so immediate that stores quickly sold out all their copies.
It produced a political sensation both abroad and in the Soviet Union where it inspired a number of other writers to produce accounts of life under Stalin´s regime.

The period of liberalization was short-lived.
In 1963 with the publication of a collection of short stories he provoked official criticism.
After that he had much difficulty in getting his works published and many of his manuscripts were confiscated.

In response he adressed an open letter to the Fourth National Congress of Soviet Writers reprimanding that organization for its past betrayal of writers.

Several of his works printed in the Soviet Union as samizdat (self-published, illegal) literature were published abroad in popular editions including Cancer Ward (1968) and The First Circle (1968).
In 1970 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature but did not go to Stockholm to receive it.
His next novel to be published outside the Soviet Union was August (1971).

In August 1973 Solzhenitsyn at a press conference with Western correspondents charged the government with threats against him and criticized the Soviet system for curbing the individual freedom of its citizens.
A few days later he and the physicist Andrey Sakharov were implicated in a highly publicized treason trial of two other dissidents who had turned state´s evidence.
Solzhenitsyn announced that he had received threats against his life and that in the event of his death or disappearance he had made arrangements for the publication of the main body of his works in the West.

In September 1973 two revised chapters of The First Circle were circulated in the samizdat press.
In December the first parts of The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956 were published in Paris. In this book he documents the opression of the Soviet labour camp system for which Gulag is the Russian acronym.

Upon publication of The Gulag Archipelago he was immediately attacked in the Soviet press.
Despite the intense interest in his fate that was shown in the West he was arrested and charged with treason on Feb. 12 1974.

Solzhenitsyn was exiled from the Soviet Union on the following day and later settled in Switzerland.
In December he took possession of his Nobel Prize.

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