Biography (Censorship (Ready Reference series))
Solzhenitsyn achieved world renown as a writer of epic novels. His writings depict the struggle of humanity against modern totalitarianism. His criticism of the Soviet system under which he lived resulted in his censorship, repression, and exile. A facetious comment about Joseph Stalin that he made in a private letter in 1945 led to his arrest and imprisonment in a corrective labor camp. Only after Stalin’s death in 1953 was he given his freedom. Solzhenitsyn’s prison experience provided the material for his novella One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (1962), which Stalin’s successor, Nikita Khrushchev, permitted to be published. This gripping exposé of life in the Soviet labor camps made Solzhenitsyn a celebrity at home and abroad. At the same time, however, it brought criticism from conservatives in the Soviet Union who opposed the cultural “thaw” that permitted writers to examine previously forbidden subjects.
Following Khrushchev’s ouster in 1964, Leonid Brezhnev’s regime embarked upon a policy of political and cultural repression. In that atmosphere Solzhenitsyn became even more critical of the Soviet regime, which retaliated by prohibiting publication of his writing and harassing him. Solzhenitsyn created a sensation in May, 1967, when...
(The entire section is 2149 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of this article. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!
Biography (Dictionary of World Biography: Twentieth Century)
Article abstract: One of three persons to hold honorary U.S. citizenship, Solzhenitsyn has produced a striking body of literature and has led a long, heroic life, working for freedom in the Soviet Union. His nomination for the Lenin Prize affected de-Stalinization, and his Nobel Prize has positively influenced East-West relations.
Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn scarcely had a childhood. He was born during the Russian Civil War as White and Red armies raced back and forth across the Caucasus, where his family had long resided. His understanding of family history and of the father who died in a freak hunting accident six months before Solzhenitsyn was born are detailed in Avgust chetyrnadtsatogo (1971, 1983; August 1914, 1971, 1989). His earliest memory (1921) is of Soviet soldiers looting a church. Growing up fatherless and with a mother (born Taissa Zakharovna Shcherbak) struggling to hold any kind of a job—her family’s wealth, although confiscated, made her “a social alien”—encouraged in Solzhenitsyn precocity, self-reliance, and self-discipline. Living in harsh circumstances was valuable preparation for the rigors of war and the camps. Private penury merged with public penury after termination of the New Economic Policy in 1928, giving Solzhenitsyn another reason to feel sorry for the Soviet Union (the reason his father had enlisted) and to be attracted to the vision of...
(The entire section is 2138 words.)
Biography (Critical Survey of Short Fiction, Second Revised Edition)
Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn grew up fatherless and poor in Rostov-on-Don, where he took his university degree in mathematics in 1941, having also studied literature by correspondence from Moscow University. After four years of unbroken service as a frontline artillery officer, he was sentenced in 1945 to eight years of hard labor in gulag, the Soviet prison system, for criticizing Joseph Stalin in a private letter. Inexplicably exiled to Kazakhstan from 1953 to 1956, Solzhenitsyn recovered from a near-fatal cancer, taught mathematics and physics in a high school, and began to set his prison experiences down as fiction. Rehabilitated in 1956, he moved to Ryazan, near Moscow, where he continued to write. The publication of his camp novel One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich marked a brief thaw in Soviet literary restrictions under Nikita S. Khrushchev in 1962. Upon the retightening of censorship, Solzhenitsyn’s work was banned from publication in the Soviet Union. After being expelled from the Soviet Writers’ Union in 1969 and barred from formal acceptance of the Nobel Prize in Literature he had won in 1970, Solzhenitsyn was ejected from the Soviet Union in 1973. He settled in Vermont with his second wife and children. In his later years, Solzhenitsyn experienced some misgivings in the West on account of his uncompromising stand against the regime in his country and “conservative” views on the future of Russia. He retired from public...
(The entire section is 257 words.)
Biography (Critical Survey of Long Fiction, Fourth Edition)
Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn was born in Kislovodsk, a city in the north Caucasus, on December 11, 1918, one year after the Russian Revolution. His father, whose studies at the university were interrupted by World War I, died in a hunting accident six months before his son was born. Solzhenitsyn’s mother, Taisiya Zakharovna Shcherbak, worked as an office clerk throughout Solzhenitsyn’s childhood, earning very little money. In 1924, Solzhenitsyn and his mother moved to Rostov-on-Don, a city at that time of nearly a quarter million people. Because of financial considerations and the poor health of his mother, Solzhenitsyn was to continue his education there until he graduated in 1941 from the University of Rostov-on-Don, specializing in mathematics and physics. From an early age, Solzhenitsyn dreamed of being a writer. Having displayed a natural talent for math and finding no adequate literary institution in Rostov-on-Don, however, Solzhenitsyn studied mathematics and physics. Nevertheless, in 1939, Solzhenitsyn decided to pursue his literary interests and began a two-year correspondence course in literature at the Moscow Institute of History, Philosophy, and Literature while continuing his studies in mathematics and physics. He finished this course of study in 1940, the same year that he married Natal’ya Alekseyevna Reshetovskaya (the apparent prototype of Nadya in The First Circle). Reshetovskaya, a specialist in physical chemistry and...
(The entire section is 1388 words.)
Biography (Ethics (Ready Reference series))
While confronted with mounting censorship from Soviet authorities during the 1960’s and his eventual arrest and forced exile in 1974, Solzhenitsyn maintained an ethical identity with his homeland and his image of its historical traditions. Solzhenitsyn’s ethical base was predicated on a renewal of traditional Russian Christian values; he was not attracted to the individualism or democratic institutions of the West. Solzhenitsyn condemned the oppression of the Soviet (and especially the Stalinist) phase in Russian history and described the ethical and moral bankruptcy of the Soviet regime and its institutions. In particular, he condemned the depersonalization of Russian life under the Soviets. He advanced the cause of the individual living within a free but ethically based and directed society. Although all the Solzhenitsyn canon is worthy of study, his most significant works from the standpoint of ethics are One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich and The Gulag Archipelago.
Bloom, Harold, ed. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. Philadelphia: Chelsea House, 2001. A collection of critical essays representing the spectrum of opinion on Solzhenitsyn’s work.
Emerson, Caryl. “The Word of Aleksandr...
(The entire section is 1785 words.)
Biography (Dictionary of World Biography: The 20th Century)
Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn scarcely had a childhood. He was born during the Russian Civil War as White and Red armies raced back and forth across the Caucasus, where his family had long resided. His understanding of family history and of the father who died in a freak hunting accident six months before Solzhenitsyn was born are detailed in Avgust chetyrnadtsatogo (1971, 1983; August 1914, 1971, 1989). His earliest memory (1921) is of Soviet soldiers looting a church. Growing up fatherless and with a mother (born Taissa Zakharovna Shcherbak) struggling to hold any kind of a job—her family’s wealth, although confiscated, made her “a social alien”—encouraged in Solzhenitsyn precocity, self-reliance, and self-discipline. Living in harsh circumstances was valuable preparation for the rigors of war and the camps. Private penury merged with public penury after termination of the New Economic Policy in 1928, giving Solzhenitsyn another reason to feel sorry for the Soviet Union (the reason his father had enlisted) and to be attracted to the vision of Leninism.
Solzhenitsyn labored harder on household chores than most boys, read voraciously, always made top marks in school in Rostov-on-Don, and wrote tales and journals regularly from age ten. He...
(The entire section is 3376 words.)
Biography (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn (sohl-zuh-NEET-suhn) was born on December 11, 1918, in Kislovodsk, a small Caucasus town near Rostov-on-Don in the Soviet Union (now in Russia). Six months before he was born, his father died in World War I in an accident while serving in the czarist army, for which he had volunteered. His mother, Taissa Zakharovna Shcherbak, had a difficult time rearing her family because of their social origin and because of the turmoil in Russia during the revolution and after the war. The family moved to Rostov in 1924, where Solzhenitsyn attended high school and the University of Rostov, studying mathematics and physics. He discovered early that his true love was literature and enrolled in a correspondence literature course. He sent his stories for publication but was repeatedly rejected. He transferred to the Moscow Institute of Literature, Philosophy, and History, married in 1940, and was graduated with honors on a Stalin scholarship in the summer of 1941. In the fall of the same year, he was inducted into the army, where he served with distinction almost to the end of World War II, earning medals and citations and rising to the rank of captain.
In February, 1945, Solzhenitsyn made a near fatal mistake by writing a letter to a friend in which he blamed “the moustached one” (a reference to Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin)...
(The entire section is 1137 words.)
Biography (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn considered his vocation as a mission toward the obtainment of the truth. All of his works serve this goal in one way or another. That he had an ax to grind against the system, which at one point almost cost him his life, was overshadowed by a higher purpose of fulfilling the noble mission of an artist—to serve the truth.
Solzhenitsyn was to a large degree successful in this endeavor, thanks primarily to his powerful artistic qualities, through which he rendered invalid the assertion that he was basically a writer of political and historical works. His meteoric rise to the status of a leading writer in world literature speaks for itself.
(The entire section is 114 words.)
Biography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn (sohl-zeh-NEET-sihn) is widely regarded as the most significant Russian writer of the twentieth century. Many critics see in his writings a revival of nineteenth century Russian realist literature. He was born on December 11, 1918, in Kislovodsk, Soviet Union. His father, an artillery officer in the Russian army, died six months before Aleksandr’s birth. His mother worked as a typist and stenographer. As a youth, Solzhenitsyn felt a desire to become a writer but did not receive any encouragement. From 1939 to 1941 he studied mathematics at the University of Rostov. He was drafted into the army in 1941, where he served with distinction. In February, 1945, the Soviet secret police (KGB) intercepted a letter from Solzhenitsyn to a friend. The letter allegedly contained comments critical of Soviet premier Joseph Stalin. Solzhenitsyn was promptly arrested on February 9, and he was sentenced to eight years of imprisonment. From 1945 to 1953 he was confined in several prisons and labor camps. Solzhenitsyn’s experiences during those years provided the inspiration for the bulk of his subsequent literary output.
Following his release from prison in 1953 Solzhenitsyn was sentenced to internal exile in Kazakhstan in the Asian portion of the Soviet Union. In 1956 he was declared “rehabilitated” and allowed to settle in...
(The entire section is 1076 words.)
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was born on December 11, 1918, in Kislovodsk, Russia. His father, an artillery officer in World War I, died in an accident before he was born, and his mother raised him on a secretary's salary. He studied mathematics at the University of Rostov and graduated in 1941, after having married fellow student Natalya Reshe-tovskaya in 1940. He became an artillery officer in the Soviet Army during World War II and was decorated twice for valor. However, in letters to a friend he criticized the dictator Josef Stalin, referring to him indirectly as "the whiskered one" or "the boss" in Yiddish. This led to his being stripped of his rank and medals and sentenced to a Moscow prison. He spent the last four years of his eight-year sentence at a forced-labor camp in Kazakhstan, where he conceived One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. During this period he also underwent a cancer operation and his wife was forced to divorce him. When he was finally freed, he was not allowed to return home, but instead was required to stay in Kazakhstan. He taught mathematics and wrote "underground," meaning he kept his writing a secret and hid the papers he wrote for fear of discovery by the KGB, the secret police.
Solzhenitsyn didn't expect his work to be published; he wrote because he had to tell the truth about life in the Soviet Union. However, in 1962, the political climate changed briefly. Premiere Nikita Khrushchev wanted to denounce his predecessor,...
(The entire section is 439 words.)