Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn Additional Biography


(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

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 life, spending all his time writing the Red Wheel novels. Solzhenitsyn returned to Russia and lived on an estate outside of Moscow until his death on August 3, 2008 at the age of 89.


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

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 biochemistry, taught at the Agriculture Institute in Rostov-on-Don. On October 18, 1941, Solzhenitsyn was drafted into the Soviet army; he hardly saw his wife for the next fifteen years.

Solzhenitsyn served in the army in various capacities, working his way up to battery commander. He was a decorated and inspiring leader, but his army duty was cut short in February, 1945, when he was summoned to his commanding officer’s quarters and arrested. The charges, as was typical throughout the Stalinist era, were not made clear to Solzhenitsyn at that time. Later, he determined that he had been arrested for oblique, derogatory remarks concerning Joseph Stalin and his mismanagement of the war that he had made in a personal journal and in a letter to a friend. Upon his arrest, he was taken to the Lubyanka, the notorious prison in Moscow. On July 7, 1945, after four months of interrogation, he was sentenced to eight years of hard labor. Solzhenitsyn’s novella One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, his novel The First Circle, and his multivolume work The Gulag Archipelago are all based on his firsthand experience of the Stalinist labor camps. He, like countless other Soviet citizens, was sentenced, under section 58 of the Soviet penal code, for counterrevolutionary crimes. Solzhenitsyn spent the beginning of his term at Butyrka, a Moscow prison, laying parquet floors, as does Nerzhin, theprotagonist of The First Circle. Later in 1946, because of his training in mathematics and physics, he was transferred to a sharashka (a prison where scientists work on special projects for the state) very similar to the one depicted in The First Circle. After one year in the sharashka, Solzhenitsyn was sent to a labor camp in northern Kazakhstan. During his stay there, he had a tumor removed; the prisoner was not told that it was malignant.

In February, 1953, Solzhenitsyn was released...

(The entire section is 1388 words.)


(Critical Survey of Ethics and Literature)

Author Profile

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....

(The entire section is 1780 words.)


(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical 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...

(The entire section is 1135 words.)


(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical 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.


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical 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...

(The entire section is 1074 words.)


(Short Stories for Students)

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was born on December 11, 1918, in Kislovodsk, Russia. His father, an artillery officer in World War I, died in an...

(The entire section is 439 words.)