New York Times

Where's Solzhenitsyn?

September 12, 1991
By Shlorno Avineri

Washington--Soviet Communism has collasped, the Baltic republics have regained their independence, and Russia has been reborn. But Russia’s most reowned writer, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn has remained strangely silent.
Ever since the publication of “One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich,” his prose has helped define the West’s image of the horrors Communism has visited upon his native Russia. The “Gulag Archipelago” has been indelibly etched into mankind’s consciousness by his unrelenting research and creative exposition. Even those who disagreed with his philosophy, especially his 100 facile blanket condemnation of the West’s “decadence” and “materialism,” could not but admire his moral and physical courage, applaud his love of country, admit the force of his spirituality.

True, one would not expect a thinker of his stature to rush to Op-Ed columns or show upon the TV talk show circuit. Still, one wonders. The most worldshaking events since 1917 are unfolding in Russia and one looks for some comment, some world of encouragement from the man who sees himself as his nation’s moral voice.

Or does Mr. Solzhenitsyn, for all his anti-communism, feel uneasy about the shape of things emerging in post-communism Russia? Is he disturbed that the 1991 review has been launched in the name of democracy, individual freedom, and a call for free market economy—all his ideas as an athema to him as communism? Is he distressed that the Ukrainian--to him, part of the Great Russian nation—want to go their own way? Is he deeply disappointed to see that Russia’s new leaders look to the West as their model rather than to the old Czarist Russia he so admires?

If this is so, he should speak up. If Mr. Solzhenitsyn indeed sees the present, with all its pitfalls and dangers, as a great emancipatory new beginning, then we, his readers and critical admirers, are entitled to know. Because if he chooses to keep silent at such a moment, his silence, too, will speak out loud and clear.