It was fitting that on the same day the Moscow Times reported the demise of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, whom it called a "literary giant," it also reported that "prime minister" Vladimir Putin had issued a public pledge to strengthen Russia's ties with America's hated foe Cuba, thus inviting a new escalation in the cold war. "We need to rebuild our positions in Cuba and other countries," Putin declared. In other news, arch American enemy Hugo Chavez was spewing forth plenty of Castro-like anti-American hatred as he took delivery on a couple of dozen Russian war planes. To round things out nicely, another round of the campaign to resurrect and rehabilitate the mass murderer Josef Stalin was announced, this time in the form of smears and slurs against Stalin's great nemesis, Nikita Khrushchev.
As we report below, Russians overwhelmingly believe that it is Putin, not their so-called "president" Dimitry Medvedev, who wields the real power in their country. And Putin is using that power not to advance the interests of the Russian people but to undermine them by provoking and alienating the world's most powerful country, just as his Soviet forbears did. Nothing else can be expected, of course, from man who spent his whole life in the KGB. Putin's actions give the U.S. justification for doing the same in Georgia, Ukraine, the Baltics, and anywhere else that Russia might see as threatening. It's neo-Soviet suicide, pure and simple.
If Solzhenitsyn had had his right mind, the one that produced The Gulag Archipelago and One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, he would have been the world's leading critic of Putin's KGB regime. But he didn't, so he wasn't. Solzhenitsyn's brain went soft years ago, right about the time he returned to Russia and decided the thing to do would be to host a TV talk show. The show was, of course, a cataclysmic failure -- and Solzhenitsyn has not written a significant book in decades. Instead, he churned out dreck attempting to blame the Jews for the excesses of the USSR and, as we've reported several times on this blog, issued numerous statements rationalizing the KGB regime of Vladimir Putin in an apparent attempt to curry favor with power for the sake of his senile ego mania. Putin attempted to praise Solzhenitsyn as some kind of linguist, totally ignoring his work documenting the horrors of Soviet Russia. As Viktor Sonkin, a literature columnist for The Moscow Times Context section and a teacher of cultural studies at Moscow State University, wrote in his column: "Solzhenitsyn understood Western society only superficially, and many alarming things he said about it were simply not correct. Rejecting the 'bad totalitarianism' of the Soviet type, Solzhenitsyn was promoting a kind of 'good totalitarianism,' as if there were such a thing in the world."
We warned Mr. Solzhenitsyn that if he wasn't careful, he was going to pass from this earth in a state of mortal sin, having abrogated his entire life's work for the sake of his old man's ego. He ignored us. And now, it is too late. The eulogies can talk about Solzhenitsyn's courage in standing up to the USSR, but they can't say he did anything whatsoever in the past ten years to stop Russia from sliding down the path towards becoming a neo-Soviet state. To the contrary, by accepting awards from the Putin regime, history can only conclude that Solzhenitsyn played role, however minor and doddering, in helping Russia become what he loathed and risked his life to chronicle.
In the end, Solzhenitsyn was a traitor to Russia, a traitor to his own ideals. The only thing that can be said in his defense is that his actions were surely a sign of the toll taken on his psyche by being evicted from his own country, his fellow citizens having not lifted a finger to protect him, just as they did nothing to protect Pushkin or Dostoevsky, and the crippling affects of his advanced age and the deprivations he suffered in the GULAG. Solzhenitsyn lived two decades longer than the average Russian man (thanks to his comfy digs in a gated community and plenty of access to elite medical care sponsored by the Putin regime), but he spent more than enough time in Russia to suffer its ill effects.
Solzhenitsyn, like the majority of his craven countrymen, sat by and watched as a proud KGB spy wiped out political opposition, destroyed the mass media and crushed local government, centralizing power under his filthy jackboot. He applauded, like the majority of his malignant countrymen, when that proud KGB spy provoked a new cold war with the United States, the same cold war that reduced the USSR to rubble. His ability to generate literature of import vanished, and he groveled for attention like an aging puppy dog. Years from now, when anyone challenges the latest draconian moves against civil society by Dictator Putin, he'll undoubtedly whip out the above photograph and claim that he had Solzhenitsyn's blessing just before he packs off the critic to the neo-Soviet GULAG.
And that will be the story of Solzhenitsyn. Talking about the "good" Solzhenitsyn did long ago now is like talking about how Hitler made the trains run on time. It's beside the point.
Good riddance, Aleksandr Isakyevich. You used your final years to stab yourself and your country in the back, and you could not have disappeared from this earth soon enough to suit us.