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Like a Thunderbolt

Sheila Fitzpatrick: Solzhenitsyn’s Mission, 11 September 2008

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn 
by Liudmila Saraskina.
Molodaia gvardiia, 935 pp., €30, April 2008, 978 5 235 03102 9
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... challenged the Soviet Goliath should now appear under its imprint. As Saraskina tells the story, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, a Russian patriot and Orthodox Christian, was a man with a mission from the first. Unswerving, uncompromising, beset by perils and enemies, stoically enduring great ordeals, he set out to bring down the Soviet system. Like any prophet ...

Making history

Neal Ascherson, 21 August 1980

The Oak and the Calf 
by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.
Collins Harvill, 568 pp., £8.95, July 1980, 0 06 014014 3
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... O Lord, that I may not break as I strike! Let me not fall from Thy hand!’ (1973). Alexander Solzhenitsyn subtitles his book ‘Sketches of Literary Life in the Soviet Union’, and we feel the secondary, invisible inverted commas he claps around ‘sketches’ (read: ‘monumental memoirs’), ‘literary life’ (read: ‘mud-writhings of the literary ...

When did your eyes open?

Benjamin Nathans: Sakharov, 13 May 2010

Meeting the Demands of Reason: The Life and Thought of Andrei Sakharov 
by Jay Bergman.
Cornell, 454 pp., £24.95, October 2009, 978 0 8014 4731 0
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... a young art historian, accompanied a group of foreigners on a visit to the Moscow studio of Aleksandr Gerasimov, the president of the Soviet Academy of Arts. Gerasimov had made his name with fawning neoclassical portraits of Stalin and Voroshilov, and used his position to crush ‘cosmopolitan’ and ‘formalist’ artists whose work strayed from the ...


John Barber, 29 October 1987

Socialism, Peace and Democracy: Writings, Speeches and Reports 
by Mikhail Gorbachev.
Zwan, 210 pp., £14.95, October 1987, 1 85305 011 3
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by Zhores Medvedev.
Blackwell, 314 pp., £5.95, May 1987, 0 631 15880 4
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The Sixth Continent: Russia and Mikhail Gorbachov 
by Mark Frankland.
Hamish Hamilton, 292 pp., £12.95, June 1987, 0 241 12122 1
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Shadows and Whispers: Power Politics inside the Kremlin from Brezhnev to Gorbachev 
by Dusko Doder.
Harrap, 349 pp., £12.95, July 1987, 0 245 54577 8
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Pravda: Inside the Soviet News Machine 
by Angus Roxburgh.
Gollancz, 285 pp., £16.95, May 1987, 0 575 03734 2
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Utopia in Power: A History of the USSR from 1917 to the Present 
by Michel Heller and Aleksandr Nekrich.
Hutchinson, 877 pp., £25, August 1987, 0 09 155620 1
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... the system. It would clearly take more than a few months of glasnost to persuade Michel Heller and Aleksandr Nekrich that real reform is taking place in the USSR. They are as convinced of the impossibility of genuine change as the most conservative defenders of the status quo. ‘Homo sovieticus began from zero. On 25 October 1917 a new era began. The history ...

Barbarism with a Human Face

Slavoj Žižek: Lenin v. Stalin in Kiev, 8 May 2014

... though repressed, persisted in the Communist underground opposition to Stalin. Long before Solzhenitsyn, as Christopher Hitchens wrote in 2011, ‘the crucial questions about the Gulag were being asked by left oppositionists, from Boris Souvarine to Victor Serge to C.L.R. James, in real time and at great peril. Those courageous and prescient heretics ...

A Spy in the Archives

Sheila Fitzpatrick: Was I a spy?, 2 December 2010

... Soviet society, culture and government from a Communist standpoint; it was the first publisher of Solzhenitsyn’s One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. Novyi mir was often hailed in the West as a dissident publication, the assumption being that its stance of critical Communist loyalty was just a tactic; this drove the Novyi mir people mad, not just because ...

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