For the Record

Solzhenitsyn and the Gulag Archipelago

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In 1973 most liberals in this country were pro-American, anti-Communist, honorable, truthful and compassionate. That was the year Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn came out with his epic work, the Gulag Archipelago, and liberals were very supportive of his masterpiece.

Time magazine said it was the most important piece of non-fiction in the 20th Century, Harvard invited Solzhenitsyn to give the commencement address at its 1978 graduation exercise and in 2018 on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of his birth, The New York Times described him as “The Writer Who Destroyed an Empire,” referring to the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.

Most liberals have changed dramatically over the last 50 years. Most have become Communists or Communist sympathizers and they no longer like someone who speaks ill of Communism or Communist countries such as China and they certainly do not like a man who can topple a Communist country.

My problem is I’ve only got hundreds of words to relate the problems with Communism that Solzhenitsyn needed three-volumes and 1,800 pages to explain. Solzhenitsyn gave thousands of examples to explain the horrors of Communism, particularly under Lenin and Stalin.

It’s one thing to put a total number to the people who died under Communist rule, just in Russia and the Soviet Union. That figure was something around 66 million. A number like that doesn’t seem as attention-grabbing, however, as the fact that in 1929 and 1930 at least 15 million peasants were marched out onto the tundra and taiga — areas that get so cold trees don’t grow there — and allowed to die. “This wave poured forth, sank down into the permafrost, and even our most active minds recall hardly a thing about it. It is as if it had not even scarred the Russian conscience,” Solzhenitsyn explains. Whether this event scarred the Russian conscience, I can’t say, but I can certainly say it has not scarred the conscience of America’s Democratic leaders and their allies in the Deep State, Big Tech, big media and big business, all of whom are working overtime to help the Communist Party of China.

This is the perfect time to explain the difference between Russian and Chinese Communism. Of the 66 million who died under Russia and the Soviet Union, most died during the almost-30-year reign of Joseph Stalin. Stalin’s successors did not like Stalin’s gulags or his tactics. Solzhenitsyn said there was a rumor that Stalin executed Nikita Kruschev’s son-in-law. Mikhail Gorbachev was no fan of the gulags. He had family members who experienced life in those institutions. There have been no gulags in operation in Russia since 1961.

China, on the other hand, in the past few years has built some 400 “reeducation” camps to hold an estimated one million Uighurs and other minorities who are Muslims. The swamp-dwellers want to do the same for the 75 million who voted for Trump.

Our Democratic Party leaders and their allies want us to believe the real threat to the U.S. is Russia and its leader Vladimir Putin. That is a patent lie. China is the threat, not Russia. It’s not Russia that has bought the U.S. Presidency. It is not Russia that owns many of this country’s leading universities. It is not Russia that has the American media and Big Tech doing its heavy lifting.

Another example from Solzhenitsyn’s work explains how Communists lie, misinform and play word games. From the very beginning of the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, strong elements within the movement favored abolishment of capital punishment. Lenin, the leader of the Communist element and the man who would lead the country from 1918 to 1924, scoffed at the idea, but went along with the members of his coalition. On Oct. 28, 1917, capital punishment was abolished. At the beginning of 1918, an admiral went on trial for refusing to follow an order to scuttle Russia’s Baltic fleet. After a brief trial the judge ordered the admiral “To be shot within twenty-four hours.” Some in the courtroom expressed concern, because capital punishment had been abolished. To which, the prosecutor replied: “What are you worrying about? Executions have been abolished. But Shchastny (the admiral) is not being executed; he is being shot.” And they did shoot him, Solzhenitsyn added. This is a distinction that would be fully appreciated in D.C.

The author went on to say that in a 16-month period in 1918 and 1919, 16,000 persons were shot. This new era of executions “stunned and froze Russia,” Solzhenitsyn said, but not as much as the practice of “sinking barges loaded with uncounted, unregistered hundreds, unidentified even by a roll call.”

You can always trust a Communist. He’ll always lie or always do anything — however dishonorable — to advance the cause of Communism. Solzhenitsyn reported that in “1937 and 1938 a half-million political prisoners had been shot throughout the Soviet Union, and 480,000 blatnye — habitual thieves — in addition. This was from one source. Another source said the number was 1,700,000. Take your pick.

Let me conclude this column with a few words about Solzhenitsyn. He was born in 1918, was in his early years a committed Communist, won awards for his service in the Soviet Army in World War II, and underwent a life-changing experience in 1945, when in a private letter to a friend he criticized Stalin. This led to five years in solitary confinement and eight years in a gulag. Solzhenitsyn was a trained mathematician, but he wanted to become a writer and he became a great one. In addition to Gulag, he wrote many novels that described life in Stalin’s Russia.

Solzhenitsyn’s books challenged every aspect of the Soviet system. I’m somewhat surprised that the Soviets did not kill him because of his writings. Instead, they exiled him, first inside the Soviet Union and later expelled him from the country. He spent almost two decades in Vermont, before returning to Russia in 1994. He died in his native country in 2008 at the age of 89.

What do you think would have happened to a Chinese citizen who wrote these kinds of books? I don’t think he or she would have lived to be 89. Do you?

I hope this column has possibly convinced you that you should look into this matter in greater detail. You could go to your local library and try to check out Gulag Archipelago. If you did that, you’d find yourself in a line of people who are waiting for their turn to get the book. I’d suggest you go to a book store in Jefferson City or Columbia and buy a copy. A paperback version is around $20. Better yet, I’d like to see members of our local book clubs choose this as the book all of its members read.

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