August 3 — Alexandr Solzhenitsyn


Today’s Bible reading

The God of Israel spoke,
the Rock of Israel said to me:
‘When one rules over people in righteousness,
when he rules in the fear of God,
he is like the light of morning at sunrise
on a cloudless morning,
like the brightness after rain
that brings grass from the earth.’

“If my house were not right with God,
surely he would not have made with me an everlasting covenant,
arranged and secured in every part;
surely he would not bring to fruition my salvation
and grant me my every desire. – 2 Samuel 23:3-5

More thoughts for meditation about Alexander Solzhenitsyn (1918-2008)

Alexander Solzhenitsyn emerges in the recent history of the church in Russia as a colossus of courage. He was born only months after the secular fundamentalists swept to power in the Bolshevik Revolution. He was brainwashed by a state education system which taught him that religion was the enemy of the people. Like most of his school friends, he became an atheist and joined the communist party.

When he served in the Soviet army on the Eastern Front during the Second World War he witnessed cold blooded murder and the raping of women and children as the Red Army took its “revenge” on the Germans. Disillusioned, he committed the indiscretion of criticizing the Soviet leader Josef Stalin and was imprisoned for eight years as a political dissident.

While in prison, he resolved to expose the horrors of the Soviet system. Shortly after his release, during a period of compulsory exile in Kazakhstan, he was diagnosed with a malignant cancer in its advanced stages and was not expected to live. In the face of what appeared to be impending death, he converted to Christianity and was astonished by what he considered to be a miraculous recovery.

In the 1960s Solzhenitsyn published three novels exposing the secularist tyranny of the Soviet Union and received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1970. Following the publication in 1973 of his seminal work, The Gulag Archipelago, an exposé of the treatment of political dissidents in the Soviet prison system, he was arrested and expelled from the Soviet Union, thereafter living the life of an exile in Switzerland and the United States. He finally returned to Russia in 1994, after the collapse of the Soviet system.

In 1978, Solzhenitsyn caused great controversy when he criticized the secularism and hedonism of the West in his famous commencement address at Harvard University. Condemning the nations of the so-called free West for being morally bankrupt, he urged that it was time “to defend not so much human rights as human obligations.”

He warned the emphasis on rights instead of responsibilities was leading to “the abyss of human decadence” and to the committing of “moral violence against young people, such as motion pictures full of pornography, crime, and horror.” He claimed the root of the modern malaise is the philosophy of “rationalistic humanism or humanistic autonomy,” which declared the “autonomy of man from any higher authority above him.” Such a view “could also be called anthropocentrity, with man seen as the center of all.”

Little could Solzhenitsyn have known when he languished as one of the many millions in the Soviet prison system that he would outlive the Soviet system and, furthermore, that his own courage would play an important part in that very system’s collapse.


  • The battleline between good and evil runs through the heart of every [person].
  • Own only what you can always carry with you: know languages, know countries, know people. Let your memory be your travel bag.
  • A man is happy so long as he chooses to be happy and nothing can stop him.
  • A state of war only serves as an excuse for domestic tyranny.
  • Hastiness and superficiality are the psychic diseases of the 20th century, and more than anywhere else this disease is reflected in the press.
  • Violence can only be concealed by a lie, and the lie can only be maintained by violence.
  • Talent is always conscious of its own abundance, and does not object to sharing.
  • In our country the lie has become not just a moral category but a pillar of the State.
  • How can you expect a man who’s warm to understand one who’s cold?


Bio from the Solzhenitsyn Center

Suggestions for action

The clouds of radical relativism often obscure the light of living Truth. “It can be difficult to discern any silver lining to help us illumine the future with hope. In such gloomy times the example of the martyrs can be encouraging. Those who laid down their lives for Christ and His Church in worse times than ours are beacons of light, dispelling the darkness with their baptism of blood” (Joseph Pearce).

The clouds and the shadows they cast are transient. Evil is nihilistic, which is another way of saying that it is ultimately nothing. It is only a temporary blocking of the light. “Above all shadows rides the Sun,” as the ever-humble Samwise Gamgee reminds his friend in The Lord of the Rings. Even in these dark days, as Solzhenitsyn reminds us, every cloud has a silver lining.

Who is God? Where is your hope? What lie is attempting to shape you? What violence is channeling you? How can you fight? How can we? Answering the questions in our day plants the church.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *