Introduction And Background Of Alexander Solzhenitsyn

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"For the ethical force with which he has pursued the indispensable traditions

of Russian literature." - From the Nobel Prize Citation for Alexander

Solzhenitsyn, October 8, 1970.

In mid-century - 1962 to be exact - a bright new talent appeared with

stunning suddenness on the literary horizon. Alexander Solzhenitsyn, together

with his epoch-making work, One Day In The Life Of Ivan Denisovich, flared up

like a supernova in the Eastern skies and incandesced the Western skies as

well. Today Solzhenitsyn remains the most impressive figure in world

literature of the latter half of the 20th century.

Before One Day was throttled in the USSR, it had become an overnight

sensation. The 100,000 copies of Novy Mir (New World) carrying the novella

sold out in November 1962 in a matter of hours; so did the almost 1 million

copies of immediate second and third printings. But by 1963, not only

Solzhenitsyn, who had earlier been a protege of the Soviet leader Nikita

Khrushchev, but Khrushchev himself fell under a cloud as a new wave of

political and cultural Reactionism again loomed in the Soviet Union. By the

end of 1964, the editor of Novy Mir (Tvardovsky), Khrushchev, Solzhenitsyn,

and a number of other liberal elements or influences in Soviet culture became

the targets of a widening campaign to restore Stalinist orthodoxy and a rigid

party line to the arts.

Nineteen sixty-two, debut year for One Day In The Life Of Ivan Denisovich

and its author, was an important episode in the most unusual, if brief, epoch

in recent Soviet history. This was the time-1961-1962-of crisscrossing,

incongruous developments, both in domestic as well as foreign policy.

Condemnation Of Stalinism

On the Soviet home scene, the De-Stalinization Campaign reached a

crescendo. Stalin's embalmed body, which lay next to Lenin's, was abruptly

removed from the Lenin Mausoleum on the party's orders and reinterred in a

humble plot at the foot of the Kremlin Wall. This action became a potent

symbol of the widening condemnation of Stalin's draconic policies with respect

to other party comrades, the arts, and the population at large. In the arts,

the liberals now sought to make new inroads, to come out of the closet and

with them, their manuscripts out of desk drawers. This process was illustrated

by the liberal poets Yevgeny Yevtushenko and Andrei Voznesensky, and other

writers acquiring new posts in writers' unions and on editorial boards of

journals. "The younger generation of Russians," Yevtushenko announced

confidently during a lecture tour to England in May 1962, "are increasingly

beginning to feel themselves masters in their own country." The liberal

journal Yunost' (Youth) published Vasily Aksenov's trailblazing story A Ticket

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