Solzhenitsyn’s Exile

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Solzhenitsyn’s Exile

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“In February 1956, the Soviet Union’s new leader, Nikita Khrushchev, initiated a period in Soviet history known as ‘The Thaw’ … Millions of former political prisoners were granted amnesty, including [Aleksandr] Solzhenitsyn.” (Shattan 149) Solzhenitsyn is Russia’s most prolific writer of the 20th century was Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, a man who rose to fame through his literature. It was Khrushchev’s thaw, however, that resulted in Solzhenitsyn’s exile. Solzhenitsyn made his break in literature because of Khrushchev’s thaw. Yet as time went by, the Soviet leadership became increasingly conservative after the thaw. Initially, the conservative leadership did not know what to do with Solzhenitsyn, but after deciding to take action against Solzhenitsyn, they eventually worked towards a final solution, his deportation from Russia. Had it not been for the thaw, though, Solzhenitsyn would never have made the rise to fame, and his deportation.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn first became active in politics during his time in Rostov University prior to World War II, during which time he became “a convinced Communist - a member of the Komsomol (Young Communist League)… and the proud holder of a Stalin scholarship.” (Shattan 137) After graduating in 1941, Solzhenitsyn joined up with the Russian artillery to fight the Nazi army. During this time, he began to formulate a belief that Stalin “had betrayed Leninism and was responsible for the defeats in the first phase of the war” (Shattan 140) He communicated these ideas with a friend through letters, but was caught by censors and imprisoned. During his time in prison, which would provide the material for One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, it was discovered by Soviet authorities that Solzhenitsyn had a degree in physics. Because of this, he was transferred to a special science prison, where prisoners worked on Soviet experiments. In 1953, his term served, Solzhenitsyn was released from prison, but forced into an internal exile in southern Kazakhstan. However, in 1956 this exile was ended by the new Soviet leader, Nikita Khrushchev, who initiated “The Thaw” by releasing millions of political prisoners. Solzhenitsyn was free to write and to travel.

In a society that had repressed its writers for the last 30 years, it was extremely difficult, and quite a gamble, for an author to try to publish a book, much less one that criticized one of the only two leaders the single party state had known.
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