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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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... know its heroes. It’s ironic that Liudmila Saraskina’s deeply admiring biography of the David who challenged the Soviet Goliath should now appear under its imprint. As Saraskina tells the story, AleksandrSolzhenitsyn, 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 ...

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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... a sword made sharp to strike the unclean forces, an enchanted sword to cleave and disperse them. Grant, 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 ...

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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... In 1957, Boris Shragin, 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 ...

Glasnost

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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Gorbachev 
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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... But this ‘simply’ may amount to a great deal, because it may lead to fundamental changes in 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 ...

Barbarism with a Human Face

Slavoj Žižek: Lenin v. Stalin in Kiev

7 May 2014
... south-eastern oblasts of Ukraine, resuscitating a term last used in 1917. But the Leninist undercurrent, 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 ...

A Spy in the Archives

Sheila Fitzpatrick: Was I a spy?

2 December 2010
... in the 1960s as the centre of reform thinking and ‘loyal opposition’ – that is, criticism of 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 ...

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