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Solzhenitsyn: oggi camera ardente all’Accademia delle Scienze a Mosca
MOSCA – Sara’ esposta oggi nella sede centrale dell’Accademia delle Scienze a Mosca la salma di Alexandr Solzhenitsyn, lo scrittore-dissidente che rivelo’ al mondo la tragedia dei gulag staliniani. La camera ardente per l’estremo saluto dei concittadini iniziera’ alle 11 (ora locale) e terminera’ in serata. (Agr)
da corriere della sera 5 agosto 2008
International friends can read thisSolzhenitsyn, the conscience of Russia, who told the truth about the gulags – and so signed the death warrant of Bolshevism
Mail writer OWEN MATTHEWS’ grandfather was executed by Stalin, and his grandmother was sent to the death camps. Here he offers a unique insight into how Alexander Solzhenitzyn, who died this week, captured the terrible reality of the gulags.
For decades, the Soviet Communist Party claimed to be the ‘mind, honour and conscience of the people’.
But the truth was that the Party was the agent of unimaginable human suffering, lies and deception.
The true conscience of Russia was Alexander Solzhenitsyn – the man who dared to speak out against the regime and chronicled its crimes in painstaking detail.
And in insisting that the Russian people ‘live not by lies’, Solzhenitsyn made a tiny but deep fissure in the wall of hypocrisy which was, in time, to crack the whole rotten system apart.
The truth Solzhenitsyn told helped to make Russia free.
As Mikhail Gorbachev yesterday acknowledged, Solzhenitsyn had ‘helped people see the real nature of the regime’ – and his writings had helped to ‘make our country free and democratic’.
Solzhenitsyn brought the terrible reality of the Soviet gulag home not just to foreigners but to ordinary Russians too.
In the bright, sanitised world of Soviet propaganda, Solzhenitsyn’s writing held a mirror to the Soviet Union’s darkest secrets.
He was to pay a heavy price for this.
After being awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1970 he was too famous to jail, yet his presence became too toxic for the authorities to bear.
He was forced on to a plane for America in 1974.There, he retired to rural Vermont, where the winters reminded him of Russia. But America, ‘land of the free’, was ironically to disillusion him as well, and he turned his indignation on the injustices of capitalism.
After two decades in exile, he returned to Russia in 1994 and was feted as an almost messianic figure.
It was here that Solzhenitsyn’s moral compass, so steady in the black and white world of Stalin’s Russia, began to waver.
But for all his hatred of the Communist Soviet Union, Solzhenitsyn found that he had no love for the capitalist Russia of the Nineties and what he saw as its decadent values.
He refused to accept a state prize from Boris Yeltsin because he had brought ‘so much suffering on the Russian people’.
Indeed, when Vladimir Putin – a former KGB officer – began to prune away the anarchic freedoms which Yeltsin had won, Solzhenitsyn hailed his ‘strong leadership’ and brushed aside Putin’s KGB past, saying: ‘Every country needs an intelligence service.’
Yesterday, Putin returned the compliment, lamenting Solzhenitsyn’s passing as a ‘heavy loss for Russia’.Putin and Russia’s new president, Dmitry Medvedev, are expected to attend Solzhenitsyn’s funeral at Moscow’s Donskoi monastery today. The strangeness of an ex-KGB officer paying tribute to Russia’s greatest dissident is a reflection of how conflicted Russia remains about its recent past – and in particular the legacy of Stalin.
He was the greatest mass murderer of the last century, starving millions in man-made famines and creating a prison system which claimed more lives than the Nazi death camps.
And yet recent polls have shown that Stalin is regarded as one of Russia’s most respected historical figures.
With the Kremlin’s blessing, school history books are being revised to show the ‘Great Leader’ in a more positive light, as the victor of World War II and the moderniser of Russia.
Putin even described the fall of the Soviet Union as ‘the greatest geopolitical tragedy of the century’.
Solzhenitsyn’s life was a refutation of that. The one constant in that life was that he was moved by a powerful, almost mystical, moral sense.He felt compelled to speak out against what he felt was wrong, regardless of the consequences. In his case, these injustices were eight years in the gulag, decades of harassment and denunciation by the Soviet authorities and the regime’s craven ‘intellectuals’ and, finally, 20 years of exile from the country which he loved with a passion.
His first crime was to criticise Stalin in a private letter to a friend in 1945.
When the military censor reported the letter to the secret police, Solzhenitsyn, then a young artillery captain twice decorated for valour, was sent, after a perfunctory trial, to Stalin’s nightmarish gulags.
Like 18 million of his fellow countrymen, he found himself plunged into a parallel world of unimaginable brutality, where prisoners slaved in the Siberian cold on madly futile projects like canals no one needed and train lines to nowhere.
Later he wrote of ‘the desperate loneliness of the accused, the confusion and dislocation, the fear and indignation of the men and women who were rapidly filling the Soviet Union’s jails’.
‘The whole apparatus threw its full weight on one lonely and uninhibited will,’ he recalled.
‘Brother mine! Do not condemn those who turned out to be weak and confessed to more than they should have. Do not be the first to cast a stone at them!’
Solzhenitsyn called Stalin’s prison system the Gulag Archipelago – like islands in a sea of frozen steppe, the barbed-wire fenced gulags were a state within the state.
After his release he penned a short story which described, in simple but devastating detail, one day in the life of a gulag inmate, Ivan Denisovich.
When it was published in 1962, during a brief post-Stalin thaw, One Day In The Life Of Ivan Denisovich caused a sensation.
The state had tried to airbrush Stalin’s gulags, purges and famines from history.
Solzhenitsyn spoke for the millions whose voices Stalin had silenced.
One of them was my mother’s father, Boris Lvovich Bibikov.
A devoted Bolshevik, Bibikov had received the Order of Lenin for his part in building the Kharkov Tractor Factory, one of the giant projects of the industrialisation drive of the Thirties.
But in the Great Purge of 1937, which Stalin launched against his real and imagined opponents, Bibikov found himself accused of crimes against the revolution.
He was tried by a secret court on evidence obtained under torture, and sentenced to death.The usual method was ‘nine grams’, the weight of a pistol bullet, to the back of the head – my grandfather’s fate. His wife, my grandmother, was sent to the gulag for 15 years as the wife of an ‘enemy of the people’.
His two daughters – my mother and aunt – were sent to an orphanage for re-education.
Some years ago I was given permission to read my grandfather’s secret police file.
It contained about 3lb of paper, the sheets carefully numbered and bound, with my grandfather’s name entered on the crumbling brown cover in curiously elaborate, copperplate script.
The file sat heavily in my lap, eerily malignant, and since the careful bureaucrats who compiled the file neglected to say where he was buried, this stack of paper is the closest thing to Boris Bibikov’s remains.
For the days I sat in the former KGB HQ in Kiev examining the file, Alexander Ponamaryev, a young officer of the Ukrainian security service sat with me, reading out passages of barely legible cursive script and explaining legal terms.
‘Your grandfather believed,’ said Ponamaryev.
‘But do you not think that his accusers believed also? Or the men who shot him?’
Solzhenitsyn once posed the same question.‘If my life had turned out differently, might I myself not have become just such an executioner?’ he wrote in The Gulag Archipelago, his epic literary investigation of Stalin’s terror. ‘If only it was so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them.
But the line dividing good from evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of their own heart?’
Solzhenitsyn’s persecutors, like my grandfather’s, were driven by the same motivations as their victims.
When people become the building blocks of history, intelligent men can abdicate moral responsibility.
Indeed the Purge – in Russian, chistka or ‘cleaning’ – was something heroic to those who made it, just as the building of the great factory was heroic to Bibikov.
The difference was that my grandfather made his personal revolution in physical bricks and concrete, whereas the secret police’s bricks were class enemies, every one sent to the execution chamber another building-block in the great edifice of socialism.
This was the true, dark genius behind Stalinism – a genius which Solzhenitsyn describes in terrifying detail. Not simply to put two strangers – executioner and victim – into a room and convince one to kill the other, but to convince both that this murder served a higher purpose.
This can happen only when a man becomes a political commodity, a unit in a calculation, his life and death to be planned and disposed of like a ton of steel or a truckload of bricks.
The men drawn to serve in the Soviet secret police, in the words of its founder Felix Dzerzhinsky, could either be saints or scoundrels – and clearly the service attracted more than its fair share of sadists and psychopaths.
But they were not aliens, but Russian men, made of the same tissue and fed by the same blood as their victims.
‘Where did this wolf tribe appear from among our own people?’ asked Solzhenitsyn. ‘Does it really stem from our own roots? Our own blood? It is ours.’
This question – how to cope with the beast in man – gives Solzhenitsyn’s writing not just its moral seriousness but its drama, too.
His stories are about men and women forced to make terrible choices.
In the process they occasionally find a kind of greatness and redemption in small acts of kindness or in tiny, private episodes of heroism.
At his best, Solzhenitsyn, like Tolstoy, described the hidden, tragic lives of his characters played out against a background of Russian squalor and casual brutality.
But for all his greatness and importance in bringing down the Soviet Union, by the time of his death Solzhenitsyn had become an irrelevance to the thrusting, new, oil-rich Russia of Vladimir Putin.
In that lies a tragedy because Russia has swung back from its infatuation with wild capitalism into a longing for authority and order.
Solzhenitsyn, once an idealistic Communist, understood better than most how power can pervert men and ideas.
He saw himself as a prophet not just for Russia but for all mankind, and in his later years turned to denouncing the corruptions of Russia’s chaotic brand of freedom and the dangers of liberalism.
But for all his unfashionable conservatism, he believed adamantly in the value of human dignity – and that a state abdicated all moral authority to order society if it abused its citizens.
For all its wealth, Russia remains mired in corruption and injustice. With Solzhenitsyn’s death it has lost its conscience, and is a poorer place for it.
Source : http://www.thisislondon.co.uk
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