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In Memoriam: Alexander, Son of Isaiah

Alexander Solzhenitsyn, the great Russian writer, comparable only to Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy, has passed on.

Initially, the West liked him. But since this was only because he was anti-Communist and he therefore appeared to justify the West, its liking for him soon faded. The West liked him for the wrong reason.

The West should have liked Solzhenitsyn because he told the Truth and asked people to stop living a lie. But this very fact that he told the Truth without compromise was why the compromised West did not like him. And that compromise was why he in turn denounced the West. He denounced the West’s immorality and amorality, its lack of conviction and so absence of courage, its lack of faith and so absence of faith, its futility and so perversions (as in the contemporary Anglican Church), its worship of materialism and so loss of all spiritual values.

For telling the Truth, Solzhenitsyn was dismissed by politically correct Western liberals. As a result he was also dismissed by compromised Orthodox. I well remember in the mid-1970s hearing a well-known Archimandrite and his entourage dismissing Solzhenitsyn because he was ‘anti-Soviet’. The Archimandrite in question obviously placed his loyalty to atheism well above his faith in Christ. On the other hand, in September 1979, by ways too complex and incredible to relate here, I found myself occupying the quarters of Metropolitan Nikodim (Rotov) in Paris. Among the books in the bedroom I found all of Solzhenitsyn’s works, and clearly very well-read.

For telling the Truth, Solzhenitsyn was dismissed by Communists. Even today, 5 August 2008, obituaries in the Communist press (yes, it still exists in Western Europe) speak of Solzhenitsyn as he who revealed the existence of the Gulag. This is absurd. Everybody who wished to know about the millions massacred by Soviet Communism had known about them from 1918 on. The deliberate denial of Soviet camps was the work of foolish Western intellectuals and Communist sympathisers, from Bertrand Russell to Jean-Paul Sartre, who had not wished to recognise the Truth because it would have disturbed their neat but idiotic Communist ideology. Here is the proof that intellectuals are eminently capable of supporting devilry when their hearts are impure and so their minds blinded.

For telling the Truth, Solzhenitsyn was dismissed by Western conservatives. Having made use of him to justify their anti-Communist Cold War ideology, they changed their admiration for him to dislike for him when he denounced their Western hypocrisy and materialism, the real source of Communism. In reality, Western conservatives were not anti-Soviet, but anti-Russian. They simply hid their Russophobia behind their anti-Communism, which threatened their worship of Mammon. That is why their hatred grew when more recently Solzhenitsyn denounced Western imperialism in Serbia, the Ukraine and Iraq. He had seen through their Russophobia - the West and its compromised allies could not forgive him for that.

Solzhenitsyn’s love of the Truth is also why, ever consistent, he denounced the ravages of the former Russian Empire, inherited by the Soviets, during the mismanaged break-up of the Soviet Union under the still Communist and incredibly naïve Gorbachov and the later ravages by foreign oligarchs who followed under Yeltsin. It is why Solzhenitsyn respected and largely approved of the policies of the repented ex-KGB officer, Vladimir Putin, and asked to be buried by the long-ago repented Patriarch Alexis. Unlike the Russophobes in the West, whether nominally Orthodox or not, Solzhenitsyn was able to recognise that the grace of God can change the human heart and bring about repentance among us all. That is why he returned to Russia as early as 1994, as he had prophesied he one day would.

Literary critics and historians will argue long about the value of Solzhenitsyn’s works. One clear weakness is that he did not always understand what happened before his birth in 1918. Hence the confusion in his work ‘August 1914’ and in his work on the evil Lenin. Hence his misunderstanding of the emigration and his mixing with some very strange émigré characters in Paris and New York. Hence his confusion and even display of Soviet conditioning towards the pre-Revolutionary Russian government and the Imperial Family. However, no-one would in any way deny his total understanding of the Soviet period, far better than any émigré or foreigner ever could. He, after all, had lived and experienced that period. He spoke from the heart and was the conscience of his people. And what is the conscience, if not the voice of God?

Solzhenitsyn did not live to see the full re-emergence of Orthodox Russia. There many still labour under the yoke of post-Soviet corruption, with the twin evils of abortion and alcoholism. There the demographic crisis is still enormous, as large Orthodox families have still not re-appeared in any number. Another 100,000 Orthodox churches are still to be built. And the old Russian Empire has still not re-emerged in its integrity. Like unruly teenagers, many in countries like the Ukraine, Georgia, Estonia and Latvia (like emigres in France, the USA and elsewhere) still have to work though their immature, nationalistic, anti-Russian complexes. It will take time for them to grow up, as it will also take time for the peoples of the old Soviet Union to understand the shallow futility of newly imported Western consumerism.

But any human lifetime can only take in so much. By Divine Providence Solzhenitsyn did live to see the end of demonic Communism and the beginning of the rebuilding of the former Russian Orthodox realm. That in itself was a recompense for the writer who had told the Truth, proving that the pen is indeed mightier than the sword, that the keyboard is indeed mightier than the nuclear missile. Yes, he was disliked by many. He was disliked for his logic and consistency, for his apparently ‘old-fashioned’ values of patriotism and integrity, duty and honour, to which today’s spiritually impure West prefers its bubble of proud egoism, self-interested vanity and faithless cynicism.

Solzhenitsyn was hated because he told the Truth. The West and those nominal Orthodox who have compromised themselves with the West through their spiritual impurity hate the Truth. This is because only the Truth sets us free and there are many, as Dostoyevsky relates in his ‘Legend of the Grand Inquisitor’, who fear freedom and do not want to be set free from their sins and secular attachments. They fear the spiritual purity of Truth and Freedom and prefer the spiritual impurity of their secularist compromises. Thus, there are many who have still not heeded Solzhenitsyn’s call not to live according to lies, but according to the Truth of Christ.

And because he told the Truth we say with one voice:

To the Servant of God Alexander, the Son of Isaiah,
who loved Truth and Freedom and spoke prophetic words:

Eternal Memory!

Fr Andrew

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