August 3rd, 2008


the death of Solzhenitsyn

Here is one vignette from those years as it actually occurred. A district Party conference was under way in Moscow Province. It was presided over by a new secretary of the District Party Committee, replacing one recently arrested. At the conclusion of the conference, a tribute to Comrade Stalin was called for. Of course, everyone stood up (just as everyone had leaped to his feet during the conference at every mention of his name). The small hall echoed with "stormy applause, rising to an ovation." For three minutes, four minutes, five minutes, the "stormy applause, rising to an ovation," continued. But palms were getting sore and raised arms were already aching. And the older people were panting from exhaustion. It was becoming insufferably silly even to those who really adored Stalin. However, who would dare be the first to stop? The secretary of the District Party Committee could have done it. He was standing on the platform, and it was he who called for the ovation. But he was a newcomer. He had taken the place of a man who'd been arrested. He was afraid! After all, NKVD men were standing in the hall applauding and watching to see who quit first!

-- Alexander Solzhenitsyn (1918-2008), THE GULAG ARCHIPELAGO, VOLUME I.

For the record, the director of the local paper factory quit first. That night, he was arrested and sentenced to ten years' imprisonment.

As for Solzhenitsyn himself, he wrote a private letter to a friend criticizing the course of WWII. He used a couple of uncomplimentary nicknames for Stalin. He was sent to the gulag for eight years.