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Infographic | Today in History: Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn is Born

Russian Nobel laureate Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn would have celebrated his 104th birthday on December 11, 2022. This Kennan Institute infographic presents a timeline of Solzhenitsyn's life and works and commemorates his role in bringing international attention to the Soviet Union’s system of forced labor prison camps.

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1918: Russian Nobel laureate Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn is born on December 11th in Kislovodsk, Soviet Russia. His life and works would go on to raise awareness of the Soviet Union’s repressions and forced labor prison camps.

1945: Solzhenitsyn is arrested for criticizing Joseph Stalin in a private letter. He is sentenced to serve eight years in a forced labor camp, to be followed by permanent internal exile.

1956: Nikita Khrushchev exonerates Soviet prisoners charged with “counter-revolutionary activities.” Freed from exile, Solzhenitsyn returns to central Russia and begins writing about his experiences in the Gulag.

1962: Solzhenitsyn publishes his novel One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, set in a Soviet labor camp in the early 1950s. It soon appears in translation across the Western world, bringing the Soviet system of forced labor camps to the attention of foreign audiences.

1970: Solzhenitsyn wins the Nobel Prize in literature "for the ethical force with which he has pursued the indispensable traditions of Russian literature.” He does not attend the award ceremony in Stockholm due to worsening relations with Soviet leadership.

1974: Solzhenitsyn is arrested, stripped of Soviet citizenship, charged with treason, and exiled in response to The Gulag Archipelago, his samizdat non-fiction account of the Gulag. In 1976, he moves with his family to the rural village of Cavendish, Vermont, where he spends the next seventeen years working on an epic multi-volume history of the Russian Revolution, The Red Wheel.

1994: Solzhenitsyn leaves Vermont and returns to Russia, where he lives in a small dacha near Moscow and continues to write.

2008: Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn dies in Moscow at age 89, leaving behind works including One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, Cancer Ward, In the First Circle, The Red Wheel, and The Gulag Archipelago.

Sources:

  1. Solzhenitsyn Center. https://www.solzhenitsyncenter.org/ 
  2. The Nobel Prize in Literature 1970. https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/literature/1970/summary/
  3. The Kennan Institute’s Solzhenitsyn Initiative: https://www.wilsoncenter.org/collection/kennan-institutes-solzhenitsyn-initiative 
  4. Photo (first image, background): View of work at White Sea Canal, constructed using forced labor, Summer 1932. Source: Wikimedia Commons.
  5. Photo (first image): Paperback cover of first U.S. edition of One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. Source: Wikimedia Commons.
  6. Photo (background, second image): Farmland in rural Vermont, March 1974. Source: U.S. National Archives.
  7. Photo (second image): First edition cover of The Gulag Archipelago, YMCA Press: 1973. Source: Wikimedia Commons. (CC BY-SA 4.0)
  8. Photo (second image): Stereoscopic image of waterfalls along the Black River in Cavendish, Vermont, late 19th c. Source: Wikimedia Commons /
     Robert Dennis Collection of Stereoscopic Views, New York Public Library Digital Collections.

Further resources:


Kennan Institute

The Kennan Institute is the premier U.S. center for advanced research on Russia and Eurasia and the oldest and largest regional program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. The Kennan Institute is committed to improving American understanding of Russia, Ukraine, Central Asia, the Caucasus, and the surrounding region though research and exchange.  Read more