Book Launch: Between Two Millstones, Book Two
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In Book 2 of Between Two Millstones, just released by the University of Notre Dame Press, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn details his final years of exile in America from 1978 until his return to post-Communist Russia in 1994. During this time, while completing his masterwork The Red Wheel, Solzhenitsyn was both confronted by the propaganda machine of the Soviet state and the commercial mainstream media in the West. In this book talk, Ignat Solzhenitsyn and Daniel J. Mahoney discussed Solzhenitsyn’s fight against the communist regime while defending the honor of Russia’s historic past. They also considered how he watched as Russia came out from under the rubble of the Soviet system into a deeply flawed transition.
To purchase a copy of this book, please visit the University of Notre Dame Press website here.
"I think the question of exile itself is something not to be underestimated, not to be passed over lightly. From ancient times, exile is a condition of punishment, very frequently a punishment, of course, that was considered second only to death itself, and so even in our modern age, perhaps a little bit less so now in the age of the global village to which I assume we will return at some point after COVID, but certainly still in the times of the 70s and 80s, when the Iron Curtain was very real and for Solzhenitsyn specifically, when his banishment from the Soviet Union should have been forever and he should have had no expectation to return, although he divined intuitively that it might happen and it did of course eventually happen. So first of all the notion that exile is very difficult, if it's not voluntary, it's very difficult for people to endure, and I think Solzhenitsyn was no exception, as strong as he was, the condition of exile was complicated."
"Let's be very clear, Russia has not had a more passionate defender as the concept of Russia in the last hundred years perhaps, let's say, or very few, but also Solzhenitsyn is a great critic of Russia as a rancorless son of the Russian land, as a prisoner of Russia, if you will. He claims that right for himself, he claims the right that patriotism includes seeing the sins of your fatherland or your motherland and announcing them and asking her to change."
"In the five years since Solzhenitsyn's forced exile to the West on February 13th, 1974, he had come to the conclusion that many of his natural allies in the West did not consider Russia to be the first and principle victim of Bolshevism or Communist totalitarianism, that together with many prominent Russian emigres from the third wave of emigration, they saw the source of the tragedy or the source of Communist totalitarianism in Russian messianism and the Russian national tradition and tsarism, but anything but a Marxist-Leninism that posed a grave threat to humanity as such... [Solzhenitsyn] has really calling for a broad alliance of the dissident communities in the East, of the subjugated Russian people, of the citizens and statesman of the Russian democracies and in the ensuing five year period, Solzhenitsyn came to the conclusion that many in the West, and by the way he had natural allies who would be greatly appreciated, but he came to the conclusion that many systemically conflated and confused historic Russia with what he called the Soviet dragon."
"How does one come down from the icy slope of totalitarianism? [Solzhenitsyn] made specific recommendations and the first was there had to be an emphatic repudiation of the ideological basis of the Soviet state for reasons that he brilliantly explained, whether it was in the agricultural sector or the persecution of the most decent citizens, the religious minded and all that, the absence of authentic glasnost and freedom of discussion, not just of ideas but of issues, you know, like with the structural problems of the economy and so Solzhenitsyn, he also became more and more convinced of the danger of a repeat of February 17th, a kind of revolutionary enthusiasm that would not be connected to the constructive building of a viable Russian future or viable Russian institutions."
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, and the region through research and exchange. Read more