Death of Alyaksandr Solzhenitsyn has made many people say about him as a controversial figure. The last decades of his work were rather debatable.
His views of development of Russia drew fair indignation of citizens of independent Belarus and Ukraine. But Solzhenitsyn will always be a writer who opened people’s eyes to horrible truth of Stalin’s repressions.
Famous Belarusians told about their view of Solzhenitsyn in an interview to the Charter’97 press center.
“Having learnt about Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s death, I went to my bookshelves and looked at the three-volume The Gulag Archipelago I had bought in 1998 because both my grandfathers, paternal and maternal, were victims of Stalin’s terror. Undoubtedly, Solzhenitsyn will remain in the history as an author of The Gulag Archipelago, as a writer, I would even say, as a historian, who revealed the world the truths about events in the Soviet empire under Stalin’s rule. To be fair, I must say that the first person to say the world about the crimes of Bolshevism at those times was Belarusian Frantishak Alyakhnovich, a famous playwright, Gulag prisoner, sentenced to o10 years in Solovki, but it was changed for politician and enlightener Branislau Tarashkevich, prisoner of Polish jails in 1933. Frantishak Alyakhnovich wrote a book In Clutches of The State Political Directorate (the Soviet secret police), published in 7 languages in Europe and the United States.
With due respect to Solzhenitsyn, I can say that he was a man of imperial views. We remember his work Rebuilding Russia, in which he denied independence of Belarus and Ukraine,” Belarusian writer and historian Uladzimir Arlou told in an interview to the Charter’97 press center.
“Of course, death of Alexander Solzhenitsyn is a great grief. Whatever attitude towards him exists, we should remember that he was one of the people, who revealed us the truth everyone was afraid to know. When I was about 14, I read One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich for the first time. It seems I understood little, but it was the first signal in my life saying something was wrong in the life we lived.
Solzhenitsyn was a test for the society. We see now how people say Solzhenitsyn was a great person. But let’s remind how Solzhenitsyn was hunted in 1960–70ies, who meetings of condemnation were held, how the country branded him. Why then did no one, except for Rostropovich, who sheltered him, defend him? Why is happening so? It means that something goes wrong in the society that raises people on the shield and overthrows them from the shield, and then raises them again. It means that our society is immature.
I have a critical attitude to the last stage of Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s oeuvre. I didn’t understand and don’t understand now his views of the Russian Empire, his viewing Belarus as Russia’s appendix. He regarded Ukraine in the same way. As a matter of fact, he has become a basis for a new wave of the Russian chauvinism. However, I admit he is a great man who did much for us in his time – he opened our eyes,” famous Belarusian film director Yury Khashchavatski told in an interview to Radio Svaboda.
“In my view, we lost a man, who influenced greatly formation of not only all classes of the population, but also careers of many people. I read The Life of Ivan Denisovich in 1984 for the first time, the book shocked me. I think this novel is one of the strongest works written in those times. Solzhenitsyn could easily switch between artistic and historic. His historical prose contains high artistic sense, and his artistic searches always posses civil sense influencing readers. One may have different attitudes towards political views of Alexander Solzhenitsyn, but he was a man with very tough and clear position. If speaking about the scale of a personality, people of such level are lack in Russia and in the world. If speaking about Solzhenitsyn as a writer, we may say one of the last authors of Great Style has left us,” Mikola Khalezin, playwright and director of the Belarusian Free Theatre, told in an interview to the Charter’97 press center.