One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich: Biography: Alexander


Biography

Alexander Solzhenitsyn was born in the Russian town of Kislovodsk on December 11, 1918, one year after the Communist revolution saw the overthrow of Czar Nicholas II by the working classes. His father died in an accident before his birth, but Alexander was from an intellectual family and he excelled in school.  He enrolled in both the mathematics department of Rostov University and in correspondence courses in literature at Moscow State University, the most prestigious university in the Soviet Union.

After graduation, Solzhenitsyn was inducted into the Soviet armed forces and saw battle as an artillery captain in World War II.  However, his military career ended abruptly in 1945 when he was arrested for writing a letter to a friend that included derogatory comments about Communist Party leader Joseph Stalin.  He spent eight years in labor camps and three in exile for this infraction.  He wrote several novels based on his personal experiences in prison, including One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, which was published by the Soviet literary journal Novy Mir (New World) in 1962, after Nikita Khrushchev came to power. It proved to be the only one of his novels that the authorities allowed to be published in the Soviet Union.

When Khrushchev was removed from power two years later, Solzhenitsyn was attacked along with other critics of Stalin. One Day of the Life of Ivan Denisovich was denied further official publication, though it continued to be reproduced by photocopied and hand-written samizdat, underground printings distributed secretly during the Communist regime.

Solzhenitsyn continued to write in Ryazan and in 1968 produced both The First Circle, a novel about research scientists conflicted about whether to obey authority or seek truth, and Cancer Ward, based on his own experiences in a Soviet cancer ward.  He was awarded the Nobel prize for literature in 1970 but declined to travel to Sweden to accept the award out of fear he would be denied entry back into the Soviet Union.  He began to write more about history, and in December 1973 produced The Gulag Archipelago, a literary study of all aspects of the Soviet labor camps, which got him arrested for treason a year later.  Sentenced to exile, he moved to Cavendish, Vermont, where he continued to write and raised a family before returning to his homeland in 1994 after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.  He settled in St. Petersburg and continued writing and expressing his political opinions, often harshly critical of Russian leader Vladimir Putin among others.

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