Solzhenitsyn v. Culturegarchs


Photo by Mikhail Evstafiev — Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved

Artists have helped to change the way we see, the way we listen, and the way we read, but there has been only one artist who helped to change the world.

This past week, Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn died at home, in Russia.

Has the work of any one artist had more of an impact to affect the lives of millions? Has the work of any one artist contributed so much to not only the downfall of a government, but to strip away the validity of an economic, philosophical, and political system?

Where so many twentieth century intellectuals saw a dream of a perfect society, Solzhenitsyn understood the nightmare of a reality.

Thirty million copies of his works have made their way across forty languages. One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich raised the question of a nation’s legitimacy; The Gulag Archipelago answered the question. Solzhenitsyn’s artistic wheel began to roll, and the Soviet Union’s socialism began to come apart.

In the wake of his artistic accomplishments and passing, newspaper editors, journal writers and foreign policy participants have noted Solzhenitsyn’s influence. Perhaps Canada’s Globe and Mail best summed up Solzenhitsyn’s impact: “He belongs to a very select set of people whose courage and example lit the darkness of the century past, among whom are the names of Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King and Gandhi.” In this group of remarkable men from our collective modern history, only one artist: Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.

And yet — there are armchair culturegarchs who appear to take pride in refusing to believe that one man could have had such influence.

Why don’t they want to believe in his role in history? Why don’t they want to acknowledge what he, an artist alone, accomplished?

Culturegarchs can’t believe in heroes. They can’t allow one person to make a genuine difference. They can’t understand what it means to have the courage of convictions. They don’t know what it means to live in the service of something greater than themselves.

Culturegarchs want artists for entertainment, for culturegarchs don’t believe in the possibility of enlightenment.

Solzhenitsyn’s message, his life force, was never in the “can’t” category, but always positive, full of faith, full of optimism.

Find time to read Solzhenitsyn. Create art to resist the culturegarchs. Keep Solzhenitsyn’s words close to heart:

“For in the struggle with lies art has always triumphed and shall always triumph.”

- Bill Reichblum

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