Remembering Solzhenitsyn 50 years after he won the Nobel

A decline in courage may be the most striking feature that an outside observer notices in the West today. The Western world has lost its civic courage, both as a whole and separately, in each country, in each government, in each political party, and of course, in the United Nations. Such a decline in courage is particularly noticeable among the ruling and intellectual elites, causing an impression of a loss of courage by the entire society. There remain many courageous individuals, but they have no determining influence on public life.”

Harvard Commencement Address, 1978.

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35 Responses to Remembering Solzhenitsyn 50 years after he won the Nobel

  1. Tom

    Sorry, Solzhenitsyn fans: No cartoons today as there is (again) no active open forum to put them in as the old one expired at midnight on Tuesday, October 13, according to Cat software rules.

    Except for this gem from John Spooner (The Australian).

    In order to keep speaking truth to power without censorship, Spooner, like Solzhenitsyn, had to flee his professional homeland (Fairfax) after it was taken over by an intolerant communist mob, which rules it to this day despite new corporate ownership.

  2. rickw

    Salty Cracker, 7:29, Biden rallies.

  3. feelthebern

    Tim put the Proud Boys interview back up.
    I don’t know if it’s been edited.
    Gavin did not like.

  4. Mater

    A link to the actual address (video and transcript).

    Given it was 1978, he sure saw what was on the horizon. Almost prophetic.

  5. rickw

    Dice, 8:09, campaign wrap up:

  6. rickw

    Timcast, 26:20, Proud Boys:

  7. rickw

    Salty Cracker, 9:21, Seal Team 6 bomb drop by Trump?!

  8. johanna

    Beware of all prizes and awards, I say.

    No chance Alex’s book would win today. It was a creature of its time.

    Prizes and awards are always inherently suspect. They are politicised, often corrupt, and mean nothing in the real world. History is not kind to them.

    Just look at the Academy Awards as a high profile example. Many great films and performances went unrecognised, while others that nobody remembers got gongs.

    And don’t forget that the creation of these phony entities is generally a way for people in a sector to congratulate themselves and each other in public.

    BTW, I have read Alex’s book, but of course in translation. I cannot comment on its literary merit, because the translation I read was pretty sludgy. Maybe it was sludgy in Russian, maybe not. Certainly the message was powerful, and it revealed a previously unavailable story to a much wider audience.

  9. Knuckle Dragger

    I’m still intermittently giggling over Rex’s comparison of the Gladys visage to a red-tailed black cocky about to crunch a walnut the other day.

    I’m awful, I know. But there it is.

  10. Leigh Lowe

    Looks like the Malicious Mincing Mongrels have been doung their blog-wrecking again.

  11. Knuckle Dragger

    Mongrel Group Alpha.

    Check your email.

  12. notafan

    Good on Gladys not getting a nose job.

  13. Knuckle Dragger

    ‘not getting a nose job.’

    I thought she’d already had one.

  14. rickw

    I’m still intermittently giggling over Rex’s comparison of the Gladys visage to a red-tailed black cocky about to crunch a walnut the other day.


  15. David Brewer

    Thanks for the transcript Mater. Another perceptive and still relevant bit:

    “Without any censorship, in the West fashionable trends of thought and ideas are carefully separated from those which are not fashionable; nothing is forbidden, but what is not fashionable will hardly ever find its way into periodicals or books or be heard in colleges. Legally your researchers are free, but they are conditioned by the fashion of the day. There is no open violence such as in the East; however, a selection dictated by fashion and the need to match mass standards frequently prevent independent-minded people giving their contribution to public life. There is a dangerous tendency to flock together and shut off successful development. I have received letters in America from highly intelligent persons, maybe a teacher in a faraway small college who could do much for the renewal and salvation of his country, but his country cannot hear him because the media are not interested in him. This gives birth to strong mass prejudices, to blindness, which is most dangerous in our dynamic era. There is, for instance, a self-deluding interpretation of the contemporary world situation. It works as a sort of a petrified armor around people’s minds.”

    He could be talking about global warming, renewables mania, other environmental fads, or health and disease fads such as Covid orthodoxies on masks, lockdowns etc.

    Funnily enough this speech of Solzhenitsyn’s was played in Moscow to the nomenklatura:

    “In the summer of 1978, the FCD and Fifth Directorate jointly arranged the screening of a video of Solzhenitsyn’s Harvard Address to a meeting of leading KGB and Party figures. It was an extraordinary moment in Soviet history. Never before, almost certainly, had such an audience gathered together to hear a lecture by a leading opponent of the Soviet system. The Moscow notables watched, probably intently, as Solzhenitsyn gave his Commencement audience in Harvard Yard, while drizzle moistened their academic gowns, an uncompromising “measure of bitter truth.” He denounced those in the West whose silence and inertia had made them “accomplices” in the suffering imposed on those who lived under Communist rule…

    “The KGB screening of the address was followed by commentaries from FCD and Fifth Directorate officers. Though Mitrokhin’s brief notes report only their conclusions, they probably cited the hostile reception accorded to Solzhenitsyn’s “bitter truth” by The New York Times and the Washington Post. The Times leader writer found “Mr. Solzhenitsyn’s world view … far more dangerous than the easy-going spirit which he finds so exasperating,” while the Post denounced his “gross misunderstanding of western society.” The KGB commentators were agreed that Solzhenitsyn had alienated his American listeners by his “reactionary views and intransigent criticism of the US way of life—a fact which could not fail to have a negative effect on his authority in the eyes of the West and his continued use in anti-Soviet propaganda.” The meeting of KGB and Party notables agreed that no active measures were required to counter the Harvard Address. Solzhenitsyn, they evidently believed, had discredited himself.”

    Excerpt From: Christopher Andrew. “The Sword and the Shield: The Mitrokhin Archive and the Secret History of the KGB”.

    The NYT and WaPo may have been annoyed by this bit:

    “There is no true moral responsibility for deformation or disproportion. What sort of responsibility does a journalist or a newspaper have to his readers, or to his history — or to history? If they have misled public opinion or the government by inaccurate information or wrong conclusions, do we know of any cases of public recognition and rectification of such mistakes by the same journalist or the same newspaper? It hardly ever happens because it would damage sales. A nation may be the victim of such a mistake, but the journalist usually always gets away with it. One may — One may safely assume that he will start writing the opposite with renewed self-assurance.

    Because instant and credible information has to be given, it becomes necessary to resort to guesswork, rumors, and suppositions to fill in the voids, and none — and none of them will ever be rectified; they will stay on in the readers’ memories. How many hasty, immature, superficial, and misleading judgments are expressed every day, confusing readers, without any verification?”

  16. johanna

    Since this seems to be the defacto Open Fred:

    I read with interest comments last night about China’s ‘bans’ on this and that import, for political purposes, until the soybeans ran out.

    I think there’s a lot of truth in this, and Trump (unlike the special needs group of politicians in Australia) understands it.

    We can do without cheap plastic dog poo. They can’t do without iron ore and coal.

  17. Good luck to China creating a coal, iron ore, soyabean and barley shortage.

    Stupid commies. 😂

    They’ve become virtue signalling westerners, or “baizuo”.

  18. johanna

    one old bruce
    #3617213, posted on October 13, 2020 at 8:21 pm

    China is erasing Genghis Khan and the Mongols from history in the interests of national unity:

    Not while The HU are around:

  19. Farmer Gez

    We can do without cheap plastic dog poo. They can’t do without iron ore and coal.

    Iron ore?

    Don’t say that, you’ll have Twiggy gagging on his Xi dumpling.

  20. Boambee John


    Didn’t he write some work of fiction? The Gulag Archipelago?

  21. johanna

    Looks like Youtube has fallen in line with the Chicoms and banned the Genghis Khan video, which was available only weeks ago.

    But, never fear! American entrepreneurialism triumphs, and you can still see/hear it on this ‘reaction’ video.

  22. dover_beach

    Up, not back. Ffs.

  23. Just gonna get this one out early :
    Allan Parrot didn’t kill himself!

  24. johanna

    Although, Farmer Gez, there are some disturbing developments in Brazil:

    Brazil’s Vale, an ore mining company with expansive business interests in China, will collaborate with China’s Ningbo Zhoushan Port operators on a $624-million project to expand export capacity into the communist country, the South China Morning Post confirmed on Tuesday.

    Both Vale and Petrobras, Brazil’s state-run oil company, have expressed interest in the past year in expanding trade in China. Brazil’s farmers have also grown increasingly dependent on Chinese sales, filling the soy bean void temporarily left by President Donald Trump’s trade negotiations with the Communist Party. According to the Brazilian newspaper O Globo, Brazil exported 14 percent more to China between January and August 2020 than during the same period of 2019, despite significant economic limitations for most of the year due to the Chinese coronavirus pandemic. Brazil simultaneously reduced its sales of key exports to the United States, making its market more dependent on China.

    China is Brazil’s largest trade partner.

    Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro ran for office in part on the promise of not allowing China to monopolize and control the Brazilian economy. He has also attempted to craft for himself an image as the world’s most aggressively anti-communist president, but has reserved his strongest condemnations for long-dead communist figures like mass murderer Ernesto “Che” Guevara and has largely remained silent against the largest Communist Party in the world — China’s, believed to be housing as many as 3 million people in concentration camps currently.

  25. Bruce

    Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn , ( in “The Gulag Archipelago”) made the following observation:

    “And how we burned in the camps later, thinking: What would things have been like if every Security operative, when he went out at night to make an arrest, had been uncertain whether he would return alive and had to say good-bye to his family? Or if, during periods of mass arrests, as for example in Leningrad, when they arrested a quarter of the entire city, people had not simply sat there in their lairs, paling with terror at every bang of the downstairs door and at every step on the staircase, but had understood they had nothing left to lose and had boldly set up in the downstairs hall an ambush of half a dozen people with axes, hammers, pokers, or whatever else was at hand?… The Organs would very quickly have suffered a shortage of officers and transport and, notwithstanding all of Stalin’s thirst, the cursed machine would have ground to a halt! If…if…We didn’t love freedom enough. And even more – we had no awareness of the real situation…. We purely and simply deserved everything that happened afterward.”

  26. duncanm

    #3617385, posted on October 14, 2020 at 6:06 am

    A link to the actual address (video and transcript).

    Given it was 1978, he sure saw what was on the horizon. Almost prophetic.

    thanks for that link Mater.. Prophetic is an understatement, on so many things. Leadership, China, western stability, it goes on.

  27. duncanm

    Oh, also from that speech, I’ll have to grab Shafarevich’s book on Socialism. Sounds like a good read.

  28. Rex Anger

    @ KD ad RickW-

    I’m still intermittently giggling over Rex’s comparison of the Gladys visage to a red-tailed black cocky about to crunch a walnut the other day.

    I’m awful, I know. But there it is.


    You’re both welcome. 😁

  29. Arky

    I dunno how CL feels, but if I had put in the time to write and post a piece I’d be pissed off if people highjacked it as an open thread. Can Davidson clean out all the not about Russian dissidents OT comments on here?

  30. Roger W

    And back to the topic – the ruling and intellectual elites have always favoured appeasement. Just look at pre World War II Europe, for example, or the Useful Idiots of both the French and Russian Revolutions.

  31. Chris M

    The johanna, the HU are fabulous and unique. Right next door is a huge populous country with no innovative music or recognizable musical groups due apparently to an absence of creativity. Not that this has anything to do with Solzhenitsyn’s writings of course…

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