April 18, 2014

Required reading: Solzhenitsyn

MOSCOW (AP) -- Russia has made a once-banned book recounting the brutality and despair of the Soviet Gulag required reading in the country's schools, the Education Ministry said in a statement Wednesday. The ministry said excerpts of Alexander Solzhenitsyn's 1973 epic "The Gulag Archipelago" have been added to the curriculum for high-school students. The book was banned by Soviet censors, sparking Mr. Solzhenitsyn's retreat into exile. The decision announced Wednesday was taken due to "the vital historical and cultural heritage on the course of 20th-century domestic history" contained in Mr. Solzhenitsyn's work, the ministry said. The move comes despite Russian moves over the past decade to restore some Soviet symbols and, liberals say, glorify Soviet dictator Josef Stalin. It was not immediately clear whether the addition of the book would apply to the current academic year, which began Sept. 1. It is thought over a million Russians perished in the Gulag, a sprawling … [Read more...]

Patriarch Kirill wants monastery that was Gulag to be spiritual center

The towers of Solovki Monastery in the winter of about 1930, when it was a concentration camp

From Ecumenical News International (26 August 2009): By Sophia Kishkovsky Moscow, 26 August (ENI)--The Solovetsky Islands off the coast of Russia's northern Arkhangelsk region – settled by monks in the 15th century – became in the 20th century a center for the Soviet Gulag system of prison camps. Now the monastery archipelago should become a spiritual center not only for Russia but for all of Europe, said Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church when he visited the area in August. The Patriarch's grandfather, a priest, was a prisoner in the island camp, whose cruelty was immortalized in dissident Alexander Solzhenitsyn's book, "The Gulag Archipelago". Kirill said it was a miracle that his grandfather, Vasily Gundyayev, had survived, and at a 22 August memorial service, the Patriarch spoke of the spiritual strength that was demonstrated on the islands during the Soviet era. "We believe that these sufferings and torments have strengthened the power of the Church as … [Read more...]

The Church and the Terror State

Priests, archbishops and a metropolitan imprisoned in the Solovetsky labor camp (1926). Solovetsky, a thriving monastery before the Bolshevik takover, was returned to the Russian Church in 1990. Source: Tomas Kizny

The Moscow Times reports on the funeral of Russian Patriarch Alexy II: Candles flickered and white-robed elders chanted prayers as the country bade farewell Tuesday to Patriarch Alexy II, who guided the country's dominant Russian Orthodox Church through its remarkable recovery after decades of Communist-era repression. Nuns, believers and government officials looked on as prayers filled the soaring Christ the Savior Cathedral at a six-hour funeral service for Alexy, who died Friday at age 79. He was buried later Tuesday at the Epiphany Cathedral across town in a ceremony closed to the public and media, the church said ... "We are burying a great man, a great son of our nation, a beautiful holy fruit grown by our Russian church," Reverend Dmitry Smirnov, a Moscow archpriest, said in an address at the funeral, which was broadcast live on state-run television. "Our whole nation has been orphaned." The BBC has a clip from the very moving funeral service here. I published "The … [Read more...]

Alexander Solzhenitsyn (1918-2008)

Alexander Solzhenitsyn

"During all the years until 1961, not only was I convinced that I should never see a single line of mine in print in my lifetime, but, also, I scarcely dared allow any of my close acquaintances to read anything I had written because I feared that this would become known. Finally, at the age of 42, this secret authorship began to wear me down. The most difficult thing of all to bear was that I could not get my works judged by people with literary training. In 1961, after the 22nd Congress of the U.S.S.R. Communist Party and Tvardovsky's speech at this, I decided to emerge and to offer One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich." Alexander Solzhenitsyn's momentous decision to publish his slim volume on Gulag life (he feared not only the destruction of his manuscript but "my own life") ended his period of "secret authorship" and put him on the path of a literary career that earned him the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1970. But his work meant so much more than that. Solzhenitsyn, who died … [Read more...]