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 secret network of prison and labor camps created by Soviet founder Vladimir Lenin and expanded by Mr. Stalin.

“The Gulag Archipelago” was published in the West in 1973, and circulated in the Soviet Union via amateur publishing houses thereafter. Mr. Solzhenitsyn’s widow, Natalya, said in July that the work should be included in the curriculum, though not in its multivolume entirety.

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