Remembering Alexander Solzhenitsyn: Outspoken Critic of Communist Totalitarianism

Written by Wes Walker on November 25, 2013

Over the summer, Sam Storms posted a wonderful little tribute to Alexander Solzhenitsyn, who passed five years ago.

If you don’t know who Solzhenitsyn is, I strongly recommend Storms’ article where you can learn more about him.
He had survived 8 years of a Soviet labour camp, and was an author, historian and outspoken critic of Communist Totalitarianism.
It was he who said (among many other things) “the battle-line between good and evil runs through the heart of every man.”
He was invited to give the commencement address Harvard in 1978, and his speech caused quite a stir.  His address “A World Split Apart” (which I strongly encourage you to read if you have not done so already) was NOT what his audience was expecting.Quoting from Storm’s article:
Although much anticipated, neither the university elites nor the majority of students heard what they wanted. Solzhenitsyn struck what one commentator referred to as a “blow to the solar plexus” of western self-absorption, secular humanism, and materialistic consumption.
Sam goes on to give a brief summary of some of the major body-blows that Solzhenitsyn thundered on the ideas that so much of academia held dear.
You can read his summary of them on the website, or you can go on to read the entire speech as he presented it either in written form,  or watch the original address on a YouTube video.
Those “body-blows” included criticisms of the West’s decline of courage, especially among the influential; the denunciation of Socialism; the West’s failure to demonstrate a suitable culture worth copying; the failures of Humanism; the groupthink evident in the press.  One of the statements he said that might be especially relevant for today is this:

The defense of individual rights has reached such extremes as to make society as a whole defenseless against certain individuals. It is time, in the West, to defend not so much human rights as human obligations.

As he concluded his speech, he made an appeal — In HARVARD, no less —  for the West to see the futility of life lived merely humanisticly. He appealed to his audience to embrace something spiritual, something transcendent.  He called us to seek our answers, not on earth, but by looking heavenward.  He dared to call us back to God.