*Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was becoming a dissident against the U.S.S.R. and the restricting communist government after he was arrested for the first time. He, through his entire life, was willing to sacrifice everything he had in order to point out that censorship was wrong and people should be able to speak their mind.
*His childhood years were very rough. Aleksandr (pronounced Alexander) was born in Kisovodsk, Russia on December 11, 1918 (Academic American Encyclopedia Sno-Sz, p 59). His father was an artillery officer in World War I, and his mother was a typist and stenographer. Aleksandr never knew his father, because he died in a hunting accident before Aleksandr was born. After his father died, the Soviet government only allowed menial employment to his mother, so his family lived in relative poverty. Other than that, Aleksandr’s childhood was relatively normal. He was a member of the Pioneers, the Soviet equivalent to Boy Scouts, and later joined the Communist Youth League. At the age of nine he decided he wanted to be a writer, and before he was eighteen he decided that he was going to write a novel about the Russian Revolution. He said that during his childhood he “bore this social tension – on one hand, they used to tell me everything at home, and on the other, they used to work our minds at school. And so this collision between two worlds gave birth to such social tension inside me that somehow defined the path I was to follow for the rest of my life.” Aleksandr had little literary education and read few western novels, and later said he regretted it (Major 20TH Century Writers, p 2792-2793).
*After grade school Aleksandr went to the University of Rostov-on-Don and graduated in 1941, majoring in mathematics and physics (Encarta 99). After he graduated, he served as a captain of artillery in World War II from 1941 through 1945 (World Book Encyclopedia So-Sz, p 587). While he was serving, he was falsely accused of writing antistalinistic remarks in his personal correspondence and arrested on February 8, 1945. He was sentenced without a trial and sent to Moscow’s notorious Lubyanka Prison for eight years (World Book Encyclopedia So-Sz, p 587). Oddly enough, the prison had a good library where he read otherwise unobtainable books. The books he read were by American authors, and this profoundly affected him and his writing (Major 20TH Century Writers, p 2793). Later he was transferred to a special prison in which the prisoners were scientists and technicians; Aleksandr was a mathematician (Academic American Encyclopedia Sno-Sz, p 59). There, everything they wrote was subject to inspection, so he mentally composed and memorized poems, verse by verse (Major 20TH Century Writers, p 2793). While Aleksandr was in prison, he was diagnosed and treated for cancer in a prison hospital. This later influenced a novel he wrote about a prison hospital in which he drew parallels to it and the communist government (The Encyclopedia Americana, p 210).
* After he was released from a concentration camp in Ekibastuz, Kazakasthan, Aleksandr went into exile in Kok-Terek in Central Asia, where he taught mathematics and physics in a secondary school (Major 20TH Century Writers, p 2793). Since he was out of prison, he now could write without anyone knowing. He wrote a long poem, and some plays. Aleksandr also began to make notes for a novel (The Encyclopedia Americana, p 210). When he was freed from exile in April 1956, Aleksandr returned to Central Russia and in September 1957, took a position as a teacher of physics and astronomy in the city of Ryazan. During this time, he began to read carefully selected parts of his work to friends (Major 20TH Century Writers, p 2793). They liked it so much, they tried to persuade him to send in his work for publication, but he always resisted (Academic American Encyclopedia Sno-Sz, p 59). Eventually he sent in his
story “Shch-845” which was written in 1954. It got past censoring and was published under the title “One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich” and was an immediate success (The Encyclopedia Americana, p 210). Throughout the 60’s
and 70’s, the Soviet government repeatedly accused him of slandering the country’s government in his work until finally, they deported him to West Germany (Major 20TH Century Writers, p 2793). This happened after he sent his story “Gulag” to Paris to be published, which was on December 28, 1973 (Encarta 99). In 1970, he received a Nobel Prize for his writings; he was not allowed to leave the country in order to claim his award. When he was deported,
Aleksandr was finally able to receive it. During his acceptance speech he said he accepted the award “for the ethical force which he has pursued the indispensable traditions of Russian literature” (World Book Encyclopedia, p 587). He then moved to Zurich, Switzerland, but he was being spied on by Russian agents. So, in 1975 he moved to a farm in Vermont (The Encyclpedia Americana, p 210). In the early 90’s, when the Russian communistic tide receded, Russian officials dropped all the charges placed against him and gave Aleksandr his citizenship back. He returned to Russia to live later that year (Encarta 99).
*Aleksandr was put into prison several times, endured a concentration camp and lost everything in order to speak about what he thought without being scorned for it. This is why he is a dissident. Even though the leaders of the society he lived in didn’t accept him or his ways of thinking, he did what he thought was the right thing, and didn’t let anyone change his mind.
1)”Solzhenitsyn, Aleksandr” The Encyclopedia Americana. Copyright 1992
2)”Slozhenitsyn, Alexander” The World Book Encyclopedia. Copyright 1997
3)”Slozhenitsyn, Aleksandr” Academic American Encyclopedia. Copyright 1997
4)”Slozhenitsyn, Aleksandr” Encarta 99 Encyclopedia. Copyright 1999
5) Bryan Ryan. Major 20TH Century Writers. Gale Research Inc. Copyright 1998