Solzhenitsyn Joins Debate On Russia's Political Path
The famed author prepares to go home - and enter political fray
(Page 2 of 2)
This nomenklatura, or party elite, has combined with what Solzhenitsyn calls "the sharks of the financial underworld whom I loathe to call entrepreneurs," referring to the new business class that has emerged with the beginnings of the market economy. Alongside them is the KGB, he says, which continues to exist virtually unaltered.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
"If such a ruling class is formed, it will exploit us not for 70 years but for 170 years," Solzhenitsyn exclaims.
The writer echoes many here who assail the economic reforms being pursued by the government of President Boris Yeltsin in concert with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). He warns against believing that "brilliant reforms" or advice from an IMF that "doesn't know how to transform our system" will solve Russia's problems.
Solzhenitsyn offers little concrete in place of the hopes to move to a Western-style market economy. "Conscience should be above economy," he contends. "First of all, the recovery of Russia, its moral, spiritual recovery.... And then we will overcome any difficulties."
Such views resonate well with what is popularly known here as the "national patriotic movement," the label attached to a wide range of groups from extreme anti-Semitic organizations, such as Pamyat, to the newly organized Russian National Assembly led by Siberian writer Valentin Rasputin and former KGB Gen. Alexander Sterligov.
Some such company may be hard for Solzhenitsyn to stomach, though he calls for "democrats" and "patriots" to unite against the current system.
But the most likely response to Solzhenitsyn's bid for a political role may be the most disappointing to him - to be ignored. His television appearance generated very little response.
One of the few commentaries appeared in the liberal daily Izvestia, which praised the film and the man.
"In Russia, even in the political market which is inevitable under conditions of democracy, we cannot survive without unshakeable moral authorities, without great men, the unifiers," wrote longtime analyst Stanislav Kondrashov. "Who suits such a mission better than Alexander Solzhenitsyn?"
Solzhenitsyn's moral stature is still eagerly sought, even by politicians he assails. President Yeltsin went out of his way to publicize a phone call he made to the writer during his visit last summer to the US, inviting him to come home.
The coolest reaction, however, comes from the younger generation, for whom Solzhenitsyn is an old-fashioned symbol, not part of the Russia of McDonalds, heavy-metal rock music, and sidewalk entrepreneurs.
"The majority believes he is out of touch, that he doesn't know what is happening in this country," says young historian Viktor Bezotosny. He ironically compares Solzhenitsyn to Lenin, the Bolshevik revolutionary who sat in Switzerland penning the dogma of a new order.
"Having spent a long time abroad, Solzhenitsyn is trying to impose his views on the society he left," says Mr. Bezotosny. He worries that "the ideas Solzhenitsyn is expressing could be implemented here in a more distorted manner than he proposes."