Soviet literature


Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn: Sage and Scourge of Communism

“Write what you know,” goes the dictum. Thus from Russian author Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn we have among many other works the following:

  • One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich—forced labor camps
  • First Circle (i.e., of Hell)forced labor camps for scientists
  • Cancer Ward—malady as social metaphor
  • August 1914—blunders in warfare
  • Gulag Archipelago—the definitive guide to Soviet forced labor camps.

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With such a pronounced critical voice, we can surmise that Solzhenitsyn’s writing was unlikely to win him lasting friends in the Soviet government. Before his first major work, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (1962), could be published, none other than Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev needed to give his permission. The timing was right; Khrushchev was still intent on denouncing the excesses of Stalinism, and Solzhenitsyn’s writing gained his favor in that political climate. But the thaw didn’t last.

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When Khrushchev was deposed in 1964, Solzhenitsyn experienced a similar downturn in his fate. By 1970 when he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, he didn’t dare leave the country and so had to wait until he was sent into exile in the West in 1974 before he could actually collect the prize.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn: Sage and Scourge of Communism

History Real and Imagined: Russians at War in Art and Life from Joint Publications Research Service (JPRS) Reports, 1957-1995

JPRS Aug 2017 4 sm.pngAmong the many interesting aspects of Joint Publications Research Service (JPRS) Reports, 1957-1995, is the inclusion of full-length novels. This month we have such two works by Vasiliy Ardamatskiy, similar in scope and subject matter to Boris Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago.

JPRS Aug 2017 8 sm c2.pngAlongside Ardamatskiy’s fictional accounts of revolutionary Russia we pair historical nonfiction relating to Soviet naval warfare and military communications during World War II. Finally, we’ll add excerpts from a 1972 monograph that requires little interpretation, on the all-too-real technology of ballistic missile launch and control systems.


Vozmezdie [Retribution], by Vasiliy Ardamatskiy; Moscow, Molodaya Gvardiya 1968

Born in 1911, Ardamatskiy was a child of the Russian Revolution who wrote adventure fiction and who was reputed to be linked to the KGB. His career as a radio journalist brought him close to the battle lines during World War II, especially during the Siege of Leningrad.

In Retribution he gives compelling characterizations of the real-life terrorist Boris Savinkov, and of Felix Dzerzhinskiy, head of the feared Cheka, precursor to the KGB. Among other honors, the KGB Prize of the USSR in the field of literature and art was awarded to Ardamatskiy.

History Real and Imagined: Russians at War in Art and Life from Joint Publications Research Service (JPRS) Reports, 1957-1995

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