Ross Mackenzie

The death of Alexander Solzhenitsyn, at 89, recalls the centrality of this Russian mastodon.

A decorated artillery captain during World War II, Solzhenitsyn was arrested at war’s end for remarks in a letter to a friend vaguely criticizing Stalin (“the man with the moustache”). Subsequent years in the slave camps changed him — and Western history. His many works, most notably “The Gulag Archipelago,” detailed the criminal degradation of human dignity in an island-like chain of slave camps — first conceived by Lenin — across the Soviet inland sea.

Life there consisted in the standard devices of terror — torture, injury, disease, deprivation, extreme temperature, forced labor, near-starvation, and too-common death. Despite the West’s “desire not to know” (his words), to avert our eyes, Solzhenitsyn made us see. His catalogue of life in the camps sliced through libraries of propagandistic lies and collapsed the moral pretensions of socialism, to tell the stories of the forgotten and the dead. For, he asked, “what good is a silent memory when the forgotten deserve justice?”

With a literary genius rivaling Dostoyevsky’s, Chekov’s, Pushkin’s — even Tolstoy’s — his role was at last to render comprehensible the seemingly incomprehensible. Thereby, he joined Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and Pope John Paul II in compelling the implosion of Soviet communism. Iconic foreign-policy thinker George Kennan termed Solzhenitsyn’s writings “the greatest and most powerful single indictment of a political regime ever to be leveled in modern times.”

Novelist Saul Bellow put it this way: “In revealing the brutality of Stalinism,” Solzhenitsyn has “reminded every one of us what we owe to the truth.” Though Solzhenitsyn is gone now, the truths inhering in his writings about slavery and terror — and liberty — live eternally on.


The presidential campaign may be about a lot of things, but a single issue should prove decisive: Iran.

Despite its professions of peaceful intent, the regime there continues to build toward the production of plutonium — useful only for nuclear weapons — and the missile capability to deliver them.

Nuclear physicist Peter Zimmerman finds Iran possessing third-generation enrichment centrifuges, as well as “320 tons of uranium hexafluoride gas to feed its centrifuges, enough for almost 100 bombs. . . . If Iran begins enriching uranium to weapons grade on an assembly-line basis, it could transfer this material to groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas, which might fabricate low-technology nuclear explosives. These would probably have yields nearly as high as the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima.”

Ross Mackenzie

Ross Mackenzie lives with his wife and Labrador retriever in the woods west of Richmond, Virginia. They have two grown sons, both Naval officers.

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