Born in 1918, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn has been acknowledged as one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century. As a boy he was thoroughly steeped in the history and literature of Russia; he studied at the University of Rostov and later taught mathematics and astronomy at a secondary school in southern Russia. After the Nazi attack on the Soviet Union he served in the Red Army. In 1945, he was arrested for a critical reference to Stalin in a private letter and was sentenced without a hearing to eight years in a labor camp. His prison term ended on the day of Stalin’s death in 1953, but he was placed in “perpetual exile” in Kazakhstan rather than given his freedom.
Nikita Khrushchev’s accession to power in 1957 brought a period of relative liberalization, marked by efforts to banish the Stalinist cult of personality. Like many other victims of the Stalin era, Solzhenitsyn was released from exile, and his conviction was voided. In 1962, Solzhenitsyn’s One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, a fictionalized portrayal of life in a prison camp, was published with Khrushchev’s explicit approval. The novel won worldwide acclaim and was translated into every major European language.
When Khrushchev was ousted in 1964, the de-Stalinization program abruptly ended, and Solzhenitsyn and his work fell out of favor with the authorities. His archives and a new novel, The First Circle, were seized by the police. Solzhenitsyn’s celebrity as a writer and his courageous resistance to attempts to silence him brought him international attention. In 1970, after being dropped by the Union of Soviet Writers the previous year, he won the Nobel Prize for Literature.
His Books and Manuals continued to be published in the West, to the embarrassment of the Soviet authorities. Solzhenitsyn was expelled from the Soviet Union in February 1974, shortly after the publication of the first volume of The Gulag Archipelago, an exposé of Soviet prison camps. He settled in the United States, in a small town in Vermont. On February 18, 1974, days after Solzhenitsyn’s expulsion, The Washington Post published this appeal to his countrymen.
Source: The Democracy Reader