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Alexander Solzhenitsyn, the Russian novelist and historian who told the world
Alexander Solzhenitsyn, the Russian novelist and historian who told the world about the horrors of Soviet labor camps, died at 89 in Moscow Sunday morning.

The author of The Gulag Archipelago - an account of his time in Soviet prison camps - fought in WWII, endured years in labor camps and then exile, survived cancer and was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature.

Solzhenitsyn was born on December 11, 1918 and raised in southern Russia. He studied physics and mathematics until the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941. As a frontline artillery captain he was twice decorated for bravery.

In 1945, however, he was arrested for criticism of Stalin's conduct of the war in a letter to a friend and sentenced to eight years in a labor camp and exile for life. Solzhenitsyn served his sentence in several different work camps and worked at a secret research center, the experience he wrote about in The First Circle, which was published in the West in 1968.

Solzhenitsyn also spent three years in camps in Kazakhstan. His life on the Kazakh steppe formed the basis for the book One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, one of two books he had published in Soviet Russia during the political and cultural "thaw" under Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev in the early 1960s.

His internal exile began in 1953, when he was already stricken with a stomach cancer. Despite a lack of medication, he overcame the disease before he was released and cleared of all charges in 1956.

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich is the story of a labor camp inmate who almost forgets his name, remembering only his prisoner number. The man gets so used to prison horrors and perpetual humiliation that he regards them as normal life. The book caused a sensation in the Soviet Union and abroad and made the 43-year-old author famous overnight.

The thaw ended, and Solzhenitsyn again fell into disfavor with authorities under new leader Leonid Brezhnev. His manuscripts were seized, and the distribution of their home-printed copies became a criminal offense.

In 1970, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature further outraging the Soviet authorities.

Solzhenitsyn was stripped of his Soviet citizenship and exiled to West Germany in 1974. He soon moved to the United States, where he spent the next 20 years working on his historical cycle of the Russian 1917 revolution, while also publishing several shorter works.

Being welcome in the West for resisting Communism, Solzhenitsyn was a fierce critic of Western materialistic values and dominant pop culture. His nationalistic views and fervor for Russian Orthodoxy, as well as anti-Semitic charges, distanced him from more liberal circles in the West.

Solzhenitsyn's love for religious philosophy, which he developed after years of upheavals and suffering, his authorship of epic novels and a long grey beard drew parallels to Leo Tolstoy.

As the author of The Gulag Archipelago, an "encyclopedia" of the Soviet repressive system, and other books, Solzhenitsyn was treated as a prophet at home.

As such Solzhenitsyn was met by journalists, authorities and society at large, when he returned to Russia in 1994. The writer, however, was disappointed with the new Russia, which he said had lost much of its moral and spiritual values.

He spent much of his second life in Russia living in seclusion near Moscow, remembered better for his Soviet-era writings than his criticisms of the Russia outside his window.


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