Solzhenitsyn denounces Russian MPs

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The Independent Online
After 20 years in forced exile and four months on the road in Russia, Alexander Solzhenitsyn has finally taken his Old Testament visage and thundering curses into the high temple of what, speaking yesterday from the podium of the State Duma, he denounced as 'Russia's sham democracy'.

Making his formal debut before a Moscow political elite that he despises, Mr Solzhenitsyn reminded MPs of a subversive dictum first crafted in The First Circle to combat Communism but sadly, he said, still valid today: the writer as a second and more representative government.

'What kind of state system do we have today? It is not a democracy. Let us admit this is an oligarchy, rule by the few,' said Mr Solzhenitsyn.

The same theme has been enunciated repeatedly by the Nobel laureate since he returned home via Alaska and Vladivostok at the end of May, but yesterday was the first time he had told Russia's politicians what he thought of them to their face. Deputies, however, assumed he must be talking of someone else, breaking into applause at his denunciations of Moscow politics.

'All the parliamentary experience of Russia is not reassuring and it is a warning to all of us for the future,' he added, telling legislators how Russia's last State Duma - a brief flirtation with representative democracy started by Tsar Nicholas II - had created turmoil and helped bring Lenin's Bolsheviks to power.

Ironically, much of what Mr Solzhenitsyn said matches the views of Russia's new-look Communist Party: 'Ordinary people are in practice excluded from life. It passes them by, leaving them with an ugly choice between eking out a shameful beggar's existence or deceiving the state and each other.'

Instead of finding the best exit from 70 years of Bolshevik rule, Mr Solzhenitsyn said Russia had chosen the worst: 'Today we have to acknowledge that the way we have found is the most twisted, the most painful and the most absurd one.' Officials, he said, had discredited themselves.

Mr Solzhenitsyn's address over, the MPs returned to their own pet themes.

The ultra-nationalist leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky said he agreed with much of what Mr Solzhenitsyn had said but that the rest had been scripted by the Central Intelligence Agency. 'A writer should stay out of politics . . . Let him sit in a dacha at Tula like Tolstoy and then at some point he will leave his dacha and die at a small railway station.'

(Photograph omitted)