Solzhenitsyn warns of 'manure from the West': Returned exile finds the young prefer rock to his books. Andrew Higgins reports from Vladivostok

THE NOBEL prize winning writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn, 75, has made a disturbing discovery since returning to his homeland on Friday.

He revealed yesterday: 'I thought I would come to a Russia that had read me, that knew me as a writer. But, in fact, only the older generation knows me. They remember something about an Ivan Denisovich. The rest have never read me.'

Speaking at the Far Eastern Technical University, Vladivostok, he said: 'The Iron Curtain did not reach the ground and under it flowed liquid manure from the West.'

Dmitri Litus, 16 and a student at the Vladivostok Gymnasium, has never read The Gulag Archipelego, even less 7,000 pages of The Red Wheel, but he still enjoyed seeing Solzhenitsyn at his school yesterday morning. 'I liked him. He is a famous Russian.' All in all, though, it was not a meeting of minds. 'I love U2. Freddie Mercury, too. I think Solzhenitsyn prefers Frank Sinatra.'

Elaborating on his assessment of the West's influence, Solzhenitsyn said: 'Not that there is only liquid manure in the West, nothing of the sort. But this is what came to us. In the West there is great culture, great accomplishment, great people, great minds. But they did not get through the Iron Curtain. We got only the cheapest imposters. They are poisoning our youth (who) think they have touched something great but in fact they have only got a false life.'

The theme was first explored publicly by Solzhenitsyn in a speech at Harvard in 1978, four years into his 20- year forced exile in the West. Only yesterday did he take the message to those he cares about most: Russia's youth.

'Gradually the Western world has begun to suffocate from its atheism. The upper lung is missing. They have everything: shops are full; clothes are plentiful; transport is never a problem; you can go wherever you want . . . but something is missing. Without this something man is not a person.'

An architecture lecturer suggested Solzhenitsyn would, like Tolstoy, squander his talents by moralising instead of writing. If life in Vermont made for good literature, why come home?

Solzhenitsyn, hands waving and voice bubbling with emotion, raced to respond. 'I could have remained there in great happiness, and peacefully worked much more. But I think your advice is wrong. This would have been an escape from duty, an escape from the pain of the people. I cannot run away from the people's pain.

'I did not come here because the country is flourishing and I want to join in, not because people were calling me a prophet.'

For the first time since arriving in Vladivostok from Alaska, Solzhenitsyn was trying to explain why he came back. 'It would have been unconscionable to just sit, to keep searching for elegant genres so some time in the 21st century someone might evaluate what I've achieved.'

Too many Russians have been killed, he said, for a Russian writer merely to write. 'I am obliged to help Russia with my experience, advice and influence, not knowing why, or what the result will be.'

His audience, held spellbound, broke into applause.

Photograph, page 10

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £20,000 - £60,000

£20000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Team Leader

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Ashdown Group: Linux Systems Engineer - Linux, Windows, Cloud - Central London

£40000 - £48000 per annum + 10% bonus & benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Engin...

Recruitment Genius: Quality Inspector

£20000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence