Russians 'bored' by sage Solzhenitsyn

It was an article that most of the world's serious newspapers would have published without hesitation: 2,000 words by one of the 20th century's foremost writers and dissidents, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, excoriating Russia. Understandably, the New York Times gave it pride of place on its opinion pages.

Despite what the West thinks, democracy does not exist in post-Communist Russia, the great man argued; nor does freedom of the press. For the past decade, the Russian government had not taken "a single step unmarked by ineptitude". The country is run by a power-hungry oligarchy of 150 to 200 people, who are morally no better than their Communist predecessors.

This was far from the first time that the Nobel Prize winner has taken his motherland to task. But his piece, published four days before Boris Yeltsin was whisked off to hospital with pneumonia, reviving claims that the country is adrift, was one of his most strident indictments to date. You might think, then, that it would have aroused a twinge of interest, a frisson of indignation even.

Alas, no. The article, partially reprinted by the International Herald Tribune, has been ignored by Russia's media. Many journalists - not to mention the public - were unaware of its existence.

Two and a half years after his hugely publicised return from 18 years of exile in the US, Solzhenitsyn's voice is attracting less and

less attention in Russia. He has fallen victim to the fate of Mikhail Gorbachev and Margaret Thatcher. They are revered as history's giants abroad, even by their ideological opponents. But back home, the yawns are deafening.

His descent into domestic neglect has been under way for well over a year. Shortly after his return home, Russian Public Television gave him a 15-minute programme. Twice a month, Russians could tune in to his laments about the state of the nation, and the need to return to traditional spiritual and cultural roots.

In September 1995, as Russia geared up for parliamentary elections, the programme was abruptly hauled off the air. His wife, Natalia, blamed Soviet- style censorship. But the general consensus was otherwise. The bearded old prophet was, quite simply, boring. "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich is worth more than all the days of Solzhenitsyn on television," carped the writer Konstantin Kedrov.

Yet there is more to it than mere ennui. For many Russians, he has become a figure whose exposure of the crimes of Stalin and Soviet Communism has deservedly earned him a place in history - but not in the present. "He is not talking about issues that people care about today, like money, foreign currency supplies, consumer goods, apartments," says Viktor Kremenyuk, a political analyst. In a country where most people's lives are bound up with the struggle to survive, ideologues are out of fashion.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • 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

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Does earning a 6 figu...

Recruitment Genius: SEO Executive

£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: New Lift Sales Executive - Lift and Elevators

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A challenging opportunity for a...

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss