21 black and white photographs depicting Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s triumphant return to his homeland after 20 years of exile. 1994. Each photo 6,7x9 cm. Fine.
First and only edition. One of 150 copies produced. Very rare.
Eager to reacquaint himself with a country “altered beyond recognition,” Solzhenitsyn landed in Vladivostok on May 27, 1994, and embarked upon a cross-country journey to Moscow. The photographs depict Solzhenitsyn and his wife, him meeting with people, visiting a bazar and a hospital, delivering a speech in the state duma, etc.
Most likely, the pictures were taken by Yuri Feklistov, a photojournalist contributing to the Ogonek [i.e. Spark] magazine. He became an assistant of cameramen Yuri Prokofiev, whom Solzhenitsyn asked to accompany the family and to film the return. It was Prokofiev who recommended to the Solzhenitsyns that they offer the BBC to pay for the trip in exchange for the right to make a film about their return. The company bought two carriages from the Ministry of Railways. Solzhenitsyn’s family traveled in one, there was also a decent room for meetings and a small kitchen. In the other, journalists and operators settled down. According to a predetermined schedule, these cars were unhooked from trains in different cities at the proper time and then attached to passing trains. The film about this 55-day journey was finally released in 1995.
The Noble Prize winner, who was stripped of his citizenship and sent into unwanted exile for revealing the horrors of GULAG, spent more than 18 years living in Vermont. Solzhenitsyn’s decision to return to his homeland was bolstered by the restoration of his Soviet citizenship in 1990, shortly before the dissolution of the USSR. A few months later, the chief Soviet prosecutor dropped treason charges against Alexander, and the writer was finally free to set his foot in the “new” Russia.
One of the main Soviet anti-communist writers went on a trip to Russia accompanied by his wife, Natalia, and the eldest son, Yermolai. After landing in Magadan, Solzhenitsyn reached Primorye and began a two-month journey on the Vladivostok-Moscow train, meeting people from various regions along the way.
“I got fed up in Vermont with the loneliness… For me, finally, the possibility of wide communication with my compatriots opens up,” said the author.
Largely seen as a controversial writer, Solzhenitsyn was met by several thousand people, including Communists with posters “Get out of Russia” and “Solzhenitsyn is America’s accomplice in the collapse of the USSR.” Still, the author recalled this experience as one of the happiest moments of his life.
Before reaching his final destination, Alexander Isaevich visited 16 cities (Blagoveshchensk, Ulan-Ude, Tyumen, etc.) and organized meetings with thousands of Russian residents: “when there was not enough space, [they] set up benches outside and listened to his voice through amplifiers.” In each city, Solzhenitsyn spent a few days visiting hospitals, markets, etc., to get a better understanding of the “new” Russia: “No one expected that the leave-taking from communism would be painless. But no one thought it would be so painful, Russia is living through an orgy of vice and immorality…. We are handing over our children, defenseless, to the insolent forces of vice,” said the author. After two months of travel, Solzhenitsyn finally arrived in Moscow, where he delivered a speech in the State Duma and heavily criticized the government: “Science, education, and medicine are falling catastrophically. Every year the country is robbed of millions of dollars. People are shocked.” From then until his death, Solzhenitsyn lived with his wife in a dacha in Troitse-Lykovo in west Moscow between the dachas once occupied by Soviet leaders Mikhail Suslov and Konstantin Chernenko. A staunch believer in traditional Russian culture, Solzhenitsyn expressed his disillusionment with post-Soviet Russia in works such as Rebuilding Russia and called for the establishment of a strong presidential republic balanced by institutions of local self-government.
The Russian novelist Alexander Solzhenitsyn (1918-2008) was one of the most well-known Soviet dissidents, who helped to raise global awareness of Soviet repressions. Alexander’s history of political oppression goes back to the early 1940s. While serving as a captain in the Red Army during World War II, Solzhenitsyn was sentenced to 8 years of hard labor for poking fun at Stalin in a letter to his brother-in-law. Following his release in 1953, Alexander started writing novels about Soviet repressions and his prison experiences. He published his first novel, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, in 1962, with approval from the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev. After Khrushchev’s removal from power, Solzhenitsyn shortly fell out of favor with the Soviet authorities, who discouraged him from continuing to write. Alexander’s The Gulag Archipelago, published in 1973 and dedicated to Soviet repressions, outraged the Soviet authorities. In 1974, Solzhenitsyn lost his Soviet citizenship and was flown to West Germany. In 1976, he moved with his family to the United States where he continued to write. In 1990, shortly before the dissolution of the Soviet Union, his citizenship was restored, and four years later he returned to Russia, where he remained until his death in 2008.