Articles, Essays, & Speeches

Solzhenitsyn’s many essays, speeches, and interviews, while less important intrinsically than his literary works, valuably distill his ideas in expository form. During his years in prison and as an underground writer, he could hardly have imagined being begged from all directions to speak his mind freely. But as soon as he landed in exile in 1974, invitations flooded in. So, while not welcoming distractions from his literary writing, he addressed numerous European and American audiences over the next few years and later visited Japan and Taiwan. Everywhere, he shared his analysis of the twentieth century, with special attention to the effects of Communism and the experience of Russia.

Solzhenitsyn’s discourses met with a mixed response. Starting with his programmatic Letter to the Soviet Leaders (1974) and extending through his kindly intended criticisms of the West, his nonliterary views often clashed with those of Western opinion shapers.  Naïvely taking the West’s trumpeted freedom of speech at face value, Solzhenitsyn sometimes painted in broad brushstrokes and incautiously employed a peremptory tone. The elites’ negative reactions gradually hardened into a consensus.  Feeling rebuffed, he sharply reduced his public speaking. He did wrap around his return home in 1994 another flurry of speeches saying good-bye to the West and hello to post-Communist Russia.

Solzhenitsyn’s Nobel and Harvard addresses are well known; others, such as the Templeton and Liechtenstein addresses, are also meritorious, as are many of the essays composed strictly at his own initiative.

-- by Edward E. Ericson, Jr. and Daniel J. Mahoney, The Solzhenitsyn Reader

A Selection of Solzhenitsyn's Major Articles, Essays and Speeches

Nobel Lecture (1972) 
The Nobel Lecture encapsulates Solzhenitsyn’s literary theory. He opens with a spiritual justification of art and proceeds to the social uses that art, especially literature, can serve.  It closes with his famous dictum that "one word of truth shall outweigh the whole world."

A World Split Apart (1978)
Solzhenitsyn’s June 8, 1978, commencement address at Harvard was the most controversial and commented-upon public speech he delivered during his twenty-year exile in the West, for he critiqued the spiritual crisis of both East and West. But far from being inspired by hostility to the West, Solzhenitsyn refuses to break faith with a civilization still capable of drawing intellectual and spiritual sustenance from “the moral heritage of Christian centuries with their rich reserves of mercy and sacrifice.”

A Reflection on the Vendée Uprising (1993)
In the fall of 1993 Solzhenitsyn traveled to Western Europe to say his final goodbyes before his imminent return to Russia. On September 25th he delivered the principal address at the dedication of a memorial to the tens of thousands of Frenchmen who perished between 1793 and 1795 during the Vendée uprising in western France. Solzhenitsyn warns against the revolutionary illusion that human nature can be transformed at a stroke. His eloquent defense of evolutionary social change and his identification of terror with an ideology of inexorable Progress are central to his political reflection as a whole.

Other Notable Articles, Essays and Speeches 

  • Open Letter to the Secretariat of the RSFSR Writers' Union (1969)

  • Letter to the Soviet Leaders (1973)

  • Repentance and Self-Limitation in the Life of Nations (1973-74)

  • Live Not By Lies! (1974)

  • Warning to the West (1976)

  • The Mortal Danger (1980)

  • Templeton Lecture (1983)

  • Rebuilding Russia (1990)

  • We Have Ceased to See the Purpose (1993)

  • The Russian Question at the End of the Twentieth Century (1994)

  • Russia in Collapse (1998)

  • Interview with Der Spiegel (2007)

Additional Resources

  • “Warning to the West”
    A collection of Solzhenitsyn’s speeches to the Americans and the British in 1975 and 1976.
    Available for download on Amazon (UK) & iTunes (UK)