In the immediate aftermath of his arrest and expulsion from the Soviet Union, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn founded the “Russian Social Fund for Persecuted Persons and Their Families”. He endowed it with all the proceeds from the global sales of The Gulag Archipelago. It was a book that Solzhenitsyn saw as the collective effort of all who went through the gulag, and for which he could not take any payment.
Thus, the book that bore witness to the suffering of innocent people in the gulag of 1918-1956 helped those who suffered in the gulag in the 1970s and 1980s. For years, the Russian Social Fund clandestinely channeled aid into the Soviet Union, directly to the families of those who had been arrested on political, national or religious grounds, helping those families to survive.
The Fund’s aid distributors – Alexander and Arina Ginzburg, Malva Landa, Kronid Lyubarsky, Sergei and Tatiana Khodorovich, Andrei Kistyakovsky and others – were themselves persecuted by the authorities for “anti-Soviet” activity. Most were arrested; all were harrassed.
The Fund also pursued a second mission – to help the study of Russian history and culture, which also were suppressed in the Soviet Union.
By 1992, after the fall of the Soviet Union, the clandestine aid activities of the Fund were no longer needed, but the Russian Social Fund was recognized as a legal charitable organization in the new Russia, and continues its cultural activities in Russia. Among its more noteworthy contributions is the Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn Literature Prize.
Interview with Natalia Solzhenitsyn Regarding the Fund
During this translated 1997 interview, Natalia Solzhenitsyn details her husband's motives for creating the Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn Literature Prize and the Russian Social Fund.