Natalya Solzhenitsyna: The Bolsheviks were devils, but at least they did not extort money from the prisoners

Interview with the writer’s widow, President of the Alexander Solzhenitsyn Foundation

MOSCOW – 
Within the framework of the 14th International Book Fair of Intellectual Literature Non / Fiction in the Central House of Artists on Saturday, December 1, the presentation of the book “Tamizdat. 100 selected books “. The publication is dedicated to books published outside the Soviet Union, including the United States, during 1921-1984 years of the XX century and falling under the definition of “tamizdat”.

The overwhelming majority of them were banned in the USSR and spread on its territory illegally.

The book features 83 authors, including Arkady Averchenko, Vasily Aksenov, Anna Akhmatova, Joseph Brodsky, Mikhail Bulgakov, Ivan Bunin, Vladimir Voinovich, Nikolai Gumilyov, Sergey Dovlatov, Evgeny Zamyatin, Eduard Limonov, Nadezhda and Osip Mandelstamy, Vladimir Nabokov, Boris Pasternak, Alexey Remizov, Andrey Sakharov, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Marina Tsvetaeva and others.

The correspondent of the Russian service of the Voice of America spoke about the exhibition-fair and Tamizdat with the president of the Alexander Solzhenitsyn Foundation, the widow of the writer Natalia Solzhenitsyna.

Victor Vasiliev: Natalia Dmitrievna, please share your impressions of Non / Fiction.

Natalia Solzhenitsyna: This is one of the few recent events that pleases and inspires a certain optimism, which neither I nor my compatriots experience today at all. Still, it’s nice when there are so many beautiful faces around, so many young people and wonderful publications, and such an interest in serious books..

V.V .: The main motto of the exhibition was the words of Alexander Solzhenitsyn “Living not by lies”. How relevant is this motto for today’s Russia?

Natalya Solzhenitsyna: The Bolsheviks were devils, but at least they did not extort money from the prisoners

N.S.: Very relevant. Actually, it is always relevant. Do you think they are lying just now? Everybody always lies everywhere.

V.V .: What, in your opinion, is the importance and significance of “Tamizdat”?

N.S.: It is indeed a monument to the great unique phenomenon that was represented by the Russian emigration, Russian culture abroad. The history of mankind has never known anything like it. Because abroad, in exile, there was a huge diaspora, mainly its cultural part … History has not recorded such incredible outcomes as from Russia after 1917.

This revolution undermined Russian culture on the rise of Russian religious philosophy, which, as it seemed to us living in the Soviet Union, was chopped off. It turned out nothing like that. She reached even much greater heights in emigration. All her various activities are to some extent reflected in this book. I believe this is just the beginning.

V.V .: There is no end to the work?

N.S.: Still, the articles of “Tamizdat”, although they tell about the history of writing and the history of publications, do not reproduce the real situation and atmosphere in which these books were published. When we were expelled from Russia in 1974, we still found that incredible atmosphere of loyalty to Russian culture, the devotion to it of these small, tiny publishing teams, where people worked, I would say, in high poverty, while possessing extraordinary modesty. I have not yet felt this atmosphere..

And it is even more attractive for our today’s, completely wild reality than when Alexander Isaevich and I could observe it.

V.V .: Where do you think the word “tamizdat” came from, what are its roots? It is believed that it was almost invented within the walls of the KGB.

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N.S.: “I studied mathematics. And, as you know, mathematicians are the most attentive readers and connoisseurs of poetry, they endlessly reprinted at night Mandelstam’s “Stone” or Tsvetaev’s “Versts”.

What was published in Russia, but was completely inaccessible (for the general reader). And I think that the word “tamizdat” nevertheless arose precisely as a kind of reflection of “samizdat” – a word that Nikolai Glazkov invented and which eventually came into use. He had a good ear. I guess this is not a KGB word, no.

V.V .: And what was the role of American publishers and publications published in the United States in the context of our topic??

N.S.: As for Alexander Isaevich and me, we were not associated with American publishing houses, but were associated with Incopress (at one time the publishing house was actively supported by Protestants living in the United States – V.V.), and published there. But, of course, we knew personally some of the American publishers. Unfortunately, this book does not reflect the role of the press at all..

And the press, especially the American one, was very active. We, of course, constantly followed the publications in them – not only for the “Russian thought” in Paris, but also for the “Russian word” in New York, and for various weeklies, monthly. I believe this will be reflected in the following volumes of the publication..

V.V .: I cannot but ask what you think about the latest events in the Russian colonies, in particular, the Kopeisk riot. What has changed in the domestic penitentiary system since the time of Alexander Isaevich?

N.S.: I can say one thing: “The Bolsheviks were, of course, devils, but at least they did not extort money from the prisoners. That’s for sure.

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