As one of the most prolific Soviet authors of the 20th century, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn offers unique insight into the brutality and authoritarianism present under the various leaders of the Soviet Union. Solzhenitsyn's life is unique in that his birth occurred at approximately the same time as the Soviet Union itself; he was born in December 1918 and the provisional government took over shortly after the abdication of Nicholas II in September 1917. His childhood saw the Russian civil war; his formative years saw his family's estate turned into a collective farm. His earliest years of adulthood were marked by disdain for the human rights violations carried out by fellow members of the Red Army. In his late 20s, Solzhenitsyn was arrested, tried, convicted, and imprisoned for speaking out against the Soviet government. His years in these labor and prison camps laid the foundation for some of his most important works which include:
- One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich
- The Gulag Archipelago
To the west, Solzhenitsyn was prolific, offering insight into an aspect of Soviet society, governance, and culture that was otherwise missing from the collective consciousness. However, for Solzhenitsyn, one of the only redeeming qualities of the west was the degree of self-governance the people there experienced. He criticized western culture for its emptiness and its consumerism; he warned readers to focus on the matters that were truly important and return to a more measured and more conservative way of life. Despite these criticisms, he remained a revered author and scholar, respected by many and praised for his literary talent and skill.