Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn Biography

(Novelist & Writer Best Known for His Work 'The Gulag Archipelago')

Birthday: December 11, 1918 (Sagittarius)

Born In: Kislovodsk, Russia

Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn was a Russian novelist, short-story writer and historian. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature for his pursuit of the traditions of Russian literature. He was a Captain of artillery in World War II. Solzhenitsyn was imprisoned for eight years after he wrote a letter in which he criticized Joseph Stalin. He began his writing career after a period of enforced exile. His writings reflected his ideas about a benevolent totalitarian regime based on Russian’s time-honored values. His frank views against the contemporary repressive government policies infuriated the Soviet Press. Even though critics charged him with anti-Semitism, Solzhenitsyn’s works reveal an intelligent approach toward the revolutionary Jews. After he was denied publication in Russia, he started circulating his works privately in the form of ‘Samizdat’ literature. He was accused of treason and exiled from the Soviet Union after he published ‘The Gulag Archipelago’, a literary-historical record of the prisons and labor camps in Russia during Stalin’s rule. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, he returned to Russia. His philosophy plays a major role in the film ‘Cloud Atlas’ and his reflections on Russian history and literature are documented in Alexander Sokurov’s ‘The Dialogues with Solzhenitsyn’.

Quick Facts

Also Known As: Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn

Died At Age: 89


Spouse/Ex-: Natalia Alekseevna Reshetovskaya (m. 1957–1972), Natalia Dmitrievna Svetlova (m.1973–2008)

mother: Taisiya Solzhenitsyna

children: Ignat Solzhenitsyn, Stepan Solzhenitsyn, Yermolai Solzhenitsyn

Born Country: Russia

Nobel Laureates In Literature Novelists

Died on: August 3, 2008

place of death: Moscow, Russia

Cause of Death: Heart Failure

Notable Alumni: Rostov State University

Ancestry: Ukrainian Russian

More Facts

education: Rostov State University

awards: 1970 - Nobel Prize in Literature
1983 - Templeton Prize
2008 - Laureate of the International Botev Prize

  • 1

    What impact did Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's literary works have on society?

    Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's literary works, particularly "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich" and "The Gulag Archipelago," shed light on the harsh realities of life in Soviet labor camps, exposing the injustices of the Soviet regime and contributing to a greater understanding of the human experience under oppressive conditions.

  • 2

    How did Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's experiences in Soviet labor camps influence his writing?

    Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's own time spent in Soviet labor camps, where he was imprisoned for criticizing Stalin, deeply influenced his writing. His firsthand experiences provided him with a unique perspective and authenticity that resonated with readers around the world.

  • 3

    What was the significance of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's expulsion from the Soviet Union?

    Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's expulsion from the Soviet Union in 1974 marked a turning point in his life and career. It made him an international figure and symbol of resistance against Soviet censorship, further amplifying the impact of his works on the global stage.

  • 4

    How did Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's views on censorship and freedom of expression evolve over time?

    Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's views on censorship and freedom of expression evolved from his early experiences of censorship in the Soviet Union to a more nuanced understanding of the dangers of unbridled freedom. He believed in the responsibility of writers to use their freedom of expression wisely and ethically.

Childhood & Early Life
Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn was born in Kislovodsk, Russia, on December 11, 1918.
His father, Isaakiy Solzhenitsyn died before he was born. Solzhenitsyn was brought up by his widowed mother, Taisiya Solzhenitsyn in Russian Orthodox faith.
Solzhenitsyn studied mathematics at Rostov State University. Simultaneously, he took correspondence courses from the Moscow Institute of Philosophy, Literature and History.
In 1945, he was involved in major action in World War II and served as a commander of a sound-ranging battery in the Red Army.
On February 1945, Solzhenitsyn was arrested for writing insulting comments in private letters to a friend about the conduct of the war by Joseph Stalin.
On 7 July 1945, he was sentenced to an eight-year term in a labor camp for participating in anti-Soviet propaganda.
After his release in March 1953, he was sent to internal exile for life at Kok-Terek in Kazakhstan. During this time, he was diagnosed with cancer.
In 1954, he was treated in a hospital in Tashkent.
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Literary Career
In 1962, Solzhenitsyn’s first major novel ‘One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich’ was published in the ‘Novyi Mir’ magazine.
In 1964, Nikita Krushchev fell from power and Solzhenitsyn’s works were intensely criticized. By 1965, he became a non-person and his manuscripts were seized.
However, his international reputation was unflagging and foreign publications released his ‘The First Circle’ (1968) and ‘Cancer Ward’ (1968).
His first historical novel, ‘August, 1914’ was also published outside the Soviet Union in the year 1971.
In December 1973, the first parts of ‘The Gulag Archipelago’ were published in installments in Paris.
On 12 February 1974, Solzhenitsyn’s Soviet citizenship was taken away and he was banished to Frankfurt, West Germany. The KGB had found the manuscript for the first part of ‘The Gulag Archipelago’ and declared it to be an anti-government piece.
Solzhenitsyn settled in Vermont during his second exile and in 1975, his ‘Lenin in Zurich: Chapters’, a documentary novel and ‘The Oak and the Calf’, an autobiographical account of his writing career, were published.
In 1974–75, the second and third volumes of ‘The Gulag Archipelago’ came out.
In 1983, an expanded version of ‘August 1914’ was published as the first in ‘The Red Wheel’ series. Other volumes in the series were ‘October 1914’, ‘March 1914’ and ‘April 1914’.
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In 1989, ‘Novy Mir’ published excerpts from ‘The Gulag Archipelago’ in the Soviet Union after seeking approval from the new government.
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn returned to Russia in 1994 following the restoration of his Soviet citizenship. The same year he published ‘The Grain between the Milestones’, a literary memoir of his years spent in exile.
From 1998 to 2003, installments of his autobiography, ‘The Little Grain Managed to Land between Two Millstones: Sketches of Exile’ came out.
‘Two Hundred Years Together’, a historical novel on the Russian Jews, was published from 2001 to 2002.
Major Works
‘The Gulag Archipelago’ (1973) is Solzhenitsyn’s most important work and has sold over thirty million copies in thirty-five languages. The same work led to his exile from the Soviet Union.
His ‘One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich’ (1962), an account of the Stalinist repression, appeared on the ‘Independent’ newspaper's poll of the Top 100 books. The book also formed a part of school curriculum in the Soviet Union.
Awards & Achievements
Solzhenitsyn was awarded the 1970 Nobel Prize in Literature but he refused to go to Stockholm to receive the prize as he feared that the government would not let him re-enter the Soviet Union, upon his return. He received it in the 1974 ceremony after his expulsion from Soviet Union.
In 1978, he was awarded an honorary Literary Degree from Harvard University.
In 1997 he arranged for the funding of an annual prize for writers who contribute to the Russian literary tradition.
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On 12 June 2007, President Vladimir Putin awarded him the prestigious State Prize of the Russian Federation for his humanitarian activities.
Personal Life & Legacy
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn married Natalia Alekseevna Reshetovskaya on 7 April 1940. In 1952, they got divorced because the wives of Gulag prisoners were not given work or residence permits. They remarried in 1957 but divorced again in 1972.
In 1973, he married Natalia Dmitrievna Svetlova, a mathematician. The couple had three sons who are all US citizens.
Solzhenitsyn’s adopted son, Demitri Turin died on March 18, 1994.
On 3 August 2008, the writer died of heart failure in Troitse-Lykovo, near Moscow. He was 89 at that time.
He was buried in a place chosen by him in the cemetery of Donskoy Monastery, Moscow.
Facts About Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was an avid beekeeper and had several beehives on his property, finding solace and inspiration in the peaceful activity.

He was known to have a great sense of humor and enjoyed telling jokes and anecdotes to friends and family.

Solzhenitsyn was a talented artist and often sketched scenes from his life and experiences in the Soviet labor camps.

He had a deep appreciation for nature and enjoyed spending time outdoors, particularly in the forests near his home.

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