Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Solzhenitsyn: The Return Of the Exile

Alexander Isayevich Solzhenitsyn, who almost 20 years ago was forcibly ejected from his homeland, is expected to return to Russia soon.

The "recluse of Vermont" will abandon his verdant New England estate for a dacha in a posh suburb of Moscow. He will live in a compound that once belonged to one of Stalin's henchmen, and is now frequented by high-level government officials.

This a far cry from the days when he camped out at Mstislav Rostropovich's dacha at Peredelkino, landing the renowned conductor and cellist in political hot water for harboring this dangerous enemy of the people.

But the irony of Solzhenitsyn's return will not be limited to his place of residence.

A man who was once a symbol of the struggle against oppression, a focal point for the dissident movement, a source of support for those who fought the communist system, might attract quite a different constituency in post-perestroika Russia than he did in the Soviet Union.

Solzhenitsyn returns from his long exile to a Russia that has espoused many of the qualities that he so detests in the "decadent" West.

He is unlikely to have a viable message for that portion of the population that sees its future tied to the development of a market economy and the strengthening of democratic institutions.

He will probably not appeal to the "liberal intelligentsia" - many of whom are too busy arranging business trips and lecture tours to the West to heed Solzhenitsyn's call for spiritual renewal.

Nor is the world of letters about to open its arms to this Nobel laureate, who has written some of the most memorable and haunting works of Russian literature. Authors are now caught in the web of commercialism that has swept society, and are engaged in a bitter struggle for survival.

Solzhenitsyn's message of contempt for the West, of Russia's moral superiority, of the failure of democracy, is more apt to appeal to ultra-nationalist groups, the so-called "red-browns". But the "reds" cannot really ally themselves with the exposure of communist atrocities, and the "browns" will not find in him the fierce ethnic hatred so necessary for their cause.

It is difficult to see what role Solzhenitsyn has to play in the life of post-Soviet Russia.

He will neither understand nor approve the changes he will see in his country. and Russians who have suffered through the trauma and privations of the perestroika period may be excused for not wanting to be chastised by a man who has spent the past 20 years on a comfortable estate in America.