Christian Living

Men Have Forgotten God

Author Melinda Penner Published on 06/26/2014

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn played a major role in the collapse of the Soviet Union more than two decades ago. He exposed the reality of Soviet prison camps and was also a critic of the West. The basis for his observations was his Christianity.

Solzhenitsyn was a committed communist until he was a young man. He was imprisoned by the Soviets at the end of World War 2 because he’d written something critical in a letter. He became a Christian in prison and began a writing career that would eventually expose the cruelty of the Soviet Union and contribute to its eventual demise. For fear of being punished, he committed his books to memory. After being released from prison in 1956, he found a publisher in the early 60s. His first book was critical of Stalin, which pleased the current government, but his subsequent books showed their cruelty and he fell from favor. He won the Nobel Prize in 1970 and was expelled from his country in 1974. He spent two decades living and writing in Vermont, until he was able to return to Russia in 1994.

He summarized his writing and thinking about what he had experienced and witnessed about communism:

Over a half century ago, while I was still a child, I recall hearing a number of old people offer the following explanation for the great disasters that had befallen Russia: “Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.” Since then I have spent well-nigh 50 years working on the history of our revolution; in the process I have read hundreds of books, collected hundreds of personal testimonies, and have already contributed eight volumes of my own toward the effort of clearing away the rubble left by that upheaval. But if I were asked today to formulate as concisely as possible the main cause of the ruinous revolution that swallowed up some 60 million of our people, I could not put it more accurately than to repeat: “Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.” (Edward E. Ericson, Jr. “Solzhenitsyn—Voice from the Gulag.”)

He also found Western culture wanting because it had abandoned Christian foundations:

At home, Solzhenitsyn had scolded the Soviet leaders for their attempted “eradication of Christian religion and morality” and for substituting an ideology with atheism as its “chief inspirational and emotional hub.” But once in the West, he scolded Western elites for discarding “the moral heritage of Christian centuries with their great reserves of mercy and sacrifice” and for substituting “the proclaimed and practiced autonomy of man from any higher force above him.”

Scholar Edward E. Ericson, Jr., observes that Solzhenitsyn wrote and spoke from his Christian worldview. His view of God and man is what motivated his influential writings.