The Soviet Union was a brutal dictatorship. You see echoes of that in Russia today. One man was behind the Soviet collapse perhaps more than anyone else on Earth. His name was Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. His life reinforces a powerful biblical lesson.
Solzhenitsyn suffered as a prisoner in the Soviet gulags for eight years. His book The Gulag Archipelago exposed how these horrendous prison camps formed a network sprawled across the Soviet Union like an island chain from the 1920s to the 1950s. The ruling class used these camps to terrorize their own people.
In 1975, Solzhenitsyn wrote his autobiography, The Oak and the Calf. Translated into English in 1979, it describes his struggle to publish his writings under the stifling oppression of communism. But Solzhenitsyn was a man of faith. He believed God had a hand in his suffering and in his speaking out. I am certain God used him to expose that evil empire and teach us about human nature. One man wrecked the Soviet empire!
Solzhenitsyn realized that, with faith, one man can shake the world. This was a point that Jesus Christ Himself taught. How much do you know about faith—faith that produces results?
The Faith to Warn
Jesus Christ taught a lot about faith. In one case, when He was approached by two blind men seeking to be healed, He asked, “Believe ye that I am able to do this?” When they said yes, He touched their eyes and said, “According to your faith be it unto you” (Matthew 9:27-29).
This powerful example shows how even worldly, unconverted people can receive help from God through faith! Almost nobody in this world understands this, but trusting God produces spectacular results. Christ’s statement, “According to your faith be it unto you,” condemns the lack of faith in this world!
Christ was a man who performed mighty miracles, including casting out demons. Did you know that those demons are still on Earth today? Christ showed that we can drive them away—and even Satan the devil himself—if we trust Him in faith.
Solzhenitsyn used faith to shake the Soviet empire and even the whole world! We ought to remember that: It is an inspiring story that should motivate us all.
In another instance, a man asked Christ to heal his demon-possessed son, saying that His disciples were unable to help him. Christ said, “O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him hither to me.” He was disturbed by the lack of faith! Then He cast out the demon and healed the child (Matthew 17:14-18).
When the disciples privately asked Him why their efforts had gotten no results, Jesus answered, “Because of your unbelief …” (verses 19-20). These disciples needed to learn real faith before they could follow Christ’s example.
“[F]or verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.” With faith, one man can move a mountain from one place to another if necessary! How can men ignore such a momentous promise from God? We need to fathom the incredible power of faith and allow it into our lives.
While Solzhenitsyn languished in the gulags, Herbert W. Armstrong warned the world about communism. He proclaimed how communism was a deadly enemy of the West, particularly the modern Israelite nations of America, Britain and the Jewish state in the Middle East. (You can prove the biblical identity of these nations by requesting from us your free copy of Mr. Armstrong’s book The United States and Britain in Prophecy.)
“Communism is a worldwide political movement, organized inside many countries,” Mr. Armstrong wrote in the April-May 1944 Plain Truth. “From official Communist literature, anyone can learn, if he wishes to know the truth, that communism is a plan, in action, for the violent overthrow of capitalism and the capitalistic governments. And capitalism means democracy, since it is the democracies who control more than two thirds of the world’s capital.”
While in the gulag, Solzhenitsyn pondered the Russian Revolution and how it had destroyed his country. He knew that somebody had to report the truth. Who would it be? He decided it would have to be himself. It was his own life that must be risked by writing about a prison system that reflected a revolution gone mad.
His life was seriously threatened several times. But he continued to write books and speak out against Communist rulers. “To use a Shakespearian image,” George Steiner wrote in the New York Times Book Review: “During the late 1960s and throughout the ’70s, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn bestrode the world like a colossus. The winning of the Nobel Prize in Literature in October 1970, his expulsion from Russia in February 1974, the publication in the West of The Gulag Archipelago the same year, made him not only the world’s most famous writer, but a spiritual guide, a prophet, an exemplar unrivaled since Voltaire or Tolstoy. His every movement, his most occasional pronouncements, were the object of frenetic attention in the news media. Crowds blocked the airports at which Solzhenitsyn arrived. In the ‘free world,’ Cancer Ward and The First Circle sold by the million; in Russia and in Eastern Europe, clandestine copies passed from hand to hand, keeping fiercely alive ‘hope against hope’” (March 1, 1998).
Solzhenitsyn’s experiences made him desperate enough to speak out against what some have called the greatest tyranny ever. Amid that suffering, he developed character and values he would not compromise, even at risk of death.
One man of penetrating character changed history. Underpinning his character was a strong religious morality. Through faith, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn shook and wrecked the Soviet empire.
In The Oak and the Calf, Solzhenitsyn wrote about the dangers of composing a book to expose the gulags.
“The hardest blow was to find that after going through the full course in the camps, I was still so stupid and vulnerable,” he wrote. “I had been an underground writer for 18 years, weaving my secret web and making sure that every thread would hold. A mistake about one single person could have plunged me into a wolf’s pit with all I had written, but I had made no mistake and had not fallen. So much effort had gone into keeping it all safe, so many sacrifices into writing it. My plan was an immensely ambitious one. In another 10 years’ time, I should be ready to face the world with all I had written.”
Solzhenitsyn wanted to move a mountain with his writing! His mind was filled with the dreadful experiences of the gulag, and he felt compelled to expose it all. This fueled a monumental ambition. When asked him why he was always in such a hurry, he explained that he had so much to write about! He felt he had no time to lose and urgently needed to expose the Soviet empire before the world.
“The strength in my position was that my reputation was unstained by compromise, and I must keep it so, if I had to keep silent for another 10 years,” he said. When facing so many trials, Solzhenitsyn was determined not to compromise. That takes strong faith! He examined himself and realized that he had been following the multitude in its delusions. So he humbled himself and corrected the problem.
With uncommon clarity, Solzhenitsyn came to understand that human nature is evil (Jeremiah 17:9; Romans 8:7). Many people believe that “nice people” don’t do evil things. Solzhenitsyn said that isn’t true. One must struggle to get the evil out of himself, he insisted. And he struggled mightily to get the evil out of his own heart. That is amazing! It is very biblical. How many people in this world truly understand human nature?
Solzhenitsyn believed that God was with him, teaching and guiding his actions. “I had learned in my years of imprisonment to sense that guiding hand, to glimpse that bright meaning beyond and above myself and my wishes,” he wrote. He sought for higher meaning in what was happening within the brutal Soviet Union. He had faith in God and was convicted that God wanted him to expose that vile dictatorship. And he decided to prioritize his convictions over his own life.
Solzhenitsyn tried to correctly interpret each important event in his life. “The secret of a great life is often a man’s success in deciphering the mysterious symbols vouchsafed [granted or permitted] to him, understanding them, and so learning to walk in the true path.” He sought God’s help to decipher events properly so he would know what to do. He was searching for God and seeking to let God guide him.
“To enjoy my proud and open defiance, my acknowledged right to think for myself, it would—I dare say—have been painful, perhaps impossible, to return to my previous quiet life,” he wrote. “At last I was beginning to see revealed the higher and hidden meaning of that suffering for which I had been unable to find a justification, that sharp reminder from the supreme reason [that is, God] which no mere mortal can at first understand.”
Often we cannot immediately understand God’s purpose as to why we must suffer. Solzhenitsyn, however, figured it out: “This was why my murderous misfortunes had been sent to me from God to deny me all possibility and snatch from me any chance of lying low and keeping quiet to make me desperate enough to speak and act. For the time was at hand!” (ibid). His trials persuaded him to speak out. As the Soviet empire inflicted mind-destroying pain on millions, he could not remain quiet.
“Happy the man who deciphers more quickly the writing in heaven, but I am slow. I need time,” he wrote. “Yet I, too, awoke one morning a free man in a free country.” Solzhenitsyn endured and at last was free—thanks in large part to his writings.
God wants to reason together with human beings (Isaiah 1:18). We can think and study and discover more about our Creator every day and grow in faith as Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn did.
Never has such a massively murderous government as the Soviet Union been so deeply exposed by one man. Communist leaders intensified their persecution. In February 1974, Solzhenitsyn was expelled from the Soviet Union. In 1976, he made his home in Vermont.
When Solzhenitsyn came to America, he was very grateful. But he was also deeply disappointed with what Americans were doing with their freedoms.
“I put no hopes in the West—indeed no Russian ever should,” he wrote in Invisible Allies. “If the 20th century has any lesson for mankind, it is we who will teach the West, not the West us. Excessive ease and prosperity have weakened their will and their reason.”
In June 1978, Harvard, America’s most prestigious educational institution, invited Solzhenitsyn to give its commencement address. He used that opportunity to condemn our nation’s way of life! He said the people were too caught up in sports, movies and pleasures to have any will or reason. He decried the educated and the intelligentsia who were politically indoctrinated and pleasure-saturated. These people dragged down all of society—sapping people of strength, will, reasoning, courage and enthusiasm for doing right and exposing wrong.
Solzhenitsyn’s Harvard speech sent shock waves throughout the West. The people disliked and rejected his message. How human nature hates receiving correction! Most politicians, educational institutions and the media turned bitterly against this man! But he was right. And the sins for which he condemned this nation in 1978 are even worse today!
Solzhenitsyn felt a responsibility to cry aloud. That is very much like Isaiah 58:1, where God gave this bold commission to His prophet: “Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins.” In a sense, Solzhenitsyn did this. God’s Church today is commanded to do this. We declare to the nations of Israel and the whole world their transgressions, and warn of how God will punish if they don’t wake up and repent.
“Camp experience tells me that the tougher you are with stoolies [or stool pigeons—other prisoners who had been recruited as decoys or informers], the safer you are,” Solzhenitsyn wrote. “You must never appear to acquiesce. If I hold my peace, they’ll wait a few months and quietly make a meal of me, or having no resident permit for parasitism or some other excuse. But if I make loud enough noise, their position will be weaker.” So he was determined to cry out and tell the world what was happening in his country. Then he summoned yet more courage and cried aloud about many of the problems in the West! In many ways, he moved a mountain like Christ said! That’s the kind of power this man had.
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn said he received a priceless education in that Russian gulag. He asked God to help him understand and to expose all that corruption, and then to cry out when the time was right. He risked his life and could easily have been killed—but God protected him and God rewarded him, just as He said He would. In the gulag, Solzhenitsyn saw God. And through him, God toppled the Soviet mountain!
“[F]or verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you” (Matthew 17:20). Follow this astounding example from history, and nothing will be impossible to you!