This notorious essay by a Nobel Prize winner is little known in the West. Widely distributed in the Soviet Union, when first published in 1990, the essay is almost unknown to the foreign audience. So, I deemed it my obligation as a political scientist to upload the entire English text of Rebuilding Russia, published in 1991, here.
For the most part of his life, the Russian writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (1918-2008) was on friendly terms with Soviet and Russian authorities. The Communist leader Nikita Khrushchev enjoyed reading a Mr. Solzhenitsyn’s short novel One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. The USSR’s interior minister Nikolai Shchelokov provided the author with a detailed topographic map of East Prussia, when the latter did research work in order to write a novel August 1914. Upon his return to the post-Soviet Russia, Mr. Solzhenitsyn was cordially welcomed by its leaders. He was granted television prime time, fashionable real estate, lucrative publications in printed media, etc. Nowadays, there are many streets and monuments in Russia dedicated to the writer.
Everything has a price tag. As a diligent person, Mr. Solzhenitsyn had to repay such honors. The essay in question is his tribute to the Soviet-Russian expansionism. Not the global one, but rather the Eurasian expansionism, directed especially against Kazakhstan and Ukraine.
On pages 7-8, the writer lays territorial claims to the internationally recognized borders of my country: “As for Kazakhstan, its present huge territory was stitched together by the communists in a completely haphazard fashion: wherever migrating herds made a yearly passage would be called Kazakhstan”. The annexation of Crimea and war in Donbas were implicitly planned on page 17: “How can we fail to share the pain and anguish over the mortal torments that befell the Ukraine in the Soviet period? But does that justify the ambition to lop the Ukraine off from a living organism (including those regions which have never been part of the traditional Ukraine: the “wild steppe” of the nomads—the later “New Russia”—as well as the Crimea, the Donbas area, and the lands stretching east almost to the Caspian Sea)?” Moreover, he denies the right of Crimean Tatars to have an autonomy, saying on page 21 that “given the expected population density of the next century, the Crimea can accommodate some eight to ten million inhabitants, and the hundred-thousand-strong Tatar people cannot then demand control of the entire territory”. By the way, according to the Soviet Census of 1989, there were 271,700 Crimean Tatars in the USSR alone!
Also, he denounces scientific progress and industrial development in favor of old agrcultural traditions. As for the Soviet Union, on page 21 he mentions “our mindless and rapacious industry”. Meanwhile, on page 32 the author excessively praises the old Russia: “In Stolypin’s time, there was already a strict requirement that land must pass to actual peasant farmers, not to major speculators or to surrogates through joint-stock companies”. If aggressive goals of Mr. Solzhenitsyn in many respects have come true, then his reform proposals in the field of local self-government or private enterprise have suffered a failure. On page 40, he vainly envisions the future of local self-government: “All our provincial districts, all the expanses of the Russian Union must acquire complete freedom in economic and cultural terms, together with strong (and increasingly influential) local self-government”. On page 36, the author once more preaches in vain that “healthy private initiative must be given wide latitude, and small enterprises of every type must be encouraged and protected, since they are what will ensure the most rapid flowering of every locality. At the same time there should be firm legal limits to the unchecked concentration of capital; no monopolies should be permitted to form in any sector, and no enterprise should be in control of any other”. The current situation in Russia is harshly opposite to the dreams of the writer.
It was published simultaneously by Komsomolskaya Pravda and Literaturnaya Gazeta on September 18, 1990. Later, certain newspapers and magazines reprinted the essay. So, its combined circulation reached some 28 million copies! Of course, such an impressive figure would not have been possible without the state support. Reportedly, Mr. Solzhenitsyn was a KGB informer, code-named “Vetrov”. So, with a little help from his friends, the writer was once again in the limelight.