Death: Russia’s paramount 20th-century scribe, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, wrote his way through hardship Marvin Olasky
Leo Tolstoy and Fyodor Dostoevsky were the twin towers of 19th-century Russian writing. Alexander Solzhenitsyn, who died on Aug. 3 at age 89, was Russia's paramount 20th-century writer, a birch who stood virtually alone amid the attempts of Josef Stalin and his successors to clear-cut the Soviet Union's literary forests.
(In Tolstoy's greatest short story, "What Men Live By," God removes the powers of a disobedient angel and sends him to earth, assigning him to "learn three truths: what dwells in man, what is not given to man, and what men live by.")
Solzhenitsyn grew up in the Russian Orthodox Church and later recalled how older boys once ripped a cross from his neck. He became a loyal Communist and fought in World War II, but in one letter to a school friend he referred to Stalin as "the man with the mustache." For that bit of "disrespect," he spent the years from 1945 through 1953 in the Gulag, the Soviet prison camp system.