December saw the 100th anniversary of the birth of Alexander Solzhenitsyn. Many might think that the relevance of his writings has diminished since the Fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. However, those who imagine that are naïve about the realities of human history and the continuing impact of the Russian Revolution which he fought against with his pen all his life.
In commenting on Jeremiah 23, Derek Kidner has a telling quote in which he says ‘without justice a nation suffers, but without truth it sickens’. Justice is the responsibility of rulers (ch22) and truth the responsibility of preachers (ch23). Every real Christian and every Christian ministry (like that of Latimer Trust) will have a concern for truth. Solzhenitsyn was also concerned about truth (see his commencement address of 8 June 1978 at Harvard University, whose motto is ‘veritas’ – truth).
The Western world, and the United Kingdom in particular, has big leadership problems in both state and church at the present time. When our leaders have no determined commitment to justice and truth then we are storing up big problems for the future. That is why Solzhenitsyn’s greatest work called the ‘Red Wheel’ is so important.
The first volume of this ‘node’ which deals with the February/March 1917 Russian Revolution is at last available in English. Solzhenitsyn always believed that this was when the real revolution in Russia took place, rather than October 1917. He shows how events spiralled out of control under the leadership of a nice but weak Czar with an incompetent government, which was opposed by a Parliament dominated by self serving individuals. It is a dismal and chilling story given the ultimate consequences. It is a reminder that our own society desperately needs truth – the truth that comes from a God who speaks.
Mark Burkill is Vicar of Christ Church, Leyton.