Russia is no longer the Soviet Union, but it has a long way to go to free itself once and for all from the residues of its Communist past. If there was one book responsible for the de-legitimization of the Soviet enterprise in the first place, it was Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago. That work—well-described by the author’s widow Natalia Solzhenitsyn as different parts historical inquest, personal reminiscence, political treatise, and philosophical mediation (without being reducible to any one of these genres)—is, in the end, an “epic poem” chronicling the evils of ideology and the prospects for good and evil within the human soul. It is a cathartic work that conveys not only “pain and anger, but an upsurge of strength and light.” It is also the most powerful critique ever written of the ideological impulse to remake men and society at a stroke, and it will remain politically...

 

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