- The Washington Times - Monday, August 11, 2008

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Once again, Ariel Cohen’s 3-D vision, based firmly on his life experience and scholarship on the USSR, shines through (“Solzhenitsyn’s Legacy,” Op-Ed, Wednesday). This was by far the best of all the articles I read since Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s death.

Having lived and worked in the Soviet Union during Communism under Leonid I. Brezhnev, I was moved by Mr. Cohen’s personal experience with Mr. Solzhenitsyn’s literary works. Like Mr. Cohen, I had also read “A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich,” “Cancer Ward” and “The First Circle,” and felt similarly about their enormous power within the clenched fist of Soviet society.

Mr. Cohen (Russian-born and Jewish) astutely pointed out that the author’s towering literary (and ultimately political) achievements are, by weight of impact, so monumental that whatever vagaries followed those achievements, the “thermonuclear explosion” over the “legitimacy” of Soviet communism was a blow that proved, in the end, both mortal to the empire and an everlasting gift to humanity.

As a member of the board of directors of the Global Museum on Communism (which includes the Victims of Communism Memorial statue on the corner of New Jersey Avenue and Massachusetts Avenue; a “Virtual Museum” to launch in early 2009, (preview on Internet now); and a globally developed, District-based, bricks-and-mortar museum to follow), I was surprised by Mr. Cohen’s statement that communism took the lives of “sixty million people” in the USSR alone. That number would vastly expand the “100 million victims” that we refer to now.

In paying tribute to Mr. Solzhenitzyn, we need to ask ourselves what our Western heroes of the Soviet collapse, such as John Paul II, Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and others, could have done if Mr. Solzhenitsyn had not written his books.

Mr. Cohen writes that Mr. Solzhenitsyn educated the intellectual left as to the reality of communism. But even more important, he stimulated a vast internal contribution to the collapse of the Soviet Union by depicting to the Russian people - in no uncertain terms - the moral and spiritual decay that permeated their society at all levels.

Finally, the life’s work and struggle of Mr. Solzhenitsyn will forever be a symbol to the world of human courage and capacity. Despite overwhelming odds, one individual human being with a conscience can change the course of history for the better.

DON RITTER

Washington

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