The Man Who Killed Communism



It will soon be thirty years since the implosion of the Soviet Union. That liberating event took place on the last day of August in 1991, exactly twenty-one months after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Will there be celebrations to mark the anniversary? Not if Europe and the West have grown so forgetful of their freedoms and where they come from that the day passes by without anyone remembering it.

Will anyone remember those who, by the sheer heroism of their lives, made it happen—Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, for instance, without whose witness the evil empire might never have fallen at all. How could any one man possibly have done so much to ensure the end of Soviet tyranny? And why exactly did we call it an evil empire?ADVERTISEMENT – CONTINUE READING BELOW

It was Ronald Reagan, actually, who coined the phrase. Then, with that characteristic audacity we found so endearing, he went on to declare that it would shortly be consigned to the ash heap of history, forever confounding the prediction of Lenin that Communism would succeed in burying the West. That Cold War of conflicting ideas, that fierce clash of ideologies as long as any in the history of the world, is now over and, yes, our side won. 

But leaving aside the necessary contributions of statesman of the stature of President Reagan and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, not to mention the combined fire power of Pope St. John Paul II and the Holy Ghost, much of the credit for killing Communism belongs to the work of a single Russian writer, who, in the face of almost unimaginable hardship, set about dismantling the whole structure of lies.

I say almost because it certainly was not unimaginable to Solzhenitsyn, who not only was forced to endure it, but chose to write it all down in order to keep alive the historical memory of what had happened to his country from the moment systemic and widespread Marxist terror began in October of 1917. By simply telling the truth, he gave back to the Russian people, held hostage for more than seventy years, the memory of a world they had lost—a world where faith and family were not targeted by the State but allowed to flourish in freedom.ADVERTISEMENT – CONTINUE READING BELOW

It all began in 1962 with One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, a short, searing account of life in a slave-labor camp, much like the one to which Solzhenitsyn himself was sent for alleged offenses committed against Josef Stalin. In those days, even the most trivial of indiscretions, like telling a joke against Stalin, could easily result in long stretches of incarceration. Solzhenitsyn was given eight years, not an unusual stretch for provocations of that sort. It would later be commuted, however, during the Khrushchev years, when Stalin was safely dead. 

Even then, however, it was a lonely and difficult life, with the overarching fear and uncertainty of a knock on the door in the middle of the night from the KGB. Yet he carried on, lacking both editorial support and even the expectation that what he wrote, painstakingly typed and retyped, would ever emerge above ground to make a difference. 

Slowly, the books appeared, including Cancer Ward and The First Circle, both published in 1968 but only in English translations, the Russian editions not yet available. Then came the blockbuster, The Gulag Archipelago, a massive three-volume indictment of the entire Soviet system, which first circulated underground in Russia, but by 1974 had reached the West, putting the last liberal illusion to flight concerning the benign shape of the Communist world.ADVERTISEMENT – CONTINUE READING BELOW

It was never, however, about Solzhenitsyn alone. The witness was his to make but not for him to receive. Nor was it ever a matter of stoking his own muse as if that had been the source of the energy and inspiration which kept him going. It was God who directed him, his vocation having been given to him from above. “I had learned in my years of imprisonment,” he tells us, “to sense that guiding hand, to glimpse that bright meaning beyond and above myself and my wishes.” In other words, it was no longer Solzhenitsyn who was doing the work but some unseen force sweeping him along. “I was only the firing pin attached to a spring.” 

And, again, to what end but to bear witness—to testify to numberless victims concerning the truth of an insane and violent ideology, the exercise of whose power would come to define the twentieth century. (As Whittaker Chambers once put it, who was himself charged by God to give witness: “If you had wanted a pleasant century in which to be born, you’ve certainly chosen the wrong one. History hit us with a freight train.”) Solzhenitsyn would be their voice, telling the world all those “dying wishes of millions whose last whisper, last moan, had been cut short on some hut floor in some prison camp.”

And yet there was more. Not only was his mission to be understood in purely destructive terms, as the demolition of a hateful and hideous system bent on violence; but it was equally to be seen as a work of resurrection, of breathing new life into a people whose memories had suffered a kind of amputation. “Beyond the immediate struggle with the Communist state loomed a greater challenge still,” he writes in Invisible Allies, a book which pays tribute to those who, at considerable risk, helped him smuggle his writings out of the country: “The Russian spirit lay comatose, as if crushed beneath a mighty rock, and this vast tombstone…must somehow be raised, overturned, and sent crashing downhill.”ADVERTISEMENT – CONTINUE READING BELOW

Whether the work of Solzhenitsyn succeeds in accomplishing that far more challenging task, no one can say. But it remains undeniable that beneath the moral weight of his witness, an entire apparatus of deceit and violence came to an end. 

It is up to all of us now to keep alive that historical memory.

[Photo Credit: Public Domain] Martin

By Regis Martin

Regis Martin is Professor of Theology and Faculty Associate with the Veritas Center for Ethics in Public Life at the Franciscan University of Steubenville. He earned a licentiate and a doctorate in sacred theology from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome. Martin is the author of a number of books, including Still Point: Loss, Longing, and Our Search for God (2012) and The Beggar’s Banquet (Emmaus Road). His most recent book, also published by Emmaus Road, is called Witness to Wonder: The World of Catho

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I am an Informed and fully practicing Roman Catholic

2 thoughts on “The Man Who Killed Communism”

  1. This caught my attention I’M pondering it

    10/30/2021 God-dream of things coming:

    Wow, this one rocks! I have been really pressing in lately to hear from the Lord, so naturally He reached me when I settled down enough to hear – when I was asleep. I bet that is most people’s problems – we won’t sit still enough to experience (yada, ginosko) the Lord per Psalms 46:10.

    In this amazing dream, I was sitting at a table of church-type men, but once again (happens often in my dreams) after speaking awhile I realized it was actually the Lord Jesus speaking.

    This old man with his bible open argued that only Jesus could raise the dead, pointing to his bible. He said this after I (the Lord) said, “We are ALL going to start raising the dead.” I (the Lord) leaned over and quietly said, “Maybe your translation isn’t telling you the truth.” (5 Bible colleges learning the original languages have taught me that few translations come close to the Hebrew & Greek – very sad, and some are FAR from it). The Lord said (thru me): Doesn’t it say “My sheep listen-to-understand (akouo) My voice. And greater works than these I have done, you shall indeed do.”

    Now, I know in our bibles these are 2 different verses that Jesus is putting together, but elsewhere in our bibles Jesus said, “If my words (rhema) abide (meno) in You and/coupled I abide (meno) in you, ask anything and it will be granted to you by My Father.”

    Rhema words could never be bible written (grammar) words because Rhema are “1st hand, directly-spoken, directly-heard words from a person in the present NOW moment.”

    Meno is “staying connected, co-habitating, dwelling-together” with Jesus, the Vine, according to Jesus in John 15. THIS is the only way to produce ANY fruit, let alone much fruit to glorify His Father.”

    So in my dream the Lord told the Truth: Very soon the Church will be returning to its beginnings before it fell away into Catholicism around 200AD, which stamped out the Holy Spirit in a series of persecutions (for what they called heresy) in exchange for apologetics, dogma (doctrine, theology, creeds), and then a pursuit to determine the canon (books) of the New Testament because until then there was little consensus/desire-to-know what writings were authoritative and not just for devotional purposes. It was a reaction to the Jews who had finalized their Canon in 90AD as a reaction to the growth of Christianity. Canons are a reaction!

    Over 200 Christian writings before 200 AD bear witness to more reliance on the supernatural teaching of the Holy Spirit’s anointing (John 16:13 ALL truth, 1 John 2:20,27 so no need for ANY other teacher). The Spirit ran rampantly!

    The Lord is returning us to this by:

    1. Abiding in HIM not books or churches.

    2. HIS RHEMA words abiding in us, not 2000-3500 year old, still-debated gramma writings with so many translational difficulties, and so much lost in translation (every linguist will admit).

    3. THEN we will ask with GREAT faith abiding in us, ask for even “greater things to be done.”

    4. And SO many people will be raised from the dead – not just a few that Jesus raised. This world is in for a major shock that will cause many to repent (turn) to Jesus because:

    Like Paul said, i did NOT come to you with only a Logos (message content) BUT BUT BUT (alla) with the demonstrable-proof of the dynamite-like, enabling-power (dunamis) of the Holy Spirit with great signs & wonders, so your faith (trust, dependence) would not rest in my Logos (message content) even if with eloquently-spoken, plausible-convincing words of wisdom, but rest upon the dunamis-power of God.”

    This world will not be changed by words, not even 2000-3500 year old words, even if eloquently-spoken with plausible arguments (apologetics).

    Look at the state of the USA with way over 300,000 protestant churches, all with pastors preaching something. As the number of churches increased, the moral decay increased. This is a historical fact.

    No, Jesus is NOT going to give us more of the same! THE definition of insanity is to do the same things but expect different results. The BB Church is Insane – NOT Him.

    Jesus is The Truth and He will bring us back to The Truth, some ‘kicking and screaming’ (like the old man in my dream), but He will – and THEN we will get HIS RESULTS. The world is in for a big shock!

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