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Exhibition devoted to writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn opens in Moscow

December 09, 2013, 21:08 UTC+3 MOSCOW
The exhibition is timed to coincide with the 95th anniversary of Solzhenitsyn’s birth
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© ITAR-TASS/Vladimir Sayapin

MOSCOW, December 09. /ITAR-TASS/. The archives of Alexander Solzhenitsyn, the 20th-century Russian writer, have been put on view in Russia for the first time. An exhibition “Alexander Solzhenitsyn: From Under the Blocks,” which opened at the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow on Monday, features original documents of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The exhibition is timed to coincide with the 95th anniversary of Solzhenitsyn’s birth. It comprises the selections from the writer’s archives. They include manuscripts, documents, personal belongings, photos and books as well as Solzhenitsyn’s autographs, documents, the regalia of the Nobel Prize winner and the autographs of poets Kornei Chukovsky, Anna Akhmatova and Alexander Tvardovsky and composer Dmitry Shostakovich.

“This exhibition is wonderful. It’s right that it is taking place in our museum. This is part of our history and literary experience,” Marina Loshak, the director of the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts,” said at the exhibition’s opening.

“The exhibition is very important because it reflects the writer’s personal experiences and emotions. This is a unique museum of Alexander Solzhenitsyn located in one of our museum halls. All the exhibits are genuine. Each of them is linked to Solzhenitsyn and his country. A lot of things become clear but plenty of things are still causing questions. The exhibition leaves a bright emotional trace,” Loshak went on to say.

She said she wished as many visitors as possible to come to the exhibition. “I would like more people who do not know many things, especially the younger generation, to visit us. Perhaps, the exhibition will awake their interest in Alexander Solzhenitsyn and desire to read his works. It is a difficult and emotional job,” Loshak went on to say.

“My generation was shocked by Solzhenitsyn’s first book. It brought us to new spheres as a rocket. Solzhenitsyn is an absolutely unique phenomenon. He managed to combine two notions: his personal history and the history of his country,” Russian human rights ombudsman Vladimir Lukin said at the exhibition’s opening.

“Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s texts are proportionate to his biography, and the writer himself is commensurate to Russia. He is one of the very few, a Russian genius. You can find everything in Solzhenitsyn’s works from the life of an ordinary peasant to the destiny of the whole nation,” said Mikhail Shvydkoi, the Russian president’s special representative for international cultural cooperation. According to Shvydkoi, the exhibition reflects Solzhenitsyn’s gift of a writer.

Irina Antonova, the Pushkin museum’s president, said that Solzhenitsyn’s fate was in his books and that becomes particularly clear at the exhibition. “The exhibition is evidence of the writer’s colossal work and phenomenal self-discipline,” Antonova said.

“Alexander Solzhenitsyn wrote almost all of his works in hand. His manuscripts are the main treasury. It not surprising that many of them have been lost. It is surprising that so many of them have been preserved until today. Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s manuscripts have become monuments to a century, the hard times our country was through,” Solzhenitsyn’s widow Natalya added.

“The exhibition is topical. Even today, we are facing many problems. It is not accidental that we called it “From Under the Blocks”, which means from under the heaps of lies and lapses of historical memory,” Natalya Solzhenitsyn said.

The exhibition features Solzhenitsyn’s children’s and youth literary works as well as manuscripts which the writer wrote during the war and the years he spent in prison, labor camps and in exile. A quilted jacket and a patch with his inmate’s number which Solzhenitsyn secretly smuggled out of the labor camp when he was released and sent to “eternal” exile in Kazakhstan add to the visual impression.

Other exhibits include Solzhenitsyn-made typewritten copies of the story “One Day of Ivan Denisovich” and the novel “In the First Circle”.

A separate section is devoted to Solzhenitsyn’s creative works in conditions when his name and works were banned in his homeland in 1966-1974. They include “The Cancer Ward” and “The GULAG Archipelago”. Another section is fully devoted to Solzhenitsyn’s titanic work over “The Red Wheel” epic. The exhibition shows Solzhenitsyn’s historic return to Russia after twenty years in exile and the works of the last years of his life: manuscripts of his literary works, stories, prosaic miniatures and essays from the “Literary Collection” as well as journalistic books and articles devoted to urgent problems of Russia’s public life.

Solzhenitsyn’s personal belongings such as spectacles, magnifying glass, a pen-case with small pencils and the typewriter on a table adorns the exposition which also features a picture “Matryona’s Yard” by Gavriil Glikman and the famous canvas “The Castle of Holy Grail” by Sergei Ivashov-Musatov, Solzhenitsyn’s friend whom he met at a secret prison scientific laboratory known as “sharashka” in Marfino near Moscow.

Visitors can also see 24 engravings by Rembrandt van Rijn from the collection of the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, which accompany the main exhibition.

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