The Vermont Historical Society is partnering with the Cavendish Historical Society and the University of Vermont to celebrate the life and work of Russian novelist and historian Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn on what would be the 100th anniversary of his birth. Solzhenitsyn’s time in Vermont and its influence on his life and work will be explored in the exhibit, “Solzhenitsyn in Vermont” on view at the Vermont History Museum in Montpelier from May 17 to October 27, 2018 as well as through associated presentations and programming throughout the year.
Solzhenitsyn was a Russian writer and historian whose work raised awareness of the Soviet Gulag system of forced labor camps. A critic of the Soviet Union and of communism, he received the Nobel Prize for literature in 1970. He was exiled from there in 1974 and lived abroad for twenty years, most of that time in Cavendish, Vermont.
While in Vermont, Solzhenitsyn completed one of his most famous works, The Red Wheel, a fictionalized history of Soviet Union. Solzhenitsyn’s belief that ideas, through the power of literature, can resist and fight against tyranny still resonates today. After the fall of the Soviet Union, Solzhenitsyn returned to Russia. Before leaving, he addressed the citizens of Cavendish, remarking in part that “the eighteen years which I have spent here have been the most productive of my life. I have written absolutely everything I wanted to… Exile is always difficult, and yet I could not have imagined a better place to live, and wait, and wait for my return home than Cavendish.”
The exhibit tells the story of Solzhenitsyn’s time in Vermont through photographs, quotes, and family memories. As part of the project, University of Vermont Professor of Russian Language, Literature and Cultures, Kevin J. McKenna will give a talk on Solzhenitsyn and his work on May 17 at 12:00 pm at the Vermont History Museum in Montpelier in conjunction with VHS’s Third Thursdays lecture series. On May 19 at 1:00pm the public is invited to the opening reception for the exhibit featuring refreshments and brief presentations. The project is supported, in part, by the Vermont Humanities Council.