"Without free, self-respecting, and autonomous citizens there can be no free and independent nations. Without internal peace, that is, peace among citizens and between the citizens and the state, there can be no guarantee of external peace."
- Vaclav Havel
After Alexander Solzhenitsyn attended university and graduated from the department of mathematics and physics, he soon went on to fight in World War II. His fate would change in 1945, when he was arrested for letters he had written to a school friend that were critical of Joseph Stalin. Subsequent to his arrest, Solzhenitsyn spent eight years in prisons and labor camps and three years in exile. In 1956, Solzhenitsyn was allowed to settle in central Russia, where he taught mathematics and began writing in earnest. By the early 1960s, with government control being loosened in Russia, Solzhenitsyn saw his short novel One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich published in a leading literary journal. Based on Solzhenitsyn's own experiences, Ivan Denisovich described a day in the life of a Stalin-era inmate, and its authenticity struck a chord with readers, especially since it was the first such work to appear in post-Stalin Russia.
In 1964, however, the political tide soon turned against Solzhenitsyn when Nikita Khrushchev fell from power in and restrictions on cultural activities were reinstated. Solzhenitsyn lost government-sanctioned publishing privileges and soon had to resort to publishing through underground means. Despite the oppressive nature of his homeland during this time, Solzhenitsyn found success internationally, as publishers abroad clambered to release his work.
The First Circle appeared in 1968, and Cancer Ward followed later that year. These works secured Solzhenitsyn the 1970 Nobel Prize for Literature, but he did not go to Stockholm for the ceremony because he was afraid he would not be readmitted to the Soviet Union when he returned.
In 1973, The Gulag Archipelago, a literary-historical record of the Soviet prison/labor camp system that became a multi-tentacled monster under Stalin, started to appear in installments in Paris and the KGB has seized the manuscript in the Soviet Union.
Upon the publication of Gulag, Solzhenitsyn was charged with treason and exiled from the Soviet Union. He eventually traveled to the United States and settled in the secluded environs of Vermont, where he continued to write.
In 1989, a literary journal published the first officially-approved excerpts from Gulag. Solzhenitsyn's Soviet citizenship was restored a year later, and he returned to Russia four years after that.