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From the Notebooks

Shortly after arriving as an exile in the United States in 1974, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn offended his American guests by bemoaning the weakness and spiritual torpor of the West. Although he had previously admired the West and looked to it for salvation from Communism, upon arriving here he immediately knew the West could offer no cultural guidance. He was disappointed by its moral relativism, lack of self-restraint, hastiness, superficiality, and unbridled capitalism that had worked its way from the pocketbook to the heart. He was dismayed by the grabbing materialism of the consumer, widespread television stupor, and love for intolerable music. In 1978, he told the Harvard graduating class: “But should someone ask me whether I would indicate the West such as it is today as a model to my country, frankly I would have to answer negatively. No, I could not recommend your society in its present state as an ideal for the transformation of ours. Through intense suffering our country has now achieved a spiritual development of such intensity that the western system in its present state of spiritual exhaustion does not look attractive.” Not surprisingly, Solzhenitsyn found the source of western stultification in the Enlightenment. He hates the Enlightenment; it is “his great enemy.” Solzhenitsyn realized that, as the Enlightenment took hold, “limitations were eroded everywhere in the West” and “a total emancipation occurred from the moral heritage of Christian centuries. . .” See Edward Ericson, Solzhenitsyn and the Modern World (Regnery Gateway, 1993), 132-138. See also the text of the Harvard Commencement Address. Re-printed in Imprimis, August 1978.