On this day in 1918 Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn was born in Kislovodsk, RSFSR (now in Stavropol Krai, Russia). That same year his father was killed in a hunting accident and was left to be raised by his mother. She passed away in 1944, but encouraged his literary studies. Solzhenitsyn studied mathematics at Rostov State University. At the same time he took correspondence courses from the Moscow Institute of Philosophy, Literature and History.

During World War II he served in the Army and was twice decorated for his service on the front lines. After the war his correspondence with a friend were intercepted. He was accused of anti-Soviet propaganda under Article 58 paragraph 10 of the Soviet criminal code, and of “founding a hostile organization” under paragraph 10. Solzhenitsyn was taken to the Lubyanka prison in Moscow, where he was interrogated. On 7 July 1945, he was sentenced in his absence by Special Council of the NKVD to an eight-year term in a labour camp. This was the normal sentence for most crimes under Article 58 at the time.

He served eight years in a prison work camp as a political prisoner. His works include the epic Gulag Archipelago, One Day In The Life Of Ivan Denisovich, Cancer, Two Hundred Years Together, as well as a collection of poems. In 1970 Solzhenitsyn was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.

He passed away in 2008 at the age of 89. This is a photo taken during his captivity, prior to his release in 1953. If you are interested in reading his works, Landmark Books has a great selection including some rare first editions.

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