A World Split Apart
By Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
Reviewed by James L. Abrahamson, Contributing Editor
To mark the August death of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, one of the greatest of Russia's writers and a leading Soviet dissident, American Diplomacy seeks to honor his life by reconsidering the June 8, 1978, observations he offered to graduates of Harvard University. In "A World Split Apart," Solzhenitsyn, ahead of his time, looked beyond the East-West split, called attention to additional profound and alienating global rifts represented by the cultures of China, India, Africa, and Islam, and rejected the Western expectation that a divided world would soon painlessly converge.
For the most part, however, Solzhenitsyn expressed his concern for the state of the West, which he claimed had "lost its civil courage." Speaking of "each country, each government, each political party and of course the United Nations," he found the loss of courage "particularly noticeable among the ruling groups and the intellectual elite," which he believed had led to widespread "depression, passivity and perplexity." "The American intelligentsia has lost its [nerve]," he told the graduates, "and as a consequence thereof danger has come much closer to the United States." Almost speaking to the present day, Solzhenitsyn warned that "no weapons, no matter how powerful, can help the West until it overcomes its loss of willpower. ... To defend oneself, one must also be ready to die; there is little such readiness in a society raised in the cult of material well-being. Nothing is left...