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Alesksandr Solzhenitsyn returns from exile to point a way out of the Soviet "quagmire."

In October 1917, a "sealed train" smuggled the notorious exile Vladimir Lenin across war-torn Europe into St. Petersburg, launching the Bolshevik revolution and the country's ultimately doomed experiment in communism.

Seventy-seven years later, another historic train has crossed Russia headed for the nation's capital. In contrast to Lenin's train, this one traveled slowly from East to West, making frequent stops. The passenger, Alesksandr Solzhenitsyn, exiled from the country 20 years ago, is reacquainting himself with his homeland. Russia has radically changed since the KGB put the Nobel laureate on a plane out of Moscow a generation ago.

"I return to a Russia tortured, stunned, altered beyond recognition, convulsively searching for itself, for its own true identity to search with you [for] ways to get out of our quagmire," he said to thousands gathered in Vladivostok, the Siberian city on the Pacific coast where he began his 55-day journey to Moscow.

The renowned author of GULAG ARCHIPELAGO, which chronicled the arrest, enslavement, torture, and murder of an estimated 65 million in Soviet labor camps, re-enters Russia with a revolutionary mission of repentance. He believes Russia must boldly confront its communist past. Russia's current "great misfortune," Solzhenitsyn said in Vladivostok, "is that our society did not cleanse itself spiritually; nobody in Russia ever repented. Communism remains in our hearts, in our souls, in our minds." He includes in his call for repentance the current government as well as those leaders in the Orthodox Church who collaborated with the Soviet state.

Although Solzhenitsyn is not primarily known in the West ...

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A Russian Call to Repentance
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In the Magazine

August 15, 1994

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