Archpriest Nikolai Chernyshev: what I was asked Solzhenitsyn

“And like serious people say, “Well, how? He left the country”. That is, you hear it and realize that the person absolutely does not know exactly how it all happened.” His memories and his view of the legacy of Alexander Solzhenitsyn divided by Archpriest Nikolai Chernyshev, cleric of the Church in honor of St. Nicholas in Klenniki, who was the spiritual father of the Solzhenitsyn family after their return Home.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn. Photo: Getty Images

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Solzhenitsyn was interested in the life of a modern Orthodox

– Father Nikolay, what for you personally has now become particularly significant in what they did, wrote, said Solzhenitsyn? That, remembering the conversation with him you’ve rethought, reinvented?

– First of all, over the years more and more confirmed by the apparent prophetic gift of Alexander Solzhenitsyn. Since that time, the staff of the Fund Solzhenitsyn made documentaries with various archival records of his speeches over the years. Look and marvel, what about topical issues he said then – and about the problems we are now experiencing in the country, and what is happening in our relations with Ukraine, with the West, which occurred early in the relationship with Chechnya, and Afghanistan. He literally – as the water looked.

Secondly, when I reread his works of art more and more convinced that Solzhenitsyn is not only the great sage, but also a great writer.

– Which of his works you discovered anew?

– I think that I still have to open the “Red wheel”: I have only read the excerpts published in periodical magazines, and really want to get and read this multi-volume work as a whole, especially when you see how now all sounds much more what the writer said.

Next to global historical works of Solzhenitsyn, in which he reveals the processes taking place in our country over the last hundred years or so, me and small art, surprisingly warm clothes. The warmth of the tongue is seen in large and heavy in his works, but in the “Krakhotko”, in small studies and sketches about nature and about human relationships, it can be seen even more clearly.

Archpriest Nikolai Chernyshev

– What have you learned from communication with Alexander Solzhenitsyn?

I saw firsthand, here and now live such great people that had only read about in books. You know, you can know about a person from books, from the memoirs of other people, but it’s different when you personally know the person and it opens from all sides. Acquaintance, and then recognition is much more direct, and therefore deeper.

And that personal communication is somehow clearly showed that Alexander Isaevich is our contemporary, and in some sense the people of the future, and it’s incredible! Such great people have some, but they are the leaven that can change the mass of the people.

– Do you remember your feeling from the first meeting with the writer?

I was afraid to see the sage, a man who is difficult to communicate with people because of his burden of the past and gigantic intellect and not comparable with other levels of culture. But it turned out that all this does not prevent him to be direct, simple person very easy to communicate.

– You came to his house?

– Before that, we talked in the temple, but one day I asked Natalya Dmitrievna, and whether to ask for a longer conversation at home. Appointed convenient for both time. It certainly was a memorable conversation.

I thought that I would ask Alexander Solzhenitsyn lots and lots of questions, maybe to distract or interfere. I was surprised when I saw that he sits opposite me with a Notepad and pencil, and in the end it turned out that the more he asked me.

Of course, answered my questions, but still more he asked the questions himself, with interest stopping at such trifles and subtleties, which can only be prosecuted writer and philosopher.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn

And it was not idle interest, but a very meaningful and deep. In conversation with me Alexander Solzhenitsyn interested in the peculiarities of life of the modern Church. Not even the Church – with a capital letter, and life of modern Orthodox, he was interested, especially the young believers.

– You are surprised that you as the priest came Solzhenitsyn?

– Of course, for me it was unexpected. The story began with the fact that Natalia some time before their return from exile came, in order to determine what Church in Moscow to walk, she needed to prepare and shelter for their families, and to the place of prayer.

She was looking for the father of Alexander Kulikova, to which their family went up to 1974, until the expulsion of Alexander Solzhenitsyn. It was easy to see that now it is not in the Nikolo-Kuznetsk Church, and Clinico, he became the first rector. Father Alexander invited her to the temple and the meeting with Alexander Solzhenitsyn was held two years later, in 1994, after their return.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn and his wife Natalia. 1994

Father Alexander very carefully took Solzhenitsyn, detail began to talk about restoring the temple, brought him to me told me that I, too, participate in his recovery. I asked would they mind if father Nicholas will be their to care for and profess? So you know, we held a “feed” of Alexander’s father, he is called, gave me their family.

Here I see the Providence of God that my life was another man, very similar to Alexander Solzhenitsyn, my teacher Mikhail Grebenkov is human creative work, suffered from a war – a war veteran and artist. From Grebenkova, before meeting with Alexander Solzhenitsyn, I learned a lot of scary facts about the war, about the human relationships of that time, not heroic, not those about which wrote in the Soviet press and books.

And when dealing with Alexander Solzhenitsyn I remember Mikhail Nikolayevich – people of the same spirit…

– What kind of relationship you observed in the family of Solzhenitsyn?

– Gentle touching care and a truly warm relationship between family members, close relatives. This was manifested in household details, in the most seemingly simple and memorable words, which evolved into something real.

With his wife Natalia. 1996

“A lot of freedom, truth a little”

– What words of Solzhenitsyn mattered for you back then and still remain the same?

Once, in the nineties, Alexander Solzhenitsyn in an interview the reporter asked: “did You come to Russia, you can see that there is now much more freedom than in the 60-ies, 70-ies, especially before that?” He said: “a lot of Freedom, truth little.” This, of course, then I remember, and is now important topical.

It is necessary to remember the importance of not only freedom, but how you use it – whether freedom leads to greater truth, whether to use this gift in order to show the truth of God.

I remember how during our conversation, Solzhenitsyn insisted on the fact that you can not lose yourself, your own view of the truth, it is important constantly to hone, to do more and more significant, deep and not to go on about at any authorities.

Among other things we talked about, what you need to learn, to look, to listen, to read our great predecessors, but to look for and their form of expression. As he said, all creative people need to take a thin path between the Scylla and Charybdis that there is no mechanical, formal copy of their predecessors, even the most respected and beloved, but in any case their forgetfulness. Detrimental both.

– Do you regret that some topic is not discussed, a question not asked?

– These topics and questions – a lot. I have, unfortunately, not much has been detailed conversations with Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, and I can’t say that I always spoke with him.

Here, caught a decade ago his article published in the journal “Thomas”[1], which says that now, as sometimes before, repeated aggressive requirement that all art was only new. But, as he writes, this requirement is too old, and calls to “throw Pushkin to ship today” sounded a hundred years ago. Solzhenitsyn is worried about the fact that still there are calls to the novelty of the price is rejecting the heritage of our predecessors, the great masters of a certain art, whether literature, architecture, painting, music…

Alexander Solzhenitsyn with his wife and Nikita Struve

And I have to answer questions like these creative young people and adults. Even when it comes to creating new icons: “Why do you copy everything that you all repeat what it was 500 years before you? Required urgently a icon of the XX century, the icon of the XXI century”. And now it turns out that Alexander Solzhenitsyn is an article directly on this topic. There was found amazing words about that art by its very nature always carries something new, but more valuable will be it’s new, the more it absorbs the heritage of the past, the wealth of the predecessors.

Very sorry in person not able to develop the theme of a combination of eternal and contemporary art, especially Church art, in the fullness of what we would like.

– You said that you still not read “the Red wheel”. That our society is still not open from the heritage of Solzhenitsyn, in your opinion, do not read or somehow not read?

– He was accustomed to the careful reading of our history, without striving to search for some poignant moments, with hints of adventure and “fried”. It is important to learn trainnee whole and to make sense of our history, both ancient and modern.

Solzhenitsyn said about Anna Karenina, about her time Tolstoy wrote, and who do we write honestly and deeply? He saw his task and goal.

Once again I say that Solzhenitsyn is not until the end of the read property, probably, of many great writers, philosophers, and which open only gradually.

– What has changed in your worldview after contact with Solzhenitsyn?

– I realized that it is possible and necessary to approach the courage to identify the truth in a much more robust way.

Archpriest Nikolai Chernyshev

“Aim for the truth, and, as a consequence of understanding the truth, your work will be beautiful,” taught us Mikhail Grebenkov. He understood beauty as a consequence of the truth. Suddenly a few years after the death of Mikhail Nikolaevich Alexander Solzhenitsyn vividly I saw the absolute repetition, though not the same words but the same content. I understand that this is not an individual point of view of one, albeit high personality. It is the realization in life of the call, said two thousand years ago by the Lord: “blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness” (Matt. 5:6). That is, in life and in art it is important to try not to make any compromise against the truth.

And for that dare to call him a traitor

– Ask a little in the forehead, but – what, in your opinion, a Christian was Solzhenitsyn?

I think I answered that. The great commandment of the sermon on the mount the Savior “blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness” accompanied by Alexander Solzhenitsyn from a young age until the day of his death. He was a man striving to comprehend the truth in everything – from the most simple everyday things to the understanding of deep historical processes.

In the word of his Holiness Patriarch Alexy II, zachityvalis at the burial Solzhenitsyn was even one commandment from the sermon on the mount: “Blessed are banished for righteousness ‘sake” (Matt. 5:10). And it is also about Alexander Solzhenitsyn. It’s not about chance and not about politics, but about the fact that the expulsion was a natural consequence of his desire for truth in a country that lived by the truth of Christ, and so stand to live with him was impossible.

I saw his life according to the commandment “blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.”

– Why, in your opinion, today it is possible to meet opinion that Alexander Solzhenitsyn was almost a traitor?

Here are a few reasons. First, slander those same people that persecuted and hated Solzhenitsyn during the Soviet era. Hated for his principled rejection of Communist ideas and their practical implementation. Now these people have successors.

The second reason is ignorance, ignorance of the writings of Solzhenitsyn, his conclusions, or conscious of their “distortion.” Now, I hear this phrase and wonder and what a betrayal, what is betrayal? And seemingly serious people say, “Well, what? He left the country”. That is, you hear it and realize that the person they don’t know how it all happened. Solzhenitsyn was exiled with the whole family literally in 24 hours! And for that, someone dares to call him a traitor?

So much comes from ignorance and from the aggression, they generated. It’s easier, not knowing neither the person nor the person’s last-Communists and scold together with them than to say something kind, and even more – to explore really in order to understand how it really was.

I had the opportunity not only to know about Solzhenitsyn, but to see for myself, and I can testify that it is close there was no meanness and no cheating.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn

This was evident in person and will be seen at the thoughtful study of his heritage. And then we have to evaluate complex, ambiguous legacy of Alexander Solzhenitsyn as a writer and as a philosopher, to assess the decades and centuries, to discover new facets.

But again, many of his statements were prophetic and it’s obvious now.

Thirdly, in his work Solzhenitsyn (in his time, for example, and Dostoevsky) unvarnished talked about the terrible things of his time that people perceive pain. Some think it’s better if he didn’t say that, it would be better not to focus and not to reopen that wound…

Those who are accustomed to comfort, glamorous, frivolous and superficial attitude to life, perceived creativity of Solzhenitsyn as a painful and therefore unnecessary.

Remember, “Archipelago…” he said to the people, remembering the adage: “let bygones, that bygones”, not telling her the ending: “…and who can forget – that – two”. Who will forget his past, he will become blind.

Solzhenitsyn did not want us to be blind, and therefore was not afraid to reveal before us an open them the truth though it is bitter, and the people on whom you ask, like little children do not like bitter medicines.

[1] Thomas: No. 12 (68) December 2008 article “Playing on the strings of emptiness,” p. 24 – 27.

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