One of the great anti-totalitarian voices of the 20th century has passed away.
I always will remember the moment when I first read this passage in The Gulag Archipelago:
Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either, but right through every human heart, and through all human hearts. This line shifts. Inside us, it oscillates with the years. Even within hearts overwhlemed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained; and even in the best of all hearts, there remains a small corner of evil.
Understanding this statement is the beginning of all political wisdom. The best place to start, for those interested in AS, is the wonderful Solzhenitsyn reader published by ISI Books. The judicious introduction by Edward Ericson and Dan Mahoney carefully parses the legitimate from the frivolous criticisms of AS, and gives an excellent overview of his work.
I assume Solzhenitsyn's legacy will be debated in the days ahead. For now, though, I am mostly filled with gratitude for his courage in the face of evil, and his forthright witness on behalf of the spiritual dimension of human existence.
UPDATE: The AP obit is reasonably informative and gives a sense of why some view AS with a bit of suspicion. Frankly, I'm not terribly anti-Putin and wouldn't mind at all if some kind of neo-Solzhenitsynite trajectory for Russian development came to prevail, both in terms of Russia's self-understanding (which it may in fact have already) and in the U.S.'s willingness to support an idiosyncratic, mildly authoritarian, but still decent political order in that country.