Monday, August 4, 2008

Heroes, Dissidents & Noble Prize Winners

Pop idols, commercial brands molded into household "iconic" names and tabloid celebrities aside, there are and have been those who made a difference in their own, unique way without necessarily pursuing the route to fame and the celebrity status. They simply wrote and said what they truly believed in, created that which appealed to them wholeheartedly and didn't obsessively seek a desperate claim to fame or a mass iconization.

One such person passed away today - a Russian dissident who publicly wrote what he believed in and attracted interest all around, including a serious high-level disapproval in his native country. The exile who became a legendary figure first abroad and only much later at home (though still much under-appreciated back home) was Aleksander Solzhenitsyn, the author of a Nobel Prize-winning trilogy "Gulag Archipelago", a highly engaging read describing in great detail the savagery of life under the dictatorship of not just Joseph Stalin but the communist regime as a whole. No wonder the controversial trilogy raised many eye brows in his native Russia and the author was forced into political exile for two decades, while the Communist regime he had left behind forbade the "traitor's" works on a major scale throughout the Soviet Union.

Such was his tragedy, and he was not alone. There were numerous others who before and after Solzhenitsyn had lived through similar accusations on a national level of the betrayal of the Motherland in one form or another.

And yet, those who remember those few names are bound to appreciate that which they so readily and even rebelliously shared with their readers and ultimately true followers.

What is it that makes Russia so exotic both as a result of its history and the likes of Solzhenitsyn, Stalin (pardon, Soso was Georgian!) Tchaikovsky, Pushkin, later Politkovskaya, Putin, Khodorkovsky.... The list goes on, the names represent different eras, historic value and national inheritance or loss as a result of their existence, but after all - through the fierce criticism of the communist regime and later the Nouveau Riche modernization of Russia, it still ignites interest, intrigue, raises eye-brows and numerous questions. It has not lost its "interest" factor in the global spectrum.

Why? Or rather, how?

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