Research Guide to Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn is one of the major forces in literature to live in our time.  After fighting in World War II, he was arrested for criticizing Joseph Stalin in a letter to a friend.  He spent eight years in labor camps and three in exile to Kazakhstan, during which he developed stomach cancer.  These experiences would serve as the basis for his literary work.  He was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature in 1970 "for the ethical force with which he has pursued the indispensable traditions of Russian literature," an honor which he refused to travel to Stockholm to accept for fear that the Soviet Union would not allow him to return to his home.  He was eventually exiled, only returning after the collapse of the Soviet government.

The resources in this guide will direct the user to biographical as well as critical works on Solzhenitsyn, in addition to his original writings.  They are grouped according to level of detail.  They are by no means a complete list of relevant resources, but should only be considered to be so many starting points.  Emphasis has been placed on works of critical analysis and biography, but the user will find works that examine other facets of Solzhenitsyn as well.

A good area to browse for Solzhenitsyn's original works as well as secondary sources is the PG3488.O65 Z area of the Wells library.

Broad Resources - Works included in this section place Solzhenitsyn in some broader context.  Here he is shown in the context of Russian literature, world literature, linguistics, and among other Nobel Prize winners.  All call numbers refer to volumes that can be found at the Wells Library at Indiana University, Bloomington and all links can be accessed from campus computers or with an IUB username and password.  The links provided in the database citations point to the front or search page so that the user has the freedom to construct his or her own search.


Biography Resource Center.  Gale Group.  27 Sept. 2005. 

  • The Biography Resource Center links to Solzhenitsyn biographies from Contemporary Authors; Authors and Artists for Young Adults; Contemporary Heroes and Heroines; The Cold War, 1945-1991; and Encyclopedia of World Biography.  The diversity of these biographies should provide the user with biographical information that is varied enough so that a holistic portrait can be formed.
Universal Database of Russian Newspapers.  East View Information Services.  27 Sept. 2005. 
  • The Universal Database of Russian Newspapers contains over 800,000 articles in both English and Russian dating back to 1946.  The articles come from 65 different newspapers from throughout Russia, and can provide unique information on Russia's opinion of one of its most famous literary exports.
Worldwide Political Science Abstracts. Cambridge Scientific Abstracts.  25 Sept. 2005.  

  • Worldwide Political Science Abstracts contains citations, abstracts, and indexing in the fields of political science, international relations and law, and public administration and policy.  The coverage dates back to 1975.  Solzhenitsyn was an important voice in world politics as well as world literature, and the articles contained within this database help the user to understand Solzhenitsyn's political activities and views.

Modern Slavic Literatures.  Ed. Vasa D. Mihailovich.  New York: F. Ungar Pub. Co., 1972-76.

  • This reference work gathers together excerpts from various literary critics.  It takes pains to include criticism from the time of a work's debut as well as later thoughts.  The included excerpts come from full-length criticisms, book introductions, academic periodicals, literary magazines, and book reviews from major newspapers.  The entry on Solzhenitsyn focuses mainly on criticism of A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich and Cancer Ward, but other books are discussed.   PG501.M689 v.1-2

Cyclopedia of World Authors.  Ed. Frank N. Magill.  Pasadena, CA: Salem Press, 1997.

  • The entry on Solzhenitsyn in Cyclopedia of World Authors serves as an excellent introduction to the writer and his work.  The biographical information is brief but detailed, giving a good overall summary.  Also included are a list of Solzhenitsyn's work and a bibliography, giving the reader numerous options for further reading.  The work allows Solzhenitsyn to be seen in context with his global contemporaries.  PN451.M36 1997 v.1-5

Handbook of Russian Literature.  Ed. Victor Terras.  New Haven: Yale University Press, 1985.
  • This handbook provides encyclopedic entries on its included authors.  Its bibliographies are limited, but rather is a general reference work that is a good place to look for biographical information.  It also shows Solzhenitsyn from within his country's own literary history.  PG2940.H29 1985
Dictionaries and Glossaries

Carpovich, Vera V.  Solzhenitsyn's Peculiar Vocabulary.  New York: Technical Dictionaries, 1976.
  • While this Russian-English glossary is dedicated specifically to Solzhenitsyn's particular use of the Russian words, it is placed among the general resources as a nod towards Solzhenitsyn's own advocacy of "cautious lexical expansion" to combat what he saw as the "impoverishment" of the Russian language.  It culls over 4,000 entries from his numerous works and is intended largely as a translational aid, but can also be used by students of the language looking to fully appreciate Solzhenitsyn's prose.   PG3488.O65 Z49 1976
Reference Guides

Reference Guide to Russian Literature.  Ed. Neil Cornwell.  Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn, 1998.
  • In addition to brief biographical information, this reference guide provides a bibliography of works by and about Solzhenitsyn.  It also provides essays on his major novels, including plot summaries.  As a whole, the Reference Guide to Russian Literature contains entries on 273 writers and 293 works, albeit with an "unashamed bias" towards writers who lived in the 19th and 20th centuries.  PG2940.R43 1998
Specific Resources - The works listed here focus specifically on Solzhenitsyn's writings and the author himself.  Some are biographical, some are critical, and some mix the two.  All call numbers refer to volumes found in the stacks of the Wells Library on Indiana University's Bloomington campus.


Fiene, Donald M. Alexandr Solzhenitsyn: An International Bibliography of Writings By and About Him. Ann Arbor, MI: Ardis, 1973.

  • This extensive (but unfortunately somewhat dated) bibliography lists works about Solzhenitsyn in all of 38 languages. An index of names is provided and broken down into sections for authors; translators, editors and compilers; and persons mentioned in titles or descriptive notes. The author is also kind enough to mention which sources he consulted in compiling his bibliography so that the user has an idea of where to go if he or she wishes to get updated information. PG3488 .O65 Z48 c.2
Critical Analyses

Allaback, Stephen. Alexander Solzhenitsyn. New York: Taplinger Publishing Co., Inc., 1978.
  • This work devotes itself to discussing four of Solzhenitsyn's fictional works: A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, The First Circle, Cancer Ward, and August 1914. The author states in the preface that the ideal reader of this book will be someone who has already read these works and is looking for another opinion to compare with his or her own. The analysis, according to the author, generally focuses on characters or scenes that not only shed light on the individual work in which they are featured, but will also illuminate Solzhenitsyn's work as a whole. PG3488 .O65 Z554

Dunlop, John B., Richard Haugh, and Alexis Klimoff, eds.  Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn:  Critical Essays and Documentary Materials.  New York: Collier Books, 1975.

  • Collected here are numerous critical essays by international scholars dealing with many facets of Solzhenitsyn's writing.  The essays are divided into two groups:  those dealing with the whole of Solzhenitsyn's work and those dealing with individual novels.  The editors admit a disproportionate amount of attention has been given to August 1914, but excuse themselves because of its controversial reception.  Also included are statements by Solzhenitsyn discussing his own views on literature and the "writer's responsibility toward society," including things like his letter to the Fourth Congress of Soviet Writers. The substantially enlarged second edition of this work is available in the Undergraduate Collection, and contains works on The Gulag Archipelago.  PG3488.O65 Z557 1975

Dunlop, John B., Richard Haugh, and Michael Nicholson, eds.  Solzhenitsyn in Exile: Critical Essays and Documentary Materials.  Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution, 1985.

  • This sequel to the above work discusses Solzhenitsyn's reception in Britain, the United States, France, West Germany, and Yugoslavia.  In addition to critical essays, most of which discuss The Gulag Archipelago, the work contains interviews and an extremely useful bibliography.  All the material deals with Solzhenitsyn's life and work post-1974.   PG3488.O65 Z8865 1985

Pontuso, James F.  Solzhenitsyn's Political Thought.  Charlottesville : University Press of Virginia, 1990.

  • International politics are inextricably interwoven with Solzhenitsyn's writing and life, so much so that when he was awarded the Nobel Prize the Soviet Union considered it an overtly hostile act.  This is an excellent work for students or scholars who wish to further their understanding of Solzhenitsyn's personal political beliefs.  The author works from primary sources to analyze one of the more important political voices from the Cold War.  PG3488.O65 Z765 1990
Rothberg, Abraham. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 1971.
  • After a brief biographical introduction to Solzhenitsyn's life, Rothberg moves on to discuss Solzhenitsyn's three novel-length fictional works: A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, The First Circle, and Cancer Ward. Rothberg buttresses his analysis of the fiction with historical fact, looking to place the novels in their wider social context. Accessible and clearly written, this work will be interesting even to those who have not read the novels themselves. A bibliography is included. PG3488.O65 Z816 c.2


Burg, David and George Feifer.  Solzhenitsyn.  New York: Stein and Day, 1972.

  • A bit dry and not as engagingly written as some biographies, Burg and Fiefer nevertheless put together an extremely informative book.  It was also published during what could be called Solzhenitsyn's zenith; almost immediately after he won the Nobel Prize.  It is considerably shorter than Scammel's biography, making it a bit more suitable to leisure reading.  David Burg is co-translator of the American and British versions of Cancer Ward.  PG3488.O65 Z527
Nielson, Niels C. Solzhenitsyn's Religion. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1975.
  • This book could fit into either the biography or critical analysis category, but it was placed with the works that deal with Solzhenitsyn himself as its ultimate goal is to tease out his views on religion, and the author does this by analyzing both his life and work.  Nielson is thorough but also conversational in his discussion of religion, an aspect of Solzhenitsyn's work that is often overshadowed by his politics.  PG3488.O65 Z723
Scammel, Michael.  Solzhenitsyn:  A Biography.  London: Paladin, 1986.

  • Scammel's work is the most recent Solzhenitsyn biography owned by Indiana University.  When it appeared, it was critically acclaimed and did very well commercially.  The New York Review of Books went so far as to call it "one of the great books of our time."  It is very accessible and engaging, and contains 16 pages of pictures that help put a human face on a man whose literary reputation is of almost mythic proportions.  PG3488.O65 Z83 1986

Scammel, Michael, ed.  The Solzhenitsyn Files:  Secret Soviet Documents Reveal One Man's Fight Against the Monolith.  Chicago: Edition, 1995.

  • Although not technically a biography, this book gives a detailed look at Solzhenitsyn's life from the point of view of his enemies:  the Soviet authorities.  Declassified by Boris Yeltsin in 1992, this collection of government documents illustrates how the Soviet Union attempted to deal with "the Solzhenitsyn case."  The book contains a wide variety of documents, including the minutes of Politburo sessions, KGB memos, intercepted letters, and transcripts of bugged conversations.  It is a none-too-subtle reminder of the scrutiny placed on Solzhenitsyn after his success.   PG3488.O65 Z846 1995

Solzhenitsyn Studies.  Hamilton, NY: Colgate University, Dept. of the Classics, Slavic & Oriental Languages, 1980-1.
  • This quarterly publication appeared only between the years of 1980 and 1981, but it contains an extensive bibliography of original Solzhenitsyn writings, as well as reviews, responses, and "secondary literature."  Each issue is indexed and there is a cumulative index for 1980, the only complete year.  PG3488.O65 S6
Primary Resources - Listed below are selected original materials, in print and electronic form. Unless otherwise noted, all call numbers refer to editions available in the east tower of the Wells Library at Indiana University, Bloomington. Print works are listed in the order in which they were published.

Print Materials

Solzhenitsyn, Alexandr.  One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich.  New York: Praeger, 1962.

  • This autobiographical account of the author's time in Soviet prison camps won him the Nobel Prize in 1970.  The entire story takes place in a day and details the struggle to survive in harsh conditions.  The story first appeared in the famous Soviet periodical Novy Mir.  After this story appeared Solzhenitsyn became a celebrity and enjoyed a brief period of official favor under Nikita Khrushchev.  PG3488.O65 O313 1963

Solzhenitsyn, Alexandr.  The First Circle.  New York: Harper & Row, 1968.

  • The First Circle is a polyphonic novel with an extremely broad scope inspired by the author's time spent in the Soviet prison system.  Solzhenitsyn dedicates chapters to a vast array of characters, ranging from lowly prisoners and their civilian wives to mid-level bureaucrats and Stalin himself, painting a sweeping portrait of Soviet society and politics. PG3488.O65 V213

Solzhenitsyn, Alexandr.  Cancer Ward.  New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1969.

  • Another epic novel that uses polyphonic narration to include a wide variety of perspectives, Cancer Ward is based on Solzhenitsyn's own struggle with the illness.  As in The First Circle, the author includes chapters with focal characters from all walks of life and comments on both the social and political state of his home country.  PG3488.O65 R313 1969

Solzhenitsyn, Alexandr.  August 1914.  New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1989.

  • August 1914 first appeared in 1971 and is volume one of a series entitled "The Red Wheel."  The first installment of the series deals with the crushing military defeat Russia suffered at the hands of Germany at the Battle of Tannenburg, their first engagement in World War I.  It is another polyphonic novel that uses narrative drama to explore the politics and social reality of Russia.  PG3488.O65 A913 1989

Solzhenitsyn, Alexandr.  The Gulag Archipelago, 1918-1956; An Experiment in Literary Investigation.  New York: Harper & Row, 1974-1978.

  • A mammoth at 2,000 pages, this three-volume non-fiction exploration of the Soviet prison system got Solzhenitsyn kicked out of the USSR.  Volumes one and two recount in painstaking detail the experience of being arrested and imprisoned.  Volume three recounts tales of escape attempts. The material for the book was collected by Solzhenitsyn from interviews, oral reports, and historical documents.  It is considered by some to be his defining work.  The author dedicated all funds raised by the book to the Russian Social Fund for Persecuted Persons and Their Families.  PG3488.O65 A813 1974
Electronic Materials

Solzhenitsyn, Alexandr. A World Split Apart. New York: Harper & Row, 1978.  22 Sept. 2005.  

  • Solzhenitsyn was eventually exiled from Russia and moved to the United States, where he continued to work.  On June 8, 1978 he delivered this commencement address at Harvard University.  He speaks on his views of Western society.
Solzhenitsyn, Alexandr.  "Nobel Lecture."  Nobel Lectures, Literature 1968-1980.  Ed. Tor Frangsmyr.  Singapore: World Scientific Publishing Co., 1993.  22 Sept. 2005. 
  • Solzhenitsyn didn't go to Stockholm to accept his Nobel Prize because he feared Soviet authorities would refuse him reentry to his beloved Russia.  This Nobel lecture was never actually given but has been included in subsequent publications of Nobel addresses.  The speech deals with the nature of art in modern times.
last updated: 5/14/2010