The bronze monument sitting on a granite pedestal was designed by National Artist of Russia Andrei Kovalchuk. His project won the architecture and sculpture tender held in 2017 by the Union of Moscow Architects at the initiative of the Alexander Solzhenitsyn House of Russian Expatriate Community, with the support of the Ministry of Culture.
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Speeches at the unveiling ceremony for the monument to Alexander Solzhenitsyn
Head of the Federal Agency for Press and Mass Media Mikhail Seslavinsky: Good afternoon, friends,
Mr President, Mr Sobyanin, Mrs Solzhenitsyn, ladies and gentlemen,
We gathered today on the street named after Alexander Solzhenitsyn to mark 100years since the birth of a great writer and humanist, as well as to take part in the unveiling of a monument to Alexander Solzhenitsyn. We are joined here by members of the organising committee established under Presidential Executive Order in 2014 and tasked with preparing centenary celebrations, as well as researchers and cultural figures, foreign ambassadors, and participants in the international conference Alexander Solzhenitsyn: A View from the 21st Century.
A plethora of events are being held today in dozens of Russian regions and abroad. These events are driven not by government instructions, but by people who simply love Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s work, by people who remain under the spell of his novels and essays, and who choose to align their worldview with his ideas.
About one year ago the contest to choose the best project for the monument to Alexander Solzhenitsyn was launched. As you may know, about 70 projects were submitted from across Russia, not only from Moscow or the Moscow Region, but also from St Petersburg, Orel, Belgorod, Rostov-on-Don, Khabarovsk and Vladivostok. This is telling in itself.
The contest was managed by the Union of Moscow Architects. There was an exhibition and debates on various projects. At the end of the day, it was the prominent architect and Chair of the Union of Artists, sculptor Andrei Kovalchuk who won the tender.
We would like to thank everyone who took part in this undertaking.
I now invite President of Russia Vladimir Putin to take the floor.
President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Ladies and gentlemen, Mrs Solzhenitsyn,
Today we are unveiling a monument to Alexander Solzhenitsyn – our outstanding compatriot, writer, thinker, war veteran, who participated in the Great Patriotic War and was a true patriot of Russia.
December 11 marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Alexander Solzhenitsyn. For us, it is not only a day of remembrance and respect, but above all an occasion to revisit his literary, social as well as philosophical heritage, which is woven into the very fabric of the 20th century and continues to be up-to-date – for us, for Russia, and for the world.
I remember well all the meetings with Alexander Solzhenitsyn – his wisdom, his prudence and a deep understanding of history. His heart and soul, his thoughts were filled in equal measure with pain for the Fatherland and unlimited love for it. These feelings fueled all his work.
He clearly delineated the true, genuine, people's Russia and the totalitarian system, which brought suffering and severe trials to millions of people. But even being in exile, Solzhenitsyn would not tolerate anyone to speak evil or scornfully of his homeland, and opposed any manifestations of Russophobia.
A man of integrity, an exceptionally principled person, Solzhenitsyn never wanted to be comfortable. In his writings, in his literary, journalistic and social activity, he openly and consistently defended his views and convictions, and argued the unconditional value of the morals that provide for a healthy society.
Without understanding the country's past there can be no meaningful movement into the future, Solzhenitsyn believed. Therefore, he directed his efforts toward finding and designating ways to improve Russia, so that the hardest and most dramatic trials that befell our country would never happen again, so that our multiethnic people would live in dignity and justice. This is how he saw his mission, his goals and the meaning of his service.
Friends, the centenary of Alexander Solzhenitsyn is a landmark occasion for the whole country. Many events have been timed to this date to perpetuate the memory of our great compatriot. One of them is the unveiling of a monument in the writer's native town of Kislovodsk, and the opening of his memorial museum in Moscow, as well as conferences, exhibitions, lectures, productions and theatrical adaptations of his works in many regions.
But the most important thing is that Solzhenitsyn’s voice is still being heard. His thoughts and ideas resonate in people’s minds and hearts. Popularising his work, encouraging and introducing new young readers to it is the best thing we can and must do to honour his memory.
I must certainly express special gratitude to Natalia Solzhenitsyn for her tireless work and her truly invaluable contribution to the preservation of Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s legacy.
Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s widow Natalia Solzhenitsyn: Friends,
I would like to thank everyone who remains receptive and true to Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s ideas and memory.
Allow me to thank the prominent members of the organising committee. They are very important people with busy lives. Still, they were able to dedicate their time and effort to the celebrations of Solzhenitsyn’s centenary across the country.
As Alexander Solzhenitsyn said back in the 1970s: throughout my life all I do is walk the earth of my Fatherland, and it is only her pain that I hear, and I cannot write about anything but her. Afterwards his was expelled from the country, but they never succeeded in separating him from his homeland. He returned when he was allowed to do so.
So throughout his life he walked the earth of his Fatherland, and now that he is no longer with us he rises once again, and will always stand upright.
I am especially delighted that on the monument’s right side is Matryona, the true Christian who can be found in any village, city and across our land. Let us cherish the righteous ones, who are still among us, staying in the shadows.
To his left is an image of Ivan Denisovich, carved in stone. For him, life in a prison camp was challenging, but on the outside life can also be dangerous, miserable and hard.
What I would like to say is that the world has gone mad, and in many places people do not live as they should: killing each other, keeping one another in poverty, hunger and other hardships. For this reason, the day in the life of Ivan Denisovich is not yet over. We have to be mindful of this, and see the world around us with open eyes. Whenever we spot an opportunity to help Ivan Denisovich, it is the responsibility of each and every one of us to do so.
Thank you all very much.