Is a sword stronger than a word

Sometimes the pen is mightier than the sword

"The pen is mightier than the sword" - this dictum of the author of the historical ham "The last days of Pompeii", Edward Bulwer-Lytton, only applies to a few authors. Alexander Solzhenitsyn is one of them. He did not overthrow the Soviet Union with the force of his pen alone; but the immense moral energy that emanated from him was a factor. Even if only in the form of motivating others to recognize the "realm of evil" for what it was. Historical figures as diverse as Gorbachev and Reagan, Lech Walesa, Václav Havel and Karol Wojtyla derived - also - from Solzhenitsyn's work the realization that something had to change dramatically in the Soviet empire.

His monumental work "The Gulag Archipelago" recalled in the early 1970s that an empire that rested on such a foundation - the enslavement and murder of millions and millions in terrible camps - could not endure.
Solzhenitsyn was one of the very few who dared to speak the truth in the post-Stalinist Brezhnev USSR. In his 1974 Nobel Prize speech he said: "One word of truth conquers the whole world." The truth was that the Soviet Union, the communist system as a whole, in spite of all its slogans for the salvation of humanity, was based on the systematic enslavement and extermination of people, right from the start. The difference to National Socialism was that Stalinism did not select a certain group of people like the Jews and Gypsies for complete annihilation, but instead used mass murder as an instrument of rule over a wide area. Nobody was safe, not even the most ardent partisans of the system.

The symbol and instrument of this system of indiscriminate mass terror was the Gulag ("Glawnoje Uprawlenije Isprawitelno-trudowych Lagerej" - Central Administration for Corrective Labor Camps), whose camps were spread across the map like archipelagos.
Solzhenitsyn's "Word of Truth" actually helped transcend the world of the gulag. The lie has a long life if it is forcibly maintained.

We do not know how many Chinese or North Korean Solzhenitsyns disappeared in the camps and whether they will ever exist. Today's China and Putin's Russia also seem to be proving that economic development is possible without democracy and freedom. Solzhenitsyn himself was anything but a democrat, but an authoritarian Russian nationalist, albeit always a humanist.

But he had proven that just telling the truth - sometimes - changes history. The truth in China and Russia could be that without free thinking no real further development is possible in the long run, cheap labor and abundance of resources may give a different impression today. (Hans Rauscher / DER STANDARD, print edition, 5.8.2008)