Solzhenitsyn and Yugoslavia

Novi Sad, Yugoslavia

Recently the Western press reported that Gulag Archipelago would be translated and published in Yugoslavia. All those acquainted with the present political situation in a country that for decades has been the most liberal communist state were gladdened by this news. But at the same time it stirred some deep doubts. And sure enough, a week after the report in the Western press, an article appeared in the Zagreb weekly Vjesnik u sredu (Wednesday Herald) explaining that the reports by Western journalists were false. Even though two Yugoslav publishing houses had inquired about an “option” and had received a copy of Gulag Archipelago, this did not mean the book would be finally published. It would first have to be approved from an ideological and artistic point of view.

The tone of this article leaves little doubt that Gulag Archipelago will not provoke any ideological enthusiasm among those in power in Yugoslavia Nor does the recent cultural atmosphere in Yugoslavia, where, since the beginning of this year, the fiftieth anniversary of Lenin’s death has been observed with countless exhibitions, celebrations, lectures, movies, theatrical and televised tributes to the “greatest humanist of mankind.” Still, one cannot say with complete assurance that the book will not be published.

The question of Solzhenitsyn in Yugoslavia is a highly interesting one which deserves serious consideration. Yugoslavia is a communist country in which the monopoly of power by one party does not essentially differ from that in the Soviet Union. It is true that all of Solzhenitsyn’s earlier writings have been published in Yugoslavia. Yet, at the same time, the smallest criticism of the Yugoslav regime and any attempt to deal with recent Yugoslav history from the same point of view that Solzhenitsyn treats post-revolutionary Russia are activities no less dangerous than in the USSR.

The greatest paradox is that the publication of Solzhenitsyn’s works here not only indicates nothing about democracy in Yugoslavia but in a very definite way helps to maintain the one-party communist dictatorship and suppress dissent. To understand this paradox is to understand contemporary Yugoslavia. It is also to understand that the ideals in the name of which a dictatorship is justified and carried out make no difference. A one-party dictatorship is always a one-party dictatorship, even if it is anti-Stalinist.

The example of anti-Stalinist communism in Yugoslavia could not escape Solzhenitsyn’s attention. In his novel The First Circle he makes Stalin continually refer to Tito and Yugoslavia. The Serb Radovich, an old Bolshevik, secretly delights over workers’ control in Yugoslav enterprises. The official called Makarygin muses about the “semi-Fascist regime in Yugoslavia.” Solzhenitsyn gives a splendid description of how the accusing memory of Joseph Tito haunts Stalin and poisons his seventieth birthday anniversary:

Iosif had tripped over Iosif.

Kerensky, who was still alive somewhere, did not disturb Stalin in the least. For that matter, as far as Stalin was concerned, Nicholas II or Kolchak could come back from the grave—he felt …

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