Nearly fifty years ago, Alexander Solzhenitsyn released the text of a four-page essay titled Live Not By Lies. The account of his eight-year imprisonment as a political dissident in a Russian gulag had just been published in the West. In retaliation, the Russian government exiled Solzhenitsyn to Zurich. The day before his expulsion from Russia, Solzhenitsyn released the text and eventually made his way to America.
In his essay, Solzhenitsyn argued that the totalitarian regime which had silenced a generation of his fellow Russians existed only because lies were allowed a foothold. Out of an understandable desire to conform—“not to stray from the herd, not to set out on our own, and risk suddenly having to make do without the white bread, the hot water heater, a Moscow residency permit”—individuals had allowed crushing authoritarian violence to take over little by little.
Liberation was still possible, but it had to begin with the individual and a “personal non participation in lies.” In the essay, Solzhenitsyn calls on his fellow Russians to “stand straight as . . . honest m[e]n” so that the "rule [of the lies] hold not through [us].”
Solzhenitsyn’s insight into psychology and human society is evergreen—and well worth revisiting today. Join us for a Fireside Chat to discuss Solzhenitsyn’s famous essay and more.
Professor Eugene Volokh, Gary T. Schwartz Distinguished Professor of Law, UCLA School of Law
Moderator: Hon. Stephanos Bibas, Judge, United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
To register, click the link above.
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