The Legacy Begins to Clarify
It may take 50, 100, or even more years before historians acquire a proper understanding of Alexander Solzhenitsyn's legacy. For his contemporaries, however, he is first of all the literary giant who almost single-handedly delivered the most powerful weapon in the East -- West ideological confrontation with his works. This weapon helped the West to defeat the "Evil Empire" with the collateral result of crushing the Communist International and "reeducating" the European Left, which to some extent was sympathetic to the Soviet experiment.
History knows other cases when words were more powerful than guns. Without going into dangerous religious waters one could point to Karl Marx, who published a powerful indictment of a capitalist system which eventually led to the enslavement of nearly half of mankind. And it took Solzhenitsyn to undo the work of Marx. For this, the world and especially Russia should be forever grateful to this man. However, when it comes to modern times, Solzhenitsyn's ideas of rebuilding his native land did not find too many followers, at least so far.
Solzhenitsyn and his wife Natalya returned to Russia in 1994
This may change eventually, due to the deep disappointment of ordinary Russians with the course of post-Communist reforms and the West in general. It was broadly expected that after liberation from Communism, Russia will turn to the West and become another member of the happy European family. Therefore, Solzhenitsyn's rejection of Western ideals and search for some mysterious "third way" for Russia had been met with disdain even by his fellow dissidents, and by such a moral beacon of Russia's pro-Western liberals as Nobel Laureate Andrei Sakharov.
By race, religion, history, and great culture, Russia undoubtedly belongs to the West, whatever some East European leaders and fresh NATO aspirants might say. Unfortunately, instead of embracing its prodigal son and helping it to make the transition from a totalitarian system to freedom less painful, the West flatly turned it down, and instead started the process of encircling Russia militarily and isolating it economically through pipeline politics and some other means. This may prompt some Russians to go back to Solzhenitsyn works and review his "third way" ideas that were dismissed as utopian or even dangerous by some pro-Western intellectuals in the not-so-distant past.
At this point, the only hope for Russia's integration with the West lies with Old Europe, but since Europeans are looking at this process solely from the energy prism, this may not be enough to turn things around. Medvedev's appeals to Europe to think about a new security system with Russia as its integral part are largely ignored.
In any event, neither the West nor the "third way" proponents can stop the globalization process which will make all their efforts of Russia's isolation obsolete. One should only examine the world's demographic trends and the economic interdependence of nations to realize that our planet is quickly becoming a global village, where one cannot possibly isolate almost any country, definitely not such a huge one as Russia, which boasts astronomical resources of oil, gas, fertile agricultural land, fresh water, and other vitally important commodities.
Coming back to Solzhenitsyn, one should not have expected him to know all the answers and always be right. He is neither God nor a prophet, and he had his share of mistakes which he admitted himself. Nevertheless, Solzhenitsyn deserves our admiration for what he did, and I wouldn't be surprised if Solzhenitsyn may eventually be canonized by the Slavic Orthodox Church. Indeed, his life was a series of miracles, from surviving Stalin's Gulag where millions perished to recovering from deadly cancer, and, most importantly, to achieving a great moral victory over his Soviet tormenters.
This process may take a long time, but a very symbolic gesture in this direction has already been made this week. It was always annoying, to say the least, when looking at the Moscow map to find the names of the streets or Metro stations picked from communist vocabulary or named after some Bolshevik or Soviet leaders. What a delight it was when I have heard the news that the Moscow city government gave the "Large Communist Street" near the "Taganka" square the name of the great Russian patriot "Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn."