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Solzhenitsyn's last major work was his historical account of Russian-Jewish relations - Two Centuries Together. It was published in 2001 (1st volume) and 2002 (2nd volume). He was working on it throughout the 1990s (he returned to Russia in 1994) and though he also tells us that he had many other projects at the time (1), this was clearly the most ambitious.

(1) Interview with Lydia Chukovskaya, Moscow News, January 1-7, 2003. Available at 

It is also the most untypical of his large scale works. Solzhenitsyn's work is so varied that it may be a bit tendentious to talk about a 'typical' work but his obvious strength was his ability to frame stories, and particularly his ability to enter into the minds of his protagonists - to understand, or at least give a convincing account of, the logic that motivates them. This is true even of The Gulag Archipelago, which has no fictional characters. But it is not true of Two Centuries Together, which is a straightforward attempt to unravel a historical conundrum stretching over a long period of time. Why, in the midst of all the problems Russia was facing in the 1990s, should he have attached so much importance to this one - a problem which, moreover, as he knew all too well, could only bring him trouble? As he says in his introduction: 'I would have liked not to have to try my strength on such a thorny topic. But I consider that this history - or at least an attempt to enter into it - mustn't continue to be forbidden.'

In a review of the first volume of Two Centuries Together, one of Solzhenitsyn's avowed enemies, the historian and US government adviser, Richard Pipes, explains:

'Someone familiar with Solzhenitsyn's treatment of Jews in his historical novels cannot escape the feeling that, at least in some measure, this undertaking is an effort to rid the author of the reputation for anti-Semitism. Although Solzhenitsyn has always indignantly rejected this accusation, it was not entirely unmerited. In Lenin in Zurich, he depicted the Russian Jew Alexander Parvus-Helphand as a slimy, sinister, almost satanic figure as he attempted to hire the exile Lenin to work for the Germans. In The Red Wheel, when dealing with the assassination of his hero Peter Stolypin by Dmitry Bogrov (whom he named "Mordka" or Mordechai, lest anyone miss his nationality), Solzhenitsyn attributed to the assassin, without any historical warrant, a desire to prevent Stolypin from reforming Russia, since what was good for Russia was bad for the Jews. In fact, Bogrov came from a thoroughly assimilated family - his grandfather was a convert and his father a member of the Kievan Nobles' Club - and he had no Jewish interests in mind.' (2)

(2) Richard Pipes: 'Solzhenitsyn and the Jews, Revisited - Review of "Alone Together"', New Republic, November 25, 2002. Available at

On the face of it, two passages in a historical novel concerning real historical personages who happened to be Jews doesn't look like very strong evidence of antisemitism. The more so to me since when I read Lenin in Zurich (where Parvus appears, though these passages are extracted from the longer November 1916) and August 1914 (where Bogrov appears) without the question of Solzhenitsyn's attitude towards the Jews in mind, I took both as good examples of Solzhenitsyn's ability to enter sympathetically into the minds of his ideological enemies. Both Parvus, on a very large scale, and Bogrov, on a much smaller scale, emerge from Solzhenitsyn's account as interesting and quite highly impressive figures.