26 october 2010

Vladimir Putin discusses the publication of a version of Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago for schoolchildren with Natalya Solzhenitsyna

“This book is necessary. Without knowing what’s in these pages, it is impossible to have a complete understanding of our country and difficult to reflect on where it’s headed,” the prime minister told Natalya Solzhenitsyna.

Transcript of the beginning of the meeting:

Vladimir Putin: Hello, Mrs Solzhenitsyna. We met a year and a half ago, and at the time you suggested that Alexander Solzhenitsyn's most famous work, The Gulag Archipelago, be included in the curriculum of our schools.

Natalya Solzhenitsyna: I thought you suggested it. Well, we suggested it together...

Vladimir Putin: Still, the idea was yours. As I recall, you told me about it over the phone, and, as you know, I ordered the Ministry of Education and Science to make it happen. I know you have done a lot on behalf of this idea to have a version of the book for schoolchildren. And here it is - five thousand copies published by the Prosveshcheniye publishing house.

Natalya Solzhenitsyna: Ten thousand copies.

Vladimir Putin: Already ten thousand? I was told it was five.

Natalya Solzhenitsyna: The first run is ten thousand, so that regional education ministries could buy them for their libraries. It will be done very fast.

Vladimir Putin: Great. This is a meaningful event, as it comes on the eve of the Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Political Repressions. I would like to thank you for this idea (and it was your idea originally) and for your work to prepare this adaptation.

Natalya Solzhenitsyna: As you know, I think all of us, not just schoolchildren, have to complete this assignment in order to pass the big tests - to modernise, yes, but also to survive, to save ourselves. We simply have to know this history to avoid repeating our mistakes.

I hope I've made a successful adaptation of the book... I had to make it four times shorter, but I think I managed to preserve the power and light of this book, along with its gravity. I think our schoolchildren and adults who have no time to read the entire three volumes will gain wisdom and strength when they read it. I am convinced that this is a book that should be studied. The teacher can decide how much of it to assign.

Vladimir Putin: Thank you very much. I completely agree with you. This book is necessary. Without knowing what's in these pages, it's impossible to have a complete understanding of our country and difficult to reflect on where it's headed.

Natalya Solzhenitsyna: Yes, because politicians try to use history as a political tool, and this is wrong. I don't think history is a map: all it can do is point out where on the map are the danger spots that we already passed, so that we can avoid them in the future.

Vladimir Putin: Exactly. Thank you.