Vermont town exhibit to honor Soviet dissident
CAVENDISH, Vt. — Residents of a small town that was the home of exiled former Soviet dissident author Alexander Solzhenitsyn for nearly two decades have decided to create an exhibit honoring him.
About 70 voters at a recent Town Meeting in Cavendish overwhelmingly decided the town should take over a historic stone church to house the exhibit for the Nobel laureate.
Preservationists will examine the church, particularly its roof, in the spring, once all the snow has melted, and the exhibit should be ready by next year, said Cavendish Historical Society coordinator Margo Caulfield.
The church likely will need minor repairs and cosmetic work, but events should be able to be held there almost immediately, she said.
Solzhenitsyn lived in Cavendish from 1977 to 1994 and died in Russia in 2008. His house in Cavendish is still lived in by his son, pianist and conductor Ignat Solzhenitsyn, and his family.
The Town Meeting, the locals’ annual decision-making gathering, was the venue where Solzhenitsyn addressed his new neighbors when he arrived.
Solzhenitsyn, who spent eight years in prison and labor camps for criticizing Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, said he chose Cavendish for its resemblance to his homeland and its small-town personality.
“I dislike very much large cities with their empty and fussy lives. I like very much the simple way of life and the population here, the simplicity and the human relationship,” he said then.
Solzhenitsyn wrote his best-known works, “One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich” and “The Gulag Archipelago,” based on his years imprisoned, and he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1970.
The exhibit would include videos of Solzhenitsyn talking about his years in Cavendish. The impetus for the project came last summer when the town had little to offer a group of Russian tourists who expected a monument in their countryman’s honor, Caulfield said.
The town, which prided itself on protecting Solzhenitsyn’s privacy, hopes to find the sign that once sat in a store window warning that the proprietors offered no directions to his home.
“He just did an incredible job of showing that a person can sustain unbelievable horrors and go on to live a remarkable life and just really thrive,” Caulfield said of Solzhenitsyn.
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