The Meaning of an Oath
Editor’s Note:Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and his family lived as “stateless persons” after the stripping of Solzhenitsyn’s Soviet citizenship and his forcible exile to the West in February 1974. Solzhenitsyn was a passionate and self-critical Russian patriot but a deadly enemy of the Communist totalitarianism that lay at the heart of the entire Soviet enterprise. Contrary to legend, he was neither anti-Western (rather, he spoke critically of “the weakness of the West”) nor unappreciative of American virtues: the magnanimity of its people, its impressive capacity for democratic and local self-government, and the ample freedom it gave him and his family. But as this provocative excerpt from Book 2 of his memoir about his years of Western exile (Between Two Millstones) demonstrates, Solzhenitsyn finally could not assent to becoming an American citizen when he had the opportunity to do so in June 1985.
Studying carefully the oath of citizenship in advance of the ceremony, he realized he could neither renounce his attachment to Russia (not the Soviet Union) nor take up arms, if need be, against his compatriots. He concluded that “Russian soil may not be accessible to me for a long time to come, perhaps until death, but I cannot sense American soil as my own.” As it was, Solzhenitsyn returned to post-Communist Russia in May 1994 and lived in his homeland until his death on August 3, 2008. Yet as his “Farewell” to the people of Cavendish, Vermont in February 1994 made clear, he was grateful to the United States for the refuge it had provided him for eighteen years, and to the education and home it had provided for his sons. And last but not least, he was impressed by the vigorous local self-government he saw at work in New England during his years of North American exile.
Article from LewRockwell