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Freedom’s Purpose: Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn at Harvard

Date: Tuesday, Aug. 17 | 7:00–8:30 PM EDT

In 1978, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn accepted Harvard’s invitation to deliver its commencement speech. At the time, Solzhenitsyn was known for his fierce criticism of the Soviets, especially through fiction inspired by the suffering he had experienced first-hand in the gulags, the infamous camps in which many were imprisoned and died. The Harvard crowd expected a speech condemning the Soviets, but instead were shocked when Solzhenitsyn instead critiqued America and the West for misunderstanding the purpose of freedom. In this seminar, we’ll study closely this famous and controversial speech, situating it both in its own time and asking what lessons, if any, it might hold for us today.

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