Orthodox America

  “Men Have Forgotten God”

The 1983 Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion was awarded to Alexander Solzhenitsyn for being “a pioneer in the renaissance of religion in atheist nations.” At the awards ceremony in Buckingham Palace on May 10, Solzhenitsyn delivered a short speech, followed later that day by an address at Guild-hall. They are printed here with slight abbreviations for lack of space.


Introductory Remarks 

Your Royal Highness: Permit me to express my appreciation to you for taking part in this ceremony. Your participation lands special dignity to these proceedings.

     This is the first time that the Templeton Prize has been awarded to an Orthodox Christian .... And I am very much aware that Eastern Slavic Orthodoxy, which, during the 65 years of Communist rule, has been subjected to persecution even fiercer and more extensive than that of early Christian times, has had--and still has today--many hands worthier than mine to accept it. Beginning with Vladimir Bogoyavlensky, Metropolitan of Kiev, shot by the Communists before the walls of the Kievo-Pechersky Monastery at the dawn of the Lenin era, the list would extend to the intrepid priest, Fr. Gleb Yakunin, who is enduring torments today, under Andropov: Forcibly deprived of all outward symbols of his priesthood, and even of the right to have the Gospels, Father Gleb has for months at a time been held in a freezing stone cubicle without bed, clothes, or food.

     In this persecution-filled age, it is appropriate that my own very first memory should be of Chekists in pointed caps entering St. Panteleimon's Church in Kislovodsk, interrupting the service, and crashing their way into the sanctuary in order to loot. And later, when I started going to school in Rostoy-on-Don--passing on my way a kilometer long compound of the Cheka-GPU and a glittering sign of the League of Militant Atheists --schoolchildren egged on by Komsomol members taunted me for accompanying my mother to the last remaining church in town and tore the cross from around my neck.

    Orthodox churches were stripped of their valuables in 1922 at the instigation of Lenin and Trotsky. In subsequent years, including both the Stalin and the Krushchev periods, tens of thousands of churches were torn down or desecrated, leaving behind a disfigured wasteland that bore no resemblance to Russia such as it had stood for centuries. Entire districts and cities of half a million inhabitants were left without a single church. Our people were condemned to live in this dark and mute wilderness for decades; groping their way to God and keeping to this course by trial and error...

    The centralized atheism before whose armed might the whole world trembles still hates and fears this unarmed faith as much today as it did sixty years ago. Yes! All the savage persecutions loosed upon our people by a murderous state atheism, coupled with the corroding effect of its lies, and an avalanche of stultifying propaganda--all of these together have proven weaker than the thousand-year-old faith of our nation. This faith has not been destroyed; it remains the most sublime, the most cherished gift to which our lives and consciousness can attain.