I saw in the news this morning that Alexander Solzhenitsyn has died at the age of 89. While his name may be unfamiliar to most people under the age of forty, my spellchecking software recognizes his name. Solzhenitsyn was the Russian writer who exposed the evils of the Stalinist prison system and the other pathologies of Russian society brought about by Soviet communism. I read The Gulag Archipelago when the English translation came out in the mid-1970s, as well as One Day In the Life of Ivan Denisovich. They were powerful indictments of the Soviet Union.
But contrary to what you may have heard, the old adage "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" is not necessarily true. While Solzhenitsyn was harshly critical of the Soviet government, he was almost equally critical of what he viewed as the flaws of America, liberal democracy and a "decadent" consumer society. When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1992 and Solzhenitsyn returned to his homeland, he was critical of the changes happening there as well. In the end, he almost became a parody of the curmudgeonly Grandpa Simpson "Get Off My Lawn" kind of grouch. But he did like Vladimir Putin, eventually, which speaks volumes.
Still, in the long run, the positive outweighs the negative. He will be remembered for his bravery in standing up to an evil system, and outlasting it.