On February 12, 1974, Soviet dissident Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was arrested. That same day, he released a short essay titled, “Live Not by Lies.”
Besides being a political dissident, Solzhenitsyn was a Christian, a teacher, a thought-provoking intellectual, an author, a Nobel laureate, and a survivor of the gulag.
The day after his arrest, Solzhenitsyn was exiled to the West. In the following years, he received the prestigious Templeton Prize and delivered the commencement address at Harvard.
In 1983 Solzhenitsyn famously wrote that Russia’s trouble stemmed from the fact that “men have forgotten God.”
In an era when it’s difficult to know what’s true and what’s false, Solzhenitsyn’s 1974 essay “Live Not by Lies” is still a timeless reminder that free men and women should not participate lies.
In it, Solzhenitsyn writes that a man who does not live by lies is one who:
Will not write, sign, nor publish in any way, a single line distorting, so far as he can see, the truth;
Will not utter such a line in private or in public conversation, nor read it from a crib sheet, nor speak it in the role of educator, canvasser, teacher, actor;
Will not in painting, sculpture, photograph, technology, or music depict, support, or broadcast a single false thought, a single distortion of the truth as he discerns it;
Will not cite in writing or in speech a single “guiding” quote for gratification, insurance, for his success at work, unless he fully shares the cited thought and believes that it fits the context precisely;
Will not be forced to a demonstration or a rally if it runs counter to his desire and his will; will not take up and raise a banner or slogan in which he does not fully believe;
Will not raise a hand in vote for a proposal which he does not sincerely support; will not vote openly or in secret ballot for a candidate whom he deems dubious or unworthy;
Will not be impelled to a meeting where a forced and distorted discussion is expected to take place;
Will at once walk out from a session, meeting, lecture, play, or film as soon as he hears the speaker utter a lie, ideological drivel, or shameless propaganda;
Will not subscribe to, nor buy in retail, a newspaper or journal that distorts or hides the underlying facts.
You can read the entire essay “Live Not by Lies” SolzhenitsynCenter.org and you can hear it read below.