ALEKSANDR SOLZHENITSYN publishes the first volume of his epic on the Bolshevik Revolution and gives a rare account of his life in Vermont In his first major American interview since 1

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A. The chapter on Lenin is the first addition. But the greater number of new chapters came from the fact that, with the years, I understood that the movement toward revolution and its causes could not be understood simply in terms of World War I, 1914. My initial conception was one that the majority of those in the West and East today share, namely that the main decisive event was the so-called October Revolution and its consequences. But it became clear to me gradually that the main and decisive event was not the October Revolution, and that it wasn't a revolution at all. What we mean by revolution is a massive spontaneous event, and there was nothing of the sort in October. The true revolution was the February Revolution. The October Revolution does not even deserve the name revolution. It was a coup d'etat, and all through the 1920s the Bolsheviks themselves called it the "October coup." In the Soviet Union they consciously and artificially replaced the February Revolution with the October one.

Q. Do you think, then, that the February Revolution was more of a break with Russian history than the October Revolution?

A. Yes, it was much more of a break. The February system -- if you can call it that -- never even got established before it already started to collapse. It was collapsing from week to week. The October coup only picked up the power that was lying on the ground and that belonged to no one.

Q. Why did you decide to call the entire cycle of novels The Red Wheel, and why do you refer to each different stage in the narrative as a "knot" ((uzel in Russian))?

A. We are not talking about the wheels of a car, after all. We are talking about a gigantic cosmic wheel, like a spiral galaxy, an enormous wheel that once it starts to turn -- then everybody, including those who turn in it, becomes a helpless atom. A gigantic process that you can't stop once it has started. And I used the knots for the following reason: I started to deal with the period 1914-22. If I were to rewrite in detail about the period 1914-22, the volume would be too great, so I reached for episodes where I thought the course of events was being decided. These are the knots, the most decisive moments, where everything is rolled up and tied in a knot.

Q. The one person in this novel whom you obviously admire greatly is ((Russian Prime Minister Pyotr)) Stolypin. How would you summarize his role in Russian history?

A. What is characteristic is that during the years he was active, conservative circles considered him the destroyer of Russia. And the Kadets ((Constitutional Democrats)), who considered themselves liberals but were in fact radicals in the European context, called him a conservative. Actually, he was a liberal. He thought that before creating civil society, we had to create the citizen, and therefore before giving the illiterate peasant all sorts of rights, you had to elevate him economically. This was a very constructive idea. Stolypin was, without doubt, the major political figure in Russian 20th century history. And when the revolution occurred, it was the free democratic regime of February 1917 that abolished all his reforms and went back to square one.

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