In the first month of the First World War the Russian campaign against the Germans creaks into gear. Crippled by weak, indecisive leadership the Russian troops battle desperately, even as the inevitability of failure and their own sacrifice dawns.
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was born in 1918 and grew up in Rostov-on-Don. He graduated in physics and mathematics from Rostov University and studied literature by correspondence course at Moscow University. In World War Two he fought as an artillery officer, attaining the rank of captain. In 1945, however, after making derogatory remarks about Stalin in a letter, he was arrested and summarily sentenced to eight years in forced labour camps, followed by internal exile. In 1957 he was formally rehabilitated, and settled down to teaching and writing, in Ryazan and Moscow. The publication of One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich in Novy Mir in 1962 was followed by the publication, in the West, of his novels Cancer Ward and The First Circle. In 1970 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, and in 1974 his citizenship was revoked and he was expelled from the Soviet Union. He settled in Vermont, USA, and worked on his great historical cycle 'The Red Wheel' of which August 1914 is the first volume. In 1990, with the fall of Soviet Communism, his citizenship was restored, and four years later, he returned to settle in Russia. He died in 2008 near Moscow, at the age of eighty-nine.