To those who are busily engaged in giving President Donald Trump a well-earned raking over the coals for his recent conduct in Helsinki, I have some recommended reading.

In 1957 the Russian author Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wrote a book called “The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956,” a history of the more than 500 forced labor camps in the Soviet Union during that time, the first of which was built in 1918 and which were used to house political prisoners — whole families at times — as official state policy. Only God knows how many millions died in those camps over the ensuing 38 years.

It also needs to be said that this was not the first time an American president was taken to the cleaners by a Russian leader. A reading of any account of the Yalta Conference of 1945 will confirm this. Russia has been doing this for centuries; it’s part of what they do.

They also stopped the Germans in Stalingrad at a terrible cost in 1942, and in 1882 a Russian composer named Piotr Ilyvich Tchaikovsky wrote “The Overture of 1812” to commemorate the defeat of Napoleon when he attacked Russia and was only finally defeated when the citizens of Moscow burned the city before fleeing.

When I was in Athens on leave in the summer of 1966, I stumbled on a recording of the piece featuring a full choir — to this very day I can’t even think of it without tearing up.

Terence McManus

New Sharon

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