Babel tells his classic revenge-of-the-Jewish-nerd story clearly in "My First Goose," in which the nerd impresses the bullies, his tormentors and heroes, by hacking a goose to death. It's such a healthy, early-Pete-Townsend enthusiasm for killing. Compare that story with Bulgakov's White Guard or Tsvetaeva's Perekop poems and you see how sickly-Christ-like they sound, how they linger over the slow death of the highborn few.
Of course it helps to be on the winning side, as Babel was. But it also helps not to WANT to be a masochistic intellectual -- to want to make yourself from four-eyed nerd to red cavalryman, or (in peacetime) top-echelon hooligan, scourge and deity of the neighborhood. That urge to join the tough guys propels Limonov's finest book, Podrostok Savenko: the embryonic intellectual Eddie is beaten up in class and decides to put his "iron will" to work transforming himself into a hooligan. A good, healthy urge, and one which has kept Limonov well out of Gethsemane. He may be replaying Byron at Missolonghi, but at least he's not doing the pedant-Christ schtick.
Even Solzhenitsyn flares into anger, in his camp scenes, at the Christ-like passivity of the intellectuals when confronted with the rule of the thieves' gangs. The only really happy scene in the GULAG Archipelago is in vol. 3, when the inmates, bolstered by Ukrainian nationalists, finally fight back. Solzhenitsyn had the sense to make the protagonist of One Day... a distinctly un-Christ-like, un-intellectual, ordinary man.
Which brings us to the painful question: is Solzhenitsyn a great writer? It may still be too soon to say. When his polemical context no longer interests anyone, we'll find out. Maybe he was, in the beginning, before the lure of Christ-hood sucked him in. His career shows a simple, fatal progression typical of Russian Christs. His first book, One Day..., is full of magnificent detail, and tells exactly what happened in a single prisoner's simple day. Each novel thereafter tries to swallow more and more characters, details, experience, to incarnate the whole nation, the whole era. He should have listened to Celine, who said, "Beware of anyone who incarnates anything!" In Solzhenitsyn's recent war novels, he has assumed the prophet's job so earnestly that he tries to cover everything that happened to everyone in Russia in November 1916 -- it's a sacred clipping service, not a novel.
Shalamov is likely to age far better than Solzhenitsyn, because his Kolyma Stories never try to "transcend" his topic, the horrors of the camps. There is no hint or echo of Christ on the cross in those stories. Men die like flies and stay dead, their suffering not redeemed by God, or history, or anything else. "Bad is final in [that] light." That's Shalamov's grim lesson. It's not the sort of moral Sir Isaiah Berlin is likely to embrace, but it saved Shalamov from turning himself into a plaster Jesus -- which is what happens to Doctor Zhivago. Pasternak makes the connection between his protagonist and Christ all too clearly in one of the poems at the end of the book:
...My friends and I gather together
And our evenings are farewells
And our parties are testaments,
So that the secret stream of suffering
May warm the cold of life.
So Zhivago's every party was the Last Supper, his every hill Golgotha, every garden Gethsemane, and every sexual partner Mary Magdalene. And you thought you were reading about a doctor's love life.
The list of Christs in Soviet literature is long and depressing. In We, Zamyatin writes brilliant Futurist SF for a hundred pages, then ruins it all by dragging his tech-hero into a warmed-over interview with Dostoevsky's Grand Inquisitor, who intones: "Remember, a dark-blue hill, a cross, a crowd. Some, up above, spattered with blood, are nailing a body to the cross; others, below, bespattered with tears, are looking on. Don't you think the role of [the Roman soldiers] up there the most difficult, the most important?" What's so dismally typical here is that, like Dostoevsky, Zamyatin instantly becomes an idiot when Christ drags his damn cross onto the pages of the novel. Reread the passage I just quoted and you'll see how truly silly it is: it was the Roman soldiers who had it tough? Yeah, getting crucified is a breeze compared to nailing somebody up in the hot sun!