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Soviet Union: Involuntary Absence

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At a majestic white-tie ceremony in Stockholm’s Concert Hall, seven of 1970’s Nobel prizewinners gathered last week to receive their awards from King Gustav VI Adolf of Sweden. The eighth laureate, Russian Novelist Alexander Solzhenitsyn, was present in spirit only. Fearful that he would not be allowed to return to Russia, Solzhenitsyn sent a letter to the Swedish Academy expressing the hope that his “involuntary absence” would not “darken” the ceremony. The Swedish Academy spokesman reportedly failed to read one sentence of Solzhenitsyn’s message at the banquet: “May the people at this rich table not forget the political prisoners now on hunger strikes in protest against the total destruction of their rights.”

In Moscow, friends of Solzhenitsyn said he celebrated his Nobel award, and his 52nd birthday, by attending a meeting of the unofficial “Committee for Human Rights” recently founded by the celebrated Soviet Physicist Andrei Sakharov to defend personal freedoms in the Soviet Union.

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