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Gorbachev Restores Citizenship of Solzhenitsyn, 22 Others

August 16, 1990

MOSCOW (AP) _ President Mikhail S. Gorbachev, apologizing for two decades of political repression, has restored the citizenship of exiled writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn and 22 other literary, scientific and cultural figures, officials said Thursday.

In addition to Solzhenitsyn, the Nobel laureate charged with treason in 1974, Gorbachev’s presidential decree returns citizenship to chess champion Victor Korchnoi; writers Vasily Aksyonov, Vladimir Voinovich, Lev Kopelev, Georgi Vladimov, and Valeri Tarsis, who died in exile in 1983; scientists Yuri Orlov and Valeri Chalidze; and artist Oskar Rabin, Soviet media reported.

The names of the other 13 were not announced. There had been speculation Wednesday the list would include Joseph Brodsky, a Nobel Prize-winning writer who emigrated to the United States in 1972 under threat of imprisonment for his political comments.

The full list of writers, academics and musicians deprived of citizenship between 1966-88 and regaining it under Wednesday’s presidential decree will be published later this month, said Valentin Kulikov, a representative of Gorbachev’s press office.

″These political repressions were justifiably condemned in this country and I believe it is now our duty to, if you please, absolve the (government’s) guilt before our countrymen,″ said Gennady Cheremnykh, head of the citizenship and pardoning department of the Supreme Soviet’s secretariat.

″The decree is a conveyance of apologies of sorts. Although it is belated, it is an apology,″ he said in an interview with the government daily Izvestia.

Cheremnykh said 175 Soviets were stripped of their citizenship from 1966-88. About 60 of them are Armenians who emigrated to the United States and Canada. The rest are dissidents, he said.

Under Leonid I. Brezhnev, the Kremlin revoked the citizenship of prominent authors and performing artists who spoke out against repression and barred their work from appearing in their homeland.

Citizenship revocation orders were routinely signed by Brezhnev himself, reflecting the level of the leadership’s revulsion of their dissident views.

The practice continued during Gorbachev’s first three years in office, but later he abandoned it. In individual decrees, he has restored the citizenship of a number of them, notably cellist and conductor Mstislav Rostropovich and his wife, singer Galina Vishnevskaya; dissident historian Zhores Medvedev; and theater director Yuri Lyubimov. Of these, only Lyubimov has returned to live in the Soviet Union.

No conditions were put on the citizens identified Thursday, except for acknowledgement they wanted their citizenship back, Cheremnykh told Izvestia.

It was not immediately clear how many would return.

Cheremnykh said Solzhenitsyn had agreed to accept Soviet citizenship, but the writer’s wife, Natalia, denied it.

″Nobody has asked him - absolutely nobody in any form has contacted us, not through writing, not through mediation,″ she told The Associated Press on Thursday in an interview from their home in Cavendish, Vermont.

Solzhenitsyn, 71, has said he would not return unless all of his books were published in Soviet Union and widely available. A number have been printed, but almost nothing is widely available in the shortage-plague d Soviet Union.

Mrs. Solzhenitsyn said that because a Soviet court charged her husband with treason, only a court under a democracy can lift the charges. Anything short of that is ″wielding the same power as Brezhnev did,″ she said, adding that the expulsion order also must be reversed.

″Officially, (Gorbachev) has to express a feeling about the decree of forced expulsion, and then citizenship, and after that we will talk,″ she added.

Solzhenitsyn’s ″The Gulag Archipelago″ depicted the horrors of Stalin’s prison camps. His other well-known works include ″One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich,″ ″Cancer Ward,″ ″August 1914″ and ″The First Circle.″

He won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1970. Government pressure on him mounted, and in February 1974 he was arrested on a treason charge, which carried a possible death sentence. He was forced onto a plane to Germany and stripped of his citizenship the next day.

Korchnoi, 54, said in an interview in Switzerland that he welcomed the restoration of his citizenship as an ″important step″ because of its humanitarian nature, but the grandmaster added that he would not return to the Soviet Union.

Aksyonov, who was contacted about Gorbachev’s decree by the Soviet Embassy, said from his home in Washington, that it was ″the last hindrance to being accepted officially in Soviet cultural life. I accept it as a formal apology from the government.″ Although he said the move ″surpassed all my expectations,″ he added that he would not return to the Soviet Union for good.

Chalidze, 51, said he was not sure if he would accept the invitation to be a Soviet citizen again. The decree is ″a correcting of unjust things that were done in the past,″ he said from his home in Benson, Vermont, but added: ″I am an American citizen and about this I am quite happy.″

Aside from political exiles, Soviets who emigrate to Israel are automatically stripped of their citizenship. Cheremnykh said most of 400,000 Soviets in this category had left the country voluntarily and indicated there was no chance their citizenship would be restored. But he said some were forced to leave and authorities were trying ″to correct the mistakes that were made.″

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