Writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn was awarded the 1990 state prize by the Russian Republic Tuesday for his history of the Soviet prison camp system, "The Gulag Archipelago," but rejected the award from his exile home in the United States.
The daily Sovetskaya Rossia newspaper, voice of the Russian Republic, announced the prize in the latest bid to persuade Solzhenitsyn to return to his homeland from exile in Cavendish, Vt.Sergei Zalygin, editor of the prestigious Novy Mir monthly that has been publishing "Gulag," said: "With all my heart, I congratulate the great writer on receiving this prize."
Solzhenitsyn was exiled in 1974 by Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev for refusing to compromise with authorities. He has said he will return only when all his works are published there.
From his Vermont home, the writer offered his "gratitude" to the prize committee for its award, but said he could not accept it.
"I would consider it unthinkable and impossible to accept a state award for this book while the majority of our people have still not had the opportunity to obtain and read it.
"The book is being sold on the black market at exorbitant prices. Meanwhile, thousands upon thousands of former zeks (Russian slang for prisoner) are living out their lives either without any pension at all or on a miserable one, since hard labor in the gulag camps is not reckoned as work service.
"Under these conditions - for all of them - my receiving an award would be a bitter irony," he said.
"But more than that: in our country up to the present day the phenomenon of the gulag has not been overcome, either legally or morally," he said.
"This book is about the suffering of millions, and I cannot reap an honor from it," he said.