The Union of Cinematographers announced Tuesday that it has formally asked the Soviet government to review its 1974 decision to deport the dissident writer Alexander I. Solzhenitsyn, winner of the 1970 Nobel Prize for Literature, and to strip him of his Soviet citizenship.
Arkady Vaksberg, a leading Soviet commentator on legal affairs and a member of a new commission established by the Soviet cinema union on political and legal affairs, said the appeal was sent Friday to the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet, which took the original action.
“We hope a decision about his future will be reached as soon as possible,” Vaksberg said of the petition, the first such formal document to be submitted to the government by a major Soviet organization.
Union’s Bold Action
“We are not talking about his return,” Vaksberg said of Solzhenitsyn, who now lives in seclusion in Vermont. “We are talking about whether his original deportation was legal.”
The Solzhenitsyn case has been raised in the Soviet press with increasing frequency by intellectuals questioning the government’s sincerity about reforms. The union’s bold action places it formally on the government agenda, making it difficult to evade the issue for long.
Editors of several Soviet literary journals have said they are negotiating for the rights to reprint some of Solzhenitsyn’s leading works, including “Cancer Ward” and “First Circle.”
“We think that it is a question of justice, first of all,” Vaksberg told a news conference at the cinema union’s offices. “But it is also a matter of recognizing one of the greatest creative talents Russia has produced this century.”
Explaining the controversial move, he said: “We do not believe that the cinema union should only do things involving films. Film is a part of life. What concerns society concerns us.”
No Right to Defend Himself
Solzhenitsyn was exiled “contrary to his will, without a public discussion of the issues and without giving him the right to defend himself,” Vaksberg said.
He was stripped of his Soviet citizenship and deported after publication in the West of the first volume of his trilogy “Gulag Archipelago,” which documented the horrors of the Soviet prison camps where he himself had been a prisoner.
The cinema union seeks a government response by Dec. 11, which is Solzhenitsyn’s 70th birthday. Union officials said their organization, one of the most influential in the country, plans to have a major celebration honoring Solzhenitsyn on that day.
Backer of Reform
Vaksberg, an outspoken proponent of legal reform, said the union is concerned about Solzhenitsyn’s “rights as a citizen, rights to his homeland and rights as a writer.”
Solzhenitsyn’s “One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich,” about the life of a prisoner, was a sensation in the Soviet Union when it was published in 1962 under the late Soviet leader Nikita S. Khrushchev.
All of his subsequent books, including “Cancer Ward,” “The First Circle” and “August 1914,” were banned from publication in the Soviet Union.
The Writers’ Union expelled Solzhenitsyn in 1969 for “anti-social” activities, but he won the Nobel Prize for literature the following year. The Communist Party newspaper Pravda described him as a “psychically abnormal person, a schizophrenic,” for his condemnation of the Soviet record on human rights.