The 1990 Nobel laureate, Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev, has confirmed that he will deliver a traditional message of peace in Oslo this spring, the awards committee announced Monday.
The Soviet leader sent an aide to accept his $700,000 Nobel peace prize on Dec. 10, saying that economic, social and political problems at home required his attention “hour by hour.”
But Nobel committee secretary Geir Lundestad said Gorbachev sent a letter last week accepting the invitation to deliver the speech. The letter, dated Jan. 11, said Gorbachev would probably come in May.
Since December, protesters in the Soviet Union have denounced the selection of Gorbachev to receive the prize, blaming him for military crackdowns on independence-minded Baltic republics in which at least 19 people have died in Lithuania and Latvia.
The five-member Norwegian Nobel Committee is bound by tradition not to comment on the activities of a laureate. It has rejected calls to revoke the prize, saying it was awarded for Gorbachev’s past efforts.
But some Nobel committee members said they lament the Soviet use of force in the Baltics, Lundestad said.
“If he comes to Oslo, he would quite certainly be met by strong demonstrations. It would be very embarrassing for him, the Nobel committee and for Norway,” said Kaare Kristiansen, appointed to the committee after the 1990 award was announced. He spoke before he knew of Gorbachev’s acceptance of the committee’s invitation to deliver the peace lecture.
Lundestad said Gorbachev’s letter and the lecture would be discussed at the committee’s Feb. 18 meeting. He would not speculate on the possibility of the invitation being withdrawn.