KGB Attempt on Solzhenitsyn’s Life Reported

From Associated Press

KGB agents secretly poisoned Alexander I. Solzhenitsyn at a department store candy counter in a bungled 1971 assassination attempt that left the dissident writer with serious burns, a journalist reported Monday.

The tabloid newspaper Sovershenno Sekretno (Top Secret) said it received a letter from Solzhenitsyn saying he never knew what caused the large burns over most of his body.

It was unclear how agents poisoned Solzhenitsyn.

In a telephone interview from the family’s home in Vermont, the author’s wife, Natalia, told the Washington Post: “We always knew in those days that there was always the possibility that the KGB would kill Solzhenitsyn. That was never far from our minds. But when he got sick, we never thought it was an assassination attempt. It just seemed like a strange, inexplicable disease.”


Natalia Solzhenitsyn said that a series of doctors and other specialists were completely befuddled by Solzhenitsyn’s illness. Some believed he had been stricken by an allergy. He could hardly leave his bed, write or even raise his head. “We had no clue. He just gradually recovered, and that was all.”

Dmitri Likhanov, who writes for Top Secret, said in an interview that his story was based on eyewitness accounts of the assassination attempt in the southern Russian town of Rostov-on-the-Don that were taken from the memoirs of retired KGB Lt. Col. Boris Ivanov.

Likhanov’s article, accompanying documents from Ivanov and the letter attributed to Solzhenitsyn are scheduled to be published in Top Secret this week.

A spokesman for the Russian successor to the KGB, Alexei Kondaurov, called the report “absurd” but said he is unable to disprove it.

Ivanov is still alive, but attempts to get his telephone number or address were unsuccessful.

Solzhenitsyn, best known for his “One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich” and “The Gulag Archipelago,” chronicling Stalinist repression, won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1970. He was expelled from his homeland on treason charges in 1974.