In one of his first acts after landing in America Monday, Russian President Boris Yeltsin phoned Alexander Solzhenitsyn to voice contrition for past Kremlin persecution and to assure the Nobel literature laureate that "Russia's doors are wide open" for his return, Yeltsin's spokesman said.
"In the words of the president, one could feel undertones of repentance," Vyacheslav V. Kostikov told reporters at the Russian Embassy after the 30-minute call between Russia's president and its greatest living writer, in exile since 1974."He (Yeltsin) understands that the authorities caused great moral damage to Solzhenitsyn . . . a great writer," Kostikov said.
Solzhenitsyn, the author of the monumental "Gulag Archipelago," a stunning chronicle of political repression in the prisons and labor camps of the Soviet Union, was accused of treason and banished from the Soviet Union four years after he won the Nobel Prize. He lives now in Cavendish, Vt.
Last month, Solzhenitsyn's wife, Natalia, flew to Moscow with the couple's three sons to prepare for the author's return to the non-Soviet, non-communist Russia he had so long advocated. This month, authorities also decided to return the novelist's apartment to him.
Solzhenitsyn, whose prestige among his people is enormous, incarnates a more traditionalist strain in Russian thought than the bulk of the Westernized democrats and free-marketeers who now surround Yeltsin.
His public backing would have immense political value at a time when Yeltsin's right-wing opponents are loudly accusing the president of selling Mother Russia out to the International Monetary Fund and the West in general.