The Presentation of the Nobel Prize to Solzhenitsyn, November 1971 (22.1)

<<No 22 : 10 November 1971>>

At briefing sessions held for them recently, officials of the propaganda network for academic institutions were given an official version of the current position of the Nobel Committee with regard to the award of the prize to A.I. Solzhenitsyn.

It was claimed that the Nobel Committee, disturbed by the protests of Western progressive public opinion, was showing signs of confusion and regret over its decision of last year and had therefore broken off its correspondence with Solzhenitsyn and delayed a decision on the date and location of the presentation to him of the medal and the diploma.

As an example of the attitude of Western writers towards Solzhenitsyn, the story was told of his failure to be elected to membership of the PEN Club, even after this question had twice been discussed by the Club. The reasons for this failure, according to the official version put forward by the Soviet authorities, were speeches made by several writers who called Solzhenitsyn a “political figure”. Sartre’s well-known refusal to accept the Nobel Prize was mentioned as evidence of the political nature of the Nobel Committee’s decision. This refusal, which, as is well known, preceded the award of the [1965] prize to Sholokhov, was interpreted as an accusation that the Nobel Committee engaged in “political intrigue”.


On 21 March 1971, in a letter to Nils K. Staahle, the chairman of the Nobel Foundation, A. I. Solzhenitsyn protested about the explanation given by Mr. Staahle of his reasons for declining to deliver the Nobel lecture, and asked him to make public his real reasons for doing so, namely that Solzhenitsyn

“… had found that the very genre of a lecture on literature was alien to him—talking about the nature of art, creativity and beauty, and avoiding the expression of broader opinions on life in modern society and its blemishes”.

it was for this reason, while not wishing to violate the Nobel tradition, that he had declined to produce a lecture, which the Swedish Academy and the Nobel Foundation had acknowledged his right to do.

On 22 October 1971 Solzhenitsyn sent a letter to Nils K. Staahle and to Karl R. Gierow, the secretary of the Swedish Academy, in which he expressed his gratitude at the “Press statement” of 7 October 1971 [widely published on 8 October], of which he had been sent a copy, and confirmed the report contained in the statement that in 1970 G. Jarring, the [Swedish] ambassador [in Moscow], had suggested among other possibilities that the Nobel diploma and medal should be presented to Solzhenitsyn in the Swedish Embassy in Moscow—not as part of any ceremony, but in private.

As Solzhenitsyn had already stated in his letter to the Nobel Foundation of 27 October 1970, [1] he regarded this proposal as degrading to the Nobel Prize; in the present letter he reiterates this attitude, and requests (in accordance with the rules of the Nobel Foundation) that his Nobel insignia continue to be held in the custody of the Foundation, in the hope that at some future time circumstances will be more favourable to the traditional public Nobel ceremony.

He expresses deep regret at “having unwillingly been the cause of additional trouble and inconvenience”, such as his correspondents have not experienced with most of his predecessors. [2]


[1] Solzhenitsyn’s letter letter to the Nobel Foundation of 27 October 1970 has never been published.

[2] Additional clarification

The “Press statement” of 7 October stressed that Solzhenitsyn could choose how to receive his insignia. In a letter to the Norwegian journalist P. E. Hegge, published in the Swedish press on 19 October and in the world press the next day, Solzhenitsyn said he would like the ceremony to take place in Moscow, in public, but doubted the feasibility of this in the near future. His letter of 22 October appears not to have been published.

On 29 October the Swedish Academy agreed to have the ceremony in Moscow, and asked the Swedish government if the embassy could be used. When no answer was forthcoming, Solzhenitsyn suggested, in a letter to the Academy published in an A. P. dispatch from Moscow of 23 December, that a private flat be used. On 4 January 1972 the Academy agreed to this, and hoped for a ceremony in the spring.