25.4 On the presentation of the Nobel Prize to A. I. Solzhenitsyn

<<No 25 : 20 May 1972>>

In accordance with the suggestion made by Solzhenitsyn in his letter to the Secretary of the Swedish Academy, K. R. Gierow (see CCE 22.1), the ceremony for the presentation of the Nobel Prize was due to take place in a private flat in Moscow.

A.I. Solzhenitsyn sent off the invitations. In the interview of 30 March (CCE 25.3) his answer to the question about whom he had invited, was:

“I do not know whom Karl Gierow will wish to invite. As far as I am concerned, apart from my close friends, I am inviting the most eminent representatives of the intelligentsia in the arts and sciences: some writers, the chief producers of leading theatres, outstanding musicians, a few Academicians. For the time being I shall not name them because I do not know whether they will all consider it possible and want to come, and what obstacles they will meet. In any case I am inviting those whom I know and whose work I respect, and we’ll see who comes.

I would also have liked to invite my [Swiss] lawyer Mr. [Fritz] Heeb to the ceremony, but as a private individual I do not have the official right to invite people from abroad. In addition, I’m inviting the USSR Minister of Culture and journalists from Rural Life [Selskaya zhizn] and Labour [Trud] – the two central newspapers which have not yet slandered me. (Since then, the paper Labour has managed to “reform”: on 7 April, on one and the same day in both Labour and Literary Russia, a review by Jerzy Romanowski of August 1914 was re-printed from the Polish Catholic Weekly, WTK).

In answer to the question: ‘‘Could obstacles not be put in the way of the ceremony?” Solzhenitsyn said: “In theory this cannot be ruled out. In practice, it could be very easily done – it requires neither a lot of energy nor a lot of intelligence. But 1 do not expect this to happen – it would be a shameful outrage.”

Finally, to the question “And what if Mr. Gierow is refused a visa?”, Solzhenitsyn replied: “In that case the ceremony will not take place and my insignia will remain in Stockholm for another ten or twelve years.”

And that is what happened. On 5 [in fact 4] April, the Soviet Embassy in Stockholm refused to grant Mr. Gierow an entry visa. After this the Swedish Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr, Wickman, suggested the Nobel insignia should be handed to Solzhenitsyn through the Swedish Embassy in Moscow, on condition that the appropriate ceremony could not be interpreted as a political demonstration. In reply to this Solzhenitsyn made the following statement:

“Mr. Gierow and I have given way in everything that was possible; his trip was planned as a PRIVATE one, to a PRIVATE; flat, for carrying out a ceremony, almost according to a PRIVATE rite. The ban on a ceremony even in this form is an irrevocable and final ban on any kind of presentation of the Nobel Prize on the territory of my country. For this reason, the belated concession by the Swedish Minister of Foreign Affairs is already an unrealistic one….

“But it is also an insult: the Swedish Minister persists in regarding the presentation of the Nobel Prize to me not as a manifestation of cultural life, but as a political event, and is therefore laying down a condition which would lead either, again, to a ‘closed’ version of the ceremony, or to a special selection of those to be present at it and a ban on their expressing, in any way, their attitude to what was happening, because all this might be interpreted as a ‘political demonstration’.

“Besides, after Mr. Gierow was refused a visa, I would consider it a humiliation for him and for me to accept the Nobel insignia from hands other than those of the Permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy. Finally, all the difficult preparation had already been done by our humble forces – invitations had been sent out, not only in Moscow, to some twenty writers whom I see as the life and soul of our present-day literature, and to about the same number of artists, musicians and Academicians. Because of this appointment many of these people had either cancelled their journeys or rehearsals or other obligations. This refusal has now come as an insult to all these 40 guests. And they, as I myself, are too busy to get involved in a procedure such as this for a second time. According to the rules of the Swedish Academy, us explained to me, the Nobel insignia can be kept by the Academy for an unlimited length of time. Should I not live long enough to receive them, I bequeath the acceptance of them to mv son.’”