'Gulag' author heads home

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The Independent Online
ALEXANDER Solzhenitsyn was yesterday leaving the small Vermont town which for 18 years has jealously guarded his privacy to start the long journey home to his native Russia, two decades after its former Soviet rulers bundled the author of the Gulag Archipelago into undignified exile.

Since 1976 the most famous Russian writer of his generation has lived on a secluded estate near the town of Cavendish in Vermont awaiting the downfall of Communism. For the last two years he has prepared his return. Solzhenitsyn will live in a Moscow flat until a dacha being built west of the capital is ready.

Solzhenitsyn, 75, took his formal leave of Cavendish last March, when he told the annual town meeting how he hoped he could be 'of at least some help to my tortured nation'. The speech was delivered in Russian, with his son Stepan serving as interpreter. 'You were very understanding, you forgave my unusual way of life and even took it upon yourself to protect my privacy.' For years the local grocery store has carried a sign, 'No instructions to Solzhenitsyn home.'

Accompanied by his family, he leaves on an 8,000-mile journey, taking him west to Magadan, the administrative centre of the East Siberian camp system set up by Stalin. He arrives at the Pacific port of Vladivostok on Friday.