Solzhenitsyn to Address Duma

The State Duma voted Wednesday to invite writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn to address the legislature, the first time that the body has asked a private citizen to appear in its chambers. The proposal, advanced by deputy and filmmaker Stanislav Govorukhin, was initially rejected, with 208 votes for, 22 against, and 11 abstentions. The count was 18 short of the 226 votes -- 50 percent plus one of the 450 deputies -- needed to pass. But after Communist Party deputies insisted on a roll-call vote, the deputies adopted the move, with 251 votes for, 11 against, and 10 abstentions. Without the support of the Communist faction, the proposal would have been defeated. Solzhenitsyn, a virulent anti-Communist, has sounded a nationalist note in his recent speeches that has made him attractive to the Communist-nationalist opposition. In his first press conference after his return he called for "Greater Rus" -- made up of what is now the territory of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus -- to reunite. His vehement defense of the rights of Russians in the former Soviet republics have also given the opposition cause to claim him as one of their own. Govorukhin, best known for films such as "The Russia We Have Lost," which glorify the tsarist past, is a supporter of Solzhenitsyn, about whom he made a documentary film two years ago. Solzhenitsyn, who was forcibly ejected from his homeland in 1974, returned on May 27, landing in the far eastern city of Vladivostok. He is making his way to Moscow by private train, stopping along the way to share impressions with his fellow countrymen. Although Solzhenitsyn has been adamant that he does not seek political power or office, his influence in that sphere has been steadily increasing. Nezavisimaya Gazeta recently published a list of the 100 most prominent politicians in Russia, based upon a public opinion poll conducted at the end of June. Solzhenitsyn ranked 30, up from 88 the month before.