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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

For Solzhenitsyn, a New Home

TROITSE-LYKOVO, Russia -- Most of the residents of this peaceful Moscow suburb have heard that Alexander Solzhenitsyn plans to move across the street into a riverside house being built in a prestigious wooded compound. But, used to having famous neighbors, they are not star struck.


"I think it's wonderful, but we don't have much of a relationship with the people who live there", said Yekaterina Stavropovna, 78, pointing to the compound of about a dozen houses where she says she has met a virtual Who's Who of famous Russians. "They say 'Hi' and that's all".


The red brick house is being built on a site sold to Russia's most famous living writer on the personal instructions of President Boris Yeltsin, who met a year ago in Moscow with the writer's wife, Natalia. The newspaper Moskovskiye Novosti quoted a friend of the Solzhenitsyns as saying that the writer planned to move to Moscow once the home was completed.


As befits Solzhenitsyn's reputation for insisting on privacy, the compound is heavily guarded. A reporter was turned back from the property by a man who identified himself as "Mr. X". He suggested a phone call to Solzhenitsyn at home in Vermont for permission to view the property.


On Friday, workers were building a new wooden fence around the four-hectare site and using a crane to lay the foundation for the structure. A builder on the site confirmed that the home was being built for Solzhenitsyn, but he said that since the newspaper article appeared, he had been instructed not to talk with journalists.


Solzhenitsyn, the exiled Nobel Prize-winning author of "The Gulag Archipelago" and "A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich", has said he intends to return to Russia from his estate in Cavendish, Vermont, where he has lived since 1974, but he has never given a date for the move.


A March 31 order by Mayor Yury Luzhkov awarded the property, valued at 6 million rubles ($7, 240), to Solzhenitsyn.


Like Stavropovna, other neighbors were pleased to hear Solzhenitsyn would be living nearby.


"He deserves such a beautiful spot", said Marina Pavlova, working in her garden across the street from the compound gate. "He has suffered so much".


Solzhenitsyn was arrested during Stalin's purges and his experiences as a prisoner in the gulag formed the basis for his most famous books. He was banished from the Soviet Union in 1974 for continuing to expose the atrocities committed under Stalin.


After Solzhenitsyn moved to Vermont, he established a reputation as a recluse. He rarely gives interviews, and most of his public statements come in open letters in the Russian press.


Most recently, Solzhenitsyn backed Yeltsin in his fight with the parliament, stating in a letter read out on Russian television in March that Russia can only be ruled by a strong president.