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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Solzhenitsyn Denounces Privatization

Writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn said Wednesday Russia was in the grip of a ruling clique and denounced the main planks of the government's market reforms as theft, Itar-Tass reported. The former dissident, who returned from two decades in exile on May 27, was giving his verdict on today's Russia to a meeting in Irkutsk, part-way through his odyssey from Vladivostok to Moscow. "We don't have even a hint of democracy. For that we need economic self-sufficiency, the people have to have the will and be ready for it," Itar-Tass quoted him as saying. "What we have is oligarchy and not democracy." Solzhenitsyn, 75, offered instead a sort of grass-roots democracy, local elections of "honorable, selfless people who understand that power is not a privilege but a tough job." The writer renewed criticism of the former Soviet president, Mikhail Gorbachev, whose perestroika reforms in the 1980s broke the hold of Communist totalitarianism after seven decades. "Gorbachev destroyed the system that existed," he thundered. "But it should not have been destroyed, only revitalized very slowly from the bottom up, starting with the distribution of plots of land, the organization of small workshops, stalls." Solzhenitsyn, whose years in the West have not blunted his contempt for many aspects of Western society, attacked the market reforms carried out under President Boris Yeltsin, saying there was no overall plan. "The freeing of prices is robbing the people, privatization is privateering, it should be dealt with by the public prosecutors and the courts." The freeing of prices from Jan. 1, 1992, and the privatization program, the biggest sell-off of state property the world has seen, have been the two main planks of Yeltsin's program to convert Russia from communism to capitalism. Turning to Yeltsin's Pact on Social Accord, a bland document signed by many politicians and public figures and meant by the president to introduce a political truce, Solzhenitsyn was scornful. "This is not an action of civil reconciliation," he said. "A different one is needed, repentance for 70 years and the years that followed." Solzhenitsyn says he will accept no political post but has pledged to work for the spiritual revival of his homeland.