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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Solzhenitsyn And Missile Designers Honored

President Vladimir Putin underscored the importance of moral values and military might at an awards ceremony Tuesday, honoring Russians ranging from Alexander Solzhenitsyn, who documented the brutality of the Soviet Union, to the men who designed its nuclear-armed submarines.

The pomp-filled ceremony in a soaring Kremlin hall was the elaborate centerpiece for nationwide festivities on Russia Day, a holiday that was created to celebrate the country's emergence from the crumbling Soviet Union but has become a celebration of Russia itself.

It was a new chance for Putin to talk up Russia's achievements and call for unity at home as his presidency approaches its end.

Putin strode through a massive golden doorway to start the nationally televised ceremony beneath giant, glittering chandeliers, and handed out medals carried gingerly across the room by goose-stepping guards in uniforms evocative of the tsarist era.

He said the recipients -- rewarded for work as diverse as cruise-missile design, film restoration and neurosurgery -- have improved the lives of the people and boosted Russia's spiritual wealth, global clout and military security.

"We pay increasing attention to the revival of science and culture, the establishment of morals and spirituality in society," Putin said.

Putin honored Solzhenitsyn, the Nobel laureate and longtime exile who documented the murderous Soviet prison camp system, with an award for "humanitarian activity" -- a lifetime achievement award for the fragile 88-year-old author, who has not appeared in public in recent years. The award was accepted for Solzhenitsyn by his wife, Natalya, but Putin later visited the writer at his home, thanking him in a brief televised portion of the meeting for "all your work for the good of Russia."

Solzhenitsyn, in a wheelchair, thanked Putin for coming. "You are very busy, and I can't imagine how you found time to pay me a visit," he said.

At the awards ceremony, Putin said "common moral values" were the key to multiethnic Russia's unity. Putin has repeatedly suggested that the greatest threat to the country comes from external foes, and the ceremony emphasized the country's military might as much as its cultural depth. Five of the 12 recipients were honored for work related to the military, and Putin announced a special award for the developers of the Iskander-M cruise-missile system, who were not identified because their identity is a state secret. New missiles for the system were tested last month, officials said, as part of what Putin at the time called a response to U.S. plans to deploy a missile defense system in Eastern Europe.