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Writer applauds Russian foreign, criticizes domestic policy

MOSCOW, February 26 (RIA Novosti) - Russian Nobel Prize-winning writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn has applauded the country's foreign polices, but voiced concerns about its declining moral and cultural standards and the growing social gap.

Presenting the Soviet-era dissident writer's new article on Russian history, his wife, Natalia Solzhenitsyna, said: "Alexander Isayevich believes a number of appropriate steps have been made in international politics in recent years, and Russia has regained a certain global authority, which is not over inflated."

Solzhenitsyn, 88, whose work exposed the horrors of Stalinist labor camps, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1970, but was imprisoned and expelled from the Soviet Union in 1974 following the publication of his seminal work The Gulag Archipelago. He returned to Russia in 1994 after 20 years in exile in Europe and the United States.

But what is happening in Russia, including the growing cultural and economic gap between ruling elite and society at large worries the writer, his wife said.

"Solzhenitsyn is basically provincial, and he really feels the misery of those living outside the capital, but the authorities do not see it or choose not to," she said.

Solzhenitsyn, dubbed as a "moral tonometer" of Russian society, has been living near Moscow in recent years. Through rare interviews or opinions conveyed by his wife, Solzhenitsyn has highlighted weakening moral standards and a dramatic population decline in Russia plagued by low living standards, a pandemic of alcoholism, drug abuse, and infectious diseases.

Russia's chief human rights ombudsman, Vladimir Lukin, echoed the concerns: "An enormous gap between the rich and poor exists in our society, and it is being bridged much slower than it should be."

Lukin said wages and pensions were often lower than the subsistence level and urged measures to deter another 1917 revolution in Russia, the topic of Solzhenitsyn's new article. "It is important to learn the lessons from history and do everything to make sure it does not repeat itself," Lukin said.