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The History of Harvard's Commencement, Explained

Solzhenitsyn to Be Graduation Speaker

By Alexandra D. Korry

University officials late last week confirmed that Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn, exiled Soviet author and Nobel Laureate, will be this year's Commencement Speaker.

The disclosure followed a week of rumors and refusals on the part of the Associated Harvard Alumni (AHA) to comment--necessitated by Solzhenitsyn's apparent concern about his security.

Solzhenitsyn will receive an honorary degree from the University before delivering his address in Russian with an accompanying translation.

The Commencement speech will be Solzhenitsyn's first major public appearance since his arrival in the United States three years ago following his expulsion from the Soviet Union in February of 1974.


Solzhenitsyn, who lives in seclusion in Cavendish, Vermont, has agreed to speak at this year's Commencement after refusing earlier offers to speak at Harvard. Solzhenitsyn was unavailable for comment yesterday.

Francis Lindsley, Solzhenitsyn's editor at Harper and Row Publishers, said last week the author does not normally discuss "non-literary matters" with the press.

Sources in the University Police Department said earlier this week the department is planning extraordinary security precautions for Commencement week. They speculated that the extra protection was prompted by the decision of one or more "international figures" to attend the Commencement.

However, Lt. Lawrence J. Murphy, of the University Police, said earlier in the week he has not ordered any special precautions for Commencement and added that he has not been told to make any special preparations for receiving dignitaries this week.

Solzehnitsyn won international acclaim following the publication of his first book, "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich," in 1962. His subsequent novels include "Cancer Ward," "The First Circle" and the recently completed Gulag Archipelago trilogy.

The Russian author electrified the West in 1974 in a British Broadcasting Company program in which he denounced detente and condemned the West for its refusal to recognize what he considered to be the expansionist motives of Soviet foreign policy.

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