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Solzhenitsyn ending 20-year exile

CAVENDISH, Vt., May 25 -- Nobel Prize-winning author Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn left Vermont Wednesday and headed home to Russia, ending 20 years in exile.

Solzhenitsyn, 75, who was forced to leave his homeland in 1974 after publication of 'The Gulag Archipelago' about Soviet prison life, has lived in a secluded compound in the rural Vermont town of Cavendish for 18 years with his wife and three sons.

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The family's departure was low-key, in keeping with the author's long-held desire for privacy.

Joe Allen, the owner of the General Store in rural Cavendish, said Solzhenitsyn left with crews from the British Broadcasting Corp.

'Near as I can figure, they departed about 12:30 p.m.,' Allen said.

Solzhenitsyn and his family reportedly gave the BBC exclusive rights to the story of their return to Russia. Two large vans rented to the BBC, which arrived at his Cavendish compound Monday morning, took him and his family to Boston Wednesday afternoon, Allen indicated.

Ignat Solzhenitsyn, one of the famed author's three sons who were born in Russia but came to Vermont as toddlers in 1976, said earlier this week that the family would fly to Seattle and Anchorage, making their first stop in Russia on Friday in Vladivostok.

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'Vermont has been a wonderful home away from home for us,' the son said. 'It has given my parents an opportunity to raise a family. It gave him peace and solitude.'

Ignat Solzhenitsyn said he planned to join his family in Russia later.

While in Vermont, Solzhenitsyn's wife, Natalya, became a U.S. citizen, but the author did not. Solzhenitsyn made few public appearances.

The son said the family will move into a five-room rented apartment in Moscow until a home built with family funds on land rented from the Moscow City Council is finished.

Solzhenitsyn is considered by some as a bearded savior who battled totalitarianism and won. In addition to 'The Gulag Archipelago,' Solzhenitsyn is the author of 'A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich,' also about Soviet prison life.

While in Vermont, Solzhenitsyn completed 18 books.

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