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Last Updated: Monday, 30 January 2006, 00:42 GMT
Solzhenitsyn in Russia film first
Alexander Solzhenitsyn on a street billboard advertising the new film in Moscow
The first part of the film was shown on Sunday
The first Russian film based on a novel by the Soviet-era dissident Alexander Solzhenitsyn has been shown on Russian state television.

The First Circle (V Kruge Pervom) was written by the Nobel Prize winner more than 50 years ago.

The 10-part TV film depicts the terror of the regime of former Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, describing the Soviet Union as a huge prison camp.

Solzhenitsyn returned to Russia in 1994 after spending 20 years in exile.


The First Circle is set in Stalinist Moscow, telling the story of a group of political prisoners.

The hero, Gleb Nerzhin, agrees to work on secret research projects for the state and Stalin personally to avoid forced labour.

Solzhenitsyn has written the script for the film and also reads a commentary behind the camera.

"When Solzhenitsyn saw the rushes, he had tears in his eyes. He couldn't speak from the emotion," the AFP news agency quoted the film's producer, Gleb Panfilov, as saying.

The novel's title is a reference to the concentric circles of hell in medieval Italian writer Dante Alighieri's Divine Comedy.

Millions of Soviet citizens were caught up in what became known as the "red terror", but today in Russia surveys consistently show that Stalin's popularity is on the rise, the BBC's Steve Rosenberg in Moscow says.

He says Russian human rights groups have expressed hope that the screenplay of The First Circle will help the nation change its opinion of the past.

Ever since Alexander Solzhenitsyn returned to Russia from the forced exile, he has kept a low profile, our correspondent says.

Still, he says, many Russians continue to view the veteran writer as the conscience of the nation for his Soviet-era literary work exposing the crimes of communism and the horrors of the forced labour camps.

Solzhenitsyn became known around the world in the 1970s for his descriptions of hard labour in such works as A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich and The Gulag Archipelago.

He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1970.

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