MOSCOW, AUG. 16 -- The Soviet Union restored citizenship today to novelist Alexander Solzhenitsyn and 22 other dissident artists and human-rights activists exiled from the country during the rule of Leonid Brezhnev.

As if to prove the Russian proverb that language is older and more lasting than the state, Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev issued a decree allowing Solzhenitsyn to reclaim the passport stripped from him in 1974 when the Kremlin charged him with treason and ordered the KGB to place him on a plane to the West.

Solzhenitsyn, author of "The Gulag Archipelago" and "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich" and winner of the 1970 Nobel Prize for Literature, has spent most of his exile in Cavendish, Vt., but has said often that he expects to return to his homeland one day. The Solzhenitsyn family said this week, however, that in addition to restoration of citizenship the Soviet government and Supreme Court also must repeal the charges of treason.

"What was legally declared must be taken back," said the novelist's wife, Natalya, in a telephone interview. "My husband's case was unique."

In Vermont, Solzhenitsyn once told an interviewer: "You know I feel so optimistic that it seems to me that it is only a matter of a few years before I return to Russia. . . . I have no proof of it, but I have a premonition, a feeling. . . . I think -- I am sure -- that I will return to Russia and still have a chance to live there."

Gennadi Cheremnikh, chairman of the Soviet legislature's committee on citizenship and pardons, said: "I can't tell you if {Solzhenitsyn} will come back here or not; I haven't talked with him. I only know this is being discussed at a sufficiently high level. As a Russian person, I would be very glad if Alexander Isayevich returns to Russia."

The government newspaper Izvestia and the news agency Tass reported that the others whose citizenship was restored include chess grandmaster Viktor Korchnoi, satirist Vladimir Voinovich, German literature scholar Lev Kopelev, novelists Giorgi Vladimov and Vassily Aksyonov, human-rights worker Valery Chalidze, physicist Yuri Orlov and painter Oskar Rabin.

Meanwhile, Gorbachev, who has been vacationing in the southern Crimea, said he will end his summer holiday early this year and travel to Moscow Friday to begin working with Boris Yeltsin, leader of the Russian republic, on a revised package of economic reforms.

The new partnership between Gorbachev and Yeltsin indicates that Prime Minister Nikolai Ryzhkov's more conservative influence on the future of economic change here has dwindled severely. Yeltsin has called for implementation of a 500-day plan to denationalize industry and agriculture and speed creation of a market-led economic system.

The citizenship decision is part of what Gorbachev has described as eliminating the "blank spots" from Soviet history to make a clean break with the repressive policies of Soviet leader Brezhnev and dictator Joseph Stalin before him.

In previous interviews, nearly all the prominent exiles said they had no wish to return to the Soviet Union permanently but would use restored citizenship, if granted, to travel more easily to and from the country.

"I'm delighted for my father because now he can come here when he wants, like a normal person in a normal country," said Kopelev's daughter, Yelena Kopeleva.

Korchnoi said he was delighted with the news but that he "will not return to live" in the Soviet Union. Chalidze said he thought the decree marked a "house cleaning" and that he was satisfied for now to remain a U.S. citizen.

Publication of the list of restored citizenships came just after Tass announced that some of the most conservative members of the Soviet leadership had retired on pensions. The retirees include Gorbachev's conservative rival, Yegor Ligachev, who left the Communist Party's ruling Politburo last month.

Even 16 years after his exile, the figure of Solzhenitsyn, both as an artist and overt anticommunist, looms over Russian culture. He first came to literary prominence with the publication of "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich" in 1962 with the permission of Nikita Khrushchev, whose decade-long leadership of the Soviet Union included a denunciation of Stalin's despotism.

The short novel follows one prisoner's day in a Soviet prison camp and his quest for spiritual redemption. The novel is based on Solzhenitsyn's imprisonment in a labor camp, a sentence that grew out of his arrest in 1945 for the crime of telling an oblique anti-Stalinist joke in a letter to a friend.

After Khrushchev fell from power in 1964, Solzhenistsyn's next two novels, "Cancer Ward" and "The First Circle," were barred from publication in the Soviet Union but appeared abroad in 1968.

In December 1973, a smuggled copy of the first volume of "The Gulag Archipelago," his literary investigation of Soviet prison camps, was published in Paris -- with Solzhenitsyn's permission and certain knowledge that government pressure on him would intensify. He was deported in February 1974.

Solzhenitsyn had a sense of the historical place of his masterwork 15 years ago when he said, "If today the three volumes of "Gulag" were widely published in the Soviet Union and freely available to all, then in a very short space of time, no communist ideology would be left. For people who read and understand, they would simply have no room in their minds left for communist ideology."

The decision to allow publication of Solzhenitsyn's works in the Soviet Union this year followed years of infighting in the Kremlin. Last year, Vadim Medvedev, who was then Gorbachev's ideology chief, spoke out against Solzhenitsyn for promulgating "anti-Soviet" views. But the writers' union journal Novy Mir, under editor Sergei Zalygin, finally persuaded Gorbachev that publication of Solzhenitsyn's work was necessary and inevitable.

At a town meeting in Cavendish shortly after he moved there in 1976, he told the residents: "God has determined that everyone should live in the country where his roots are. As a growing tree sometimes dies when it is transplanted, the spirit of a human being is also stunted when it is removed from the place of its roots.

"The Russian people dream of the day when they can be liberated from the Soviet system. And when that day comes, I will thank you very much for being good friends and neighbors, and I will go home."