MOSCOW, NOV. 28 -- Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, faced with domestic crises and sagging opinion polls, announced today that he will not be able to visit Norway next month to receive his Nobel Peace Prize.
"The reason is the crucial point for the country and an extremely heavy workload which requires the attention and action of the president hour by hour," the state news agency Tass reported.
Although Gorbachev's award was widely celebrated in the West, there is widespread frustration here over his celebrity abroad while the country is in such a painful period. Gorbachev's decision to stay at home and avoid another scene of foreign adulation is a way of avoiding even more resentment.
Gorbachev is working to resolve the political struggles over the country's food shortages and crumbling political structures. Also, he is scheduled to visit Budapest for a Warsaw Pact meeting next week and will attend a meeting here of the Communist Party Central Committee, which is scheduled to hold a plenary session the same day as the Nobel award ceremonies, Dec. 10.
The Supreme Soviet has given Gorbachev until Dec. 7 to present a comprehensive food program. The Soviet leader also may travel this week to the southwestern republic of Moldavia, where ethnic Romanians are battling Russians for control.
The head of the Norwegian Nobel Institute, Geil Lundestad, said in Oslo that he cannot change the date of the awards ceremony but hopes Gorbachev might deliver the traditional Nobel lecture in Norway next spring. The Nobel committee said someone should accept the award for Gorbachev. Poland's Lech Walesa, the 1983 winner, and Soviet human rights leader Andrei Sakharov, who won the prize in 1975, sent their wives to Oslo to collect their awards.
When Gorbachev's prize was announced in October, many Soviet citizens expressed puzzlement or disgust. Even Foreign Ministry spokesman Gennadi Gerasimov said, "Obviously it's not for economics." Gerasimov is reportedly being sent to Lisbon as ambassador to Portugal.
Gorbachev has found time to lobby foreign leaders to help the Soviet Union get through its food crisis. He met here today with Horst Teltschik, a top aide to German Chancellor Helmut Kohl. Teltschik said Bonn would soon begin sending consumer goods, cooking oil and meat to Moscow. But Teltschik said he understood from his meetings here that reports of famine have been exaggerated.
The Soviets, he said, "assured us they can take care of providing people with food. But domestically they cannot do it all themselves."
Teltschik added, "Gorbachev told us that the forthcoming six months will be the most difficult -- that is, how to survive the winter months without social tensions."
Moscow and Bonn agreed to set up a coordinating committee to target the food aid and try to keep the shipments out of the hands of black marketeers. Teltschik said German volunteers would accompany the aid and supervise its distribution.
Soviet officials said they hope to get more commitments of aid at next month's European Community summit in Rome.