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A Soviet official was designated to accept the Nobel Peace Prize today on behalf of President Mikhail S. Gorbachev, who is staying away from the award ceremony because of food shortages and political unrest back home.

Gorbachev's absence highlights the gap between his popularity in the West and his failure in the eyes of many Soviet citizens, baffled that he should be honored while their country's economy is a shambles.

Soviet First Deputy Foreign Minister Anatoly Kovalyov was delegated to collect the award -- a gold medal, a diploma and a check for 4 million Swedish crowns ($715,000) -- in Oslo Town Hall.

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