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Almost home

THE Russian artist Marc Chagall appears at last to be coming home - almost. The first major exhibition in the Soviet Union of the late painter's work is to open Sept. 2 at Moscow's Pushkin Museum; the show marks this summer's 100th anniversary of Chagall's birth.

Chagall, who did spend much of his life in exile, in effect, in France, was long dismissed by Soviet authorities as a ``French painter and graphic artist.'' He has had a champion in the Soviet Union, Andrei Voznesensky, a friend of the artist's and a poet. Chagall's rehabilitation is being hailed as another victory in Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev's glasnost, or ``openness'' campaign.

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We can't be sure just what the future of glasnost is, but the thought that the Soviet people - or Muscovites, anyway - will at last have the opportunity to enjoy Chagall's fantastic landscapes, his dreamscapes, is surely heartening.

We note, though, that no celebrations are planned for the artist's native city, Vitebsk, in today's Byelorussia. Perhaps the people of Vitebsk do not - would not - recognize their city in Chagall's canvases and prints, among the flying cows and levitating lovers. Would we recognize their Vitebsk from Chagall? The landscapes he charted may be accessible only in the realm of the imagination, the ``divine fluidity'' he aspired to.

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