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Alexander Solzhenitsyn dies at 89

Alexander Solzhenitsyn (image from 1994)
Solzhenitsyn had been ill for years

Russian writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn, who exposed Stalin's prison system in his novels and spent 20 years in exile, has died near Moscow at the age of 89.

The author of The Gulag Archipelago and One Day In The Life Of Ivan Denisovich, who returned to Russia in 1994, died of either a stroke or heart failure.

The Nobel laureate had suffered from high blood pressure in recent years.

After returning to Russia, Solzhenitsyn wrote several polemics on Russian history and identity.

He was one of the first to talk about the inhumane Stalinist regime and about the people who experienced it but were not broken
Mikhail Gorbachev
Former Soviet leader

His son Stepan was quoted by one Russian news agency as saying his father died of heart failure, while another agency quoted literary sources as saying he had suffered a stroke.

He died in his home in the Moscow area, where he had lived with his wife Natalya, at 2345 local time (1945 GMT) on Sunday, Stepan told Itar-Tass.

Mrs Solzhenitsyn told Moscow Echo radio her husband lived "a difficult but happy life".

HAVE YOUR SAY
A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich was the single book which showed me the power of literature to change the world.
Philip Larmett, Kiev, Ukraine
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev sent his condolences to the writer's family, a Kremlin spokesperson said.

Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, whose reforms led to the end of communism in the country, said Solzhenitsyn played a key role in undermining Stalin's totalitarian regime.

His works "changed the consciousness of millions of people", Mr Gorbachev said.

Prisoner, patient, writer

Solzhenitsyn served as a Soviet artillery officer in World War II and was decorated for his courage but in 1945 was denounced for criticising Stalin in a letter.

He spent the next eight years in the Soviet prison system, or Gulag, before being internally exiled to Kazakhstan, where he was successfully treated for stomach cancer.

ALEXANDER SOLZHENITSYN
Born: 11 December 1918
1945: sentenced to eight years for anti-Soviet activities
1962: One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich published in Russia
1970: Awarded Nobel Prize for Literature
1974: First volume of The Gulag Archipelago published
13 February 1974: Exiled from his native Russia
1994: Returns to Russia
3 August 2008: dies in Moscow

Publication in 1962 of the novella Denisovich, an account of a day in a Gulag prisoner's life, made him a celebrity during the post-Stalin political thaw.

However, within a decade, the writer awarded the 1970 Nobel Prize for Literature was out of favour again for his work, and was being harassed by the KGB secret police.

In 1973, the first of the three volumes of Archipelago, a detailed account of the systematic Soviet abuses from 1918 to 1956 in the vast network of its prison and labour camps, was published in the West.

Its publication sparked a furious backlash in the Soviet press, which denounced him as a traitor.

Early in 1974, the Soviet authorities stripped him of his citizenship and expelled him from the country.

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A look at the life of Alexander Solzhenitsyn

He settled in Vermont, in the US, where he completed the other two volumes of Archipelago.

While living there as a recluse, he railed against what he saw as the moral corruption of the West.

Scathing of Boris Yeltsin's brand of democracy, he did not return to Russia immediately upon the collapse of the USSR in 1992, unlike other exiles.

It is time, in the West, to defend not so much human rights as human obligations
Alexander Solzhenitsyn

His homecoming in 1994 was a dramatic affair as he travelled in slowly by land from the Russian Far East.

Years later he was embraced by then-Russian President Vladimir Putin, who presented him with Russia's State Prize.

There was significant irony in the fierce critic of Soviet repression being hailed by a former senior officer of the KGB, says the BBC's James Rodgers in Moscow.

Mr Putin described Solzhenitsyn's death as a "heavy loss for Russia".

Solzhenitsyn's latter works, which included essays on Russia's future, stirred controversy.

In 2000, his last major work Two Hundred Years Together examined the position of Jews in Russian society and their role in the Revolution.




SEE ALSO
Solzhenitsyn in his own words
03 Aug 08 |  Europe


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