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Kyrgyz bid farewell to Perestroika writer

Latest update : 2008-06-14

Thousands attended a state funeral in Kyrgyzstan to celebrate the writer Chingiz Aitmatov, a national hero and key ally of the former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev at the time of the Perestroika reforms.

An estimated 3,000 males, many in traditional clothing, attended a Muslim burial ceremony on the outskirts of the capital for the celebrated writer Chingiz Aitmatov, who died in Germany on Tuesday, aged 79, television pictures showed.

A defiant voice against Soviet excesses and an adviser to Gorbachev during his reforms, Aitmatov was hugely popular in the Soviet Union with writings based on the folk legends of his mountain homeland.

"The Kyrgyz people have not just lost one of their finest sons. The world has lost a spiritual messiah," Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev said in a national address ahead of the funeral.

Reporters confirmed a police estimate that at least 30,000 people had gathered in the centre of the capital earlier in the day to pay their respects.

Aitmatov's books were compulsory reading in Soviet schools but he lacked broad recognition in the English-speaking world. His work has been likened to that of magical realist writers such as Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Salman Rushdie.

In one of his most famous works, "The Day Lasts More than a Hundred Years," published in 1980, Aitmatov's description of an ancient tribe transformed into slaves was widely seen as an allegory of Soviet repression.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Aitmatov represented first Russia and then independent Kyrgyzstan as ambassador to the European Union and NATO. He was a member of the Kyrgyz parliament between 1995 and 2000.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner were among foreign dignitaries who offered condolences, the president's press service said.

 

Date created : 2008-06-14

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