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Latest update : 2008-08-04

Politicians and intellectuals paid tribute to Nobel prize-winning Russian writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn, who passed away Sunday at the age of 89. Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev on Monday praised Solzhenitsyn's "unique destiny".

Russians on Monday mourned
Alexander Solzhenitsyn, the author and dissident whose criticism
of the tyranny of Soviet rule made him one of the bravest
figures of the 20th century.

Solzhenitsyn, a Nobel literature laureate, died of heart
failure late on Sunday in his Moscow home. He was 89.

On Monday, a chorus of voices across the world expressed
grief at the death of a man whose struggle exposed the horror of
Josef Stalin's camps and made him the conscience of Russia.

Mikhail Gorbachev, the last Soviet leader, described
Solzhenitsyn as a "man of unique destiny whose name will remain
in Russia's history."

"He was one of the first people who spoke up about the
inhumanity of Stalin's regime with a full voice, and about the
people whose lived through this but were not broken," Gorbachev,
told Interfax news agency.

A funeral service will take place at the medieval Donskoi
monastery in Moscow on Wednesday and Solzhenitsyn will be buried
there later that day in accordance with his will, said a Russian
Orthodox church spokesman.

President Dmitry Medvedev and top Russian officials as well
as global leaders including French President Nicolas Sarkozy and
U.S. President George W. Bush sent their condolences.

"The death of Alexander Isayevich Solzhenitsyn is a heavy
loss for the whole of Russia," said a telegram from Prime
Minister Vladimir Putin, a former agent with the KGB security
service that led the persecution campaign against Solzhenitsyn.

Long banned from publication, Solzhenitsyn owed his initial
fame to Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, who allowed the
publication in 1962 of his "One Day in the Life of Ivan
Denisovich", which described the horrifying routine of labour
camp life.

He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1970 for his work,
including "Gulag Archipelago", a chronicle of his own and
thousands of other prison camp experiences.

In his books, he shook consciences by unveiling the dark
secrets of the Gulag, the network of prison camps where millions
of Russians died during Stalin's purges. Some read and
distributed his books underground, fearing state persecution.

In 1974, he was stripped of his citizenship and put on a
plane to West Germany for refusing to keep silent about his
country's past. He became an icon of resistance to the
totalitarian system from his American home in Vermont.



In Troitse-Lykovo in the outskirts of Moscow where
Solzhenitsyn spent his final years, passers-by paid tribute by
tucking flowers into the blue-painted gate of his house.

"It's a great loss for our family. It's also a loss for the
country," his son Stepan told Reuters. "He was always really
happy he returned. This is his home."

Solzhenitsyn refused to return to Russia until after the
Soviet Union collapsed, marking his comeback in a long train
journey from Vladivostok on the Pacific coast to Moscow in 1994.

After his return, the post-Soviet leadership paid him great
respect. But he became increasingly critical of the state of
modern day Russia, denouncing corruption and Western influences
in a society that had emerged from 80 years of Soviet rule.

He lived in seclusion outside Moscow, playing no discernible
role in Russian political life and rarely appearing in public.

In a bookstore in central Moscow, a selection of his most
famous books was put on display beneath a large black-and-white
portrait of the author.

Television channels and radio stations ran constant solemn
reports on his life but some younger Russians confessed they
knew little about his work.

"He is very famous. I'm just starting his works," said
Viktoria Danilova, a 17-year-old in central Moscow.
"Unfortunately I haven't read very much yet."

Date created : 2008-08-04