Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev and many Russian public figures attended the funeral ceremony of renowned Russian writer and dissident Alexander Solzhenitsyn at Moscow's historic Donskoy Monastery.
The funeral of Russian writer and dissident Alexander Solzhenitsyn began Wednesday with a church service at Moscow's historic Donskoy Monastery, with his burial set for 12:30 pm (0830 GMT).
More than 100 people crowded into the church as the Nobel prize-winning author lay in an open coffin with a wooden cross on his chest, surrounded by hundreds of candles.
White-clad Orthodox priests chanted as they prepared to bury Solzhenitsyn, who died Sunday, aged 89, after devoting much of his life to exposing the horrors of the Soviet prison camp system.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev is expected to attend the funeral.
"His ideas remain alive.... He is the father or the brother of all political prisoners," Vitold Abankin, a poet who was a political prisoner for 12 years during the Soviet era, said at the funeral.
"We will read and listen to him for a long time to come. Every one of his words is steeped in his own blood," said Snezhana Krylova, a middle-aged teacher clutching a bouquet of yellow roses on her way to the church.
"We have to explain this to young people," she added.
The burial service was expected to begin at 11:00 am (0700 GMT) with the writer being laid to rest about one and a half hours later.
Outside the church, a dozen workers prepared the grave, lining it with black and blue silk, while a plain wooden Orthodox cross 1.5 metres (five feet) tall, engraved with the writer's name, leaned against a neighbouring grave.
Solzhenitsyn selected the burial spot at Donskoy Monastery five years ago and received special permission for it from Patriarch Alexy II, a church official told AFP on Tuesday, calling the cemetery a "very honourable place."
The 16th-century monastery is the final resting place of several other prominent anti-communists who lived in exile and were reburied there after the collapse of the Soviet Union, such as anti-Bolshevik general Anton Denikin.
Solzhenitsyn won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1970 and is best known for his massive study of the labour camps, "The Gulag Archipelago," as well as novels like "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich" and "The First Circle."
He became a writer after spending eight years in Stalin's Gulag and many of his books were inspired by that experience.
He was expelled from the Soviet Union in 1974 after authorities found a manuscript of "The Gulag Archipelago."
After returning to his homeland in 1994, the author eventually retired into seclusion to focus on his writing and was rarely seen during his final years.
Date created : 2008-08-06