Tributes to writer Solzhenitsyn
Flowers have been laid in tribute outside the home of the Nobel laureate
World figures have paid tribute to Russian writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn, a day after his death aged 89.
Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev lauded him as one of the first to speak up about Stalin’s regime, and France’s Nicolas Sarkozy hailed his courage.
The author, who exposed Stalin’s prison system in his novels and spent 20 years in exile, will lie in state in Moscow on Tuesday, according to Russian media.
His funeral will take place the next day, the Interfax news agency said.
He will be buried at Moscow’s historic Donskoi Monastery, Russian media quoted church officials as saying.
The author of The Gulag Archipelago and One Day In The Life Of Ivan Denisovich died of heart failure on Sunday at his home near Moscow, his son said.
Solzhenitsyn had returned to Russia in 1994, following two decades in exile in the West.
News of the Nobel laureate’s death prompted tributes in Russia and around the world.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy described him as “one of the greatest consciences of 20th-Century Russia” and praised his intransigence and ideals in the face of personal danger.
Former French leader Jacques Chirac hailed Solzhenitsyn as a great writer and exceptional historian who had provided “a sharp and accurate view on the tragedies of 20th-Century totalitarianism”.
He went on: “Russia today lost a great fighter for truth, who worked to reconcile the Russians with their past. The world loses a figure of freedom.”
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev sent his condolences to the writer’s family, a Kremlin spokesperson said.
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
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin described Solzhenitsyn’s death as a “heavy loss for Russia”.
US President George W Bush sent his condolences to the author’s family.
Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, who restored Solzhenitsyn’s citizenship in 1990 and whose reforms helped end communism, said the writer had played a key role in undermining Stalin’s totalitarian regime.
His works “changed the consciousness of millions of people”, Mr Gorbachev said.
“He was one of the first to talk about the inhumane Stalinist regime and about the people who experienced it but were not broken.”
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.
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.
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, but made a dramatic homecoming in 1994.
Solzhenitsyn’s latter works, which included essays on Russia’s future, also 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.
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