Alexander Solzhenitsyn dies at 89

10:40, 04 August 2008
World
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The Nobel laureate had suffered...

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, accirding to BBC.

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.

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.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev sent his condolences to the writer`s family, a Kremlin spokesperson said.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy described him as "one of the greatest consciences of 20th Century Russia".

"His intransigence, his ideals and his long, eventful life make of Solzhenitsyn a storybook figure, heir to Dostoyevsky," he said in a statement.

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.

Moral voice

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.

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

Solzhenitsyn`s latter works, which included essays on Russia`s future, courted 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.

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