Moscow/Paris, 13 June 1997 (RFE/RL) - Prominent Russians today began expressing sadness at the news of the death last night of poet and singer Bulat Okudzhava, whose simple melodies and humanist lyrics had generations of dedicated fans.
Itar-Tass quoted Deputy Culture Minister Mikhail Shvydkoi as saying that Okudzhava's death was "a sign of the passing of an entire epoch". Russian President Boris Yeltsin's spokesman said Yeltsin had been deeply saddened at the news of Okudzhava's death.
A French armed forces spokeswoman today confirmed that Okudzhava had died in a military hospital in a Paris suburb. French military hospitals are open to the general public.
The cause of death, which came during a private trip to France, was not immediately disclosed. But Ekho Moskvy radio said today the 73-year old Okudzhava died from complications related to pneumomia and kidney failure. He had heart surgery several years ago in the United States and in August last year suffered a heart attack.
Half Georgian and half Armenian, Okudzhava was long out of favor with the Soviet Communist regime. President Boris Yeltsin however named him a member of his council on culture and art. After he developed heart problems Okudzhava, whose lyrics filled stadiums with fans, kept a low public profile.