The 79-year-old Aitmatov was in the central Russian city of Kazan, where a Russian film crew was making a documentary about his life, when he complained of feeling ill, fell into a coma, and was quickly rushed to a local hospital. On May 19 he was transferred by plane to a hospital in Germany.
Aitmatov's works have been translated into more than 150 languages and some of his books have been made into films. Among his many fans are former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.
Abdyldajan Akmataliev, a scholar of literature and the director of the center for the study of "Manas," Kyrgyzstan's epic heroic poem, at Kyrgyzstan's Academy of Sciences, describes Aitmatov as "an author of world significance."
He tells RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service that Aitmatov's works have been translated into 170 languages and more than 40 million copies of his books have been sold worldwide.
Aitmatov is the son of Kyrgyz and Tatar parents, but his writing transcended ethnic barriers to the point where all Central Asians considered him "their" writer, and indeed, citizens of the Soviet Union came to consider him "their" writer as well. His books were popular for truthfully describing life in the Soviet Union, but were sufficiently tempered to avoid being considered outright criticism of the Soviet authorities.
In his book "The Day Lasts Longer Than 100 Years," Aitmatov coined the term "mankurt." The book explored the feelings of a young Kazakh man who was torn between the traditions of his people and the efforts of the Soviet government to create a "Soviet person." A "mankurt" was a Central Asian who had opted for being the "Soviet person," and the term was adopted and used derisively by Central Asians.
Aitmatov has for years preserved his good image and politicians of all stripes in his native Kyrgyzstan have sought the writer's public support, hoping to tap into Aitmatov's popularity. He has also been good for Kyrgyzstan's image, drawing positive attention to the small Central Asian country similar to the kind of publicity that former Czech President Vaclav Havel earned for his country.
Aitmatov has also served as Kyrgyzstan's ambassador to European countries, NATO, and UNESCO.
Works by Aitmatov have received numerous awards, including Soviet-era accolades like the Order of Lenin, the Gold Olive Branch of the Mediterranean Culture Research Center, the Academy Award of the Japanese Institute of Oriental Philosophy, and the Austrian State Prize for European Literature.
Aitmatov has three sons and a daughter.
Aitmatov's father was executed by the Soviets in 1938 on charges of being an enemy of the people.
Amirbek Usmon of RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service contributed to this report