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Russians Pay Last Respects To Solzhenitsyn

  • RFE/RL

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn in Moscow

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn in Moscow

Hundreds of Russian officials and admirers have lined up to pay their last respects to Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn as the author and Soviet dissident lies in state at the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow.

The body of the renowned Soviet dissident and literary giant, who died of heart failure on August 3 at the age of 89, is lying in state at the Russian Academy of Sciences. He is to be buried at the capital's Donskoi Monastery on August 6.

Well-wishers offered their condolences to Solzhenitsyn's widow, Natalia, and sons as they passed the coffin, which stood before a large portrait and Russian flag.

Solzhenitsyn, who tirelessly exposed the atrocities of Soviet prison camps, had been frail in recent years.

In comments made the day after his death, Solzhenitsyn's son Stepan said he succumbed to heart failure on August 3 at his residence outside Moscow.

"He died suddenly, relatively suddenly, at home, as he had always hoped would happen," Stepan Solzhenitsyn said. "He hoped he would not be dragged to hospitals, and he did not suffer very long. By midnight, he had passed away."

Solzhenitsyn's short novel "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich," based on his eight years as a political prisoner, was the first literary work to unequivocally denounce the gulag -- the Soviet Union's infamous network of labor camps that Solzhenitsyn described as "the human meat grinder."

In 1970, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature, but decided against traveling to Stockholm for the award out of fear that he would not be allowed to return to the Soviet Union.

After "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich," he worked indefatigably to open the world's eyes to the brutalities of the Soviet regime. His works were quick to anger the Kremlin, which branded their distribution a criminal offense.

In 1968 came "The First Circle" and "Cancer Ward," and in 1973 the first part of his most famous work, "The Gulag Archipelago," an epic three-volume portrait of Stalin's camps.

Solzhenitsyn was eventually stripped of his Soviet citizenship in 1974 and expelled from the USSR. His second wife Natalia, whom he had just married, followed him into exile.

In December 1974, Solzhenitsyn finally took receipt of his Nobel Prize.
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