MOSCOW -- President Vladimir Putin has praised late Russian writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn as a "true and real patriot" after unveiling a statue honoring the Nobel Prize-winning author in central Moscow.
Speaking at the unveiling ceremony marking the centenary of Solzhenitsyn's birth, Putin said on December 11 that even in exile, the author "did not allow anyone to talk dismissively and badly about his motherland."
"He stood up against any expression of Russophobia," said Putin, a former KGB officer.
The term "Russophobia" has been used by Russian officials and state-run media for several years to obscure criticism of the Kremlin’s policies.
Solzhenitsyn, whose most famous works include One Day In The Life Of Ivan Denisovich and The Gulag Archipelago, spent many years in the Soviet gulag prison system.
He was expelled from the Soviet Union in 1974 and lived in the United States for decades before returning to Russia in 1994.
The 1970 Nobel Literature laureate died in Moscow in 2008 at the age of 89.
Speaking at the Moscow ceremony, Putin said Solzhenitsyn exposed "the features of a totalitarian system that brought suffering and great hardship to millions of people."
"The most important thing is that Solzhenitsyn's voice continues to ring out, that his thoughts and ideas resound in people's hearts and minds," the Russian leader added.
The event was also attended by Solzhenitsyn's widow Natalia, who said: "People are still killing each other, keep each other in poverty, famine, in different heavy conditions and therefore the day of Ivan Denisovich has not ended yet.”
“And we have to remember about it, to look around us with open eyes, and to provide help to Ivan Denisovich if he needs it," Solzhenitsyna said, referring to Solzhenitsyn’s book describing an inmate's day in the gulag.