Today, Russians are giving their last farewell to Nobel Prize-winning author Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, who died from heart failure on Sunday at the age of 89. The public shall be able to come to pay their respects at the mourning hall at the new building of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow. The hall shall be open all day.
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was a prominent human rights activist, whose literary works, perhaps, most of all, The Gulag Archipelago, made an immense contribution to the destruction of totalitarianism. The heart that ached for so many decades for Russia finally stopped beating due to a heart attack in his 90th year. Immediately, the sad news flashed all over the world. That very morning, President Dmitri Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin both expressed their condolences to the Solzhenitsyn family. Mr Medvedev said, “The death of this great man, one of the greatest thinkers, writers, and humanists of the 20th century, is an irreplaceable loss to Russia and the entire world”. Mr Putin added that “the passing of Solzhenitsyn is a heavy loss for all of Russia as he was a literary giant and public activist who gave his life to serving his Motherland and his people”.
The death of Solzhenitsyn resonated throughout the world. French President Nicolas Sarkozy, US President George W. Bush, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel issued statements praising the writer. The leaders of the Ukraine, Armenia, Lithuania, Estonia, and other countries as well, also expressed their condolences. Not only politicians, but, also outstanding public figures, scientists, intellectuals, and creative artists mourned the death of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.
Yuri Lyubimov, the artistic director of the legendary Taganka Theatre, said, “We’ve become orphans. Unlike him, we lack his moral vision, we are not as diligent, nor do we have the same moral integrity in fulfilling our missions in life. For me, Solzhenitsyn was an example of courage (Mr Lyubimov uses the word podvig, which carries a stronger meaning than its English “equivalent”: editor’s note) and perseverance to emulate”. Film-maker Gleb Panfilov said, “It is an example for all of us to remember how held loved the truth, his courage in expressing his point of view, and we should live with his sense of internal dignity”.
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn continued working right up until his death. Together with his wife Natalia, he was editing a 30-volume anthology of his work. Despite a serious illness, he was happy, because he could live up to his principles, which stated, “Stay alive until you have said everything you need to say”. Solzhenitsyn wished to die at home rather than in hospital, in the summertime rather than in winter, and to be taken care of by his wife and children. His wish came true in every tiny detail. He died at his dacha in the town of Troitse-Lykovo to the west of Moscow. In 2003, he asked permission from Patriarch Aleksei to be buried at Moscow’s Donskoi Monastery. His Holiness readily agreed and blessed his request. Solzhenitsyn will be buried there after the funeral on Wednesday, 6 August.
5 August 2008
Voice of Russia World Service