Soviet Literary Legend Aitmatov Dies Aged 79

aitmatov.jpgMOSCOW ~ Chingiz Aitmatov, one of the best known writers of the old Soviet Union, died in Germany on Tuesday aged 79, a spokesman for Kyrgyzstan President Kurmanbek Bakiyev announced.

The author of The Day Lasts More Than a Hundred Years had been in hospital in Germany after falling ill while visiting a film set for the novel.

Aitmatov “succumbed to the consequences of a serious inflammation of the lungs,” Dossaly Essenaliyev, spokesman for the Kyrgyzstan president, said, quoting German doctors.

“President Kurmanbek Bakiyev has given orders for the organization of his funeral in Bishkek.”

The spokesman added that Aitmatov had been nominated for the Nobel Prize for literature this year.

A former Kyrgyzstan ambassador to Brussels and a trained veterinarian, Aitmatov was awarded the Lenin Prize – one of the highest awards of the Soviet era – in 1963.

Aitmatov, who studied at Moscow’s Gorky Literary Institute between 1956 and 1958, found critical success with Jamilya that year, 1980’s The Day Lasts More Than a Hundred Years reaching an international audience.

Born in December 1928 at Cheker, in the north of the then Soviet republic, Aitmatov was elected to the Supreme Soviet legislative body, and was Soviet ambassador to Luxembourg when the union broke up.

A supporter of perestroika, former leader Mikhail Gorbachev appointed Aitmatov to his presidential council in 1990, the same year he was dispatched back to Kyrgystan during ethnic fighting with Uzbeks from what became Uzbekistan.

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