MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian theater director Yuri Lyubimov, who was stripped of his citizenship by the Soviet Union after criticizing its leadership in the foreign press, has died at the age of 97, state media reported.
Lyubimov, who was also at times critical of President Vladimir Putin, founded the Taganskaya Theatre in Moscow in 1964.
His theater became one of the best-known in the Soviet Union and performers included the likes of musician and social commentator Vladimir Vysotsky.
"It's not just a death. It's the end of an era," said Soviet and Russian writer Edvard Radzinsky, speaking on state television.
In 1984, Lyubimov angered the Soviet authorities when he criticized them in an interview with The Times for prohibiting his staging of Alexander Pushkin's play Boris Godunov.
The leadership responded by stripping him of his citizenship, and he did not return to his country until 1988. During his time in exile, Lyubimov put on a number of productions, including in London and Chicago.
Lyubimov's wife, Katalin Lyubimova, told state news agency TASS that her husband had died in his sleep. He had been in hospital since Oct. 2 for heart failure.
He quit the Taganskaya in 2011, angered by the actors in his troupe demanding to be paid upfront. The actors denied the claim.
Putin, whom Lyubimov criticized for his role in the second Chechen War, sent his condolences to Lyubimov's family and loved ones.
Reporting by Thomas Grove; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky