Russia buries Solzhenitsyn in Moscow monastery

Wed Aug 6, 2008 10:16am EDT
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By Amie Ferris-Rotman

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian mourners buried Soviet-era dissident Alexander Solzhenitsyn in a sixteenth-century Moscow monastery on Wednesday during an elaborate religious ceremony attended by President Dmitry Medvedev.

Hundreds of elderly Russians came to bid farewell to the deeply religious Nobel literature prize laureate whose body lay wrapped in cloths and red roses for several hours in an open coffin in the Russian Orthodox ceremony.

Solzhenitsyn was buried on the monastery's grounds after the service which was broadcast live on state television, featured a military band and had all the hallmarks of a state funeral.

Medvedev, who cut short his vacation to attend the ceremony, looked solemn as he gazed at Solzhenitsyn's ashen face before offering condolences to his widow Natalia at the church, its high red ceilings decorated with paintings of Russian saints.

As priests chanted prayers and hymns, Natalia, her three sons and grandchildren silently wept and crossed themselves at the foot of Solzhenitsyn's coffin.

Medvedev's eyes welled up with tears when the coffin was lowered into the grave. Rifles were fired in salute and a tribute was played by a military band.

Solzhenitsyn, a prominent critic of the tyranny of Soviet rule and Josef Stalin's labor camps, died in his house near Moscow of heart failure on Sunday aged 89.

Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov, leader of the banned National Bolsheviks party Eduard Limonov, several members of the Russian literary elite and ordinary Russians all came together during the service as they held thin gold candles and chanted prayers.   Continued...

<p>Soldiers carry the coffin and a portrait of Alexander Solzhenitsyn during the writer's funeral ceremony in the Donskoi Monastery in Moscow August 6, 2008. REUTERS/Yuri Kochetkov/Pool</p>