The funeral for Nobel writer and Soviet dissident Alexander Solzhenitsyn, who died Sunday aged 89, was held Wednesday, Aug. 6, ahead of his burial at Moscow's 16th century Donskoy Monastery.
Russian Alexander Solzhenitsyn will long be remembered as a beacon for morality
Several hundred people crowded the vaulted church where white-gowned priests chanted and swung incense-burners over his open coffin.
Solzhenitsyn was remembered as Russia's moral conscience for his unflinching expositions on the horrors of Soviet prison camps.
His widow, Natalya, wore a black beret for the service and stood with Solzhenitsyn's son, other friends and officials, holding candles in a half arc around the bier.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev attended the service ahead of Solzhenitsyn's burial Wednesday afternoon.
Solzhenitsyn's wish for Donskoy burial
Solzhenitsyn's family and friends paid their last respects on Wednesday
A devout Russian Orthodox Christian, Solzhenitsyn chose the Donskoy Monastery as his final resting place five years ago, asking special permission from the Moscow Patriarchy to be buried alongside the many other Russian dissidents and artists there.
The Nobel Prize winning writer, distinguishable in his last years for his full Orthodox beard, was a firm Russian patriot, and prayed to be buried at home during his long years of exile.
Fear of exile
When he won recognition in 1970 for his monumental documentation of the Soviet Union's forced labor camps in the "The Gulag Archipelago" and "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich," he refused to leave the country fearing he would be barred from returning.
But in the 1970s, the KGB redoubled its efforts to silence public mention of the camps where Solzhenitsyn spent eight years, and he was expelled from his homeland.
On his homecoming in 1994, former President Vladimir Putin awarded Solzhenitsyn Russia's highest accolade in a pomp-filled Kremlin ceremony honoring his devotion to the "motherland."
But the return was also a shock to the former Soviet writer who hardly recognized his country in the newly wealthy nation, and, in rare public appearances during his last years, he criticized society's lack of Orthodox Christian values.