BISHKEK Kyrgyz writer Chinghiz Aitmatov, an
intellectual who helped bring about Soviet leader Mikhail
Gorbachev's perestroika, died in Germany on Tuesday at the age
of 79, the Kyrgyz president's office said.
Born in a tiny Kyrgyz village in 1928, he won a number of
literary awards during the Soviet era and also became a senior
Soviet and Kyrgyz diplomat.
Among his best known works were "Jamilia" and "The Day
Lasts More Than a Hundred Years." His novels often interwove
popular myths and folktales to create allegorical themes
populated with down-to-earth characters.
Aitmatov's father was a victim of one of Soviet dictator
Josef Stalin's purges. He was executed in 1938 as an "enemy of
the people" after being found guilty of "bourgeois
Aitmatov embraced Gorbachev's "perestroika" campaign of
openness and new political thinking launched in the mid-1980s.
In the dying days of the Soviet Union Gorbachev appointed
Aitmatov Soviet ambassador to Belgium, Holland and Luxembourg.
After the Soviet Union's demise in 1991, Aitmatov served as
Kyrgyzstan's envoy to the Benelux, France, NATO and UNESCO.
The Ataturk Culture, Language and History High Agency of
Turkey set up a special committee earlier this year to nominate
Aitmatov, of Turkic descent, for the Nobel prize in literature.
His native Kyrgyzstan had declared 2008 "The Year of
Last month the writer was rushed to a German clinic with
acute kidney failure.
(Reporting by Olga Dzyubenko; Writing by Dmitry Solovyov;
Editing by Matthew Jones)