The 89-year-old author of The Gulag Archipelago and other works openly critical of the Soviet dictatorship spent seven years in a Soviet labor camp and was expelled from his native country in 1974, to return only in 1994.
Solzhenitsyn was distressed to find the Russia of the early '90s in deep disarray, and in his articles and public speeches he would repeatedly warn of the dangers of the widening gap between the rich and the poor.
He accused the then president, Boris Yeltsin, of reducing the country to a state of ruin, and refused to accept an Order of St. Andrew bestowed on him for his 80th birthday in 1998. But he did accept the Grand Prix of the French Academy of Ethics and Political Science awarded for his contribution to human rights work.
Solzhenitsyn developed a much warmer relationship with President Putin and even received Yeltsin's successor at his house for an informal chat in 2000. He praised Russia's assertive new leader for his efforts in bringing the nation out of the early post-Soviet turmoil and restoring its stature in the international arena.