MOSCOW, August 27 (RIA Novosti) - The legendary Soviet-era children's writer and poet Sergei Mikhalkov, who penned the lyrics to the Soviet and modern Russian national anthems, died on Thursday at the age of 96.
President Dmitry Medvedev has expressed condolences to the poet's widow, sons and other family members. Mikhalkov died in hospital in Moscow.
Mikhalkov was hospitalized with a heart attack in February, but in March was back home celebrating his 96th birthday with his family.
Mikhalkov became popular in the 1930s, especially as the author of children's poetry about giant Uncle Styopa.
In 1943, at the height of World War II, Joseph Stalin commissioned a new anthem, with the lyrics to be written by Mikhalkov. The poet along with war correspondent Ureklyan worked on the words, to music by Alexander Alexandrov, and the anthem was first performed in January 1944.
Mikhalkov altered the initial lyrics, which mentioned Stalin's name, in the 1970s. After the breakup of the Soviet Union, the anthem was briefly abolished by President Boris Yeltsin but restored under President Vladimir Putin. A new version of Russia's national anthem was officially adopted in 2001, after Mikhalkov was picked once again to write new lyrics to Alexandrov's music.
Mikhalkov was also the author of satirical plays and Soviet movie scripts.
On his 90th birthday in 2003, Putin visited Mikhalkov at his home, decorating him with an Order for Service to the Fatherland and recognizing his contributions to Russian culture. During the Soviet era, Mikhalkov received a series of major awards, and the highly prestigious Stalin prizes.
Apart from his two sons, Mikhalkov is survived by his wife, 10 grandchildren and several great grandchildren.