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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Aksyonov, Writer and Dissident, Dies

Vasily Aksyonov, a prolific writer and one of the last dissidents to be exiled from the Soviet Union, died Monday. He was 76.

Aksyonov died at a Moscow hospital where he was being treated after suffering a stroke last year, his widow, Maya, told Ekho Moskvy radio.

Aksyonov wrote more than 20 novels during a career that included his forced exile from the Soviet Union in 1980 after he was branded as “anti-Soviet.” His most famous works were “The Burn,” “The Island of Crimea” and “The Moscow Saga,” known in English as “Generations of Winter.”

Aksyonov lived in the United States for more than two decades, teaching Russian and Russian literature at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, and working for Radio Liberty as a journalist.

Born Aug. 20, 1932, in Kazan, Aksyonov was the son of Yevgenia Ginzburg, a prominent journalist. She and his father, a local Communist official, were sent to labor camps in the late 1930s at the height of Josef Stalin’s political purges, and he was placed in an orphanage.

At age 16, Aksyonov joined his mother in exile in the remote and frigid Magadan region, home to some of the harshest gulag prison camps, where his views were shaped in an atmosphere of free discussion among the repressed intelligentsia. His mother became known internationally after the publication of her memoir, “Journey into the Whirlwind.”

Aksyonov graduated from the Leningrad Medical University in 1956 and worked as a doctor until switching full-time to writing in 1960.

His first novel, “The Colleagues,” was published in 1959 in a popular youth magazine, bringing him instant recognition.

He soon became one of the informal leaders of the so-called shestidesyatniki — which translates roughly as “the ’60s generation” — young Soviets who resisted the Communist Party’s cultural and ideological restrictions.

“It was amazing: We were being brought up robots, but we began to listen to jazz,” Aksyonov said in a 2007 documentary on him.

“Aksyonov’s death is the death of an entire era,” prominent writer Viktor Yerofeyev told Itar-Tass. “And those are not just words — Aksyonov created the literary language of the shestidesyatniki … in the ’60s he was an idol for the whole country.”

Aksyonov is survived by his wife and a son.