The Russian writer Lev Kopelev died in Germany yesterday at age 85. (Reuter, June 18) Kopelev, who had been suffering from heart disease, was the prototype for one of the heroes of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s The First Circle, and enjoyed cult status in Germany as a brilliant exponent of German culture to Russian audiences. Kopelev met Solzhenitsyn during the nearly ten years he spent in Stalin’s Gulag. A former army officer, he was imprisoned for showing "bourgeois-humanistic sympathy with the enemy" after he tried to prevent marauding by Soviet soldiers as they marched into Germany in 1945. He did so, he explained in his memoirs, less because he felt pity for the German population than because he thought raping and pillaging undermined army morale.
Rehabilitated in 1956, Kopelev became an acclaimed translator of German literature. He fell foul of the authorities again in the 1970s when he spoke in support of dissidents such as Solzhenitsyn and Andrei Sakharov. Kopelev was allowed to travel to Germany in 1980 and was stripped of his Soviet citizenship the following year. He settled in Cologne where he became a close friend of the great German novelist Heinrich Boell, whose works he translated into Russian.
Also yesterday, thousands of mourners from all walks of life paid homage to the poet and singer Bulat Okudzhava. Okudzhava’s coffin lay in the Vakhtangov Theater on Moscow’s Arbat, the street he immortalized in one of the most popular of his haunting melodies. He is to be buried today. Reuter reports that Okudzhava’s death has triggered an outpouring of nostalgia. "A whole era has passed with him. Russia will never be the same again," former prime minister Yegor Gaidar was quoted as saying. (Reuter, June 18)
Chechen Delegation Goes Home Empty-Handed.