The Gulag Archipelago author Alexander Solzhenitsyn died today at the age of 89. "The Nobel laureate and former dissident died of heart failure at 11:45 pm (1945 GMT), the writer's son said, according to the [Itar-Tass news] agency. Solzhenitsyn won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1970 after writing harrowing works about the Soviet Union's system of labour camps. He was expelled from the Soviet Union in 1974, thereby becoming Cold War icon. He wrote about life in the Gulag with harrowing detail in his most celebrated works: 'One Day In The Life of Ivan Denisovich', 'The First Circle' and 'The Gulag Archipelago'."

After leaving the Soviet Union, he lived in Germany, Switzerland and the United States before returning to Russia in 1994.

Since his return, Solzhenitsyn has been critical of both the West and of Russia's post-Soviet evolution, calling for a return to traditional moral values.

In June last year, then Russian President Vladimir Putin awarded Solzhenitsyn with the State Prize, Russia's highest honour, praising his devotion to the "fatherland" in a lavish ceremony at the Kremlin.

Solzhenitsyn's wife Natalya accepted the award on behalf of her husband, who was unable to attend the ceremony.

Speaking via a pre-recorded video message, Solzhenitsyn said he was "flattered by the attention to my work brought by this Russian State Prize."

"Until the end of my life I can hope that the historical material... collected by me and presented to my readers, enters the consciousness and memory of my fellow countrymen," he said.

"Our bitter national experience can yet help us in a possible repeat of unstable social conditions, it will warn us and ward us from destructive break-downs."

A complete edition of Solzhenitsyn's works, including unpublished writings, began to be published in 2006, with the last volume due out in 2010. His wife said at the time she did not expect her husband to live to see the last edition. [AFP]