The world-famous Russian cellist and composer Mstislav Rostropovich has died. He was 80 years old and had been suffering from cancer for some time. Regarded by many critics as the world’s greatest cellist, he also became a symbol of the fight for artistic freedom under Communist rule.
He was stripped off his Soviet citizenship while on a European tour in 1978. But in 1990, in the new climate of Glasnost, Mikhail Gorbachev restored the citizenship and allowed him to return to him homeland.
He celebrated his birthday last month alongside President Vladimir Putin who hosted a reception for him at the Kremlin. He said the musician was not only “a brilliant cellist and gifted conductor,” but also “a firm defender of human rights and freedom of spirit”.
He is well known for having defended the dissident writer, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, from official criticism in Soviet times and also for having played on the Berlin wall when it was brought down.