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Russian Conductor, Composer, Cellist Rostropovich Dies


World-renowned Russian classical musician and Soviet-era dissident Mstislav Rostropovich has died.

A family spokeswoman says Rostropovich - a conductor and composer who also was considered one of the best cellists of all time - died early Friday in Moscow after a long battle with cancer. He was 80-years-old.

Russian President Vladimir Putin called the death a terrible loss for Russian culture.

Rostropovich is to be buried in Moscow's historic Novodevichy Cemetery on Sunday near other prominent Russian cultural figures. His former teacher, composer Dmitry Shostakovich, and his late friend, President Boris Yeltsin, also are buried there.

Rostropovich's many acts of political defiance included helping Mr. Yeltsin, in 1991, face down an attempted hard-line coup.

Rostropovich first became an anti-communist civil rights activist during Soviet rule. His defense of dissident author and Nobel laureate Alexander Solzhenitsyn earned him the government's displeasure. The author called Rostropovich's death a "bitter blow" to Russian culture.

He left the Soviet Union with his family in 1974 and communist authorities later stripped him of his citizenship. Rostropovich served as the music director of Washington's National Symphony Orchestra from 1977 to 1994.

His citizenship was restored as the Soviet Union came to an end.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.