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President Vladimir Putin called him an ‘epoch’ on Wednesday while meeting Mikhalkov’s family, including his Oscar-winning son Nikita, at their mansion near Moscow.
“There might be different opinions of his political views, but he was an outstanding writer, it’s a fact,” said Putin, referring to the criticism Mikhalkov’s work received for pleasing the Soviet leadership.
Mikhalkov, who died in August 2009 at the age of 96, had a powerful patron in the Soviet era: Josef Stalin who was an admirer of his poem titled “Svetlana” published in 1936.
Many literary analysts suggested the poem was about Stalin’s daughter, named Svetlana.
Mikhalkov rose to fame as a writer of fables and children’s poems, the most popular being “Uncle Steeple:” a heartwarming story about a very tall policeman.
The poet is also known for participating in smear campaigns against the so-called “anti-Soviet authors,” such as Boris Pasternak and Alexander Solzhenitsyn, though he denied trying to please the Soviet leadership.
Putin said on earlier this week that according to his data, 300 million copies of Mikhalkov’s books have been published both in the Soviet Union and in modern Russia.
But Mikhalkov is perhaps best known for having authored the lyrics to most versions of the country’s anthem both under Soviet and modern Russian leaderships.
In 1944, the Soviet leadership decided to replace “The Internationale,” a socialist anthem written by a French poet, and chose music written by Alexander Alexandrov with lyrics by Mikhalkov and poet Gabriel El-Registan as the new anthem.
After Stalin’s death in 1953 and until 1977, the anthem was performed without lyrics at all.
Mikhalkov then adjusted the lyrics to fit with the new leaders and moods in the country while replacing references to “Stalin” with “Lenin” due to the de-Stalinization campaign.
On Wednesday, a plaque with Mikhalkov’s name and portrait was opened during a solemn ceremony on Moscow’s Povarskaya Ulitsa, where the poet lived.
“I will speak as a person born in the Soviet time: for me, as well as for many of my peers, childhood began with Sergei Mikhalkov’s poems,” said Dimitry Medvedev, the Russian prime minister .