Sergei Mikhalkov, who wrote the lyrics to the Soviet and Russian national anthems, persecuted dissident writers and fathered two noted film directors, has died at age 96.
Mikhalkov died in Moscow on Thursday, said Denis Baglai, a spokesman for director Nikita Mikhalkov. He said he did not immediately have further details.
In 1943, Sergei Mikhalkov, a young author whose poems were favored by Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, was commissioned to write lyrics for the new Soviet anthem designed to inspire Red Army soldiers in the midst of World War II.
Mikhalkov's lyrics, co-written with journalist El Registan and set to music by Alexander Alexandrov, lauded Stalin who "brought us up for loyalty to the people" and celebrated the "victorious Soviet banner."
The anthem propelled Mikhalkov to stardom that outlived Stalin and the system he created. After the dictator's death in 1953, the anthem was mostly performed without the lyrics, but Mikhalkov remained one of the most vocal and outspoken bards of Communism.
He received numerous state awards for his children's books, film scripts, plays and fiction. He churned out adaptations of Russian and European classics _ including Mark Twain's "The Prince and the Pauper" _ transformed according to Politburo-prescribed ideological recipes.
As a functionary and later chairman of the Soviet Writers' Union, Mikhalkov was part of smear campaigns against "anti-Soviet" authors such as Nobel laureates Boris Pasternak and Alexander Solzhenitsyn, who was deported from the Soviet Union in 1974.
In 1977, the Politburo approved Mikhalkov's adjustments to the anthem where references to Stalin were replaced with phrases glorifying Soviet founder Vladimir Lenin, who "led us on to Communism's triumph."
After the 1991 Soviet collapse, the Russian government scrapped the anthem, replacing it with an instrumental piece by 19th-century Russian composer Mikhail Glinka.
But after Vladimir Putin became Russian president in 2000, he restored the old anthem. Mikhalkov adjusted the text again, replacing references to Lenin and the Soviets with a paean to Russia's "divinely protected" forests and meadows that span from "southern seas to the polar lands."
In 2005, Putin personally handed Mikhalkov a state award for "literary and social achievements."
Mikhalkov often refuted criticism of subservience to the Communist Party. "I have never been influenced by politics," he told the newspaper Kommersant daily in 2003. "I always served the state."
His son Nikita won an Academy Award for the 1994 film "Burnt by the Sun," about a family during the Stalinist purges of the 1930s. His other son, Andrey Konchalovsky, has made a career as a Hollywood director, with films including the Oscar-nominated "Runaway Train."
Mikhalkov's survivors also include his physicist wife, Yulia Subbotina, and seven grandchildren.