From the International Herald Tribune:
Chingiz Torekulovich Aitmatov was born Dec. 12, 1928 in the village of Sheker, in northwestern Kyrgyzstan's Talas region, to a family of Communist Party activists. In 1935, Aitmatov's family moved to Moscow.More at Registan.net.
Three years later his father, Torekul Aitmatov, a Kyrgyz Communist leader, was sent to a camp where he was executed as part of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin's purges. His body was found 60 years later in a mass grave in northern Kyrgyzstan. That personal tragedy was reflected in a number of Aitmatov's works.
His 1986 novel "The Scaffold" was among the most widely read books of the perestroika years. The story of a defrocked priest who meets a violent death after infiltrating gangs of drug traffickers and poachers, it was filled with Biblical references and contemplation of the nature of evil.
Aitmatov "was flooded with awards, medals and state adoration but always remained honest and incorruptible," the RIA-Novosti news agency quoted Russian writer Viktor Yerofeyev as saying. "He was an example for the intelligentsia of the 1970s Brezhnev era, when there was no hope that literature could maintain its innocence."
Several Soviet films were based on Aitmatov's novels, which lovingly evoked Kyrgyz folklore and color. Renowned Russian film director Andrei Konchalovski's "First Teacher" follows Aitmatov's book about Soviet authorities' battle for people's hearts and minds in remote areas of Kyrgyzstan.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Aitmatov's novels found a new audience in the West and gained popularity in Germany.
Amid the Soviet breakup, Aitmatov entered the diplomatic sphere and served as the Soviet and then Russian ambassador to Belgium from 1990 to 1993. In 1995, he became Kyrgyzstan's ambassador to Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands and also represented his home country in the European Union, NATO and UNESCO.