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Russian writer Vasily Belov dies at 80

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MOSCOW (AP) - Vasily Belov, a writer who paid homage to old rural Russia in his books, has died. He was 80.

Belov's death late Tuesday was announced by the government of Vologda, the region where he lived in northwestern Russia. The government statement issued Wednesday did not name the cause.

Belov, born into a peasant family, had to start working while he was at school to help his family after his father was killed during World War II.

He published his first book of poetry in 1961, and became widely known after he published the novel "Business as Usual" in 1966. The novel tells a story of a farmer who leaves his village, then rushes back out of nostalgia only to find his wife dead _ a pessimistic ending that contrasted sharply with the prevailing "socialist realism" style.

Belov's books sold millions of copies and he received top Soviet awards. He was one of the most visible representatives of the so-called "village prose" literary movement, which praised the old Russian customs and opposed urbanization.

Among Belov's most famous works were the "Carpenter Tales" book of short stories, the "Lad" ("Harmony") collection of essays and the novels "Everything Is Ahead," "Year of a Major Breakdown" and "Sixth Hour."

President Vladimir Putin and other officials offered condolences to Belov's family. "His books are making us kinder and better," Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said in his statement.

Belov will be buried Friday in his home village, Timonikha.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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