I've always had a deep love of Russian culture and history, and I have always counted three great contemporary Russians among my own personal heroes. Dmitri Shostakovich died in 1975, and Mstislav Rostropovich died last year. News from Russia tonight; Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn has died at the age of 89.
I won't go into the particulars of Solzhenitsyn's legacy. The New York Times obituary I linked yo above is a pretty exhaustive one, and if you're not familiar with Solzhenitsyn, I hope you'll take some time to read it. Neither A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich nor especially The Gulag Archipelago are easy summer reads; indeed, I can't imagine very many people outside of Russia have read Gulag in its entirety. But you don't have to read much; like Holocaust history, the story of Stalinism (which hardly died with Stalin, or is dead even now) and the Russian terror state is probably too big for one person to encapsulate it. But Solzhenitsyn must have come close.
For me, there are two great chroniclers of the cruelty of life in the Soviet Union. Shostakovich showed us how it felt, and Solzhenitsyn told us how it was. The world is infinitely the poorer for his passing.