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Vasily Belov, at 80; author wrote about old rural Russia

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

Mr. 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.

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Mr. 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 the story of a farmer who leaves his village, then returns out of nostalgia to find his wife dead, a pessimistic ending that contrasted sharply with the prevailing ‘‘socialist realism’’ style.

Mr. 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 old ­customs and opposed urbanization.

Among his most famous works were ‘‘Carpenter Tales,’’ a book of short stories; the ‘‘Lad’’ (“Harmony”) collection of essays; and novels ‘‘Everything Is Ahead,’’ ‘’Year of a Major Breakdown,’’ and ‘‘Sixth Hour.’’

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

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