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Science Fiction's Kir Bulychov Dies

To the generation of Russians who grew up in the 1970s and 1980s, science fiction writer Kir Bulychov, who died last Friday at age 69, was a household name.

The author of a string of hugely popular children's sci-fi books and screenplays, Bulychov -- whose real name was Igor Mozheiko -- found fame if not great financial fortune throughout the Eastern bloc during his 20-year heyday.

His first book, "Devochka, S Kotoroi Nichego Ne Sluchayetsya" (The Girl Nothing Happens To), featuring an independently spirited little space-age girl called Alice, modeled on his own young daughter of the same name, became an instant hit and led to a string of space-age adventures featuring Alice as the heroine.

Books such as "Alice's Adventure in Future Land" soon led to film versions of his books.

Adult science fiction also flowed from Mozheiko's prolific pen, and in 1981 he won a Soviet award for best screenplay for "Cherez Ternii K Zvyozdam," known in the West as "Per Aspera Ad Astra." The film, which won director Richard Viktorov a further clutch of awards, has recently been restored and is due to be specially re-released in the United States next year.

English-language collections of his short science-fiction stories, "Half a Life" and "Gusliar Wonders," were published in New York in the 1970s and 1980s, and translations of his works appeared in numerous science-fiction collations, winning him a small but enthusiastic following in the West.

His books and screenplays reflected both the Soviet mania for space travel and children's yearning for modern fables rich in the traditions of Russian folk tales and fairy stories.

Mozheiko, who took his pen name of Kir Bulychov from his wife Kira's first name and his mother's maiden name, often spoke of the freedom that science fiction gave him under communism. In a similar way, his academic career as a historian of ancient Burma was possible without the party membership normally necessary for career success.

Mozheiko, who was born in Moscow on Oct. 18, 1933, grew up the only son of privileged parents of the new Soviet proletariat aristocracy. His father, Vsevolod, was a top judge and his mother was a chemist.

After finishing school in 1952, Mozheiko entered the Maurice Torez Language Institute in Moscow, a recruiting ground for the KGB. Graduating in 1957 fluent in both English and Czech, Mozheiko worked for a year as an English-language interpreter in Burma. He returned to Burma again in 1962-63, when he served in the press section of the Soviet Embassy.

By this time he was on the history faculty at Moscow's Institute of Oriental Studies, where he remained to the end of his life.

In his scholarly work, he turned his curiosity not only on Eastern history but also on tsarist-era military awards.

An early member of a governmental commission on state awards, Mozheiko was influential in designing a series of new civilian awards for achievement to replace the defunct Soviet state prizes.

He was an avid collector of medals, orders and 18th- and 19th-century military helmets, and his small central Moscow apartment was crammed with his collection.

His last two months were spent in a Moscow hospital, where he was being treated for complications relating to diabetes.

A funeral was held Tuesday in Moscow, drawing hundreds of mourners. Mozheiko is survived by his wife and daughter.

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