Sholokhov, Mikhail Aleksandrovich (11 May 1905 – 21 February 1984)
Sholokhov, Mikhail Aleksandrovich (11 May 1905 – 21 February 1984)
Mikhail Aleksandrovich Sholokhov (11 May 1905 – 21 February 1984)
Ludmilla L. Litus
This entry was expanded by Litus from her Sholokhov entry in DLB 272: Russian Prose Writers Between the World Wars.
BOOKS: Aleshkino serdtse (Moscow-Leningrad: Gos. izd-vo, 1925);
Protiv chernogo znameni (Moscow-Leningrad: Gos. izd-vo, 1925);
Nakhalenok (Moscow-Leningrad: Gos. izd-vo, 1925); translated by Assya Humesky and David Hugh Stewart as “The Brat,” Dalhousie Review, 41 (Autumn 1961): 234–246;
Krasnogvardeitsy (Moscow-Leningrad: Gos. izd-vo, 1925);
Duukhmuzhniaia, edited by F. Berezovsky (Moscow-Leningrad: Gos. izd-vo, 1925);
Donskie rasskazy, introduction by Aleksandr Serafimovich (Moscow: Novaia Moskva, 1926)–includes “Rodinka,” “Shibalkovo semia,” “Predsedatel’ revvoensoveta respubliki,” “Bakhchevnik,” “Pastukh,” and “Kolovert”’; translated by H. C. Stevens as Tales from the Don (London: Putnam, 1961; New York: Knopf, 1962);
Lazorevaia step’, edited by Vasilii Mikhailovich Kudashev (Moscow: Novaia Moskva, 1926)–comprises “Lazorevaia step’,” “Chuzhaia krov’,” “Kaloshi,” “Nakhalenok,” “Smertnyi vrag,” “Prodkomissar,” “Iliukha,” “Krivaia stezhka,” “Batraki,” “Semeinyi chelovek,” “Chervotochina,” and “Put’-dorozhen’ka”;
O Kokhake, krapive i prochem: Rasskazy (Moscow-Leningrad: Gos. izd-vo, 1927)–includes “Zherebenok”;
Chervotochina (Moscow: Gos. izd-vo, 1927);
Tikhii Don, books 1 and 2 (Moscow-Leningrad: Moskovskii rabochii, 1928, 1929); book 3 (Moscow: Gos. izd-vo khudozhestvennoi literatury, 1933); book 4 (Moscow: Goslitizdat, 1940); revised edition (Moscow: Gos. izd-vo khudozhestvennoi literatury, 1953); books 1 and 2 translated by Stephen Garry and Robert Daglish as And Quiet Flows the Don (Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1930); books 3 and 4 translated by
Garry as The Don Flows Home to the Sea (London: Putnam, 1941; New York: Knopf, 1941);
Lazoreva Step’. Donskie Rasskazy, 1923–1925 (Moscow: Novaia Moskva, 1931)–includes “Avtobiografiia”;
Podniataia tselina (Moscow: Federatsiia, 1932; revised edition, Moscow: Goslitizdat, 1952; revised again, 1953; revised again, 2 volumes, Moscow: Molodaia gvardiia, 1960); translated by Garry as The Soil Upturned, edited by Albert Lewis (Moscow-Leningrad: Co-operative Publishing Society of Foreign Workers in the U.S.S.R., 1934); republished as The Virgin Soil Upturned (London: Putnam, 1935); republished as Seeds of Tomorrow (New York: Knopf, 1935);
Kazaki (Piatigorsk: Ordzhonikidzevskoe kraevoe izd-vo, 1941);
NaDonu (Rostov-on-Don: Rosizdat, 1941);
Na iuge (Moscow: Voenizdat, 1942); translated as “Down South,” in Hate (Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1942);
Nauka nenavisti (Moscow: Voenizdat, 1942); translated as “Hate,” in Hate (Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1942);
Oni srazhalis’ za rodinu [sections], 3 volumes (Moscow: Voennoe izdatel’stvo narodnogo komissariata oborony, 1943, 1944, 1946); translated by Daglish as They Fought for Their Country in volume 8 of Collected Works in Eight Volumes (Moscow: Raduga, 1984);
Slovo o rodine (Moscow: Pravda, 1948; enlarged edition, Rostov-on-Don: Obi. kn-vo, 1951)–includes “Bor’ba prodolzhaetsia,” “Svet i mrak,” “Rech’ na Vsesoiuznoi konferentsii storonnikov mira,” “Rech’ na XVIII s”ezde Vsesoiuznoi Kommuni-sticheskoi partii (bol’shevikov),” and “Moguchii khudozhnik”;
Svet i mrak (Rostov-on-Don: Rostizdat, 1949);
Ne uiti palacham ot suda narodov (Moscow: Pravda, 1950);
Podniataia tselina, book 2, parts 1–6 (Moscow: Pravda, 1955–1960); translated by Stevens as Harvest on the Don (London: Putnam, 1960; New York: Knopf, 1961);
Sbornik statei (Leningrad: Izdatel’stvo Leningradskogo universiteta, 1956);
Sobranie sochinenii, 8 volumes, edited by S. Koliadzhin (Moscow: Goslitizdat, 1956–1960)-includes volume 8, Rasskazy, ocherki, fel’etony, stat’i, vystupleniia (1960)-includes “Odin iazyk,” “Ispytanie,” “Tri,” “Revizor,” “Prestupnaia beskhoziaistvennost’,” “Za chestnuiu rabotu pisatelia i kritika,” “Zhit’ v kolkhoze kul’turno,” “V kazach’ikh kolkhozakh,” “Na smolenskom napravlenii,” “Gnusnost’,” “Voennoplennye,” “Pobeda, kakoi ne znala istoriia,” “S rodnym pravitel’stvom–za mir!” “Rech’ na Tret’em s” ezde pisatelei Ukrainy,” “Rech’ na Vtorom Vsesoiuznom s”ezde sovetskikh pisatelei,” “Rech’ na XX s”ezde KPSS,” “la veriu v trezvuiu rassuditel’nost’ vengerskogo naroda,” and “O malen’kom mal’chike Garri i bol’shom mistere Solsberi”;
Sud’ba cheloveka (Moscow: Pravda, 1957); translated by Daglish as The Fate of a Man (Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1957; revised, 1962);
Rannie rasskazy (Moscow: Sovetskaia Rossiia, 1961); translated by Daglish and Yelena Altshuler as Early Stories (Moscow: Progress, 1966);
Sobranie sochinenii, 8 volumes, edited by Kirill V. Potapov (Moscow: Pravda, 1962)–includes volume 8, Rasskazy, ocherki, fel’etony, stat’i, vystupleniia -includes “Rech’ na XXII s”ezde Kommunisticheskoi partii Sovetskogo Soiuza”;
Po veleniu dushi: Stat’i, ocherki, vystupleniia, dokumenty (Moscow: Molodaia gvardiia, 1970); translated by Olga Shartse as At the Bidding of the Heart: Essays, Sketches, Speeches, Papers (Moscow: Progress, 1973);
Rossiia v serdtse (Moscow: Sovremennik, 1975);
Zhivaia sila realizma, edited by V. V. Dement’ev and others, introduction by Fedor Grigor’evich Biriukov (Moscow: Sovetskaia Rossiia, 1983);
Zemle nuzhnye molodye ruki (Moscow: Molodaia gvardiia, 1983)–includes “Avtobiografiia” (1934) and “Rech’ na IV s”ezde pisatelei SSR” (1967);
Rasskazy (Leningrad: Khudozhestvennaia literatura, 1983);
Proza ipublitsistika o voine (Moscow: Sovremennik, 1985).
Editions and Collections: Donskie rasskazy, Massovaia biblioteka Zifa, no. 9 (Moscow-Leningrad: Zemlia ifabrika, 1930);
Predsedatel’ revvoensoveta respubliki i drugie rasskazy (Moscow: VtsSPS, 1930);
Rasskazy (Moscow: Nikitinskie subbotniki, 1931);
Sobranie sochinenii, 8 volumes, with texts revised by Sholokhov, introduction by Iurii Borisovich Lukin (Moscow: Molodaia gvardiia, 1956–1960);
Sobranie sochinenii, 8 volumes, edited by S. Koliadzhin (Moscow: Gosudarstvennoe izdatel’stvo khudozhestvennoi literatury, 1956–1960);
Sud’ba cheloveka (Moscow: Goslitizdat, 1960);
Sobranie sochinenii, 8 volumes, compiled by Kirill V. Potapov (Moscow: Pravda, 1962);
Slovo o rodine: Rasskazy, ocherki, stat’i, edited by Potapov (Moscow: Voenizdat, 1965);
Sobranie sochinenii, 9 volumes, annotated by Mikhail L’vovich Vol’pe (Moscow: Khudozhestvennaia literatura, 1965–1969);
Donskie rasskazy, Sud’ba cheloveka (Moscow: Detskaia literatura, 1967);
Rannie rasskazy (Moscow: Sovetskaia Rossiia, 1967);
Nauka nenavisti (Moscow: Sovremennik, 1971);
Sobranie sochinenii, 8 volumes, edited by M. M. Sokolova (Moscow: Pravda, 1975);
Sobranie sochinenii, 8 volumes, edited by Mariia Mikhailovna Manokhina (Moscow: Pravda, 1980);
Sobranie sochinenii, 8 volumes, edited by Manokhina (Moscow: Khudozhestvennaia literatura, 1985–1986);
Tikhii Don, 2 volumes, edited by Fedor Grigor’evich Biriukov and others, introduction by Viktor Vasil’evich Petelin (Moscow: Voennoe izdatel’stvo, 1995);
Tikhii Don, edited by Vladen Kotovskov (Rostov on-Don:Feniks, 1998);
Tikhii Don, 4 volumes (St. Petersburg: Kristall Respeks, 1998);
Sochineniia (Moscow: Knizhnaia palata, 2000);
Tikhii Don, 2 volumes (Moscow: EKSMO-Press, 2000, 2003);
Sobranie sochinenii v deviati tomakh, 9 volumes, edited by Vladimir Vasil’evich Vasil’ev (Moscow: Terra-Knizhnyi klub, 2001);
Sobrannie sochinenii, 5 volumes, introduction and annotations by Vasil’ev (Moscow: Mir kn.; Literatura, 2002);
Tikhii Don, 2 volumes (Moscow: OLMA-Press; Olma-Press-Zvezd. mira, 2003);
Proza, Lib.Ru <http://Hb.ru./PROZA/SHOLOHOW/>;
Tikhii Don: Chast’ pervaia: Chernovaia rukopis’. Avtograf M. A. Sholokhova, 15 noiabria 1926–nachalo 1927 g, volume 1, pp. 1–85 (Moscow & Kiev: Institut mirovoi literatury im A. M. Gor’kogo RAN, 2006); Fundamental’naia elektronnai biblioteka <http://feb-web.ru/feb/sholokh/1927/1927.htm>.
Editions in English: And Quiet Flows the Don, translated by Stephen Garry (London: Putnam, 1934; New York: Knopf, 1934–1940);
The Silent Don, 2 volumes, translated by Garry (New York: Knopf, 1934)–comprises volume 1, And Quiet Flows the Don; and volume 2, The Don Flows Home to the Sea;
The Science of Hatred, introduction by Fay Caller (New York: New Age, 1943);
Virgin Soil Upturned, 2 volumes, translated by Robert Daglish (Moscow: Raduga, 1957);
The Opening of the Virgin Islands, books 1 and 2 (Leningrad: Lenizdat, 1961);
One Man’s Destiny and Other Stories, Articles, and Sketches, 1923–1963, translated by H. C. Stevens (London: Putnam, 1966; New York: Knopf, 1967);
Fierce and Gentle Warriors: Three Stories, translated by Miriam Morton (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1967);
Stories (Moscow: Progress, 1975);
And Quiet Flows the Don: A Novel in Four Books, 4 volumes, translated by Garry, revised and completed by Daglish (Moscow: Progress, 1978);
Collected Works in Eight Volumes, 8 volumes, translated by Daglish (Moscow: Raduga, 1984);
Quiet Flows the Don: A Novel in Two Volumes, 2 volumes, translated by Daglish (Moscow: Raduga / Wellingborough: Collets, 1988); revised and edited by Brian Murphy (New York: Carroll & Graf / London: Dent, 1996; revised, 1997);
Sholokhov’s Tikhii Don: A Commentary, 2 volumes, translated by Murphy, V. P. Butt, and Herman Ermolaev (Birmingham, U.K.: Department of Russian Language and Literature, University of Birmingham, 1997);
Virgin Soil Upturned, translated by Daglish (Honolulu: University Press of the Pacific, 2000);
And Quiet Flows the Don: A Novel in Five Books, 2 volumes (Amsterdam: Freedonia Books, 2001);
The Don Flows Home to the Sea, translated by Garry (Amsterdam: Freedonia Books, 2001).
PRODUCED SCRIPTS: Tikhii Don, by Sholokhov, Ivan Pravov, and Ol’ga Ivanovna Preobrazhenskaia, motion picture, Soiuzkino, 1930;
Podniataia tselina, by Sholokhov and Sergei Aleksandrovich Ermolinsky, motion picture, Mosfil’m, 1939.
OTHER: “Miagkotelyi,” in Molodost’, book 1 (Leningrad, 1927);
Andrei Platonovich Platonov, Volshebnoe kol’tso: Russkie skazki, edited by Sholokhov, with illustrations by K. Kuznetsov (Moscow-Leningrad: Detgiz, 1950);
Aleksandr Nikolaevich Nechaev, Ivan men ‘shoi–Razumom bol’shoi: Russkie skazki, edited by Sholokhov (Moscow-Leningrad: Detgiz, 1951);
Oni srahalis’ za rodinu, in Leningradskii al’manakh (Leningrad, 1954);
Vladimir Ivanovich Dal’, Poslovitsy russkogo naroda: Sbornik, introduction by Sholokhov (Moscow: Gos. izd-vo khudozhestvennoi literatury, 1957).
SELECTED PERIODICAL PUBLICATIONS–UNCOLLECTED: “Veter,” Molodoi leninets, 4 June 1927;
“Deviatnadtsataia godina,” Ogonek, no. 15 (July 1930);
“Za perestroiku,” Bol’shevistskii Don, 20 October 1930;
“Po pravoberezh’iu Dona,” Pravda, 25 March 1931;
“Prestuplenie Makara Nagul’nova,” by Sholokhov and Sergei Aleksandrovich Ermolinsky, Kino, 29 January 1939;
“Gordost’, liubov’, priznatel’nost’,” Ivestiia, 10 May 1945;
“S kem vy amerikanskie mastera kul’tury,” Literaturnaia gazeta, 20 September 1947;
Oni srazhalis’ za rodinu [sections], Pravda, 28, 29, 30 July 1949 and 1 August 1949; Literaturnaia gazeta, 23 October 1954; Moskva, no. 1 (1959); and Pravda, 12-15 March 1969;
“S opushchenym zabralom,” Literaturnaia gazeta, 8 March 1951;
“Shchast’ia tebe, ukrainskii narod!” Radian’ska Ukraina, 31 October 1954;
“Videt’ vsiu pravdu,” Literaturnaia gazeta, 22 November 1956;
“Rech’ na XXIII s”ezde KPSS,” Pravda, 2 April 1966;
“Rech’ na XXIV s”ezde KPSS,” Pravda, 4 April 1971.
Mikhail Sholokhov, novelist and short-story writer, received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1965 “for the artistic power and integrity with which, in his epic of the Don, he has given expression to a historic phase in the life of the Russian people,” as the citation read. The Nobel Prize recognized Sholokhov for his controversial, monumental twentieth-century Cossack epic Tikhii Don (1928, 1929, 1933, 1940; parts 1 and 2 translated as And Quiet Flows the Dm, 1930; parts 3 and 4 translated as The Don Flows Home to the Sea, 1941), although soon after its publication, the authorship of his major and arguably best work had come under question. Sholokhov has also the dubious distinctions of being the only Nobel Prize winner to also have received the Stalin Prize and being among a small group of Nobel laureates accused of plagiarism.
Of the five Nobel Prize winners in Russian literature, Sholokhov is the only Soviet establishment writer—a recipient of both the Lenin and Stalin Prizes— to receive the Nobel Prize. The first Russian recipient, the “stateless” Ivan Bunin, a writer in the classical tradition of Ivan Turgenev and Leo Tolstoy, loathed everything about the new Soviet order and left Russia permanently in 1920. He received the Nobel Prize in 1933 “for the strict artistry with which he has carried on the classical Russian traditions in prose writing.” Boris Leonidovich Pasternak, a venerated poet, translator, and later prose writer, received the prize in 1958 “for his important achievement both in contemporary lyrical poetry and in the field of the great Russian epic tradition,” the latter referring to Doktor Zhivago, a novel published in Italy in 1957 (translated, 1958) but considered anti-Soviet and banned in the USSR. Expelled from the Writers Union, under pressure he declined the award. The other two Russian recipients, Aleksandr Isaevich Solzhenitsyn (1970) and Joseph Brodsky (1987), were both at odds with the Soviet government. Both were arrested and expelled from the Soviet Union–Brodsky in 1972 and Solzhenitsyn in 1974. Later, Brodsky wrote poetry and essays in English and became a U.S. citizen (1977) and America’s Poet Laureate (1991–1992). Solzhenitsyn is best known for exposing the atrocities of the Soviet system in his Gulag Archipelago (1973) and for being the first to level public accusations of plagiarism against Sholokhov in the West. Solzhenitsyn’s award was viewed by Soviets as politically motivated and anti-Soviet. Persecuted and afraid of being exiled, he refused to travel to Stockholm and sent his acceptance speech instead. Nevertheless, four years later he was expelled from the Soviet Union, returning to Russia in 1994.
Sholokhov, who, as the powerful doyen of Soviet literature, harshly judged Solzhenitsyn’s work and probably cost him a Soviet State Prize in 1962, emerged as a writer during the turbulent 1920s. He was not particularly productive; other than Tikhii Don, he wrote only two other novels, a few short stories, and journalistic pieces. Yet, by 1935 his still incomplete tetralogy, Tikhii Don, considered by some to be a “new Soviet War and Peace,” had won Sholokhov a place among world-class writers. According to Vladimir Vasil’evich Vasil’ev in “Sholokhov i Nobelevskaia Premiia: Istoriia voprosa” (2002 Sholokhov and the Nobel Prize: History of the Question), the Swedish press first listed Sholokhov among candidates worthy of the Nobel Prize in 1935, and they continued to view him as a contender throughout the 1940s and 1950s. Propelled to international fame by his major novel, Sholokhov became one of the best-known and most widely read Soviet writers in the West. By 1965, the year he accepted the Nobel Prize, circulation of his works reached approximately 42,000,000, and his works were translated into some fifty-six languages; by the 1990s, numbers reached more than 130,000,000 copies, with translations into ninety languages worldwide.
In the former Soviet Union, not much about Sholokhov’s private life was made public. For Sholokhov, as for many of his contemporaries, accurate biographical information is difficult to establish. In Sholokhov’s case, it is even more problematic because he kept no diaries and wrote no memoirs. Perhaps to avoid highlighting his nonproletarian background, Sholokhov provided inconsistent background information and published only brief autobiographical sketches, which set a pattern for politically acceptable biographies with incomplete and conflicting accounts of his life and his works. Some, such as Zeev Bar-Sella (Vladimir Nazarov) in Literaturnyi Kotlovan: Proekt “Pisatel′ Sholokhov” (2005), for example, explain these inconsistencies by theorizing that Sholokhov’s officially published biographies have little to do with the real, live person Mikhail Sholokhov and his activities, but rather represent a marketing strategy with the goal of marketing the “Product,” the “Writer Sholokhov,” to the Soviet public. In their view, the strategy was developed by the Soviet State Security Services (OGPU) in the 1920s, in order to publish a work not written by a Communist in a country that demanded new books by proletarian writers, and Sholokhov, a young man with an acceptable biography, served their purposes well. The theories of Bar-Sella and others propose a conspiracy that involved many people (among them Joseph Stalin, Aleksandr Serafimovich Popov [pseudonym Serafimovich], Evgeniia G. Levitskaia, all of the Gromoslavskys [Sholokhov’s in-laws], and even Andrei Platonov). Although gaining currency, these new theories are not yet universally accepted. Sholokhov is still the acknowledged writer of Tikhii Don, and the specifics recorded in traditional biographies are taught by Russian academic institutions.
Only the facts that define Sholokhov’s public persona are well known. Not a member of the Young Communist League (Komsomol), at age twenty-eight Sholokhov was accepted into the Communist Party, and after that he proudly described himself first as a Communist and only second as a writer. Sholokhov lived most of his life in his native Don, but he knew the literary and party elite, including Maksim Gor’ky, Stalin, Nikita Khrushchev, and Leonid Brezhnev. He was a founding member of the Union of Writers in 1934 and served the organization in various positions until his death. Although Sholokhov’s loyalty to the party was occasionally questioned, and at times his works were heavily censored, he survived the purges and continued to write, publishing his last new creative work in 1969. He spoke passionately in defense of world peace, the environment, and the novel, but harshly attacked experimentation in literature and those Soviet writers who violated the party line. Sholokhov became a member of the Supreme Soviet in 1936 and an elected delegate to all Congresses of the Soviet Communist Party (1936–1984). He was voted into the Soviet Academy of Sciences (1939), the Central Committee (1961), and the Presidium at Party Congresses (1966–1981). He was the recipient of many awards, decorations, and prizes in the Soviet Union and abroad, among them the Lenin Prize and Stalin Prize (later renamed the State Prize) for literature (1939, 1941, 1955, 1960, 1965, 1975, and 1980). Although the civil war of 1918-1920 ended Sholokhov’s formal schooling when he was thirteen years old, he was awarded honorary degrees from Saint Andrews University in Scotland (1962), and from Rostov and Leipzig Universities (1965).
Sholokhov (called Misha as a child) was born Mikhail Stefanovich Kuznetsov on 11 May 1905 in Kruzhilin, a small farmstead near the village of Veshenskaia, formerly in the Don Cossack Military Region now known as Kamenskaia. How Sholokhov came by his birth name requires an examination of his family background. Mikhail Mikhailovich Sholokhov, the writer’s grandfather, settled in Kruzhilin and found a job in the shop of the well-to-do merchant Mokhov. He married the merchant’s daughter, Mariia Vasil’evna Mokhov, and took over the family business. The couple had eight children, and their second son, Aleksandr Mikhailovich, became the father of the writer.
The military region of the Don was the stronghold of the historical Don Cossack Host, a people whose identity was separate from Moscovite Russians. The Don Cossack Host, while in the Tsarist service, were granted special privileges on the Don, including the right to own land, but they continued to harbor dreams of independence. The Sholokhovs were inogorodnye (newcomers or outsiders), not Cossacks, and were forbidden by law to hold land on the Don but were permitted to engage in trade. While not considered wealthy, the family operated several shops and belonged to the lower-middle merchant class. Aleksandr Mikhailovich worked as a clerk in one of their shops.
The Sholokhov family tried to educate their children. Aleksandr Mikhailovich completed four grades in a local school, which gave him respectability; at the time, area residents had almost no schooling. In the general population, almost seventy-seven of every hundred persons were illiterate, and only one in every thousand males and one in ten thousand females received a higher education. The grandparents of the writer were proud and expected to make a good match for their son by marrying him to a daughter of the wealthy landowner Dmitrii Egrafovich Popov, from the village of Iasenkovo. The marriage was to bring the family a substantial dowry. Contrary to the parents’ plan, Aleksandr Mikhailovich fell in love instead and wanted to marry the woman who became the author’s mother, Anastasiia Danilovna Chernikova, an orphan and a maid in the service of the Popov family.
Contradictory accounts explain how Anastasiia Danilovna came to marry Aleksandr Mikhailovich Sholokhov. In the patriarchal system, class distinctions were important, and because the young woman came from a poor family of past indentured serfs and had no dowry, she was not considered a suitable match for the Sholokhovs’ son. When Aleksandr Mikhailovich chose to marry her, his parents determined to prevent the marriage. They married her off against her will (and already pregnant, according to some) to an older, widowed, well-to-do Cossack by the name of Stefan Kuznetsov, who was then an Ataman, a Cossack chieftain. After the marriage, Anastasiia Danilovna acquired all rights and privileges of a Cossack woman.
Kuznetsov and his bride moved from Kruzhilin to his Verkhne-Cherkeskii farmstead, near the large Cossack village of Krasnokutsk. Aleksandr Mikhailovich rebelled after learning of his parents’ involvement in the arranged marriage. After winning their permission to set up his own household, he moved into a tiny Kruzhilin house; Anastasiia Danilovna left her husband and joined him, officially becoming his housekeeper. Shortly afterward Sholokhov was born in his biological father’s home, though he was legally the son of Anastasiia Danilovna’s first husband, Kuznetsov. He was given the legal name of Mikhail Stefanovich Kuznetsov and was registered a Cossack, inheriting all guaranteed Cossack rights and privileges.
Sholokhov describes Aleksandr Mikhailovich in a brief “Avtobiografiia” (1931, Autobiography, collected in La Zoreva Step’. Donskie Rasskaty, 1923–1925, 1931) as a tradesman who often changed his place of residence and employment: “My father was a merchant and came from the Riazan’ province. He changed professions until his death (1925). He … (bought cattle), worked as a sharecropper sowing grain on Cossack lands, managed a business in a village, and managed a steam mill, etc.” The Sholokhovs left Kruzhilin after some five years. Maybe the prospect of a better job took them in 1909 to Kargin–later renamed Karginskaia–or maybe it was the threats and visits from Anastasiia Danilovna’s outraged husband, Kuznetsov.
Kargin, a prominent location in the writer’s major work, Tikhii Don, was a lively hamlet. In Iunost’ Sholokhova: Stranitsy biografii pisatelia (1985, Sholokhov’s Youth: Pages from the Writer’s Biography) Vasilii Voronov describes Kargin as a small town that had one church, a steam mill, a school, and several retail shops. People from around the region, including the Upper Don, Boguchar, Lugansk, Novocherkassk, Tsaritsyn, and Voronezh, gathered in Kargin to buy and sell cattle, horses, farm animals, skins, wheat, oats, fish, oil, and manufactured and baked goods. In Kargin, Aleksandr Mikhailovich began to work for his sister’s husband, the merchant Ozerov, and the Sholokhov family moved into a tiny house, which now serves as the Sholokhov Museum. The family’s financial situation improved after Aleksandr Mikhailovich found work as a manager in the larger shops belonging to the merchants Levochkin and Likhovidov, and they could afford to live in a larger house.
Determined to educate and to train their son for a profession, the couple hired a local high-school teacher, Timofei Timofeevich Mrykhin, to tutor Misha at home in 1911 before he was old enough to attend school. Mrykhin, who was later awarded the Order of the Red Banner, was a well-respected pedagogue. In the following year, seven-year-old Misha enrolled in the local school. His first teacher was Mikhail Grigor’evich Kopylov, who later appears as a character in Tikhii Don. Kopylov was the son of the local doctor, who as a student was dismissed from the Teacher’s Seminary for his progressive political views. Later he joined the Whites, or anti-Soviet forces, and was killed in battle.
While in Kargin, the Sholokhovs continued to live in a common-law marriage for another four years. In 1913 Kuznetsov died unexpectedly, leaving Anastasiia Danilovna free to marry. Sholokhov’s parents wed eight years after their son’s birth; according to Karginskaia church records, they were married in an Orthodox service. Entries dated 29 July 1913 describe the groom as an Orthodox, forty-eight-year-old male (an age that does not agree with an 1859 birth date cited by some sources), formerly of Zaraisk, Riaziansk province, marrying for the first time. The bride is described as the widow of Cossack Kuznetsov from the farmstead of Kargin, Elanska Village, also Orthodox and entering her second marriage at the age of forty-two. Immediately thereafter, Aleksandr Mikhailovich formally adopted his biological son, officially changing the boy’s name to Mikhail Aleksandrovich Sholokhov. Both Anastasiia Danilovna and her son now belonged to the merchant class and lost all rights and privileges they held as Cossacks. In part, these unusual circumstances may explain the confusion in written sources about Sholokhov’s social status. Another source of confusion may be Sholokhov’s own inconsistent statements. In his “Avtobiografiia,” for example, Sholokhov describes his mother’s ancestry as “Mat’–polukazachka, polukrest’ianka” (half-Cossack and half-peasant), while in “Shchast’ia tebe, ukrainskii narod!” (Happiness to You, Ukrainian People!), published in Radian’ska Ukraina (31 October 1954), he no longer claims a Cossack ancestry and simply identifies her as a Ukrainian peasant woman with roots in the Chernihiv area of Ukraine.
Following a brief illness and a stay in Grigorii Shelaputin private boys’ high school in Moscow in 1915, Misha transferred to a regional school, one of the better schools in the area, but not one primarily attended by children of well-to-do Cossacks. His new school was in the town of Boguchar–about 120 kilometers from Karginskaia in Voronezh province. Boguchar was a small provincial city on the river Bogucharka, not far from the river Don. There the ten-year-old boy was placed in the home of Dmitrii Ivanovich Tishansky, a priest who taught religion in the school. Tishansky and his wife, Sofiia Viktorovna, had five children, and Misha fit perfectly into the large family. Later, he remembered his four-year stay with the family fondly.
The school provided an expanded classical education–besides ancient Greek, Latin, French, German, and Russian languages and literatures, the curriculum included history, physics, geography, natural sciences, drawing, sculpture, singing, gymnastics, and religion. Misha’s favorite subjects were history and literature. But the Tishansky home was where Misha learned about world and literary events. Here he first heard about such important writers as Aleksandr Ivanovich Ertel’, a highly regarded nineteenth-century master of the colloquial Russian language; Gor’ky, who later became known as the father of Soviet socialist realism and whose works about the poor brought him worldwide recognition; Aleksandr Ivanovich Kuprin, known as the Rudyard Kipling of Russia; Vladimir Galaktionovich Korolenko; and Ivan Alekseevich Bunin, a Russian writer and poet who left his country (first for the Crimea and then for France) and won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1933.
During his years in Boguchar, Misha began to write little stories and even poetry. One of his imaginative tales recorded in a school notebook accidentally fell into the hands of Tishansky, impressing the teacher with its historically accurate account of Tsar Peter I. Encouraged by his teachers, Misha continued to write compositions on historical topics. His favorite teacher, Ol’ga Pavlovna Strakhov, read these compositions to the class, always praising the boy. Misha wrote little vaudeville plays, adaptations of Nikolai Gogol’s plays, which were acted at home by the Tishansky children.
Misha was not able to complete his education in Boguchar. He was forced to leave soon after the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution and civil war reached the Don. In 1918, when the Germans occupied the city, thirteen-year-old Misha went home to live with his family in Pleshakov. The war altered the family’s fortunes. Between 1917 and 1919, his father became the manager of the only steam mill in the town. They lived in the house of the Cossack chieftain Trokhim Mel’nikov, later moving to an apartment in the home of their neighbors, the Drozdovs, whose family members are said to have served as prototypes for several Tikhii Don characters–Grigorii, Petr, and Dariia Melekhov. In the fall of 1918, he briefly returned to his studies close to home in Veshenskaia Gymnasium, completing the fourth grade in 1919. As an adult, he remembered that he preferred books to movies and loved to read both Russian and Western classics, but that his interests were many and included cosmology and agriculture.
During the civil war, the family lived on territories controlled by the White Russian armies, which were fighting against the Soviet Red Army. In March 1919, the young Sholokhov was an eyewitness in Veshenskaia to the Don Cossack’s violent anti-Bolshevik uprising. He watched the horrific events unfold during the bloodiest period in the history of the Don Cossack Host. Sholokhov was shaken by what he saw–the deaths of his neighbors, adults and children, both Reds and Whites–and he later describes these events in realistic detail in Tikhii Don, book 3 (part 6).
Although Sholokhov was only fourteen years old, he was forced to make a decision that influenced the rest of his life. He took the side of the Communists and fought with the Red Army. Sholokhov’s pro-Bolshevik views were well known. He avoided conscription, and that provoked the local Whites; one of them, in searching for Sholokhov, struck his mother when she refused to disclose her son’s hiding place.
Between February and September 1920, the fifteen-year-old Sholokhov collected information for the local census, traveling from farmstead to farmstead in the Latyshev region. He sat in on Cossack meetings, greedily listening to their stories. He started to work as an adult-education teacher, teaching literacy to employees of Karginskaia Revcom (District Revolutionary Committee), a new, postrevolutionary type of governing unit headed by his father. From September through December of 1920, Sholokhov worked at odd jobs. Although underage, he volunteered for the punitive Chasti Osobogo Naznacheniia (Special Forces). He, along with members of the Komsomol, fought partisans, including bands led by Iakov Fomin, Fedor Melekhov, Maslakov, Kondrat’ev, and Aleksandr Stepanovich Antonov, the leader of the massive Antonov Peasant Rebellion (1920–1921). Sholokhov tersely describes this period in his “Avtobiografiia”: “From 1920, I was in the service and moved around the Don.… Chased bands that ruled on the Don until 1922…and the bands chased us.”
In the fall of 1920, Green forces captured Sholokhov near Kon’kovo Farmstead. The Green forces, who battled both the Russian Reds and the Whites, were led by the guerrilla leader Nestor Ivanovich Makhno. He personally interrogated Sholokhov and eventually saved him from execution. After Sholokhov’s return to Karginskaia, he worked for the next four months in a special detachment in the Grain Requisitions Office. He fought against kulaks, the more well-to-do population, Cossack and peasant, who were accused of hoarding and hiding food from the Reds. He also took part in the cultural life of the region; he helped produce a daily handwritten newspaper, Novyi mir (New World), and prepared daily informational and agitational lectures for those who could not read. In addition, under the guidance of his former tutor Myrkhin, Sholokhov actively helped organize and run the local theater.
He participated in all theatrical productions behind the scene and onstage as a popular comic actor whose tendency for improvisation was well known. As Mrykhin explained in a 25 January 1946 article in Molot, “when the group’s repertoire was exhausted, and new contemporary materials were needed, Sholokhov brought new scripts based on local happenings but kept his own authorship a secret.” Sholokhov’s secrecy was perhaps dictated by modesty or perhaps by a need to protect his anonymity, and thus, his ability to gather gossip and new materials among the unsuspecting local populace for his vignettes. These agitational plays depicted incidents from everyday life and carried propagandistic messages. “General Pobedonostsev,” one of his early plays, included a tendentious Don civil-war scene–the cowardly flight of the White Army under the pressure of the victorious Bolsheviks. Another play, “Ikh nravy i obychai” (Their Morals and Traditions), contrasted the corrupt White Forces with upright, orderly Soviet Red soldiers. None of these early plays survives.
Sholokhov’s pro-Soviet activities during the Don uprising and civil war earned him a nomination to special tax-collector training courses in Rostov. He completed the session on 26 April 1921, becoming one of the first new tax inspectors (Prodinspectors, or Food Requisitions Commissars) to be assigned to the upper Don. On 17 May 1921 Sholokhov left for Bukanovskaia as an official of the new Bolshevik government charged with helping bring Soviet order to the countryside.
In Bukanovskaia, Sholokhov met his future wife, Mariia (Masha) Petrovna Gromoslavskaia. She was the daughter of a Cossack Ataman, the chieftain Petr Iakovlev Gromoslavsky. A parochial-school graduate and teacher, Masha was assigned to work in the summer of 1922 as a statistician in the new Bukanovskaia Tax Inspector’s Office, headed by the seventeen-year-old Sholokhov. These were difficult years, and the population on the Don was near starvation. Hostilities frequently broke out between the Bolsheviks and those peasants and Cossacks who opposed them. The populace refused to give up the meager food supplies reserved for their families to the Reds who demanded their food to help feed the Red soldiers and the starving cities. Often peasants and Cossacks murdered tax collectors and in turn were killed.
Accused of brutality and of overstepping his authority, Sholokhov was arrested and sentenced to death. In his contribution to Sholokhov na izlome vremeni (1995, Sholokhov at a Break in Time), Vladimir N. Zapevalov quotes Sholokhov’s brief description of the event: “V 1922 godu byl osuzhden, buduchi prodkomissarom, za prevyshenie vlasti.… Dva dnia zhdal smerti…A potom prishli i vypustili.… Zhit’ ochen’ khotelos’” (In 1922 while serving as a tax collector, I was sentenced to death for abuse of power.… Two days I waited for death…and then they came and freed me.… I very much wanted to live). The sentence was commuted, but the incident effectively closed all opportunities for future employment.
Once all fighting had stopped and Soviet power was established on the Don, Sholokhov went to Moscow hoping to find a job and to continue his education. He lived there from 1922 to 1924. In Moscow, dressed in a gray Cossack astrakhan hat and a soldier’s old brown overcoat, he stood in long lines waiting for many hours at the employment office on Malaia Bronnaia Street. In response to questions about his experience, he proudly announced that he had worked as a Food Requisitions Commissar, a worthless profession in postwar Moscow. To support himself, Sholokhov took odd jobs. He describes his work history in his 1934 “Avtobiografiia” (collected in Zemle nuzhnye molodye ruki [The Earth Needs Young Hands], 1983):
From 1920…as a fifteen-year-old teenager, I first began to work as a teacher in an adult-education literacy program and later as a food requisitions inspector. Probably having inherited my father’s penchant for changing professions, in six years, I managed to learn and work at a fair number of different jobs. I worked as a statistician, a teacher in a grammar school, a dock worker, a stone mason, an accountant, an office worker, and journalist.… During all this time, I intensely continued self-developmental studies.
Sholokhov found employment in August 1923 as an accountant for the Apartment Building Administration Office, at 803 Krasnaia Presnaia, which made it possible for him to write. He later remembered that this period was when he first felt a true calling to become a writer. In Moscow, he began to write stories that later made up his Donskie rasskazy cycle (1926; translated as Tales from the Don, 1961). He haunted magazine and newspaper editorial offices. Eventually, he took his stories to the official publication of the Central Committee of the Moscow Komsomol, Iunosheskaia pravda (Young Truth). There he met Aleksandr Alekseevich Zharov, a prolific Komsomol poet whose poems were adopted as popular Soviet songs, including the anthem of the Komsomol. Another new acquaintance was Vasilii Mikhailovich Kudashev, who headed the literature section of the Zhurnal krest’ianskoi molodezhi (Journal of Peasant Youth). Sholokhov lived in Kudashev’s apartment for a brief time, and the two remained friends until Kudashev’s death in 1941. (It is in Kudashev’s family archives that the lost Tikhii Don manuscripts have now been found.) Sholokhov also met several young Communist poets—Mikhail Arkad’evich Svetlov, Mikhail Semenovich Golodnyi (pseudonym of Mikhail Semyonovich Epstein), Valerian Anatoleevna Gerasimova, Aleksandr Ilyich Bezymensky, Mark Kolosov, and Georgii Shubin–many of whom started the journal Molodaia gvardiia (Young Guard), founded by party decree in April 1922. In the evenings, Sholokhov went to Pokrovka, a workers’ dormitory and gathering place for newly arrived provincial Communists who wanted to become writers. On 19 September 1923, almost a year after coming to Moscow, he published his first work, a feuilleton, “Ispytanie” (The Test), in Iunosheskaia Pravda under the name of A. Sholok, and on 10 October he published his second feuilleton, “Tri” (Three); both are collected in volume eight (1960) of the Gosli-tizdat edition of his Sobranie sochinenii (Collected Works, 1956–1960).
On Kudashev’s advice, by November 1923 Sholokhov became a regular participant of Molodaia gvardiia-sponsored evening writing seminars conducted for Komsomol members by experienced writers such as the formalists Viktor Borisovich Shklovsky, Osip Brik, I. Rakhillo, Shubin, and Kudashev. Others in these seminars included Iurii Nikolaevich Libedin-sky, Artem Veselyi (pseudonym of Nikolai Ivanovich Koch Kurov), Aleksandr Aleksandrovich Fadeev, Gerasimova, Svetlov, and Golodnyi. In December 1923 Sholokhov returned to Karginskaia and almost immediately left with his parents for Bukanovskaia, where the eighteen-year-old writer married his fiancée, Masha. The marriage was registered on 11 January 1924 in the Podtelkovskii Regional Zaks Office, a new type of civil-marriage bureau; Sholokhov (who was an atheist) also married Masha in a secret church service at the insistence of her father. Two days later, the young couple left for Moscow. They stayed on Georgievsk Street, renting a part of a small, noisy, divided room, which they shared with a shoe repairman.
Sholokhov’s next piece drew heavily on Gogol’s 1836 play of the same name–“Revizor” (The Inspector General)–even though the setting was Bukanovskaia. “Revizor” was published in Molodoi leninets (The Young Leninist, the new name for Iunosheskaia Pravda after it carried Vladimir Lenin’s obituary on 22 January 1924) on 12 April 1924 and collected in volume eight (1960) of the Goslitizdat edition of his Sobranie sochinenii. The published work provided some needed funds, but even with these monies and food parcels from home, the couple could not make ends meet in Moscow. They were unsuccessful in finding the permanent work they needed for income and also to have access to housing and education. Like many of his contemporaries whose education was interrupted by war, Sholokhov was unable to enroll in any schools of higher learning because he lacked formal schooling and a degree. Because he did not belong to the Komsomol–either because he could not join or, as some accounts have it, because he was dismissed from the organization for taking part in a secret church marriage ceremony–he lacked their official endorsement and thus was unable to become a member of a Rabfak (rabochii fakul’tet), a worker’s study group that prepared young workers and peasants for technical schools and schools of higher learning. On 25 May 1924 the young couple left Moscow permanently, although Sholokhov continued to visit and work in Moscow over the next several decades.
Sholokhov was determined to become a writer. After settling in Bukanovskaia with his wife’s parents, he closed himself in a room and stayed up nights writing. In addition to short stories, he began to write his first long work, titled “Donshchina” (Places on the Don). As Viktor Vasil’evich Gura writes in Zhizn’ i tvorchestvo M. A. Sholokhova (1960, The Life and Work of M. A. Sholokhov), in this novel Sholokhov intended to describe the uprising of the Cossacks–the “people among whom he was born and had known since birth.”
Sholokhov wrote some thirty pieces in the next four years–most of which are based on his own experiences and usually depict young people dedicated to the Communist order fighting and coming to terms with the new social and political reality brought about by the Bolshevik victory. His stories often describe a painful existence that destroyed families, turning father against son and brother against brother, as is exemplified by his first published story, “Rodinka” (The Birthmark, collected 1926), which tells the story of a White Cossack who hunts and kills a Red soldier. As he strips off the soldier’s boots, the Cossack recognizes a distinctive birthmark on the boy’s foot and realizes, to his horror, that he has killed his own son. “Rodinka” first came out on 14 December 1924 in Molodoi Leinets.
In December 1924 Sholokhov officially became a member of Rossiiskaia assotsiatsiia proletarskikh pisatelei (RAPP, Russian Association of Proletarian Writers), the right arm of the party, established by the First All-Union Congress of Proletarian Writers. In early 1925 in Moscow, Sholokhov met Serafimovich, a Don Cossack whose literary career began in 1888 and whose major work, Zheleinyipotok (1924, The Iron Flood) was a recognized canonical Soviet work that skillfully described the Caucasus Civil War. The elderly Serafimovich chaired a literary evening in the Proletkul’t Building on Vozdvizhenskii Street, during which Sholokhov read his early story “Zveri” (The Beasts). Impressed by the freshness of the young man’s language, Serafimovich became the writer’s mentor and friend.
Beginning with the publication of both his first completed story, “Zveri,” published initially as “Prodkomissar” (The Food Commissar) in Molodoi leninets, and “Bakhchevik” (The Watchman of the Melon Patch) in Komsomoliia, nine additional stories appeared in various publications between February and November 1925, including “Pastukh” (The Shepherd) in Zhurnal krest’ianskoi molodezhi; “Shibalkovo Semia” (Shebalko’s Seed) in Ogonek; “Iliukha” in Molodoi leninets; “Aleshka” in Zhurnal krest’ianskoi molodezhi; and “Nakhalenok” (The Brat) in Molodoi leninets. Some of his stories featured autobiographical elements. “Dvukhmuzhniaia” (A Woman with Two Husbands) develops a love theme based on his mother’s relationships, which he later continued in Tikhii Don. As Levitskaia—an old respected Bolshevik who helped the young writer–reports in S krov’iu i potom: Neizvestnye stranitsy it zhizni M. A. Sholokhova (1991, With Blood and Sweat: Unknown Pages from Sholokhov’s), “Nakhalenok” was also based on Sholokhov’s childhood.
Other stories quickly followed, such as “Semeinyi chelovek” (A Family Man, published in Prozhektor), “Kolovert”’ (The Whirlpool, published in Smena), “Predsedatel’ Revvoensoveta respubliki” (Chairman of the Revolutionary Soviet of the Republic, published in Ogonek), “Krivaia stezhka” (The Crooked Path, published in Zhurnal krest’ianskoi molodezhi), and his longer story “Put’-Dorozhen’ka” (The Way and the Road, published in Molodoi leninets). Early in 1925, the State Publishing House, Goslitizdat, collected his longer stories in book form: Aleshkino serdtse (originally titled “Aleshka”), Dvukhmuzhniaia, Nakhalenok, and Krasnogvardeitsy (The Red Guards), the retitled “Kolovert’.” They also published the second part of the story “Put’-Dorozhen’ka” as Protiv chernogo znameni (Against the Black Banner).
Zhurnal krest’ianskoi molodezh published the first review of a Sholokhov story (“Pastukh”) in January 1926. The review was encouraging, and soon more stories appeared in print: “Smertnyi vrag” (A Mortal Enemy) in Komsomoliia; “Zherebenok” (The Foal) in Molodoi leninets; “Kaloshi” (Galoshes) in Zhurnal krest’ianskoi molodezhi; “O Kolchake, krapive i prochem” (About Kolchak, Nettles, and Other Things) in Krest’ianskii zhurnal; “Chervotochina” (Dry Rot) in Smena; “Lazorevaia step’” (Tulip Steppe) in Komsomoliia; and “Batraki” (The Farm Laborers) in Komsomoliia.
At the beginning of 1926 Serafimovich wrote a highly flattering introduction to Sholokhov’s new short-story collection, Donskie rasskazy, a work that established the author’s reputation as an up-and-coming Soviet writer. At the end of that year, the publisher of Donskie rasskazy, Novaia Moskva, put out Sholokhov’s second story collection, Lazorevaia step’, edited by his friend Kudashev.
Despite the income these publications brought, life was not easy for Sholokhov and his family. Sholokhov’s father died in December 1925, just when his son was beginning to achieve success as a writer. Aleksandr Mikhailovich lived long enough to take pride in his son’s first published stories. He was especially proud that such an admired writer as Serafimovich supported his son’s work. While Sholokhov did not keep journals or write memoirs, in Mikhail Sholokhov: Ocherk zhizni i tvorchestva (1984, Mikhail Sholokhov: Sketch of His Life and Works) Andrei Vasil’evich Kulinich quotes the writer’s rare interview testimony about the mid 1920s as a time when “pisalos’ trudno, i zhilos’ trudno” (writing was difficult, and life was hard). Sholokhov and his wife were also starting a family; in 1926 their first child was born–a daughter whom they named Svetlana. Soon the young family moved to Veshenskaia, where Sholokhov continued to live until his death and where their other three children were born: Aleksandr in 1930, Mikhail in 1935, and Mariia in 1938.
In 1927 two more stories were published in book form: “Zherebenok,” collected in 0 Kolchake, krapive i prochem: Rasskazy (About Kolchak, Nettles and Other Things: Stories), and Chervotochina. In addition, Komsomol’skaia pravda (The Komsomol Truth) published “Odin iazyk” (One Language); Molodoi leninets published “Veter” (Wind); and Molodost’ (Youth), the Molodaia gvardiia almanac, published “Miagkotelyi” (Softhearted). More important, Sholokhov completed his first novel, “Donshchina,” but soon realized that its lack of an historical context made it difficult for the average reader to understand. In their book M. A. Sholokhov: Seminarii (1962), Fedor Aleksandrovich Abramov and Gura quote Sholokhov’s recollections of how he came to write his new novel–Tikhii Don:
I began the novel [“Donshchina”] by describing the event of the 1917 Kornilov putsch. Then it became clear that this putsch, and more importantly, the role of the Cossacks in these events, would not be understood without a Cossack prehistory, and so I began with the description of the life of the Don Cossacks just before the beginning of World War I.
As with many facts in Sholokhov’s biography, other accounts offer different dates and describe different circumstances. None of the accounts that view Sholokhov as the author of Tikhii Don significantly change the history of the genesis of the work.
By June 1927 Sholokhov returned to Moscow an employee of Zhurnal krest’ianskoi molodezhi. While in Moscow, he also did library research for his new novel. He studied collections of Cossack folklore, such as Sbornik donskikh narodnykh pesen’ (1866, A Collection of Folk Songs from the Don) by Andronik Savel’ev and Donskie kazach’ i pesni (1895, Don Cossack Songs) by Aleksandr Nikolaevich Pivovarov. He dug through archives and through both foreign and Russian published sources about World War I and the revolution. These sources included Nikolai Evgen’evich Kakurin’s book Kak srazhalas’ revoliutsiia (1925, How the Revolution Was Fought), Vladimir Vladimirovich Broneskys Istoriia Donskogo Voiska, Vladimira Broneskogo (1834), and others as described in detail by Herman Ermolaev in Mikhail Sholokhov and His Art (1982) and by Konstantin Ivanovich Priima in his contribution to “Tikhii Don”: Uroki romana: 0 mirovom znachenii romana M. A. Sholokhova (1979, The Quiet Don: Lessons of the Novel: On the World Significance of M. A. Sholokhov’s Novel).
In his research, Sholokhov also traveled the Don, collecting firsthand accounts from participants of both World War I and the Don Civil War. He met with Cossack elders, amassed oral tales and folklore, and studied old songs, tales, and legends, which he incorporated to provide an authentic atmosphere for his novel. On 6 April 1926 he wrote to Kharlampii Vasil’evich Ermakov, one of the most successful Cossack leaders of the Don anti-Bolshevik uprising, requesting a meeting to discuss additional details of the 1919 events. Ermakov appears as a character in the novel, and by many accounts some of Ermakov’s characteristics describe Grigorii Melekhov, the hero of Tikhii Don. Not long after their meeting, Sholokhov learned of Ermakov’s arrest (on 6 June 1927) and of his conviction. Judged an enemy of the Soviet people, Ermakov was shot in 1927. (He was rehabilitated in 1989, five years after Sholokhov’s death.) Politically awkward, the Ermakov connection threatened Sholokhov and his book.
Although Sholokhov completed the first draft of book 1 relatively quickly, he revised and edited the manuscript many times. Unaware of publishing practices, the young author sent his completed manuscript at the end of 1927 to the journal Oktiabr’ (October) in a single-spaced, typed format without any margins. Noting the poorly prepared draft, the editorial board decided that there was little merit in a work that described the historical, pre-Revolutionary Cossack world. In their view, the theme lacked relevance in a new world that was moving toward a new social order. They rejected the manuscript and suggested major revisions.
The manuscript eventually found its way to Serafimovich, an editorial board member. He was struck by the novel and recommended immediate publication without any major revisions. Otkiabr’ serialized book 1 (comprising parts 1-3) of Tikhii Don from January to April 1928. By February to March of that year, the first critical reviews hailed the publication of an important new Soviet novel. On 19 April 1928 Serafimovich’s positive review appeared in Pravda (Truth). As quoted in Zhizn’ i tvorchestvo M. A. Shohkhova, Gor’ky reported that “Sholokhov, judging by the first volume,” was “a talented writer.” Vladimir Vladimirovich Ermilov, an important RAPP critic but not a friend of Sholokhov, published a flattering review, describing the hero of the novel as well on the road to becoming a Communist.
The next year started brilliantly for the author. Sholokhov was elected to the editorial board of Oktiabr’, an official publication of the party. This post was a major accomplishment for a twenty-four-year-old man with limited formal education. Moskovskii rabochii (The Moscow Worker) published Tikhii Don in book form; between May and October, Oktiabr’ serialized book 2 of Tikhii Don (which consists of parts 4-5), in which Sholokhov, using both published and unpublished sources, describes in great detail the February Revolution on the Don. The novel was immediately successful with readers and came out in several editions and printings between 1928 and 1929.
The more orthodox, right-wing Communist critics of RAPP, the right arm of the party, tried to control the literary scene and in 1928 began to voice their lack of enthusiasm for Tikhii Don, accusing Sholokhov of being a regional, peasant writer who did not give appropriate weight to workers and their problems. They attacked him for being neither a proletarian writer nor, more important, a Communist writer, and questioned the odd point of view in the novel, maintaining that it was written from the perspective of the defeated Whites and not the victorious Bolsheviks–thus igniting and fueling rumors that questioned Sholokhov’s authorship of the book. Some view the attacks as a right-wing Trotskyite campaign against Sholokhov, while others (even as late as 2004) maintain that Sholokhov did not write Tikhii Don. Early critics doubting Sholokhov’s authorship claimed the novel for Fedor Kriukov, a White Army officer killed in battle. Some attributed the authorship to Sholokhov’s father-in-law, Gromoslavsky, others to the critic S. Goloushev, and some to Serafimovich. As a result, the editorial board of Oktiabr’ discontinued publication of the novel.
Sholokhov protested to Serafimovich and Gor’ky. A RAPP commission was formed to investigate the allegations, and Sholokhov subjected himself to the humiliation of having to prove that the texts were his. He brought his notes, rough drafts, manuscripts, and plans for the novel to the offices of Pravda for examination. The commission unanimously found that the author had proven his case. On 29 March 1929 Pravda published a “Letter to the Editor,” signed by all commission members–Serafimovich, Fadeev, Leopol’d Leonidovich Averbakh, Vladimir Mikhailovich Kirshon, and Vladimir Stavsky (pseudonym of Vladimir Petrovich Kirpichnikov) denying the rumor and protesting against the attacks on Sholokhov. Furthermore, they threatened those who persisted in spreading gossip with legal action.
The official response silenced critics and prevented additional investigations but did not put suspicions to rest. Sholokhov did not respond to accusations in print, but he took them to heart; the first reports of his heavy drinking stem from this time. Throughout this period, Sholokhov remained visible and active, often participating in meetings with readers. While Sholokhov’s public silence on the issue is difficult to
explain, some critics view his reticence as motivated by fear of exposing his embarrassing connection to Ermakov. Sholokhov was afraid that the Ermakov episode might make it impossible to publish the remaining parts of TikhiiDon and that it might lead to more serious difficulties with the government.
Sholokhov was not a party member, and his relationship with the government remained in flux. Although Sholokhov appeared to have the support of the party and of Stalin, he looked for guidance from Gor’ky. He met with Gor’ky in Kraskov, near Moscow, in April 1929. In his note to Gor’ky afterward, he states that the meeting left him “full of hope and ready for work.” Sholokhov remained a topic of discussion among party functionaries. In a private letter to Feliks Iakovlevich Kohn (on 9 July 1929), Stalin described the author of Tikhii Don as “an illustrious writer of our time,” but also pointed to “political” errors in his work. On 26 July 1929 Gor’ky-the doyen of Russian literature–listed Sholokhov among young talented Soviet writers in his article “Rabochii klass dolzhen vospitat’ svoikh masterov kul’tury” (The Working Class Must Educate Its Own Masters of Culture).
The year 1929 grew increasingly difficult for the writer. By the end of September, an article in Bol’shevistskaia smena (Bolshevik Change) by Nikolai Prokof’iev accused Sholokhov of collaboration with the kulaks and of other anti-Soviet activities. Sholokhov responded at once with two “Letters to the Editor” published in the regional papers Molot (Hammer) and Bol’shevistskaia smena, and in the journal Na pod “erne (On the Rise). The regional writers’ association, Severo-Kavkaskaia assotsiatsiia proletarskikh pisatelei (SKAPP, North Caucasus Association of Proletarian Writers), stood behind Sholokhov, publishing in Bol’shevistskaia smena on 5 November an article in his defense, “Protiv klevety na proletarskogo pisatelia” (Against the Gossip Directed at the Proletarian Writer). The Sixteenth Congress of the Communist Party endorsed Tikhii Don in 1930; the novel appeared on its official list of canonical proletarian works. The party had in effect voiced its approval of Sholokhov and his novel, and by the end of 1930 Sholokhov had filed his application and become a candidate for membership in the party.
Finally, in 1930, Ogonek published excerpts of book 3, titled “Deviatnadtsataia godina” (The Nineteenth Hour); the English translation of books 1 and 2, And Quiet Flows the Don, were published in Moscow; and Moskovskaia kinofabrika (Moscow Film Factory) adapted the novel as a silent movie. Ol’ga Ivanovna Preobrazhenskaia, one of the most important women in the Soviet motion-picture industry, directed the movie with Ivan Pravov. Later, Sholokhov and most critics agreed that this first motion-picture adaptation was a failure.
Throughout the 1930s Sholokhov persistently worked on parts of Tikhii Don while also actively participating in agrarian reform. His fieldwork brought him in touch with agricultural problems and provided material for his next novel as well as for several informational articles. On 22 March 1930 Pravda published “Prestupnaia bezkhozaistvennost’” (Criminal Mismanagement), a report about the horrific conditions on the Upper Don; on 20 October 1930, Bol’shevistskii Don (The Bolshevik Don) published “Za perestroiku” (For Reform), in which Sholokhov described the deplorable conditions of animal husbandry and called for reform; and finally, on 25 March 1931, Pravda published his article “Po pravoberezh’iu Dona” (On the Right Bank of the Don), about spring planting in the newly formed collective farms (kolkhoz and sovkhoz) on the Don.
In addition to his collectivization work, Sholokhov took on the guidance of a literary circle. He led discussions and lectured to regional Na pod”eme writers. In the recollections of some participants, Sholokhov’s memory was phenomenal; rarely using notes, he talked extemporaneously about such diverse literary figures as Tolstoy, Anton Pavlovich Chekhov, and Vladimir Vladimirovich Mayakovsky. Not all members of the group liked Sholokhov, and he left, replaced by the poet Elena Shirman.
Sholokhov’s struggles with censorship were ongoing as he tried to publish the remaining parts of Tikhii Don, which describe the actual events of the 1919 Don Cossack uprising. Oktiabr’ rejected book 3 (part 6). In May 1931 Sholokhov asked Fadeev, a key and influential RAPP figure, to send the rejected manuscript to Gor’ky for review. In a letter dated 3 June 1931 and written to Fadeev, Gorky described book 3 of Tikhii Don as an important work—in many ways a work better written than the previous books. Gor’ky emphasized yet again that Sholokhov was a Cossack (and therefore a regional) writer, who, like the hero of Tikhii Don, Grigorii Melekhov, stood between two worlds and had not quite committed to the new proletarian order. He concluded that Sholokhov, who was quite talented and had the potential to become a great Soviet writer, was in need of gentle reeducation, or perevospitaniia.
The controversy surrounding the actual events as described by Sholokhov became a major deterrent to publication, and he began to worry that the delay might encourage more rumors and claims that Tikhii Don was not his work. In his letter to Gor’ky (6 June 1931), Sholokhov explained that some members of the Oktiabr’ editorial staff denied the actuality of the Cossack uprising in Veshenskaia–as witnessed by Sholokhov in his youth—and protested against “the artistic license” with which he depicted events and characters. Sholokhov assured Gor’ky that he based his descriptions on actual events and people, and that his was an accurate historical account. In support of his argument, he submitted excerpts from Kakurin’s Kak srazhalas’ revoliutsia, a work he researched thoroughly. He also strongly protested against revisions suggested by members of the editorial board, insisting that the proposed cuts included some of the best lyrical passages in the book.
Gor’ky stood firm in his public comments about Sholokhov. In discussions with young writers (on 11 June 1931), Gor’ky restated his impressions that Sholokhov “wrote like a Cossack who loves his Don, the Cossack way of life, and nature” (from Kulinich’s Mikhail Sholokhov). Differing accounts explain how book 3 (part 6) finally came to be published. According to the most cited version, Stalin simply ordered the publication of the book following a July 1931 meeting in Gor’ky’s Kraskov home that included Gor’ky, Stalin, and Sholokhov. Sholokhov’s arguments appeared to be persuasive. Stalin asked for no major revisions in spite of his disagreement with the portrayal of some events, and in December 1931, in “O Literature” (On Literature) in Nashi dostizheniia (Our Accomplishments), Gor’ky listed Sholokhov among writers who “truthfully portrayed the war years.” In January 1932 Oktiabr’ began the publication of book 3 of Tikhii Don.
Stalin’s intervention also helped Sholokhov publish book 1 of his new novel about compulsory collectivization–Podniataia tselina (1932; translated as The Soil Upturned, 1934). In December 1931 Sholokhov sent parts of this novel to Novyi mir under the title “S krov’iu i potom” (With Blood and Sweat). Editors called for a title change and the deletion of sections describing the atrocities committed against kulaks. Sholokhov agreed to a change in title but refused to water down the text and again asked for Stalin’s assistance. With Stalin’s backing, Novyi mir serialized the novel in January 1932 as Podniataia tselina, and almost immediately the novel came out in book form. Presenting the stories of dispossessed Cossacks and peasants, it was a powerful yet objective account of the tragic consequences of collectivization. Nevertheless, Podniataia tselina, book 1, is considered a lesser literary piece than Tikhii Don.
By this time, RAPP had become too powerful, and Stalin encouraged its dissolution. Writers supported the breakup, expecting greater creative freedom once the hegemony of the all-powerful and hateful RAPP ended. Sholokhov and other RAPP members signed in May 1932 a document titled “O perestroike literaturno-khudozhestvennykh organizatsii” (About the Reorganization of Artistic-Literary Organizations), approving the party’s 23 April 1932 decision to abolish all literary groups and associations. This act was the first in a series that, contrary to writers’ expectations, did not lead to more creative freedom but put an end to all diversity in Soviet literature. Following careful review, at the end of the year Sholokhov was elected a member of the Communist Party. But even after this change in his status, his trials with censorship and local party officials did not end; he faced major complications in publishing book 3 of Tikhii Don as a separate edition and found himself once more accused of party disloyalty and treason.
By 1933 a new wave of the “Great Terror,” the “cleansing” (chistka) of the country of all enemies had reached the Don, and some three hundred citizens were arrested in Veshenskaia. The chistka threatened Sholokhov’s career and life. On 13 February 1933 Sholokhov, in a self-defensive move, wrote Stalin and his friend, the First Secretary of the Veshenskaia County Committee of the Communist Party, Petr G. Lugovoi, listing all Communist atrocities against the Don population. In his letter, quoted in Abramov and Gura’s M. A. Sholokhov, Sholokhov writes that some of the “best people” are being arrested as “enemies of the party” and cautions that if prolonged, these irresponsible policies will plunge “the region into catastrophe.” Sholokhov’s letters to Stalin described the conditions on the Don and requested aid. Stalin’s direct intervention saved Sholokhov from arrest, and the grain Stalin sent to the Don in response to Sholokhov’s request probably saved many others from starvation–unlike the situation in Eastern Ukraine, where available food reserves were taken away and millions lost their lives in the 1932-1933 man-made famine.
Sholokhov continued to participate fully in literary life. In 1934 And Quiet Flows the Don, the second English-language edition of Tikhii Don, was published in London and New York. The author was quite interested in the critical response to his novel in the West; he requested translated reviews and learned that And Quiet Flows the Don was well received. His article in Literaturnaia gazeta (18 March 1934), “Za chestnuiu rabotu pisatelia i kritika” (In Support of the Honest Work of Writer and Critic, collected in 1960), endorsed Gor’ky’s appeal to raise the quality of contemporary literature, which had precipitously declined once private publishing houses closed in the 1920s and new literary controls went into effect. Some literary texts began to resemble newspaper reportage, deserving of the term faktografiia (factual report). Sholokhov called for higher standards-more attention to language and craftsmanship–and rebuked critics for allowing factional loyalties to sway their reviews. He did not even spare his mentor Serafimovich, rebuking him for supporting Fedor Ivanovich Panferov’s lax attitude toward language and the literary arts. Later that year, Sholokhov’s article in Bol’shevistskiiDon (7 November 1934), “Zhit’ v kolkhoze kul’turno” (To Live in the Kolkhoz in a More Cultured Way, collected in 1960), called for improvements in the lives of kolkhoz workers.
Sholokhov played a part in the historic First All-Union Congress of Soviet Writers (1934), which firmly established the Union of Soviet Writers and set a new course for Soviet literature. Membership in the union was limited: only writers willing to follow the prescribed literary method–socialist realism–could join. Stalin, the driving force behind the creation of the union, understood the importance of the writer’s role, challenging every writer to support the effort of constructing the new Soviet State. In a widely reported meeting at Gor’ky’s home, Stalin is quoted as stating that even more than machines, the state needed human souls. He urged writers to become “engineers of human souls,” a motto that Andrei Aleksandrovich Zhdanov quoted in his 1934 speech at the First Congress of the Union of Writers and that became the organization’s guiding principle for nearly sixty years. These reforms also created the Institut mirovoi literatury (IMLI, Institute of World Literature), which was to unite those young writers willing to propagate the party’s political goals and to train younger writers in socialist realism. One consequence of these changes was the stifling of all other creative voices.
Elected to the all-powerful Board of the Union of Writers, Sholokhov was soon busy with a full schedule of meetings and lectures. He met daily with workers’ delegations and returned to Veshenskaia only briefly before leaving for a lengthy trip abroad. For the first three weeks of 1935 he traveled to Denmark, England, and France, where he met with writers and with agricultural workers. Although his major work, Tikhii Don, was not yet completed, at age thirty Sholokhov had an established reputation as a world-class writer and, according to Vasil’ev, had already begun to attract the attention of the Nobel Prize committee. After his return to the USSR, his schedule remained busy. During a visit to Kuban’, Sholokhov met with old partisans and the press. In a widely reported interview, he voiced support for the notion that young Soviet writers need to tell the story of the revolution and civil war not only in Kuban’ but in every part of the country. He completed the next sections of his novel, and in March the newspaper Izvestiia (News) published the first chapters of book 4 (Part 7) of Tikhii Don.
The popularity of Tikhii Don in the Soviet Union and abroad became more manifest during the late 1930s. The composer Ivan Ivanovich Dzerzhinksy’s opera based on the novel was performed–first in the Malyi Opernyi Teatr in Leningrad, with a later performance planned for the Bol’shoi Theater in Moscow. The opera premiered in March 1936; Sholokhov judged it a failure. He met in Veshenskaia with the composer and his brother Leonid Ivanovich Dzerzhinksy and agreed to serve as adviser during the writing of a new libretto for the next opera—Podniataia tselina. By the end of the year, he was taking part in rehearsals in preparation for the opening of the new theater in Veshenskaia, built on his initiative and with his financial assistance. Staged performances of both operas took place throughout the Soviet Union, and reviews in the Soviet Union and abroad were frequent.
In the late 1930s, the Soviet people were enduring Stalin’s purges. Sholokhov was a survivor. In 1937 and 1938, when hundreds of thousands, perhaps even millions, of Soviet citizens were arrested as “enemies of the people” for alleged crimes against the state, Sholokhov managed to outmaneuver another plot against him. Many loyal Veshenskaia Communists were arrested, among them Sholokhov’s longtime friend Lugovoi; Vasilii Petrovich Gromoslavsky, his brother-in-law, was questioned, and many of Sholokhov’s friends were interrogated. A friend brought the new conspiracy to Sholokhov’s attention and also to Stalin’s. Some sources claimed that Stalin had instigated the plan himself; archival evidence published by Vitalii Shetalinskii in Novyi mir (1998), however, points to Nikolai Ezhov, Stalin’s personal henchman, as the instigator of the plot. Ezhov had a personal axe to grind: he was enraged by Sholokhov’s intimate liaison with his wife. Stalin intervened, saving Sholokhov from arrest. Following a meeting with the writer, he freed Sholokhov’s arrested friends and hundreds of innocent jailed Cossacks.
Novyi mir brought out part 7 (the first half of book 4) of Tikhii Don in 1937 and 1938. Part 8 of book 4 was rumored to have been completed, but Stalin did not approve the ending, insisting that it be amended to show the hero becoming a true Communist. Sholokhov objected. After attending the premiere of Ivan Dzerzhin-sky’s opera Podniataia tselina in the Bol’shoi Theater, an adaptation he judged far more successful than the earlier production of Tikhii Don, Sholokhov began his collaboration with Sergei Aleksandrovich Ermolinsky and Iulii Iakovlevich Raizman on the screenplay for a new movie version of Podniataia tselina (1939).
Sholokhov enjoyed many professional successes in the following years, such as his election on 28 January 1939 to the Academy of Sciences. He was awarded the Lenin Prize for literature and was again elected to the board of the Writers Union. He also took part in the Eighteenth Communist Party Congress, delivering a speech in which he identified the paper shortage in the country as the single most significant deterrent to the publication of the “many excellent new Soviet works and thus to the development of Soviet literature.” Moreover, Sholokhov won the standoff against Stalin: the ending to Tikhii Don remained unchanged, and part 8 (the second half of book 4) was published by Novyi mir in 1940. Goslitizdat brought out parts 7 and 8 as book 4 in 1940, and the motion-picture version of Podniataia tselina was positively reviewed. The conclusion of Tikhii Don was widely but not always favorably reviewed; yet, on 15 March 1941, Sholokhov was among the first to receive the newly created Stalin Prize, First Class, for Tikhii Don. The Stalin Prize carried a monetary award of 100,000 rubles. Sholokhov did not have much time to enjoy his successes once the German forces invaded the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941. In his initial response to the invasion, Sholokhov gave an impassioned, patriotic speech, donated the monies from the Stalin Prize to the war effort, and enlisted in the army as a war correspondent.
Working for Sovinformbiuro (Soviet Information Bureau), he traveled to battlefields to cover the war. Sholokhov was not a successful war correspondent. He was a slow writer and found the fast-paced production of short, informational pieces difficult. His first published sketches, such as “Na Donu” (On the Don) in Pravda (9 July 1941; published as a book in 1941) and “V kazach’ikh kolkhozakh” (In the Kolkhozes of the Cossacks, collected in 1960) in Krasnaia zvezda (Red Star; 4 July 1941), were not war related. In all, he produced only four articles about the war. He reported his impressions of the Battle of Smolensk in the articles “Na Smolenskom napravlenii” (In the Direction of Smolensk, collected in 1960) and “Gnusnost”’ (Treachery), both for Krasnaia zvezda in 1941. Additional articles appeared in Pravda, including “Voennoplennye” (1941, Prisoners of War; collected in 1960) and “Na iuge” (1942, In the South; published as a book in 1942).
Sholokhov spent most of the war years at the western, southern, and southwestern fronts (1942–1943). He was present at the battles of Stalingrad and the Third Belorussian front (1943–1945). His short story “Nauka nenavisti” (The Science of Hatred)–published in Pravda on 22 June 1942, in Krasnaia zvezda the next day, and in a book edition (1942)–is based on these experiences and on reports of soldiers who described the atrocities committed by German soldiers. Suffering injuries in a plane crash in 1942, Sholokhov briefly returned to Veshenskaia to recover, arriving just in time to help evacuate his family. On 10 July 1942 Sholokhov’s widowed mother, Anastasiia Danilovna, who lived with her son’s family after her husband’s death, was killed during a German bombing raid. Sholokhov’s papers and reportedly his library were also lost during that attack.
Following a brief stay in Nikolaevsk on the Volga, the Sholokhov family moved, finally settling in Dar’inskii near Uralsk in Northern Kazakhstan, a place that later became the writer’s favorite fishing spot. In 1943 Pravda began featuring chapters from Sholokhov’s war novel, Oni srazhalis’ za rodinu (1943, 1944, 1946; translated as They Fought for Their Country, 1984), and in 1944 both Pravda and Krasnaia zvezda published new chapters. The novel was well received by frontline soldiers. Although this work was never completed, Sholokhov published additional parts sporadically in periodicals during the next two decades.
Sholokhov more often served as official party spokesperson. He wrote official pieces such as “Moguchii khudozhnik” (Great Artist, collected in the 1951 edition of Slovo o rodine [A Word About My Motherland], 1948) published in Pravda (25 February 1945), eulogizing his colleague and friend Aleksei Nikolaevich Tolstoy, who had chaired the Writers Union after Gor’ky’s death in 1936 and, like Sholokhov, was a member of the Supreme Soviet and the Soviet Academy of Sciences. After visiting the Third Belorussian front (1945), Sholokhov published “Gordost’, liubov’, priznatel’nost’” (Pride, Love, and Gratitude) in Izvestiia, and after the victorious end of the war his highly patriotic “Pobeda, kakoi ne znala istoriia” (Victory Previously Unknown in History, collected in 1960) appeared on 13 May 1945 in Pravda. He returned home to Veshenskaia to celebrations of his fortieth birthday. On 23 September the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet awarded Sholokhov the Medal of the Patriotic War, First Class, and later that year, in December, he was demobilized from the army.
Soviet attitudes toward the West, especially toward the Western allies, had relaxed during the war. By 14 August 1946, a return of the old policies was signaled by the Central Committee’s attack against two journals, Zvezda (The Star)–the official publication of Leningrad writers–and the journal Leningrad. Led by Zhdanov, the assault brought back intolerance toward the West and tightened controls over all aspects of intellectual life. The party resolutions “O zhurnalakh Zvezda i Leningrad” (About the Journals Zvezda and Leningrad) and “O repertuare dramaticheskikh teatrov i merakh po ego uluchsheniiu” (About the Repertoire of Dramatic Theaters and the Standards for Its Improvement) signified a strike against apolitical literature and liberal attitudes toward the West. The primary scapegoats of the new attacks were Anna Andreevna Akhmatova, a renowned Russian poet, and Mikhail Mikhailovich Zoshchenko, a satirist who belonged to the original Serapion Brothers (1921–1927), a group of young writers inspired by the German Romantic writer E.T.A. Hoffman’s Die Serapions-Brűder (1819–1821), who met in Leningrad under the leadership of Evgenii Zamiatin and above all valued imagination and experimentation in literature. Members at various times included Victor Shklovsky, Kornei Chukovsky, Nilolai Gumilev, Lev Lunts, Boris Eichenbaum, Veniamin Kaverin, Konstantin Aleksandrovich Fedin, Nikolai Tikhonov, Vsevolod Ivanov, Elizaveta Polonskaya, and Gor’ky. Although initially tolerated as “fellow-travelers,” those writers who were not Communists but who did not openly oppose the Soviet Revolution, the “fraternity” dissolved after it came under increasing pressure from the Marxists. Akhmatova and Zoshchenko were vilified in the press and expelled from the Writers Union. Zhdanov’s campaign sent an unmistakable message, and some scholars believe that these acts split the ranks of the Writers Union, later leading to clashes between the conservatives (the fathers) and liberals (the sons) of the literary establishment.
Amid this anti-Western uproar, Sholokhov’s position in the party grew stronger. In 1946, Literaturnaia gazeta wrote: “Sholokhov, the writer known and loved by the Swedish people, and whose name had been discussed more than once in the West as a possible candidate for the Nobel Prize, has failed to win the Nobel Prize nomination for political reasons–the West’s complete disregard for the Soviet Union.” A new watchword, kosmopolitizm (cosmopolitanism), introduced by Fadeev in 1947, indicated renewed hostilities toward the West. The campaign was directed against those who gave “undue credit to Western accomplishments,” be it in the sciences, literature, the arts, or scholarship, and included previously published and respected scholars, literary critics, and writers. In March 1947 Aleksandr Tvardovsky published his positive review of Podaniataia tselina, and by September 1947 Sholokhov and other establishment writers–Fadeev and Fedin–who often voiced governmental attacks against the West published a signed open letter, “S kem vy amerikanskie mastera kul’tury?” (Whom Are You With, American Masters of Culture?) in Literaturnaia gazeta, addressed to American cultural leaders and calling for their support of world peace.
In 1948, after his article “Slovo o rodine” appeared in Pravda, Sholokhov traveled to Poland, where he took part in the International Congress of Science and Culture in Wroclaw and spoke in favor of protecting world peace. The next year, he published his sketch “Svet i mrak” (Light and Darkness, collected in Slovo o rodine, 1951). Between 4 and 10 August of that year, Sholokhov returned to Stalingrad, the new Soviet “Hero City.” In an interview he spoke of the inspiration he felt, recalling his first visit to the devastated city soon after the battle. He remembered being struck by the first signs of renewed life, signaling the rebirth of the city, and the overwhelming feeling of “velichie torzhestvuiushchei zhizni” (the greatness of never-ending life). In the interview, as Abramov and Gura note in M. A. Sholokhov: Seminarii, he described in detail his plans for his war novel, Oni srazhalis’ za rodinu. He envisioned the book as a trilogy: book 1 was to describe Stalingrad before the battle; book 2, the battle of Stalingrad; and book 3, Stalingrad after the war. Sholokhov never completed this planned trilogy, although new chapters of the work-in-progress appeared in 1949, 1954, 1959, and 1969.
In December 1949 Sholokhov was honored with celebrations marking the twenty-fifth anniversary of his literary career. By the early 1950s, as archival sources indicate, his position in the Communist Party was threatened by accusations of alcoholism. Yet, Sholokhov continued to serve publicly as a government spokesperson. In September 1950 he published in Pravda his article attacking American involvement in Korea, “Ne uiti palacham ot suda narodov” (Executioners Will Not Escape the Judgment of Nations; published as a book in 1950).
The Soviet establishment was disappointed that Soviet writers, including Sholokhov, were being passed over for the Nobel Prize. In discussion of the Nobel Prize in Bol’shaia sovetskaia entsiklopediia (1949–1958), the official view held that the decision to award “the Nobel Prize, especially in literature had very little to do with artistic merits and most often was motivated by the political interests of reactionary circles.”
As new attacks against cosmopolitanism intensified–publicized by the ubiquitous slogan “Campaign against Rootless Cosmopolitans”–Sholokhov took part in discussions about the use of assumed names by writers. Orchestrated by Stalin and his supporters, these discussions were fueled, in part, by anti-Semitism as well as by the campaign against “cosmopolitan” writers. Striving to protect its own, the Writers Union reacted quickly. In response to Mikhail Semenovich Bubennov’s article, “Nuzhny li sichas literaturnye psevdonimy?” (Are Pseudonyms Necessary?) in Komsomol’skaia pravda (27 February 1951), which argued against the use of noms de plume, Sholokhov responded with “S opushchenym zabralom” (With a Lowered Visor), written for Literaturnaia gazeta (8 March 1951). When students from Moscow State University questioned Sholokhov and his views, he observed that sometimes writers have good reasons for adopting aliases but judged unacceptable their attempt to hide behind several different names (masks) to express contradictory points of view secretly.
Although Sholokhov was a loyal party member, he was subjected (as were all writers) to strict party control that marked the end of the Stalin era. From the late 1940s until Stalin’s death in 1953, Sholokhov engaged in ongoing battles with censors, on political and even moral grounds, because some found his fiction too sexually explicit and too violent. In the early 1950s he was forced to rewrite Tikhii Don and to excise many important parts of the novel. The mutilated versions of Podniataia tselina and Tikhii Don appeared from 1952 to 1953; most “revisions” were removed from editions appearing after 1956.
In December 1953 the Nobel Prize Committee solicited the established and respected older Soviet writer Sergei Nikolaevich Sergeev-Tsensky to submit, by February 1954, a nomination for the 1954 Nobel Prize. The highly bureaucratic Soviet process included discussion at the Writers Union and the Central Committee of the Communist Party, with the final vote of approval by the Presidium. Sergeev-Tsensky’s prepared letter states that, in both his opinion and the opinion of his colleagues, Sholokhov was a worthy candidate: he was a major Russian writer who developed Russia’s classical realistic literary tradition, and his major work, the Tikhii Don, was an already world-renowned Soviet classic. Sholokhov’s nomination, along with the formal letter, was processed through channels. It was discussed and voted on by the leadership of the Writers Union and the Central Committee of the Communist Party. On 21 January the Central Committee resolved to accept the nomination as submitted and passed the paperwork along to the Presidium for approval. On 25 February 1954 the nomination was approved by the Presidium, and Sergeev-Tsensky returned the packet to Stockholm on 6 March 1954, failing to meet the February deadline. The Nobel Prize Committee explained that the tardiness made it impossible to consider Sholokhov a candidate for the 1954 prize. The letter specified, however, that Sholokhov’s candidacy would be considered for the 1955 prize.
One of the most notable events of the 1954 Soviet literary scene was the appearance of Il’ia Ehrenburg’s short novel Ottepel’ (1954; translated as The Thaw, 1955), the title of which was adopted for the period of relatively relaxed controls in Russian literature and the arts. The other significant event was the Second Congress of Soviet Writers (the first in twenty years), held between 15 and 26 December 1954. Sholokhov, in his speech, “Rech’ na Vtorom Vsesoiuznom S”ezde Sovetskikh Pisatelei” (Speech at the Second All-Union Congress of Soviet Writers, collected in 1960), published in Literaturnaia gazeta (26 December 1954), pointed to the “seryi potok beztsvetnoi … literatury” (dull, gray stream of new colorless … literature) and candidly discussed the problems facing the Writers Union. Not placing blame on socialist realism or on party policies, he blamed writers instead. He considered that the degradation of literature and the degeneration of talent was the direct result of a “loss of respect” writers showed for their own work and for their readership. He concluded that those who lose respect “wither on the vine and degenerate from masters into craftsmen.” He identified two negative practices that aggravate the problem: excessively harsh reviews of young and not-yet-established writers and docile reviews of high-profile writers. He also attacked the generous awards given to well-established writers–occasionally for undeserving works. In response to Western critics who described Soviet writers as “puppets” writing “on command according to party dictates,” Sholokhov dismissed the criticism as too simplistic. He spoke as a loyal party member when he explained that Soviet authors write according to the “dictates of their own hearts” and that “the hearts of all Soviet writers belong to the Communist Party and to the people their art serves.”
In 1954, contrary to expectations, although the names of both Sholokhov and Pasternak (considered a “cosmopolitan” and internal émigré) appeared on the Nobel Prize candidates list, Ernest Hemingway received the award. Sholokhov was also not awarded the prize for 1955; it went to the Spanish modernist poet Juan Ramόn Jimenéz. Otherwise, 1955 was an important and successful year for the writer. The country commemorated Sholokhov’s fiftieth birthday. He was awarded the Lenin Prize, First Class, in recognition of his achievements in literature, receiving the medal from Marshal Klimentii Efremovich Voroshilov, Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet and the titular head of state (1953-1960), in the Kremlin; and he was honored at a jubilee concert in Chaikovsky Hall in Moscow. Many party and literary luminaries attended the celebratory concert, and Literaturnaia gazeta–the official publication of the Soviet Writers Union–dedicated an issue to Sholokhov and called for international roundtable discussions of the writer’s works. Pravda published its laudatory article “Tvorchesto na sluzhbu narodu” (Creative Works in the Service of the Nation). Other national institutions took part in the celebrations by sponsoring conferences, seminars, and round-table discussions, including those by the most prestigious institutions in the country: Moscow and Leningrad State Universities; the Institute of Russian Literature (Pushkinskii dom) in Leningrad; the Institute of World Literature in Moscow; and the Academy of Sciences.
Sholokhov appeared to support the new party line and Khrushchev. At the Twentieth Congress of the All-Union Communist Party (on 20 February 1956), when Khrushchev’s secret address opened the floodgates of de-Stalinization, as a loyal party member Sholokhov fiercely attacked the Writers Union. He noted that the Writers Union was organized in 1934 to help writers in their creative efforts but had degenerated, especially under the leadership of Fadeev:
The membership of the Writers Union consists of 2,247 members and 1,526 candidates, totaling 3,773 persons, who are armed with pens and to a greater or lesser degree with ability. As you can see, not a small force, but let that number neither frighten nor please you. This is only “outward show,” in reality the list of writers consists mostly of “dead souls.”
Chastising Fadeev for turning the Writers Union into a bureaucracy mired in red tape, he accused his old colleague of accomplishing little in the previous fifteen years, both as a writer and as the secretary-general of the Writers Union. Sholokhov expressed support of younger writers and called on them to assume leadership positions on the governing board of the organization.
Unlike most Soviet writers, Sholokhov had many opportunities to travel abroad. In 1957 he visited Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden. During this trip he met with John Steinbeck in Stockholm. That summer Sholokhov and his wife also visited Khrushchev in Yalta, and Sholokhov completed his highly patriotic tale, Sud’ba cheloveka (1957; translated as The Fate of a Man, 1957) about the tragic consequences of the German invasion and the war. The following year he participated in the newly organized First Congress of Russian Writers in the Bol’shoi Kremlevskii dvorets (The Great Kremlin Palace) in Moscow; he traveled to Czechoslovakia and later took part in the Twenty-First Congress of the Communist Party.
The Secretary of the Writers Union notified the Central Committee of the Communist Party on 7 April 1958 of the four names on the official Nobel Prize list for that year: the American poet Ezra Pound, the Italian writer Alberto Moravia, and two Soviet writers– Sholokhov and Pasternak. The Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party, L. Ilyichev, and the division head of the Cultural Section of the Central Committee, D. Polikarpov, responded on 21 October 1958 with a directive: “In the event that Sholokhov is nominated along with Pasternak for the Nobel Prize, Sholokhov is to decline the nomination in protest.” When Pasternak was announced the sole Nobel Prize winner on 23 October 1958, with the award being given “for his important achievement both in contemporary lyrical poetry and in the field of the great Russian epic tradition,” that is, in part for his novel Doktor Zhivago, it caused a great furor in the Soviet establishment. Eventually, under government pressure, Pasternak was forced to decline the award. The Soviets took the Pasternak award as an insult and were incensed that their candidate, Sholokhov, was passed over yet again and that the award went to a writer for a novel considered by them anti-Soviet and rejected for publication in his native country. In April 1959, in response to a Parisian correspondent regarding the Pasternak affair, Sholokhov summarized the government’s new position: that Doktor Zhivago should have been published in the Soviet Union so that Soviet readers could judge for themselves; presumably, they would share Sholokhov’s own low opinion of the book (though he did admire Pasternak’s translation work).
Between 1959 and 1961 Sholokhov and his family traveled extensively in Europe. Sholokhov received Khrushchev and his family in Veshenskaia on 30 August 1959. Although accusations of alcoholism continued to plague the writer, Khrushchev publicly supported him and invited him to join the Soviet delegation on Khrushchev’s visit to the United States. After the group arrived in Washington, D.C., on 15 September 1959, Sholokhov was allowed to participate in a press conference, but his contact with Americans and his travel was otherwise limited.
Excerpts of Podniataia tselina, book 2, a work some twenty-seven years in the writing, appeared sporadically in Pravda until August 1959. In September 1959, Sholokhov’s second major work, a traditional, Soviet topical novel that records the history of collectivization, described by Marc Slonim as “Stalin’s militant drive to socialize agriculture” by “forced collectivization of farmlands and the extermination of the well-to-do farmers,” still lacked a published conclusion and encouraged speculation about the novel both in the Soviet Union and abroad. Harrison E. Salisbury, in an article for The New York Times (1 September 1959), “Khrushchev Bid to Sholokhov Follows a Dispute Over Novel,” quoted Moscow sources who had seen the completed novel and stated that publication of the book, completed in the summer of 1958, was held up by “chiefs of the Communist party propaganda apparatus” because of its unsuitable conclusion.
The major character of the novel is Semen Davydov, who represents one of the twenty-five-thousand selected Communist Party workers dispatched to the countryside to encourage collectivization by any means possible, including arrests and repression. According to Salisbury’s sources, the hero is himself “arrested on a false charge in the purge of the Nineteen Thirties and commits suicide in prison.” By February 1960, perhaps under this new pressure from the West, the long-awaited final chapters of the novel (23–29) came out in Pravda. The last, controversial section was published on 12 February 1960. The conclusion, in which Davydov does not commit suicide but instead is a new Soviet hero killed in the line of duty defending the great Soviet motherland, disappointed many.
The published ending of the novel is not atypical for socialist realism. After Davydov’s death, life goes on, and a major White Guard counterrevolutionary plot is foiled. Unusual are the explicit references to the “waves of arrests that roll over the Soviet Union.” Sholokhov writes about the “six hundred counter-revolutionaries” arrested, including nine in Moscow, who had ties to foreign agents. Executions of those accused of terrorist activities follow; all are shot. In the spirit of socialist realism, Sholokhov sums up the novel with the upbeat declaration that “the desperate attempt by White counterrevolutionaries to provoke an uprising against the Soviet regime in the South was historically doomed to failure and was finally brought to an end.”
In a February 1960 article, “Sholokhov’s Hero Dies a New Death,” Salisbury restated the earlier reported rumors and speculated about the change in the ending. On 1 March 1960 Sholokhov responded to both Salisbury columns in Pravda with an article titled “O malen’kom malchike Garri i bol’shom mistere Solsberi” (About the Little Boy Harry and the Big Mr. Salisbury, collected 1960). As reported in The New York Times (”Novel Unrevised, Sholokhov Says”), Sholokhov rudely denied the American journalist’s claims.
Whether the published conclusion was originally planned, as Sholokhov claims, or whether Sholokhov compromised and agreed under pressure to publish an amended ending, as Salisbury and his sources suggested, remains a matter of speculation. In 2005, new scandalous allegations emerged denying Sholokhov’s authorship of the novel. In the judgment of these critics, the earlier published parts of Podniataia tselina incorporated materials found in the original five-hundred-page manuscript in the possession of the twenty-two-year-old Sholokhov in August 1927, but the “illiterate” Sholokhov was not capable of writing an ending to the novel. Konstantin Ivanovich Kargin, a Cossack writer and Sholokhov’s childhood acquaintance, familiar with the historical context, had returned to the Soviet Union from emigration sometime in 1959, on the promise that he would not be “repressed,” and these critics allege that Kargin wrote the concluding chapters of the book.
The published conclusion and the appearance of book 2, which concludes the saga of Podniataia tselina, essentially brought to an end Sholokhov’s creative career. On 22 April, Lenin’s birthday, he was honored yet again with the Lenin Prize, First Class, for both books of his latest novel, and Sholokhov donated this prize money to help build a new school in Karginskaia.
After learning of a Moscow visit by a Nobel Prize representative, Sholokhov wrote a letter on 30 July 1965 to Brezhnev, the newly elected, conservative, hard-line First Secretary of the Communist Party, requesting guidance regarding his possible Nobel nomination. The official response of the Cultural Section of the Central Committee to Sholokhov notes that “the Nobel Prize, if awarded to Sholokhov, would rightfully recognize the writer’s accomplishments and the committee saw no reason for Sholokhov to decline such an award.” A signed and dated copy (16 August 1965) of the resolution accompanied the letter. The signatories included P. Demichev, A. Shelepin, D. Usinov, N. Podgornyi, and Iurii Andropov. The letter was signed by G. Kunitsyn.
Competing successfully against his colleague Konstantin Georgievich Paustovsky, a popular and well-respected Soviet writer, Sholokhov was named on 15 October 1965 as the recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature. He was the only Nobel Prize winner to have also received the Stalin Prize. Sholokhov accepted the long-awaited prize on 10 December 1965. In his presentation speech, Swedish Academy member Anders Österling acknowledged the difficult publication history of Tikhii Don and recognized the importance of this novel in recording the story of a proud people-the Don Cossacks-in their fight against dispossession and loss of autonomy brought by the new Soviet order. In his banquet speech, published as Zhivaia sila realuma (1983, Living Power of Realism), Sholokhov gratefully accepted the award in the name of all Soviet writers:
As I have already had occasion to testify in public, the feeling of satisfaction which this award arouses in me is not solely due to the international recognition of my professional merits and my individual characteristics as a writer. I am proud that this Prize has been awarded to a Russian, a Soviet writer. Here I represent a multitude of writers from my native land.
He spoke passionately in defense of realism in literature and viewed the award as indirect validation of the novel genre. Recognizing that his views went against the “fashionable currents of the day,” he nevertheless proclaimed himself a dedicated supporter of realistic art and especially the socialist realist novel. Sholokhov expressed his high regard for the pioneering spirit of his people who took on the building of a new communist society. He declared that his major goal as a writer had always been to inspire humankind to be better; if he was successful even in a small degree, he said, he would be satisfied. In Swedish press and Pravda interviews, he expressed dismay that other Soviet writers, such as Serafimovich and Gor’ky, were passed over for the Nobel Prize. He also expressed his disappointment that his own recognition had come so late; after all, his candidacy had been discussed for some thirty years.
In his public pronouncements, Sholokhov never wavered in his commitment to communist ideals and his loyalty to the Communist Party. At the height of intellectual unrest in the Soviet Union, Sholokhov took part in the Twenty-Third Party Congress (1966). His speech acknowledged the great number of new published works but once more attacked their quality. Emphasizing the historical mission of the Soviet writer as an important team member engaged in building the Great Soviet State, as a proud Communist and citizen, Sholokhov, in a passionate speech, attacked dissident writers. He accused them of disloyalty and treason, indicting them for “lying” and for “betraying” their motherland and noting that in earlier times such acts would have cost them their lives. He had in mind specifically the writers involved in the Siniavsky-Daniel’ affair, Andrei Donatovich Siniavsky (pseudonym Abram Terts) and Iulii Markovich Daniel’ (pseudonym Nikolai Arzhak), who were convicted in February 1966 for publishing their creative works abroad. He also strongly chastized those who supported their cause.
In response, the liberal intelligentsia in the Soviet Union and in the West, already displeased by the 1965 Nobel Prize award they considered undeserved, reacted with disgust. Lidiia Chukovskaia’s “Open Letter,” addressed to Sholokhov and signed by other writers, accused Sholokhov of betraying the best traditions of Russian literature. “Literature is not subject to criminal jurisdiction,” she wrote:
One must oppose ideas with ideas, and not with camps and prisons…and that, in fact, is what you should have declared to your audience if you had really conducted yourself as a representative of Soviet literature on the speakers’ platform. Instead you delivered your speech as a traitor of this literature. History will not forget your shameful speech. And literature will revenge itself, just as it revenges itself against all who evade the heavy obligation it lays upon them. Literature will condemn you to the most extreme sentence there is for an artist– to artistic impotence. And no honors, no monies, no prizes either from the fatherland or international sources, will remove this judgment from your head.
Chukovskaia’s letter was copied to the Rostov Communist Headquarters, the USSR and Russian Union of Writers, and to editors of five Soviet newspapers (Pravda, Izvestiia, Literaturnaia gazeta, Literaturnaia Rossiia, and Molot), but was not officially acknowledged nor published. The letter circulated in samizdat both separately and in the Aleksandr Ginzburg samizdat collection published in 1967 in Frankfurt by Posev as Belaia knigapo delu Siniavskogo i Danielia (White Book about the Siniavsky and Daniel Case). In 1967 the contents of the letter were broadcast from the West to the Soviet Union; in 1972 an extract appeared in Cornelia Gerstenmaier’s Die Stimme der Stummen: Die Demokratische Bewegung in der Sowjetunion (The Voices of the Silent) and was published in 1976 as Otkrytoe slovo (The Open Word) by Khronika in New York.
On 23 February 1967 Sholokhov was awarded the prestigious title of “Geroi Sotsialisticheskogo truda” (Hero of Socialist Labor) and later took part in the Fourth Congress of Soviet Writers. In his speech for that occasion he candidly once more pointed to the declining status of the Union of Writers, noting that at the First Congress of Soviet Writers (in 1934), 71 percent of the participants were under age forty, while in 1967, 87.8 percent were above that age. He called for institutional changes and the inclusion of younger writers in leadership positions, noting that without such adjustments the future survival of the organization was threatened. He also briefly reflected on the Vietnam War, creative freedom, and complete freedom of the press–as called for by Russian liberals, especially by Solzhenitsyn, who outlined his demands in his letter of May 1967 to the Delegates of the Fourth Congress.
Throughout the 1960s Sholokhov was frequently interviewed and participated in at least six different documentaries about his life and work. Throughout the next decade, Sholokhov received many additional awards, including East Germany’s Order of the Golden Star (1964), the Medal of the October Revolution (March 1972), and the Bulgarian Cyrill and Methodius Medal (June 1973). As Sholokhov amassed honors, awards, and prizes, his works were often republished, and several of his shorter works were brought to the stage (one as an operetta, Babii bunt [Woman’s Revolt]); and many of his Don tales–including “Prodkomissar,” “Lazorevaia step’,” “Smertnyi vrag,” Nakhalenok, Dvukhmuzhniaia, “Zherebenok,” and Aleshkino serdtse–were adapted as short movies. His novels TikhiiDon, Podniataia tselina, and Sud’ba cheloveka became major motion pictures in 1957 and 1959. From the mid 1960s until the end of his life, the writer produced little that was new or original. In 1969 he published his final “new” creative work–the revised first chapters of his unfinished novel, Oni srazhalis’ za rodinu, in Pravda. It was adapted as a motion picture by Sergei Fedorovich Bondarchuk in 1975. The various movie and stage versions revived the Sholokhov canon for contemporary readers.
In the early 1970s (1971 or 1975), Sholokhov suffered a stroke, forcing him to modify his work schedule. During the 1970s, new awards celebrated Sholokhov’s accomplishments both in the Soviet Union and abroad: he was awarded the International Peace Prize (1975); the Fadeev Medal (1977); the E. F. Stepanova Prize, named for a mother of nine heroic sons killed during World War II (1977); and the International Lotos Prize (1978). But these awards only barely mitigated the embarrassment and disappointment when accusations of plagiarism surfaced in the West in 1974. The expelled dissident writer Solzhenitsyn, in the introduction to Irina N. Medvedeva’s Stremia Tikhogo Dona: Zagadki romana (The Way of the Silent Don: Riddles of the Novel), published in Paris (1974), accused Sholokhov of plagiarizing Tikhii Don. The allegations gained worldwide attention and were widely reported in the Western press. “A Matter of Plagiarism,” an article in Time (15 September 1974), recorded:
Solzhenitsyn declared that the real author of the epic tale of Don Cossacks in World War I and the Russian civil war was Fyodor Kryukov, a Cossack writer…. Solzhenitsyn’s allegation that The Quiet Don is mostly the work of an anti-Communist brings into the open a long-smoldering rumor that Sholokhov is a plagiarist…. Solzhenitsyn’s charge will doubtlessly prove embarrassing to the leaders in the Kremlin, where the 69-year-old Sholokhov reigns as a court novelist and hatchet man for cultural hardliners.
In 1977 Roy Aleksandrovich Medvedev continued the attack in Problems in the Literary Biography of Mikhail Sholokhov. Sholokhov was defended by Geir Kjetsaa and his group of researchers, who reported at the Eighth International Congress of Slavists in Zagreb, Yugoslavia, that their extensive computer studies of Sholokhov’s works definitively proved his authorship of Tikhii Don, but the report did little to lift the writer’s spirits.
In 1980 Sholokhov was once more honored by the title “Geroi Sotsialisticheskogo truda.” Throughout the early 1980s Sholokhov continued to write despite the illness to which he finally succumbed on 21 February 1984. At the age of seventy-eight, Sholokhov died in the home where he had lived most of his life, on his beloved Don. His death came just a little over a year before the country changed course under the new leadership of the newly elected General Secretary of the Communist Party Central Committee, Mikhail Gorbachev. Newly introduced glasnost’ and perestroika eventually led to the fall of the Soviet Union, proving the Soviet Experiment to which Sholokhov dedicated his life and work and which had claimed many millions of lives a complete failure. According to some accounts, after Sholokhov’s death his study was closed off by uniformed personnel who examined and removed some of the writer’s papers. For political reasons only a small delegation of some ten Soviet writers, headed by M. Zimianin, attended the funeral; writers from abroad were not granted visas and could not attend, but huge numbers of old and young gathered from neighboring villages and towns to pay final respects to their famous son of the Don.
In Sholokhov’s memory, Nikolai Aleksandrovich Bulavin founded the Sholokhov Museum, Gosudarstvennyi muzei-zapovednik M. A. Sholokhova, in 1984 and served as its first director. The museum is becoming an important archival and educational center. It hosts annual Sholokhov conferences. The center employs more than 150 people; of those, 17 are researchers and include members of Sholokhov’s family. The Council of Ministers of the RSFSR renamed a Moscow regional library to Tsentral’naia biblioteka im. M. A. Sholokhova on 11 July 1984, and a commemorative stamp was issued in 1990. To date, the Sholokhov Prize, instituted in 1993, continues to honor outstanding writers and leaders, and a newly renamed accredited university–Moskovskii gosudarstvennyi otkrytyi pedagogicheskii universitet imeni Sholokhova, located on Verkhniaia Rasishchevskaia in Moscow–is thriving.
In the years since the fall of the Soviet Union (1991), Sholokhov’s name once more has become mired in controversy. For some he is an emblem of everything that was vile and destructive in the old Soviet system. His name appeared on many documents released during the height of the Stalinist purges, including those that called for the elimination of “enemies of the people.” Sholokhov was tied closely to the lands of his native Don and to agrarian reform. Some fault him for complicity with the brutal Stalinist policies on collectivization that led to indescribable tragedies-including famine on the Don and the Great Famine in Ukraine in 1932-1933, during which millions of deliberately dispossessed peasants perished.
In an attempt to deconstruct the history of Soviet literature, new accusations of plagiarism have surfaced in several publications, including Zagadki tainy Tikhogo Dona, “’Tikhodonskaia’ tragediia pisatelaia Fedora Kriukova,” and Literaturnyi Kotlovan:Proekt “Pisatel’ Sholokhov.” These new allegations have taken on a life of their own, spawning theories and polarizing the literary community. Public opinion is divided and probably falls in a full spectrum between the two major poles battling over how Sholokhov’s name will finally go down in the history of Russian and world literature. One side passionately vilifies Sholokhov, denying his authorship not only of Tikhii Don but also of all works that were published under his name. The other side, just as passionately, contests the many plagiarism allegations and attempts to prove Sholokhov’s genius; they explain the opposite views as an orchestrated plot, fueled in part by Solzhenitsyn out of spitefulness, to discredit the great writer. In their view, Sholokhov is the talented author of great Russian twentieth-century epics and a victim of Stalinism, but one who survived the purges and managed to do some good. He is credited with the honest portrayal of bloody periods of Soviet history and for his protection of the Cossacks and the environment. In his speeches, he called for the special protection of the rivers Volga and Don and Lake Baikal, although he carefully avoided placing blame for environmental disasters on the Communist system that engendered them.
Since the 1990s, new archival materials have appeared, including Sholokhov’s previously unpublished letters; memoirs written by Sholokhov’s contemporaries; reminiscences by three of his surviving children; mathematical and statistical studies that have shown some promising results but have not definitively ruled on Sholokhov’s opus; and articles by Lev Efimovich Kolodnyi, a journalist who found the Sholokhov manuscripts. As described in his articles and in Kak ia nashel Tikhii Don: Khronika poiska, analiz teksta (2000), Kolodnyi found the Sholokhov manuscripts in the apartment of Sholokhov’s late friend Kudashev, located in Kamergerskii pereulok. The manuscripts were in the possession of Kudashev’s daughter and his wife, Matil’da Emel’ianovna Kudasheva. In 1988 the manuscripts passed to Matil’da Kudasheva’s niece, who planned to auction them off at Sotheby’s but eventually sold them to IMLI.
In addition to the new editions of Sholokhov’s Sobranie sochinenii (2001 and 2002), since the fall of the Soviet State more than 570 Sholokhov publications have appeared in print. In preparation for Sholokhov’s centennial in 2005, Putin resolved on 11 January 2002 to provide financial support for national Sholokhov commemorations; Nikolaevsk announced the opening of a new Sholokhov museum; Moscow announced the construction of a new Sholokhov monument on Gogolevskii Boulevard; Sovetskii pisatel’ publicized its forthcoming ten-volume edition of Sholokhov’s collected works; and as promised by the academic Aleksandr Mironovich Ushakov, an annotated facsimile edition of the newly recovered drafts and manuscripts was published. In the opinion of IMLI scholars, these manuscripts definitively prove Mikhail Aleksandrovich Sholokhov’s authorship of Tikhii Don.
Vladimir N. Zapevalov, “Vokrug finala Podniatoi tseliny (neizvestnoe pis’mo M. A. Sholokhova G. E. Sols-beri),” Russkaia literatura, 2 (1994): 224–231;
Zapevalov, “Iz pisem M. A. Sholokhova k rodnym i blizkim (1947–1972): Publitsistika, vystuplenia, zametka i kommentarii,” Russkaia literatura, 2 (1996): 162–175;
Pisatel’ i vozhd’: Perepiska M. A. Sholokhova s I. V. Stalinym, 1931–1950 gody, compiled by Iurii G. Murin (Moscow: Raritet, 1997);
N. Maiboroda and E. Tolstopiatenko, “Znaiu, kak chestnogo cheloveka … ,” Don, 5–6 (2002): 225–234;
A. Larionov, “Pis’ma Mikhaila Sholokhova,” Slovo (Moscow), 3 (2004): 60–67;
Pis’ma, edited by A. A. Kozlovsky and others (Moscow: IMLI RAN, 2005).
“Mikhail Aleksandrovich Sholokhov,” in Russkie sovetskie pisateli prozaiki: Biobibliograficheskii ukazatel’, volume 6, part 2 (Moscow: Izd-vo Kniga, 1969), pp. 3–163;
Vladimir Andreevich Skorodenko, ed., Knigi M. A. Sholokhova na iazykakh narodov mira: Bibliograficheskii ukazatel’ (Moscow: Vsesoiuznaia gosudarstvennaia biblioteka inostrannoi literatury, 1975);
N. I. Stopchenko, comp., “M. A. Sholokhov v kritike evropeiskikh stran sotsialisticheskogo sodruzhestva, 1965–1973 gody,” in Tvorchestvo M. A. Sholokhova: stat’i, soobshcheniia, bibliografiia (Leningrad: Nauka, 1975), pp. 315–327;
L. A. Shtavdaker, Mikhail Aleksandrovich Sholokhov: Bibliograficheskii ukazatel’, edited by Konstantin Ivanovich Priima (Rostov-on-Don: Rostovskoe knizhnoe izdatel’stvo, 1980);
E. A. Reshetnikova and O. V. Kurochkina, ed., Mikhail Aleksandrovich Sholokhov: Bibliogr. ukaz. dlia izucheniia tvorchestva velikogo pisatelia-v pomoshch’ uchiteliu, ucheniku, abiturientu, Upr. kul’tury Vost. adm. okr. g. Moskvy, Tsentral’naia biblioteka imeni M. A. Sholokhova, (Moscow: Raritet, 2003), <http://cbs1vao.ru/izdat.htm>;
“Pamiatnye daty v TSB 2005: Izdaniia proizvedenii Sholokhova Mikhaila Aleksandrovicha (1980–2003),” Tsentral’naia biblioteka imeni M. A. Sholokhova, <http://cbslvao.ru/shbibll.htm>;
V. P. Zaraiskaia and others, eds., Mikhail Aleksandrovich Sholokhov: Biobibliograficheskii ukazatel proizvedenii pisatelia i literatury o zhizni i tvorchestve (Moscow: IMLI RAN, 2005).
Viktor Vasil’evich Gura, Zhizn’ i tvorchestvo M. A Sholokhova (Moscow: Gos. uchebno-pedagogicheskoe izd-vo, 1960);
Andrei Vasil’evich Kulinich, Mykhailo Sholokhov: Krytyko-biohrafichnyi narys (Kiev: Dnipro, 1975);
Kulinich, Mikhail Sholokhov: Ocherk zhizni i tvorchestva (Kiev: Izd-vo pri Kievskom gos. universitete izdatel’skogo ob” edinenia “Vyshcha Shkola,” 1984);
Vasilii Voronov, Iunost’ Sholokhova: Stranitsy biografiipisatelia (Rostov-on-Don: Rostovskoe knizhnoe izd-vo, 1985,1991);
Nikolai Mikhailovich Fed’, “Novye materialy k biografii M. Sholokhova,” in Istoriia natsional’nykh literatur: Perechityvaia i pereosmyslivaia, edited by Kazbek K. Sultanov (Moscow: Nasledie, 1995), pp. 135–146;
Valentin Osipov, Tainaia zhizn’Mikhaila Sholokhova: Dokumental’naia khronika bez legend (Moscow: Libereia, Raritet, 1995);
Viktor Vasil’evich Petelin, Sholokhov na izlome vremeni (Moscow: Nasledie, 1995);
Georgii Iakovlevich Sivovolov, Mikhail Sholokhov: Stranitsy biografii (Rostov-on-Don: AOOT Rostovskoe knizhnoe izd-vo, 1995);
Vladimir N. Zapevalov, “Pervoistoki lichnosti i sud’by: K tvorcheskoi biografii M. A. Sholokhova,” in Sholokhov na izlome vremeni, edited by Petelin (Moscow: Nasledie, 1995);
Fed’, Paradoks geniia: Zhizn’ i sochineniia Sholokhova (Moscow: Sovremennyi pisatel’, 1998);
Petelin, Zhizn’ Sholokhova: Tragediia russkogo geniia (Moscow: Tsentrpoligraf, 2002);
Osipov, Sholokhov: Zhizn’ zamechatel’nykh liudei (Moscow: Molodaia gvardiia, 2005);
Petelin, Mikhail Sholokhhov v vospominaniiakh, dnevnikakh, pis’makh i stat’iakh sovremenniko, 2 volumes (Moscow: Sholokhovskii tsentr MGOPU im. M. A. Sholokhova, 2005);
Anatolii Ivanovich Tsarev, O velikom Sholokhove: Razmy-shleniia i vospominaniia (Rostov-on-Don: Severo-Kavkazskaia akademiia gos. sluzhby, 2005).
Zeev Bar-Sella (Vladimir Nazarov), Literaturnyi Kotlovan: Proekt “Pisatel’ Sholokhov” (Moscow: Rossiiskii gos. gumanitarnyi universitet, 2005);
Fedor Gregor’evich Biriukov, Sholokhov, Perechityvaia klassiku (Moscow: Izd-vo Moskovskogo universiteta, 1998);
Lidiia Korneevna Chukovskaia, Otkrytoe slovo, edited by Vladimir Glotser (New York: Khronika, 1976; Moscow: IMA Press, 1992);
Herman Ermolaev, “Istoricheskiie istochniki Tikhogo Dona,” Don, 3 (1998): 170–238;
Ermolaev, Mikhail Sholokhov and His Art (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1982); Russian version published as Mikhail Sholokhov i ego tvorchestvo, Sovremennaia zapadnaia rusistika, no. 32 (St. Petersburg: Akademicheskii proekt, 2000);
Ermolaev, “Tikhii Don” i politicheskaia tsenzura: 1928–1991 (Moscow: IMLI RAN, 2005);
Ermolaev and A. Venkov, “Serafimovich–soavtor Sholokhova?” Knizhnoe obozrenie, 39b (2000): 7;
Nikolai Mikhailovich Fed’, “Obrechennaia liubov’,” Slovo, 2–3 (1998): 89–102;
Liudmila Firsova, “Mariia Sholokhova, mladshaia doch’ pisatelia: Ni v kakom rodstve s Khrush-chevym otets ne sostoial,” Komsomol’skaia Pravda, 25 July 2002;
V P. Fomenko and T. G. Fomenko, “Prilozhenie 1: Avtorskii invariant russkikh literaturnykh tekstov,” in Novaia khronologiia Gretsii: Antichnost’ v Srednevekov’e, volume 2, edited by Anatolii Timofeevich Fomenko (Moscow: UNTS DO, 1996); <http://lib.ru/FOMENKOAT/greece.txt>;
G. F. Gavrilova, Problemy izucheniia iazyka i stilia M.A. Sholokhova (Rostov-on-Don: Rostovskii gos. pedagogicheskii universitet, 2000);
Cornelia Gerstenmaier, Die Stimme der Stummen: Die Demokratische Bewegung in der Sowjetunion (Stuttgart: Seewald, 1971); translated by Susan Hecker as The Voices of the Silent (New York: Hart, 1972);
Aleksandr Ginzburg, Belaia kniga po delu Siniavskogo i Danielia (Frankfurt: Posev, 1967);
Nikolai Ivanovich Glushkov, ed., Podniataia tselina: Sovremennoe issledovanie (Rostov-on-Don: Izd-vo Rostovskogo universiteta, 1995);
Glushkov, ed., Problemy izucheniia tvorchestva M. A. Sholokhova (Rostov-on-Don: Rostovskii gos. universitet, 1996);
Glushkov, ed., Tvorchestvo pisatelia v natsional’noi kul’ture Rossii, Sholokhovskie chteniia-2000: Sbornik statei (Rostov-on-Don: Rostizdat, 2000);
L. Katsis, “Sholokhov i Tikhii Don: Problema avtorstva v sovremennykh issledovaniiahk,” Nbvoe literatur-noe obozrenie, 36 (1999), <http://magazines.russ.ru/nlo/1999/36/kacic.html>;
Geir Kjetsaa, “Chernaia zavist’,” Literaturnaia Rossiia, 21 (1996): 4–5;
Kjetsaa, “Plagiator li Sholokhov? Otvet opponentam,” Scando-Slavica, 41 (1995): 168–182;
Kjetsaa, Problema avtorstva v romane Tikhii Don (Oslo: Universitet i Oslo, Slavisk-Baltisk Institutt, 1978);
Kjetsaa and others, The Authorship of The Quiet Don, Slavica Norvegica 1 (Oslo: Solum Forlag, 1984; Atlantic Highlands, N.J.: Humanities Press, 1984); translated by A. V Vashchenko as Kto napisal Tikhii Don? Problema avtorstva Tikhogo Dona (Moscow: Kniga, 1989);
Michael Klimenko, The World of Young Sholokhov: Vision of Violence (North Quincy, Mass.: Christopher Publishing House, 1972);
Lev Efimovich Kolodnyi, Kak ia nashel Tikhii Don: Khronika poiska, analiz teksta (Moscow: Golos, 2000);
Kolodnyi, “Stalin i Sholokhov,” in Poety i vozhdi: Dokumental’nye ocherki (Moscow: Golos, 1997), pp. 265–293;
Natal’ia Vasil’evna Kornienko, “Skazano russkim iazykom–”: Andrei Platonov i Mikhail Sholokhov: Vstrechi v russkoi literature (Moscow: IMLI RAN, 2003);
Viktor Stefanovich Kozhemiako, Privatizatory Sholokova: Kak byla naidena rukopis Tikhogo Dona (Moscow: Pravda: Kodeks–M, 2000);
Andrei Vasil’evich Kulinich, comp., Sholokhov i ukrains’ka literatura: Zbirnyk statei (Kiev: Vydavnytstvo khu–dozhestvenoi literatury Dnipro, 1985);
Feliks F. Kuznetsov, Tikhii Don: Sud’ba ipravda velikogo romana (Moscow: IMLI RAN, 2005);
Petr G. Lugovoi and Evgeniia G. Levitskaia, S krov‘iu i potom: Neizvestnye stranitsy iz zhizni M. A. Sholokhova (Rostov-on-Don: Rostovskoe knizhnoe izdatel’stvo, 1991);
G. Makarov and S. E. Makarova, Tsvetok-tatarnik: K istokam Tikhogo Dona (Moscow, 1991);
Makarov and Makarova, Vokrug Tikhogo Dona ot mifotvorchestva k poisku istiny (Moscow: Probel, 2000);
Michail A. Marusenko, Rajmund H. Piotrowski, and Yuri V. Romanov, “NLP and Attribution of Pseudonymic Texts: Who Is Really the Author of the ‘Quiet Flows the Don)’” ISCA Archive, September 2004 <http://www.isca-speech.org/archive/specom_04/spc4_423.pdf>;
Yuri Mashkov, “Launch Party for Facsimile Edition of And Quiet Flows the Don Manuscript,” ITAR-TASS, 17 November 2006, <http://itar-tass.com/eng/level2.html?NewsID=10991410>;
Roy Aleksandrovich Medvedev, Problems in the Literary Biography of Mikhail Sholokhov, translated by A. D. P. Briggs (Cambridge & New York: Cambridge University Press, 1977);
Irina N. Medvedeva [as D***], Stremia Tikhogo Dona: Zagadki romana, introduction by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (Paris: YMCA Press, 1974);
Marat Timofeevich Mezentsev, Sud’ba romanov: K diskussii po probleme avtorstva Tikhogo Dona (Samara: P. S. Press, 1998);
Nataliia Mikhailovna Murav’eva, Podniataia tselina M. A. Sholokhova: Filsofsko-poeticheskii kontekst (Borisoglebsk: Borisoglebskii gosudarstvennyi pedagogicheskii institut, 2002);
Petr Vasil’evich Palievsky, Sholokhov i Bulgakov (Moscow: Nasledie, 1999);
Viktor Vasil’evich Petelin, Gumanizm Sholokhova (Moscow: Sovetskii pisatel’, 1965);
Petelin, Mikhail Sholokhov: Stranitsy zhizni i tvorchestva (Moscow: Sovetskii pisatel’, 1986);
Konstantin Ivanovich Priima, “K tvorcheskoi istorii Tikhogo Dona,” in “Tikhii Don”: Uroki romana: O mirovom znachenii romana M. A. Sholokhova, edited by L. P. Logashova (Rostov-on-Don: Rostovskoe knizhnoe izd-vo, 1979), pp. 133–141;
Harrison E. Salisbury, “Khrushchev Bid to Sholokhov Follows a Dispute over Novel,” New York Times, 1 September 1959, pp. 1, 6;
Salisbury, “Sholokhov Novel Has New Ending,” New York Times, 19 February 1960, p. 5;
Andronik Savel’ev, ed., Sbornik donskikh narodnykh piesen (St. Petersburg: Izd-vo Donskago voiskovago stat. komiteta, 1866);
Barry P. Scherr, “Westward Flows the Don: The Translation and the Text,” Slavic and East European Journal, 42, 1 (1998): 119–125;
Vitalii Shetalinskii, “Okhota v revzapovednike. Izbrannye stranitsy i stseny sovetskoi literatury,” Novyi mir, 12 (1998): 170–197; <http://magazines.russ.ru/novyi_mi/1998/12/shent.html>
Mikhail Mikhailovich Sholokhov, Ob ottse: Ocherki-vospominaniia raznykh let (Moscow: Sovetskii pisatel’, 2004);
Sholokhov, Ob ottse: Vospominaniia-razmyshleniia raznykh let (Rostov-on-Don: RIUI MVD Rossi, 2005);
Svetlana Sholokhova, “Kazennyi zamysel: K istorii nenapisannogo romana,” Don, 5–6 (1995): 29–37;
Marc Slonim, Soviet Russian Literature: Writers and Problems, 1917–1977 (London & New York: Oxford University Press, 1977);
Aleksandr Isaevich Solzhenitsyn, “Vysoko tseniu avtora Tikhogo Dona,” Istochnik, 3 (1995): 44;
Solzhenitsyn and Anatolii Sidorchenko, “Tikhodonskaia” tragediia pisatelaia Fedora Kriukova (Slaviansk: Pechatnyi dvor, 2000);
H. C. Stevens, Mikhail Sholokhov and the Novels of the Don Cycle (New York: Knopf, 1960);
Gleb Struve, Russian Literature under Lenin and Stalin, 1917–1953 (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1972);
A. M. Ushakov, “Rukopis’ Sholokhova, naidennaia v Kamergerskom pereulke,” Nauka i zhizn’ (Moscow), 1 (2000): 24–25; <http://nauka.relis.ru/16/0001/16001024.htm>
Ushakov, “605 stranits – rukoiu Sholokhova,” Knizhnoe obozrmie, 47 (1999): 5;
Vladimir Vasil’evich Vasil’ev, “Sholokhov i Nobelevskaia Premiia: Istoriia voprosa,” 2002 <http://lit.lseptember.ru/articlef.php?ID=200202304>;
Vasil’ev, Sholokhov I russkoe zarubezh’e (Moscow: Algoritm, 2003);
Andrei A. Venkov, Tikhii Don: Istochnikovaia baza i problema avtorstva (Rostov-on-Don: Terra, 2000);
R. L. White, “Sholokhov in the United States: A Collection of the Periodical Columns, 1934–67,” Russian Language Journal, 127 (1983): 147–176;
M. A. Zhigalev, Russkie pisateli-laureaty Nobelevskoi premii (Moscow: Molodaia gvardiia, 1991).
Most of Mikhail Aleksandrovich Sholokov’s letters are scattered in private and government archives; Institute of World Literature (IMLI) houses the newly located Tikhii Don manuscripts, Moscow; other papers are scattered in various “fondy” (files) in the following archives: State Publisher of Belles Lettres (GIKhL), Moscow; State Literary Museum (GLM), Moscow; Russian State Archive of Literature and Art (RGALI; formerly TsGALI), Moscow; Russian State Library, Manuscript Department, Moscow; Institute of Russian Literature and Art (IRLI, Pushkinskii dom), St. Petersburg; some manuscripts and letters are held by Mariia Mikhailovna Sholokhov Manokhina and in Veshenskaia’s Sholokhov Museum, Gosudarstvennyi muzei-zapovednik M. A. Shobkhova <http://sholokhov.by.ru/sholokhov/sholokhov.html>.