Ehrenburg, Ilya Grigorovich

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(18911967), poet, journalist, novelist.

Ilya Grigorovich Ehrenburg was an enigma. Essentially Western in taste, he was at times the spokesman for the Soviet Union, the great anti-Western power of his age. He involved himself with Bolsheviks beginning in 1907, writing pamphlets and doing some organizational work, and then, after his arrest, fled to Paris, where he would spend most of the next thirty years. In the introduction to his first major work, and probably his life's best work, the satirical novel Julio Jurentino (1922), his good friend Nikolai Bukharin described Ehrenburg's liminal existence, saying that he was not a Bolshevik, but "a man of broad vision, with a deep insight into the Western European way of life, a sharp eye, and an acid tongue" (Goldberg, 1984, p. 5). These characteristics probably kept him alive during the Josef Stalin years, along with his service to the USSR as a war correspondent and spokesman in the anticosmopolitan campaign. Arguably, his most important service to the USSR came in the period after Stalin's death, when his novel The Thaw (1956) deviated from the norms of Socialist Realism. His activities in Writer's Union politics consistently pushed a kind of socialist literature (and life) "with a human face," and his memoirs, printed serially during the early 1960s, were culled by thawgeneration youth for inspiration. When Stalin was alive, Ehrenburg may well have proven a coward. After his death, he proved much more courageous than most.

See also: bukharin, nikolai ivanovich; jews; world war ii


Goldberg, Anatol. (1984). Ilya Ehrenburg: Writing, Politics, and the Art of Survival. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson.

Johnson, Priscilla. (1965). Khrushchev and the Arts: The Politics of Soviet Culture, 19621964. Cambridge, MA:M.I.T. Press.

John Patrick Farrell

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Ehrenburg, Ilya Grigorovich

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