Radzinsky, Edvard Stanislavich

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(b. 1936), playwright, author, popular historian, and television personality.

A man of the 1960s, Edvard Radzinsky was born in Moscow to the family of an intellectual. He trained to be an archivist but began writing plays during the late 1950s. During the 1960s and the 1970s Radzinsky dominated the theatrical scene in Moscow and gained international recognition. His early plays explored the themes of love, commitment, and estrangement (101 Pages About Love; Monologue About a Marriage; "Does Love Really Exist?," Asked the Firemen ). In the final decades of stagnation under mature socialism, Radzinsky wrote a cycle of historicalphilosophical plays exploring the themes of personal responsibility, the struggle between ideas and power, and the roles of victim and executioner (Conversations with Socrates; I, Lunin; and Theater in the Time of Nero and Seneca ). In the same period he also wrote several grotesques that drew their inspirations from great literary themes and myths: The Seducer Kolobashkin (the Faust legend) and Don Juan Continued (Don Juan in modern Moscow).

Radzinsky refused to define his dramatic imagination by the political events of 1917 and looked to a larger intellectual world. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, he shifted his creative efforts to literature, writing Our Decameron on the deconstruction of the Soviet intellectual life and history, as well as writing unconventional biographies of Nicholas II (The Last Tsar ), Stalin, and Rasputin. In each work Radzinsky enjoyed access to new archival sources and wrote for a popular audience. His works became international bestsellers. Some historians criticized the special archival access he obtained through his close ties with the government of Boris Yeltsin. Others noted his invocation of mystical and spiritual themes in his treatment of the murder of the tsar and his family. Radzinsky has shown a profound interest in the impact of personalities on history but is much opposed to either a rationalizing historicism or an ideology-derived historical inevitability. Radzinsky became a media celebrity thanks to his programs on national television about riddles of history. In 1995 he was elected to the Academy of Russian Television and was awarded state honors by President Yeltsin. Appointed to the Government Commission for the Funeral of the Royal Family, Radzinsky worked diligently to have the remains of Nicholas II and his family buried in the cathedral at the Peter and Paul Fortress in St. Petersburg.

See also: nicholas ii; rasputin, grigory yefimovich; stalin, josef vissarionovich; theater


Kipp, Maia A. (1985). "The Dramaturgy of Edvard Radzinskii." Ph.D. diss. University of Kansas, Lawrence.

Kipp, Maia A. (1985). "Monologue About Love: The Plays of Edvard Radzinsky." Soviet Union/Union Soviétique 12 (3):305329.

Kipp, Maia A. (1989). "In Search of a Synthesis: Reflections on Two Interpretations of E. Radzinsky's 'Lunin, or, the Death of Jacques, Recorded in the Presence of the Master.'" Studies in Twentieth Century Literature 3 (2):259277.

Kipp, Maia A. (1993). "Edvard Radzinsky." In Contemporary World Writers ed. Tracy Chevalier. London: Saint James Press.

Radzinsky, Edvard. (1992). The Last Tsar: The Life and Death of Nicholas II. New York: Doubleday.

Radzinsky, Edvard. (1996). Stalin. New York: Doubleday.

Radzinsky, Edvard. (2000). The Rasputin File. New York: Nan A. Telese.

Jacob W. Kipp