Mikhail Aleksandrovich Sholokhov

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Mikhail Aleksandrovich Sholokhov

The Soviet novelist Mikhail Aleksandrovich Sholokhov (1905-1984) won an international reputation for an epic novel, "The Silent Don," dealing with his native Don Cossack land. Sholokhov won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1965.

Mikhail Sholokhov was born on May 24, 1905, in a village in the Don Cossack region of Russia. His mother was a peasant, and his father came from the middle classes. Sholokhov's education was interrupted by the civil war, in which he served as a member of a Red grain-requisitioning detachment. He then went to Moscow, where he joined a group of young proletarian writers, supporting himself as a manual laborer. However, he soon returned to his native region, where he lived the rest of his life.

Sholokhov's first works were sketches and stories of the civil war, collected in 1925 as Tales of the Don. Thereafter he continued to write short stories. In 1928 the first installments of his epic novel, The Silent Don, appeared, and this work established his reputation. Its final installment appeared in 1940.

The Silent Donis a panoramic novel based on the life of the Don Cossacks before, during, and after the Revolution. Its hero, Grigory Melekhov, a Cossack peasant, is a natural leader with a fiery spirit of independence and a strong sense of decency and justice. In World War I he fights valiantly against the Germans. Confused by the events and issues of the Revolution and civil war, he fights at first on the White side, then with the Reds, and finally joins a band of Cossack nationalist guerrillas fighting the Reds. After 7 years of conflict, Grigory is morally exhausted. His plight, similar to that of millions of Russians during those years, is shown so poignantly that he has become the most popular tragic hero of Soviet literature. A passionate and violent tale that profoundly depicts the connection between man and his physical surroundings, The Silent Don ranks as the greatest epic novel of Soviet literature.

Sholokhov interrupted his work on The Silent Don to begin another large novel, Virgin Soil Upturned, the first volume of which appeared in 1932. Also set in the Don Cossack region, it deals with the violent social upheavals caused by the forced collectivization of agriculture in the 1930s. The second volume of this novel was published in 1960.

Sholokhov's third important novel concerns World War II. Entitled They Fought for Their Country, it has been published only in chapters and remains unfinished. Sholokhov also published one excellent story about World War II, "The Fate of a Man" (1957).

Sholokhov received the Nobel Prize for literature in 1965. A longtime Communist, he was a member of the Supreme Soviet for many years and received countless official honors.

Further Reading

The Silent Don was published in English in two volumes: And Quiet Flows the Don (1935) and The Don Flows Home to the Sea (1941). Virgin Soil Upturned (1957) also appears in two volumes: Seeds of Tomorrow (1935) and Harvest on the Don (1960). Studies of Sholokhov in English include: Lev Grigorevich Iakimenko, Sholokhov: A Critical Appreciation (1973), C. G. Bearne, Sholokhov (1969) and D. H. Stewart, Mikhail Sholokhov: A Critical Introduction (1967). Extensive studies of Sholokhov are also in the following works: Gleb Struve, Soviet Russian Literature, 1917-1950 (1951); Ernest J. Simmons, Russian Fiction and Soviet Ideology (1958); Helen Muchnic, From Gorky to Pasternak (1961); and Edward J. Brown, Russian Literature since the Revolution (1969). □

Sholokhov, Mikhail Alexandrovich

views updated Jun 08 2018


(19051984), Russian writer and Soviet loyalist who won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1965.

Mikhail Sholokhov was born in the Don Cossack military region in 1905. During the civil war he joined the Bolsheviks, twice being on the verge of execution for his views. In 1922 he moved to Moscow to pursue a career as a writer. In 1924 he published his first short story and then published regularly throughout the 1920s. After 1924 he moved back to the Cossack regions to remain close to his stories.

The first volume of his most important work, the Quiet Flows the Don (Tikhii Don, 19281940) was published in 1928. It is a portrayal of the struggles of the Don Cossacks against the Red army in Southern Russia, and is noted for its objectivity and lack of positive Bolshevik characters. The work was an instant success. Sholokhov would publish three more volumes in the course of his lifetime. This work has been tainted by unsubstantiated claims of plagiarism.

His second major novel was the story of the triumph of collectivization in the early 1930s, entitled Virgin Soil Upturned (Podnyataya tselina, 19321960). This work was trumpeted as one of the masterpieces of Socialist Realism.

Sholokhov joined the Communist Party in 1932 and was a loyal adherent to the party line for the rest of his life, though outspoken in his criticism of the quality of Soviet writing.

He was one of the most honored authors of the Soviet period. His short stories and novels were published in massive editions. He was a member of the Supreme Soviet and Central Committee, awarded the title of Hero of Socialist Labor, and won both the Lenin and Stalin Prizes. He was acknowledged for his writing in the West as well, receiving the Nobel Prize of literature in 1965 for Tikhii Don.

See also: socialist realism


Ermolaev, Herman. (1982). Mikhail Sholokhov and His Art. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Sholokhov, Mikhail. (1959). Virgin Soil Upturned, tr. Stephen Garry. New York: Knopf.

Sholokhov, Mikhail. (1996). Quiet Flows the Don, tr. Robert Daglish. New York: Carroll & Graf.

Karl E. Loewenstein

Sholokhov, Mikhail Alexandrovich

views updated Jun 08 2018

Sholokhov, Mikhail Alexandrovich (1905–84) Soviet novelist. Sholokhov became famous for his novel about his native land, Tikhy Don (1928–40); translated as And Quiet Flows the Don (1934) and The Don Flows Home to the Sea (1940). He received the 1965 Nobel Prize in literature.

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