Halkin, Shmuel

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HALKIN, SHMUEL (1897–1960), Soviet Yiddish poet. Born in Rogachev, Belorussia, Halkin grew up in a ḥasidic home and early came under the influence of Hebrew poetry and wrote Hebrew lyrics. He dreamed of becoming an artist, but ultimately turned to Yiddish poetry and was encouraged by Peretz *Markish in Ekaterinoslav (now Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine) and by David *Hofstein in Moscow. His first book of lyrics, Lider ("Poems"), appeared in 1922. Other volumes of poems and plays followed between 1929 and 1948. Until 1924, Halkin belonged to a Zionist circle and contemplated settling in Palestine, as is evident from a Hebrew song, Shir ha-Ḥaluẓah, written at this time and published in Israel after his death. In his autobiography, he acknowledged the influence of Judah Halevi and Solomon ibn Gabirol in the shaping of his lyric personality. Attacked for his Jewish nationalism, his nostalgic despair, and his deviation from the Communist party line on literature, he was compelled to recant his literary heresies. Thereafter, he avoided controversial themes and, in his 1932 poetic collection Far dem Nayem Fundament ("For the New Foundation"), formulated the Soviet writers' credo: "We write what we want to-/we write what we have to." He fruitfully worked with Yiddish theater: Shulamis (1940), a dramatic poem, based on *Goldfaden, and a verse drama, Bar Kokhva (1939), were staged in Moscow and by other theater troupes. In the latter he describes in a communist-ideological spirit the social and class differences between Bar Kokhba and R. Akiva on the one hand and the rich classes of Judea on the other. In 1939 he was decorated with the Order of the Sign of Honor. He translated some of Shakespeare's plays (most notably King Lear) and some of the works of Pushkin, Gorki, and other Russian authors into Yiddish.

His dramatic poem Ghettograd on the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising was scheduled for the Moscow Yiddish Theater in 1948, but the theater was closed when the Jewish *Anti-Fascist Committee was liquidated that year and Halkin was arrested as one of its prominent members and sent to a labor camp. He was released in 1955, rehabilitated, and, in 1958, decorated with the Order of the Red Banner. After his death in 1960, his native city named a street after him, and in 1966 a selection of his Yiddish lyrics was issued in Moscow. He was a cousin of Simon and Abraham S. *Halkin. His Lider fun Tfise un Lager ("Poems from Prison and Camp") was published in Tel Aviv in 1988.


lnyl, 3 (1960), 41ff.; J. Glatstein, In Tokh Genumen (1947), 350–8; C. Madison, Yiddish Literature (1968), 409–11. add. bibliography: Ch. Shmeruk (ed.), A Shpigl oyf a Shteyn (1987), 567–627, 759–61; J. Veidlinger, The Moscow State Yiddish Theater (2000), index.

[Sol Liptzin /

Gennady Estraikh (2nd ed.)]