Kol'tsov, Mikhail

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KOL'TSOV, MIKHAIL (pseudonym of Mikhail Yefimovich Fridland ; 1898–1940), Soviet publicist and social activist. Kol'tsov was born in Kiev and in 1915 he entered the Petrograd Psychoneurological Institute. He took part in the February and October Revolutions in Petrograd (1917) and in the Civil War, the subject of a series of sketches in his books Petlyurovshcina ("The Petlyura Terror," 1922), Sotvrorenie mia ("Creation of the World," 1928), and others. In 1920 he began working in Moscow in the press department of the People's Commissariat of Foreign Affairs. From 1922 he worked for Pravda, publishing almost daily a topical feuilleton on domestic and foreign policy. His keen observation, inexhaustible humor, and biting sarcasm, as well as the ability to manipulate facts, together with a keen political sensitivity allowed Kol'tsov to follow every fluctuation of Soviet policy, thanks to which he became one of the most authoritative and popular Soviet journalists of the 1920s and 1930s. Enjoying the confidence and support of the "authorities," he was editor of the journal Ogoniok, which he founded in 1923, editor of the satirical journals Chudak (1928–30) and Krokodil (1934–38), co-editor (with Maxim Gorky) of the journal Za rubezhom (1932–38); member of the editorial board of Pravda; he headed the cooperative publishing house of the Ogoniok society (1926–31), the journal and newspaper association (1931–38), the foreign commission of the Union of Writers (1934–38), and represented the Soviet Union at international congresses of writers (Paris, 1935; Madrid and Valencia, 1937, when he headed the Soviet delegation).

In 1936, when the Spanish Civil War broke out, Kol'tsov became not only Pravda correspondent there (his articles were included in his book Ispanskiy dnevnik ("Spanish Diary," 1938)), but also political adviser – with a direct link to Stalin – to the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Spain and the Republican government. In the latter role Kol'tsov is depicted under the name Karkov in Ernest Hemingway's novel For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940). In November 1937 he was called back to Moscow and awarded the Order of the Red Banner. In 1938 he was elected a corresponding member of the Academy of Sciences of the U.S.S.R. and deputy of the Supreme Soviet of the Russian Federation (rsfsr), but in December of the same year he was arrested. He was shot to death in Lefortovo prison in Moscow in 1940, and was rehabilitated in 1954.

Jointly with A. Barginym, Kol'tsov wrote the propaganda brochure Sud'ba evreyskikh mass v Sovetskom soyuze ("The Fate of the Jewish Masses in the Soviet Union," 1924). From 1927 to 1937 he was a member of the editorial board of the monthly of the ozet society, Tribuna evreyskoy sovetskoy obshchestvennosti.

Kol'tsov's brother, boris efimovich efimov (1900– ), caricaturist, corresponding member of the Academy of Arts of the U.S.S.R. (1954), People's Artist of the U.S.S.R. (1967). In 1922 he began working for Pravda and Izvestia, and the magazine Krokodil. In 1966 he became editor-in-chief of the Agitplakat organization. He was awarded the Stalin Prize (1950, 1951) and the State Prize (1972). He created cartoons on international themes (often with considerable satirical commentary and explanatory captions). In depicting Jewish political figures out of favor with the Soviet rulers or in cartoons critical of Israel and Zionism, he grotesquely exaggerated so-called Jewish national features.

[Mark Kipnis /

The Shorter Jewish Encyclopaedia in Russian]