Libedinski, Yuri Nikolayevich

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LIBEDINSKI, YURI NIKOLAYEVICH (1898–1959), Soviet Russian novelist. Libedinski was born in Odessa, but his father's medical practice took him to a factory in the Urals, and most of Libedinski's works are set in the distant provinces. Nedelya (1923; A Week, 1923) firmly established Libedinski as one of the founders of Soviet proletarian prose, and he has enjoyed wide popularity ever since. Though somewhat marred by inept imitation of the literary mannerisms of the Symbolists, this short novel is still considered one of the most effective and honest descriptions of the early days of the Soviet regime, under which Libedinski served as a Bolshevik political commissar. While the author's unconditional support of the Communist cause is emphatically stated, he does concede the fact that most of the population, and particularly the peasantry, was implacably hostile to Soviet rule. A Week ends with a description of an uprising in which most of the communists are killed. Suspicion with regard to the allegiance of Russia's peasantry was a basic tenet of Trotskyism, and Libedinski's next novel Zavtra ("Tomorrow," 1924), showed even closer ties to the teachings of *Trotsky: the disillusionment within the ranks of the Communist Party was curable only if a revolution were to take place in Germany. Komissary ("The Commissars," 1925, 193514) is of interest as a social document; it gives an insider's view of the milieu of communist functionaries. The hero, Mindlov, is a Jew and a former Menshevik. Rozhdeniye geroya ("The Birth of a Hero," 1930) attempts to tackle an ambitious theme: the dehumanization of human relationships under the impact of demands made by a society which puts a premium on industrial and bureaucratic efficiency and on political orthodoxy. Though not very successful, the novel was one of the few works of Soviet prose that tried to probe some of the basic dilemmas of the human condition. Of Libedinski's later works – other than some effective wartime reporting – the most noteworthy is a trilogy set in the Caucasus immediately before and during the Revolution: Gory i lyudi ("Mountains and People," 1947); Zarevo ("Dawn," 1952); and Utro Sovetov ("The Morning of Soviet Power," 1957). It is commonly agreed that Libedinski narrowly escaped imprisonment or death on at least two occasions: first, as a Trotskyite in 1938, when he was actually expelled from the Party, though reinstated shortly afterward; and again in the late 1940s, as a "Jewish cosmopolitan." Little information about either period can be found in his book of reminiscences titledSovremenniki ("Contemporaries," 1958). Ob uvazhenii k literature ("On Respect for Literature," 1965) includes further reminiscences and articles by him.

[Maurice Friedberg]