Minski, Nikolai Maximovich

views updated


MINSKI, NIKOLAI MAXIMOVICH (pseudonym of N.M. Vilenkin ; 1855–1937), Russian poet and essayist. Born in Glubokoye, near Vilna, Minski studied law at St. Petersburg. For a time he was influenced by P. *Smolenskin and the rising Jewish nationalism among young, educated Russian Jews. In 1879–80 he wrote a series of essays, under the pseudonym "Nord-Vest," in which he argued that the Jewish problem in Russia could be solved by the creation of a Jewish farming class which would "cleanse Judaism of its impurities." He also claimed that all Jewish groups were opposed to socialism. Minski later became alienated from Jewish affairs, and before the turn of the century converted to Christianity. In the 1870s he lived in Italy and Paris, where he taught the children of Baron G. Ginzburg. Due to the antisemitism of the journal "Novoye Vremia," he published in Voskhod (nr. 1, 2, 1888) the drama in verses "The Siege of Tulchin," where he compared the *Chmielnicki murders with the pogroms of 1881. He published his first poems in 1876. His early poetry, such as Belyye nochi ("White Nights," 1879), deals with socialist and folk themes, but his later writing betrays his disillusionment with socialism and an attraction to mysticism and Nietzschean philosophy. During the 1905 Revolution, Minski helped to publish Novaya zhizn ("New Life"), the organ of the Bolshevik wing of the Social Democrats. He translated the Internationale into Russian, but with the failure of the Revolution he was imprisoned and thereafter he was freed and left Russia and lived in Berlin, London, and Paris. During the 1917 Revolution he wrote anti-Bolshevik articles for the French press. Some of Minski's poetry, which Soviet critics have stigmatized as decadent, appeared in a Hebrew translation by Leah Goldberg (Yalkut Shirat he-Ammim, 1 (1942), 5–6). He translated into Russian Homer's Iliad and some poems of Yehuda Halevi, Byron, Shelley, and Verlaine.


M. Slonim, Modern Russian Literature (1953), index.

[Yitzhak Maor]