The famous Russian poet and writer Alexander Tvardovsky is widely known for his comic-tragic-patriotic poem about the World War II “Vasily Terkin”.
The Poem “Vasily Terkin”
“What freedom, what amazing prowess, what accuracy, precision in everything and incredible simple soldier’s language – not a hitch, not a single fake, forced, that is, literary-vulgar word!”
Ivan Bunin, the first Russian winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature
During World War II Tvardovski created the poem “Vasily Terkin”. The main character in it, Vasily Terkin is a seasoned soldier who combines in his personality comedy, drama and melodrama.
The poem came out in parts throughout 1941-1945 and was very popular among the troops. Every part of it was a single episode of the war. Tvardovski put his character in a variety of situations, from which Vasily Terkin always comes out with flying colors.
In “Vasily Terkin” Tvardovsky expressed his thoughts about the war: about the tragedy of the people, about patriotism, about the heroism of ordinary everyday life of an ordinary soldier…
Today still in schools children learn by heart:
“River crossing, river crossing,
Left bank, right bank,
Rough snow, icy edges…”
Managing a Progressive Magazine “New World”
In 1950-1954 and in 1958-1970 Tvardovsky was the chief editor of the magazine.
The break was due to the fact that in 1954 Tvardovsky was removed from leading the magazine because he published in it his satirical poem “Terkinin the afterlife”, in which he gives his evaluation of Stalinism, as well as the unexpected “On Sincerity in literature” by Pomerantsev, “People of collective farms in the post-war prose” by Abramov …
The reaction was immediate:
“The CPSU Central Committee and the Secretariat of the Union of Writers have long and patiently explained … the fallacy of theposition of the magazine ” New World “and ideological harm of the poem “Terkin in the afterlife”… Lesyuchevsky (chief editor of” Soviet writer “) … in a statement condemning A. Tvardovski … advises Tvardovsky to treat his offspring as Gogol’s Taras Bulba treated his traitorous son, i.e. to kill it.”
Tvardovsky was not a dissident. But he believed it was necessary to showcase the voices of talented poets and writers. Tvardovsky defended their right to be published, to be recognized.
Tvardovsky chose perhaps the most risky, but also the most effective way. Bypassing any intermediate agencies he went directly to the Secretary General of the USSR to get permission. The magazine “New World” became for many years a stronghold of “soft opposition”.
Tvardovsky’s efforts helped such writers like Fyodor Abramov, Vasil Bykov, Chingiz Aitmatov, and many others. Tvardovsky managed to obtain permission from Nikita Khrushchev to publish Solzhenitsyn’s story “One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich” in 1962.
By 1970, a new surge of discontent among the “leading comrades” began. Tvardovsky was not going to leave the post of the chief editor. And they couldn’t simply fire him, because he had a very solid reputation among writers. So they fired his deputies. New deputies created intolerable work conditions, and Tvardovsky had to leave.
A Short List of Tvardovski Works
1933-34 poem “A humpbacked peasant” –was prohibited.
1934-36 poem “Country Muravia” – about the collectivization.
1941-45 poem “Vasily Terkin.”
1941-42 “The Ballad of Comrade.”
1943 “Two lines” (about a boy-soldier who was killed in the front of unpopular Finnish war).
1945-46, “I was killed near Rzhev” – sad and tragic.
1942-46 poem “Road House” – the bitterness of retreat, the horrors of the occupation, the fates of people in concentration camps.
1950-60 poems “Distance after distance” – about the Soviet history.
1954-63 “Terkin in the afterlife.”
1958 story “Stove builders” – the role of art in history.
1967-69 poem “By the law of memory” – was prohibited. A more rigorous re-evaluation of collectivization, the fates of the repressed relatives during the prewar period, postwar repressions of those who survived Fascist captivity.
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