“There’re no such laws! This is a robbery!”

M. Sholokhov, Virgin Soil Upturned

Novel “Virgin Soil Upturned”

Collectivization that swept through Russia in the 1930s, was supposed to bring many benefits to the farmers. But what it was, really? How did it walk over the lives of people who were forcibly driven into the collective farms? This is what Sholokhov novel talks about.

It talks about how people carrying out the collectivization, even having important and meaningful titles and positions, had absolutely no clue about agriculture and the problems of the peasantry.

It is also about how ordinary people felt the full extent of collectivization on their fates.

The novel is today considered a classic of socialist realism. However, in reality the novel critically describes collectivization, because of which for several years it did not receive official recognition in the Soviet Union, and publishing of the novel was suspendedseveral times.

Sholokhov himself criticized the “excesses” of collectivization, and he even wrote letters to Stalin, which in those days was a true act of civic courage: “To investigate the cases not only of those people who victimized farmers … but also the cases of those whose hand was guiding those actions.”

Yet at the same time he had a very strong patriotic position, in particular, by condemning the activities of another future Nobel laureate in literatureAlexander Solzhenitsyn.

Novel “They Fought for Their Country”

A soldier prepares to throw a grenade. Russia, Stalingrad

A soldier prepares to throw a grenade. Russia, Stalingrad / RIA Novosti archive / Zelma / CC-BY-SA 3.0

The novel focuses on the heroism of the nation that saved the world from fascism.

Although the first chapters of the novel were published in the midst of the war – in 1943 – the novel was never finished.

Sholokhov wrote and rewrote the novel. After the war, Sholokhov found out about some tragic fates of convicted soldiers, which didn’t leave him indifferent. Perhaps that is why Sholokhov never finished the novel, and then completely burned the manuscript.

Fulfilled Prophecy

According to the story by Arshak Ter-Markaryan, once Sholokhov when on a business trip to Moscow, was approached by the General Secretary of the USSR Leonid Brezhnev who said, smiling: “Remember”Malaya Zemlya”in 1943? And what you predicted for me? It came true!” Brezhnev turned around and, pleased with himself, left with his entourage.

It was on the train on the way home when Sholokhov finally remembered. During World War II he was a war correspondent, and the front life brought him to Kerch (Crimea Peninsula). And there, with one of the military commanders over a bottle of vodka he had a long all-night conversation in the dugout, sharing their experiences. And Sholokhov’s companion, Brezhnev (he was that military commander), after getting tipsy opened up: open up: we are not fighting the right way, we need another strategy… And Sholokhov, who was listening carefully (it was a hallmark of Sholokhov, he was a good listener), said in the morning: “Lyonya, one day you will be the Secretary General!”


During a bombing in 1942 Sholokhov lost his mother, to whom he came for a short leave, lost many of his friends and acquaintances … Although his acquaintanceswere not pleasing to the authorities anyway for their non-proletarian origin. Sholokhov gave his Stalin Prize for defense needs immediately after Hitlerattacked the USSR, and the Nobel Prize he later received – for the construction of a rural school. At the same time he strongly opposed writers with anti-Soviet attitudes.

Sholokhov, Sholokhov … For some – a writer blessed with fortunes, for others – a fighter. But one thing is for certain – Sholokhov’s novels read in one breath, and the lives of his characters do not leave anyone indifferent.

See also:

The Beginning of the Story about Sholokhov


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