Vladimir Kirshon

Vladimir Kirshon

Birth
Nalchik, Kabardino-Balkaria Republic, Russia
Death 28 Jul 1938 (aged 35)
Moscow, Moscow Federal City, Russia
Burial Kommunarka, Moscow Oblast, Russia
Memorial ID 36023882 · View Source
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Playwright, Polemicist. His plays examined social and ideological problems in early Soviet society. Although he was a writer of talent, he zealously supported the Stalinist machine and in the end was devoured by it. Vladimir Mikhailovich Kirshon was born in Nalchik, Russia. He served in the Red Army during the Civil War and in 1920 joined the Communist Party, which arranged for him to study at the Sverdlov Institute for two years. In 1925 he settled in Moscow. A political idealist, at least in his youth, he was angered by the compromise of Lenin's New Economic Policy (which allowed limited free trade) and this motivated his early plays, "Rust" (1927), "The Rails Are Humming" (1928), and "City of Winds" (1929). "Bread" (1930), his best known drama, dealt with the struggle between the Party and the peasantry over collective farming. These had a clear partisan intent but still made good theatre thanks to Kirshon's ability to present original conflicts, sharply observed characters and hard-hitting dialogue. They were translated into several languages and successfully performed in Berlin, Paris, London, and New York. Meanwhile, Kirshon was becoming notorious at home as an unofficial cultural commissar. For several years he was a leading spokesman for the militant Russian Association of Proletarian Writers (RAPP), which demanded that all literature be used to glorify the state and composed in a simplistic manner for easy assimilation by the public. The group's more belligerent members were nicknamed "Kirshonites". In 1929, Josef Stalin launched a three-year campaign using the RAPP to bully the country's independent-minded authors into conformity, which historian Marc Slonim called "the most stupid and irritating period in the history of Soviet letters". Only books adhering to the RAPP's narrowly prescribed themes and style were allowed to be published, and Kirshon and his followers publicly denounced those who disagreed as "enemies of the people". During this period the writings of such gifted figures as Mikhail Bulgakov and Yevgeny Zamyatin were banned, novelist Boris Pilnyak driven to a nervous breakdown, and poet Vladimir Mayakovsky allegedly hounded to suicide. Other important authors dropped fiction for journalism or translation, or ceased writing altogether, while lesser scribes were arrested. By 1932 the Politburo realized that this extremist policy was counter-productive. The RAPP was abolished, replaced by the Union of Soviet Writers, and Kirshon was severely reprimanded. For a time he was protected by Genrikh Yagoda, the head of the secret police (NKVD), and managed to have three new plays produced, "Court" (1933), "The Miraculous Alloy" (1934), and "Great Day" (1936). But after Yagoda was removed from office in late 1936 the playwright's downfall was swift. He was expelled from the Writers Union in April 1937, and in August he and other former RAPP leaders were arrested as Trotsky sympathizers. The following year he was secretly executed and buried at the Kommunarka killing field near Moscow. Kirshon was "posthumously rehabilitated in absence of a crime" in 1955 and his plays were once again performed in the Soviet Union.

Bio by: Bobb Edwards


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  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Originally Created by: Bobb Edwards
  • Added: 18 Apr 2009
  • Find a Grave Memorial 36023882
  • Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Vladimir Kirshon (19 Aug 1902–28 Jul 1938), Find a Grave Memorial no. 36023882, citing Kommunarka Mass Execution Site, Kommunarka, Moscow Oblast, Russia ; Maintained by Find A Grave .