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Mikhail Zoshchenko

Mikhail Zoshchenko

Mikhail Zoshchenko was a soviet writer. He was born in Poltava, Ukraine, on 1895. He studied law at the University of Petersburg but did not graduate. During the First World War Zoshchenko served in the Russian Army. A supporter of the October Revolution, Zoshchenko joined the Red Army and fought against the Whites in the Civil War. In 1922, Zoshchenko joined “The Serapion Brothers,” a literary group which its activity was inspired by the work of Yevgeni Zamyatin. The group took its name from the story by E.T.A. Hoffmann by the same name, which describes an individualist who vows to devote himself to free, imaginative, and nonconformist art. Zoshchenko’s early stories deal with his experiences in the First World War and the Russian Civil War. He gradually developed a new style that relied heavily on humor. Zoshchenko’s works of satire were popular with the Russian people and he was one of the country’s most widely read writers in the 1920s. Although Zoshchenko never directly attacked the Soviet regime, he was not afraid to highlight the problems of bureaucracy, corruption, poor housing, and food shortages. During the 1930s, Zoshchenko came under increasing pressure to conform to the idea of socialist realism. He was forced to join the soviet writers’ expedition to the White Sea Canal’s building site and take part in a book glorifying the gulag prisoners and their work. From then on, he focused mainly on writing children’s books. He got into more and more troubles with the Soviet authorities. His autobiography, Before Sunrise, was banned in 1943 and three years later he was expelled from the Soviet Writers’ Union. In the seven years to follow, he made his living as a translator and a shoemaker. After Stalin’s death, attempts were made to clear his name, and finally, he was re-accepted to the union. Mikhail Zoshchenko died from a heart condition in Leningrad in 1958. A film about his work was produced in 1975. In 1988, his apartment was turned into a museum. A collection of his complete works was published in seven volumes in Russian in 2008.

 

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