|Born||Mikhail Aleksandrovich Sholokhov|
24 May 1905
Vyoshenskaya, Donetsky district, Don Host Oblast, Russian Empire
|Died||21 February 1984 (aged 78)|
Vyoshenskaya, Rostov Oblast, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union
|Notable awards||Nobel Prize in Literature |
Mikhail Aleksandrovich Sholokhov (Russian: ? , IPA: ['?ol?x?f]; 24 May [O.S. 11 May] 1905 - 21 February 1984) was a Soviet/Russian novelist and winner of the 1965 Nobel Prize in Literature. He is known for writing about life and fate of Don Cossacks during the Russian Revolution, the civil war and the period of collectivization, primarily in his most famous novel, And Quiet Flows the Don.
His father, Aleksander Mikhailovich Sholokhov (1865-1925), was a member of the lower middle class, at different times a farmer, a cattle trader, and a miller. Sholokhov's mother, Anastasia Danilovna Chernikova (1871-1942), the widow of a Cossack, came from Ukrainian peasant stock (her father was a peasant in the Chernihiv oblast). She did not become literate until a point in her life when she wanted to correspond with her son.
Sholokhov attended schools in Karginskaya, Moscow, Boguchar, and Veshenskaya until 1918, when he joined the Bolshevik side in the Russian Civil War at the age of 13. He spent the next few years fighting.
Sholokhov began writing at 17. He completed his first literary work, the short story "The Birthmark", at 19.
In 1922 Sholokhov moved to Moscow to become a journalist, but he had to support himself through manual labour. He was a stevedore, a stonemason, and an accountant from 1922 to 1924, but he also intermittently participated in writers' "seminars". His first published work was a satirical article, The Test (19 October 1923).
In 1924 Sholokhov returned to Veshenskaya and began devoting himself entirely to writing. In the same year he married Maria Petrovna Gromoslavskaia (1901 -1992), the daughter of Pyotr Gromoslavsky, the ataman of Bukanovskaya village. They had two daughters and two sons.
Sholohov's first book Tales from the Don, a volume of stories largely based on his personal experiences in his native region during World War I and the Russian Civil War, was published in 1926. The story "Nakhalyonok", partly based on his own childhood, was later made into a popular film.
In the same year, Sholokhov began writing And Quiet Flows the Don, which took him fourteen years to complete (1926-1940). It became the most-read work of Soviet fiction and was heralded as a powerful example of socialist realism, and it earned him both a Stalin Prize and the 1965 Nobel Prize in Literature. It deals with the experiences of the Cossacks before and during World War I and the Russian Civil War.
Another novel, Virgin Soil Upturned, which earned a Lenin Prize, took 28 years to complete. It is composed of two parts, Seeds of Tomorrow (1932) and Harvest on the Don (1960), and reflects life during collectivization in the Don area.
During World War II Sholokhov wrote about the Soviet war effort for various journals. He also covered the devastation caused by Wehrmacht troops along the Don. His mother was killed when Veshenskaya was bombed in 1942.
Sholokhov's unfinished novel They Fought for Their Country is about World War II (known in the Soviet Union, and now in Russia, as the Great Patriotic War).
Sholokhov's collected works were published in eight volumes between 1956 and 1960.
Sholokhov was accused of plagiarizing And Quiet Flows the Don, which had made his international reputation. Several other writers have been proposed as the 'original' author, although Fyodor Kryukov, a Cossack and Anti-Bolshevik who had died in 1920 has emerged as the leading candidate.
Because of the accusations, which started in 1928, Sholokhov asked Pravda newspaper to prove his authorship. He submitted his manuscripts of the first three volumes of And Quiet Flows the Don and the plan of the fourth one. In 1929 a special commission was formed that accepted Sholokhov's authorship. In the conclusion signed by four experts, the commission stated that there was no evidence of plagiarism on the one hand, and on the other hand the manuscripts' style was close to that of Sholokhov's previous book, Tales from the Don.
The allegations resurfaced in the 1960s with Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn as a notable proponent, possibly in retaliation for Sholokhov's scathing opinion of Solzhenitsyn's novella One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich.
In 1984 Norwegian Slavicist and mathematician Geir Kjetsaa, in a monograph written with three other colleagues, provided statistical analyses of sentence lengths showing that Mikhail Sholokhov was likely the true author of And Quiet Flows the Don,
The debate focused on the published book, because Sholokhov's archive was destroyed in a bomb raid during the Second World War and no manuscript material or drafts were known. 143 pages of the manuscript of the 3rd & 4th books were later found and returned to Sholokhov; since 1975, they have been held by the Pushkin House in St Petersburg. Then, in 1987, several hundred pages of notes and drafts of the work were discovered, including chapters excluded from the final draft. The writing paper dates back to the 1920s: 605 pages are in Sholokhov's own hand, and 285 are transcribed by his wife, Maria, and sisters. Sholokhov had had his friend Vassily Kudashov, who was killed in the war, look after it. Following Kudashov's death, his widow took possession of the manuscript, but she never disclosed her ownership. The manuscript was finally obtained by the Institute of World Literature of the Russian Academy of Sciences in 1999 with assistance from the Russian government.
In 1999 the Russian Academy of Science carried out an analysis of the manuscript and came to the conclusion that And Quiet Flows the Don had been written by Sholokhov himself. A lengthy analysis by Felix Kuznetsov of the creative process visible in the papers provides detailed support for Sholokhov's authorship.
Sholokhov met Joseph Stalin in 1930 and must have made a good impression, because he was one of very few people who could give the dictator a truthful account of what was happening in the country without risk to himself. In the 1930s he wrote several letters to Stalin from his home in Veshenskaya about the appalling conditions in the kolkhozes and sovkhozes along the Don, requesting assistance for the farmers. In January 1931, he warned: "Comrade Stalin, without exaggeration, conditions are catastrophic!" On 4 April 1933, he sent a long letter in which, among many other details, he named two OGPU officers whom he accused of torturing prisoners from his district. Stalin reacted by sending a senior official, Matvei Shkiryatov, to investigate. The two officers were arrested and sentenced to death; their sentences were later revoked, but they were banned from working in Sholokhov's home village. Stalin also arranged for extra food to be sent to Veshenskaya and the neighbouring district.
Sholokhov joined the CPSU in 1932, and in 1937 he was elected to the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union. In August 1937, his best friend, the secretary of the Veshenskaya party committee, P.K. Lugovoi, was arrested. Sholokohov was due to take part in an international writers' conference, but he refused to leave the country while Lugovoi was being held. Stalin sent another official, Vladimir Stavsky, to investigate, and invited Sholokhov to visit him in the Kremlin. After their meeting, on 4 November 1937, Lugovoi and two other prisoners on whose behalf Sholokhov had interceded were released, but in a subsequent letter to Stalin, he complained that the people responsible for wrongfully arresting them had not been punished.
On a visit to Moscow in 1938, Sholokhov met Yevgenia Yezhova, wife of Nikolai Yezhov, the chief of police, and checked into a hotel room with her, unaware that the room was bugged. Yezhov heard the recording and attacked Yezhova. On 23 October 1938, Sholokhov met Stalin in the Kremlin to complain that he had been put under surveillance in Veshenskaya, but when Yezhov was summoned to explain, he claimed not to know why. They met again on 31 October: this time the officer who had been investigating Sholokhov was also summoned. He said his orders had come from Moscow, but Yezhov again denied giving the order. Sholokhov claimed that he completed the fourth and last volume of And Quiet Flows the Don and its sequel on 21 December 1939, the day when the USSR was celebrating what was supposedly Stalin's 60th birthday, and celebrated by opening a bottle of wine that Stalin had given him. He then wrote to Stalin to say how he had marked the special day.
In 1959 he accompanied Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev on a trip to Europe and the United States. He became a member of the CPSU Central Committee in 1961, Academician of the USSR Academy of Sciences in 1939, and was a member of the USSR Supreme Soviet. He was twice awarded the title of Hero of Socialist Labor, and later became vice president of the Union of Soviet Writers.
In 1965, as he was preparing to receive the Nobel Prize in Stockholm, two prominent dissident writers, Andrei Sinyavsky and Yuli Daniel were arrested, and fellow writers called on Sholokhov to help them be released. He refused and instead at the next party congress, he said that the prison terms meted out to Sinyavsky and Daniel had been much too lenient, stating, "If these delinquents with their black consciences pulled the same stunt back in the twenties when people were judged not in accordance with strictly delineated articles of the Criminal Code but instead operated with a 'revolutionary understanding of what is right,' oh how these turncoats would have received an altogether different form of punishment!"
Biographer Brian J. Boeck states: