Soviet Writers Union. The First Congress of the Writers Union—with Maxim Gorky as the Chairman of the Presidium--took place in 1934. All the stars of Soviet literature were there. Serving on the Presidum with Gorky were Konstantin Fedin, Vsevolod Ivanov, Leonid Leonov, Mikhail Sholokhov, Fyodor Panfyorov, Alexander Serafimovich, Aleksei Tolstoy, Aleksandr Fadeev, and Demyan Bedny

Boris Pasternak, who chaired one of the sessions of the Congress, was elected to the Union Board along with Mikhail Zoshchenko, Boris Pilnyak, Mikhail Prishvin, and Ilya Ehrenburg. Isaak Bable and Yuri Olesha were on the Auditing Commission.

Gorky, who gave the opening speech, said, "The Union is being created not only to unite writers in a physical sense, but so that a professional union should make them aware of their collective strength."

Gorky described the type of "new Soviet man" that literature should portray:

"A new type of man is springing up in the Soviet Union. He possesses a faith in the organizing power of reason….He is conscious of being the builder of a new world, and although his conditions of life are still arduous, he knows that it is his arm and the purpose of his rational will to create different conditions and he has no grounds for pessimism."

Andrei Zhdanov, Stalin's chief spokesman on cultural affairs, also spoke. He referred to Stalin's characterization of writers as "engineers of the soul" and said that Soviet literature should be openly tendentious, abandoning old-fashioned romanticism for a new "revolutionary romanticism". Socialist Realism, he said, required that writers portray not mere "objective reality in a scholastic or lifeless manner", but in its "revolutionary development." He continued, "the truthfulness and historical concreteness of the artistic portrayal should be combined with the ideological remolding and education of the people in the spirit of socialism."

Aleksandr Fadeev spoke, describing Stalin as "that mighty genius of the working class."

Ilya Ehrenburg condemned the "dying world" of Western capitalist literature. He said, however, that Soviet novels focus too much on the hero's work and that authors should tell us more about the characters as human beings. He also called for an end to the "administrative approach to literature".

Viktor Sklovsky, a leader of the Formalist movement, declared: "We must write for the whole world, in the name of humanism, against the rise of a new Dark Age." He also said that if Dostoevsky had attended the Congress, the delegates must naturally condemn him as a traitor.

Konstantin Fedin said, "We have found a broad theme that is common to all socialist lilteratures: the contemporary theme, the theme of the reality around us."

Leonid Leonov said that he and his colleagues had the good fortune to live in "the most heroic period of world history."

Leonid Sobolev commented, "The Party and the Government have given the writer everything and taken away from him only one thing—the right to write badly."

Gorky noted Sobolev's comment with approval and went on to say, "The Party and the Government are also taking away from us the right to order one another what to do, offering us in return the right to teach one another. To teach, meaning to share with one another our experience. That is all. That is all, nothing more."

In closing, Gorky admonished his fellow writers to case aside old bourgeois habits. Their task was not to follow their own individual paths, but to work together—in groups if necessary—to portray the "new reality" according to a single, unified method.

Gorky said readers were demanding that writers describe the workers' thoughts, feelings, and heroic deeds "in simple language and in truthful images." The new literature, he said, should "remain individual in its forms and Socialist-Leninist in its fundamental governing ideas."

Gorky urged the delegates to join the struggle, for "books are the most important and most powerful weapons in socialist culture."

The Congress ended with the singing of the Internationale. The mood of the writers was very positive. Ilya Ehrenburg said that they all expected that by the Second Congress of Writers, "We would be living in paradise.".

Leadership of the Writers Union:
1934-1936: Makim Gorky
1936-1939: Vladimir Stavsky (apparatchik)
1939-1944: Aleksandr Fadeev (He needs no introduction)
1944-1946: Nikolai Tikhonov (Patriotic poet, former Serapion Brother)
1946-1954: Aleksandr Fadeev (again)
1954-1959 Aleksei Surkov (Patriotic poet)
1959-1971 Konstantin Fedin (You all know who he is)
1971-1986: Georgy Markov (Siberian novelist)
1986-1991: Vladimir Karpov (Former editor of "Novy Mir"; war writer)

Writers Union Congresses: 1st, Sept 1934; 2nd:, December 1954; 3rd, 1959; 4th, 1967; 5th, 1971; 6th, 1976; 7th, 1981; 8th, 1986

Source: "Inside The Soviet Writers' Union" by John and Carol Garrard. The Free Press, New York, 1990. ISBN 0-02-911320-2.


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