On 13 May 1956, Aleksandr Aleksandrovich FADEEV, author of the critically acclaimed novels The Rout and Young Guard, committed suicide by putting a bullet in his heart.
In addition to his literary accomplishments, Fadeev served as the head of the Soviet Writers Union for almost 13 years. Fadeev's tenure in this post was rife with contradictions. He either participated directly or was silently complicit in the repression of numerous Soviet writers. At the same time, he was known to have interceded on behalf of others and assisted some of the very writers whom he publicly excoriated. Such was the case with Boris Pasternak. Fadeev halted the publication of a volume of Pasternak's poems, calling some of them "vulgar and erotic in the Akhmatova sense". Yet he made sure that Pasternak's translations got into print so that the poet could earn a living. Ilya Ehrenburg also reports that Fadeev once dragged him into a cafe and began reciting verse after verse of Pasternak's work, pausing only long enough to say, "Good, isn't it?"
Following Stalin's death, Fadeev hoped for a change in the workings of the literary establishment. To this end, he started firing off reports and recommendations to the Central Committee, bearing self-explanatory titles such as "On Outdated Bureaucratic Perversions in the Work of the Leadership of Soviet Art and Literature and the Means of Correcting these Deficiencies". His suggestions, however, were ignored, and Fadeev was slowly squeezed out of the leadership of the Writers Union.
In the months leading up to his death, Fadeev found himself unable to work, depressed, and often drunk. His suicide note, addressed to the Central Committee, is a blistering, devastating, insulting attack on the leadership and literary bureaucracy. In this note, which is reproduced below, Fadeev said things which, perhaps, could only be said by a dead man.
SUICIDE NOTE OF A.A. FADEEVTo the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union:
It is impossible for me to live any further since the art to which I have given my life has been destroyed by the self-confident, ignorant leadership of the Party and can no longer be corrected. The best cadres of literature--in number far more than the tsarist satraps could even dream of--have been physically exterminated or have died thanks to the criminal connivance of those in power. The best literary people died at an unnaturally young age; all the rest who were, even to the smallest degree, capable of producing true works of value died before reaching 40-50 years of age.
Literature--this holy of holies--was handed over for extermination to bureaucrats and the most backward elements of the people, and from the highest tribunals--such as the Moscow Conference and the XXth Party Congress, came a new slogan: "Onward!" The path by which they intend to correct the situation provokes indignation. They gathered together a group of ignoramuses, with the exception of a few honest people who find themselves in exactly the same situation of persecution and therefore are unable to speak the truth--and their conclusions are deeply anti-Leninist because they arise from bureaucratic habits, accompanied with the threat of the same cudgel.
With what a feeling of freedom and openness my generation entered literature during Lenin's life; what unbounded strength was in our soul, and what beautiful works we created and still might have created!
After Lenin's death they brought us down to the level of children; they destroyed us; they threatened us ideologically and called this "the Party spirit". And now, when everything might be corrected, primitivism and ignorance--along with a disgraceful share of self-assurance--manifest themselves in those very ones who are supposed to correct everything. Literature has been placed under the control of untalented, petty, rancorous people. Those few individuals who have retained the holy fire in their souls find themselves in the position of pariahs and--because of their age--will soon perish. And there is no longer any stimulus in the soul to create...
Born for great creative work in the name of Communism, connected with the Party for almost sixty years, with the workers and peasants, endowed by God with an unusual talent, I was filled with the most lofty thoughts and feelings, which can only be given birth by the life of the people, united with the excellent ideas of Communism.
But I was turned into a horse pulling a broken-down cart. My whole life I trudged along under the burden of dull, unjustified, innumerable bureaucratic tasks, which could have been completed by absolutely anyone. And even now, when you sum up my life, it is unbearable to recall the number of shouts, reprimands, sermons, and plain ideological defects which rained down on me, a person in whom our people should have been justifiably proud in light of the authenticity and intrinsic modesty of my deeply communistic talent. Literature, the highest fruit of the new order, has been debased, persecuted, and destroyed. The complacency of the nouveau riche to the great teachings of Lenin--even while they swear allegiance to these teachings--has led to my complete distrust of them. From them we can expect worse than from the satrap Stalin. He at least was educated, but these are ignoramuses.
My life as a writer loses all meaning, and I leave this life with great joy, seeing it as a deliverance from this foul existence, where meanness, lies, and slander rain down on you. My last hope was to tell all this to the people who lead the government, but in the course of three years, despite my requests, they have not been able to receive me.
I ask to be buried next to my mother.
KGB REPORTS ON FADEEV'S DEATHOn 13 May 1956, at approximately 15.00 in his dacha at in Peredelkino, Kuntsevsky raion, candidate member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, writer FADEEV Aleksandr Aleksandrovich ended his life by suicide with a revolver shot.
Preliminary investigation has established that on the eve of the event, that is on 12 May of this year, FADEEV was at his Moscow apartment, where he had a meeting and prolonged conversation with the writers S.Ya. MARSHAK and N. POGODIN.
On the evening of that same day, FADEEV, along with his 11-year-old son, Misha, went to his dacha in Peredelkino, where he remained until his suicide.
As his secretary KNIPOVICH has testified, at 12 o'clock P.M. on 13 May of this year, FADEEV told her that after his conversation with MARSHAK he could not sleep and that sleeping tablets had no effect on him.
According to the statement of housekeeper LANDYSHEVAYA, FADEEV, on the morning of 13 May came to her in the kitchen and, refusing breakfast, again went into his office. Moreover, according to the opinion of LANDYSHEVAYA, FADEEV was agitated over something.
Around 15:00, FADEEV's son Misha entered his office and discovered FADEEV dead.
During the examination of the work office by agents of the KGB, FADEEV was lying on the bed undressed, with a bullet wound in the region of the heart. Also there on the bed was a Nagan revolver with one fired casing. On the night-stand next to the bed was a letter addressed "To the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union", which I enclose with this report.
The Soviet 7-Shooter:
The Nagan Revolver
The body of FADEEV has been send to the Skifosovsky Institute for examination.
The work office of FADEEV A.A. has been sealed.
The investigation continues.
CHAIRMAN OF THE COMMITTEE FOR STATE SECURITY [KGB] OF THE
SOVIET OF MINISTERS OF THE USSR
14 May 1956
In furtherance to our report of 14 May of this year concerning the death of writer FADEEV A.A., I add:
We have questioned several people who had direct contact with the writer FADEEV prior to his death.
On 12 May of this year, the writer MARSHAK met with FADEEV at his apartment, where FADEEV spoke of the fact that he was actively preparing for a speech on questions of literature and he was getting ready to finish a book of articles on literature, for which he was writing an introduction.
MARSHAK asserts that in the course of the conversation there was no indication of pessimistic moods on the part of FADEEV A.A.
ZARAKHANI Valeriya Osipovna, who is a relative of FADEEV and his personal secretary, when questioned as a witness, testified that one day about a year ago she went into FADEEV's bedroom and saw him lying on his bed. Next to him, on a table, were a bottle of vodka, a pistol, and a note. She took away the firearm and scolded him, after which he calmed down. The contents of the note apparently were not good, but she doesn't remember them.
Citizen CHERNOBAI K.S., who worked for 10 years as a guard at FADEEV's dacha, was questioned and related that about two hours before his suicide, FADEEV spoke with him on the question of laying out a personal garden plot, and he promised to get a car from the Literary Fund to deliver fertilizer. Then he and FADEEV went into the dining room were Chernobai DRANK 100 grams of vodka and FADEEV ate some yogurt.
In the course of the investigation, it also became clear that a hour and half before his suicide FADEEV had a phone conversation with his sister Tatyana, to whom he complained about insomnia, noting that he had to take sleeping tablets. He said that the situation on the cultural front, particularly in literature, was bad and that he was greatly disturbed by this.
Further he told her about his intention to send a letter to the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, in which he would raise the questions which were bothering him and make proposals about improving the situation in the cultural sphere.
At the same time, he complained about having a lowered capacity to work and a strong nervous excitability.
Other of FADEEV's acquaintances, who met him before his death, gave reports in a similar vein.
The materials gathered in the investigation lead to the conclusion that FADEEV's suicide was the result of a nervous disorder, caused by the prolonged abuse of alcohol, and a generally ill condition.
CHAIRMAN OF THE COMMITTEE FOR STATE SECURITY (KGB) OF THE
SOVIET OF MINISTERS OF THE USSR
22 May 1956
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