In 1930 Alexander Efremin, attacked the writings of Yevgeni Zamyatin: "Zamyatin has a complete and unmitigated disbelief in the Revolution, a thorough and persistent skepticism, a departure from reality, an extreme individualism, a clearly hostile attitude to the Marxist-Leninist world view, the justification of any "heresy", of any protest in the name of that protest, a hostile attitude to the factors of class war - this is the complex of ideas within which Zamyatin revolves. Thrown out beyond the bounds of the Revolution by its centrifugal force, he, of necessity, is in the enemy camp, in the ranks of the bourgeoisie."
The theory of Socialist Realism was adopted by the Congress of Soviet Writers in 1934. Approved by Joseph Stalin, Nickolai Bukharin, Maxim Gorky and Andrey Zhdanov, Socialist Realism demanded that all art must depict some aspect of man's struggle toward socialist progress for a better life. It stressed the need for the creative artist to serve the proletariat by being realistic, optimistic and heroic. The doctrine considered all forms of experimentalism as degenerate and pessimistic.
Experimental and non-conformist writers such as Yevgeni Zamyatin, Isaac Babel, Boris Pilnyak, Nickolai Tikhonov, Mikhail Slonimski, Vsevolod Ivanov, Victor Serge, Vladimir Mayakovsky, Sergei Yesenin, Konstantin Fedin, Victor Shklovsky, Mikhail Zoshchenko and Alexander Solzhenitsyn suffered under this policy. Zamyatin and Serge managed to leave the country, whereas Mayakovsky and Yesenin committed suicide. Writers who refused to change, such as Babel and Pilnyak, were executed or died in labour camps.
Yevgeni Zamyatin complained to Joseph Stalin: "No creative activity is possible in an atmosphere of systematic persecution that increases in intensity from year to year. In each of my published works these critics have inevitably discovered some diabolical intent. Regardless of the content of a given work, the very fact of my signature has become a sufficient reason for declaring the work criminal. Of course, any falsification is permissible in fighting the devil. I beg to be permitted to go abroad with my wife with the right to return as soon as it becomes possible in our country to serve great ideas in literature without cringing before little men, as soon as there is at least partial change in the prevailing view concerning the role of the literary artist."
Nikita Khrushchev admitted in 1957: "I think Stalin's cultural policies, especially the cultural policies imposed on Leningrad through Zhdanov, were cruel and senseless. You can't regulate the development of literature, art, and culture with a stick, or by barking orders. You can't lay down a furrow and then harness all your artists to make sure they don't deviate from the straight and narrow. If you try to control your artists too tightly, there will be no clashing of opinions, consequently no criticism, and consequently no truth. There will be just a gloomy stereotype, boring and useless."