Union of Soviet Writers

The Union of Soviet Writers was formed by the Central Committee of the Communist Party on 23rd April, 1932. All other literary organizations such as the All-Russian Association of Proletarian Writers were dissolved. Those writers who did not belong to the official union found it almost impossible to get their work published.

In 1934 the Union of Soviet Writers adopted the theory of Socialist Realism. Approved by Joseph Stalin, Nickolai Bukharin, Maxim Gorky and Andrey Zhdanov, the theory demanded that 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.

The doctrine of Socialist Realism was propagated by the union's newspaper, The Literary Gazette. If writers rebelled against this policy their work was criticized in the newspaper. If writers did not conform they were expelled from the union. When Yevgeni Zamyatin was refused membership he described the decision as a "writer's death sentence" and wrote to Joseph Stalin requesting to emigrate claiming that "no creative activity is possible in an atmosphere of systematic persecution that increases in intensity from year to year."

Other writers such as Isaac Babel rebelled by ceasing to write. Babel told the 1934 Congress of Soviet Writers that: "I have invented a new genre - the genre of silence". To encourage writers to conform they were among the highest paid people in the Soviet Union.

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 the policy of Socialist Realism. 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.

© , September 1997 - April 2014