OBITUARY: Olga Ivinskaya

"Lara exists," said Boris Pasternak. "I want you to meet her. Here is her telephone number . . ."

Olga Ivinskaya was Pasternak's friend and the lover of his last 13 years, and the original of Lara in his first novel and best-known work Doctor Zhivago, banned in the Soviet Union but published in Italy in 1957. It was translated into English in 1958, the year he was awarded - and had to refuse - the Nobel Prize for Literature.

They met for the first time in October 1946, in Moscow, in the editorial office of the literary magazine Novy Mir ("New World"), where she was in charge of the new authors department. She was 34, and Pasternak 23 years her senior, a twice married man with two sons. They met nearly every day by Pushkin's statue in Pushkin Square, and went for long walks around Moscow. On 4 April 1947 Pasternak declared his love, writing to her: "My life, my angel, I love you truly." (A postscript dated 1953 adds: "This inscription is eternal and valid for ever. And can only grow stronger.") Early in 1948 he asked her to leave Novy Mir, as her position there was getting more difficult because of their relationship. She took up a role as his secretary instead.

Ivinskaya - her mother's name - was partly of German-Polish descent, and born in 1912, some 300 miles south-east of Moscow in the ancient town of Tambov. Her father was a provincial high school teacher. In 1915 the family moved to Moscow. After graduating from the Editorial Workers Institute in Moscow in 1936, she worked as an editor at various literary magazines. She had been an admirer of Pasternak's since her adolescence, attending literary gatherings to listen to his poetry.

The late 1940s and early 1950s were paranoid years in the Soviet Union. Anyone who had relatives abroad was in danger and Pasternak's two sisters lived in Oxford and maintained close contact with him.

Pasternak was personally known to Stalin, who, as a Georgian, took an interest in him as a translator of Georgian poets into Russian. According to Ivinskaya, Stalin met Pasternak in 1924 or 1925, with two other poets, Sergei Yesenin (once married to Isadora Duncan) and Vladimir Mayakovsky. Stalin also rang Pasternak one evening in July 1934 and asked his opinion of another poet, Osip Mandelstam (who was shortly after arrested and perished in the gulag).

The MGB (as the KGB were then known) did not dare to arrest Pasternak, but turned on Ivinskaya. In July 1950 she was arrested as "an accomplice to the spy". She was pregnant by Pasternak and in the horrible conditions of a prison, interrogated day and night, she miscarried. She was sentenced to five years in a labour camp.

Doctor Zhivago was started during the Second World War and finished in the early 1950s. It was not a political novel, and certainly did not threaten the Soviet regime. It described the life of a Russian doctor, whose love was Lara, in the turbulent half-century of Russian history including the revolution and the civil war.

In 1954, at the very beginning of Khrushchev's thaw, 10 poems from Doctor Zhivago were allowed to appear in the literary monthly magazine Znamya. By 1956 all hope of publication of the book in the Soviet Union disappeared but it appeared in Italy the following year published by Feltrinelli, with Ivinskaya conducting all negotia- tions on Pasternak's behalf. Eight years later Doctor Zhivago was filmed by David Lean, with Omar Sharif as Zhivago and Julie Christie as Lara.

In 1958 Pasternak was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, the Nobel committee citing his "important achievement both in contemporary lyrical poetry and in the field of the great Russian epic tradition". The Nobel academy's permanent secretary, Anders Oesterling, compared Doctor Zhivago to Tolstoy's War and Peace and referred to the book's "pure and powerful genius". He said that the award was in honour of Pasternak's courage in producing a work of such independence "above all political party frontiers and . . . anti- political in its entirely humane outlook".

Under pressure from the Soviet government Pasternak refused the prize, but the official campaign against him continued, accelerating his death two years later in 1960.

After Pasternak's death Ivinskaya was arrested for the second time, this time with her daughter Lyudmila Yemelianova (by her first husband, Ivan Yemelianov, who hanged himself in 1939). She was accused of being Pasternak's link with Western publishers in dealing in hard currency for Doctor Zhivago. The Soviet press set out to blacken her reputation. In January 1961 Radio Moscow made broadcasts in Italian, German and English accusing Ivinskaya of swindling Pasternak's rightful heirs, and of accepting shipments of roubles and dollars smuggled past customs.

Within a few months Western newspapers stopped protesting about her arrest, and the Soviet government quietly released them, Lyudmila after one year, in 1962, and Olga Ivinskaya in 1964. She returned to her flat in Moscow, in a council block in Potapov Street. All Pasternak's letters to her and other manuscripts and documents had in the meantime been seized by the KGB.

Olga Ivinskaya was rehabilitated only under Gorbachev in 1988, when she was already half-blind and frail. By law the KGB were obliged to return everything they had taken from her. But her efforts to regain Pasternak's letters to her were blocked by Pasternak's daughter- in-law, Natalya, the widow of Leonid Pasternak. Several years of litigation came to nothing as the Russian Supreme Court ruled against her on the ground that "there was no proof of ownership" and "papers should remain in the state archive". Her protest to Boris Yeltsin about violations of her rights as a citizen which made her reha- bilitation "useless" did not help, either.

In her last years she lived in a one-room apartment with her son Dmitry Vinogradov (by her second marriage to Alexander Vinogradov, who was killed in 1943 at the front). In 1978 her memoirs were published in Paris in Russian. They were translated into all the main European languages, and appeared in English under the title A Captive of Time.

Olga Vsevolodovna Ivinskaya, writer, editor: born Tambov 27 June 1912; married 1936 Ivan Yemelianov (died 1939; one daughter), 1941 Alexander Vinogradov (died 1943; one son); died Moscow 8 September 1995.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Could you tell the difference between this and an organic alternative?
food + drink

Culinary experts in The Netherlands thought it was 'fresh' and 'tasty'

Life and Style
Six of the 76 Goats' cheese samples contained a significant amount of sheep's cheese
food + drink
Russell Brand arriving for the book launch in East London
peopleRussell Brand cancels his book launch debate due to concerns about the make-up of the panel
Arts and Entertainment
JK Rowling will not be releasing a 'romance' novel anytime soon
Arts and Entertainment
Contestants during this summer's Celebrity Big Brother grand finale
tvBroadcaster attempts to change its image following sale to US
Life and Style

Of all the computers Apple has ever made there’s only one that Steve Jobs had to sell his car to finance

Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidates on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
One of the 'princesses' in the video
videoYouTube reinstates sweary video after takedown for 'violating terms'
Call me Superman: one of many unusual names chosen by Chinese students
newsChinese state TV offers advice for citizens picking a Western moniker
Arts and Entertainment

Marvel has released first teaser trailer week early after it leaked online

Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SEN Teaching Assistant

£70 - £85 per day: Randstad Education Group: SEN Teaching Assistants needed in...

Year 4 Teacher required for 2 terms

£21500 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Randstad Education ar...

Accounts Assistant - Sales Ledger, Sage Line 50 - St Albans

£20000 - £22000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A highly successful and w...

EBD Teacher

£120 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you a quailed Teacher ...

Day In a Page

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?