Obituary: Alexander Chakovsky

Alexander Borisovich Chakovsky, writer and editor: born St Petersburg 26 August 1913; married (one daughter deceased); died Moscow 17 February 1994.

ALEXANDER CHAKOVSKY was the powerful editor-in-chief of the Moscow weekly Literaturnaya Gazeta for 25 years, from 1962 to 1987. He was so influential that he could promote or kill a fellow writer. He had loyally served everybody in power from Stalin through Khrushchev to Gorbachev.

The Literaturnaya Gazeta was always a mouthpiece of the Kremlin but under Chakovsky it became one of the regime's most sycophantic and sickening propaganda sheets. In 1971, at the peak of his career as editor, he was made a candidate member and, from 1986, a full member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

Even in 1954 he was a senior member of the powerful Soviet Writers Union, and in 1967 he became one of the union's secretaries. During this long period as an influential writer and editor - previously, from 1955 to 1963, he had been editor-in-chief of the monthly Inostrannaya Literatura ('Foreign Literature'), which published Western left-wing and Communist writers - he was active in the chorus of persecution by the Writers Union of Boris Pasternak after he received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1958. In 1964-65 he published pages of slander in his newspaper against the two writers Andrei Sinyavsky and Yuli Daniel, notoriously put on trial for publishing pseudonymous books abroad critical of the Communist system.

Chakovsky was born in 1913 in St Petersburg, the son of a clerk. He started as an electrical fitter and rose to become deputy head of the Economic Planning Department of the Moscow Bulb Factory. In 1936 he entered the elite Gorky Literary Institute, from where he graduated in 1938, the peak period of arrests among Soviet writers. As a student he had already become deputy editor of the monthly magazine Oktiabr and a literary critic.

Shortly after the German invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941 he joined the Communist Party. During the war he was a war correspondent, at one time representing Mosfilm Studio, in 1941-42, and was present at the siege of Leningrad. In 1944 he published the novel This Was in Leningrad, followed by a second volume, Lydia (1945), and a third, Peaceful Days (1947). It was on this trilogy that he based his literary career.

For his next book, It's Morning Here (1949), he received the Stalin Prize in 1950. The next two decades saw the publication of the novels A Year of Life (1956), Roads We Choose (1960), The Light of a Faraway Star (1962) and The Bride (1966). He then returned to his Leningrad war theme - his five-volume novel The Blockade (1968-78) received the Lenin Prize.

In his war novels Chakovsky was at some remove from the truth; he wrote what was expected of him and in the style of 'socialist realism', the official literary dogma. In his other books he treated problems of the intelligentsia from the point of view of the government. When in The Blockade he presented Stalin in a positive light, this was too much even for the tastes of official Soviet critics.

Chakovsky was a careerist to the core and sang to the tune of whoever was in power; he was disliked by his colleagues and fellow writers for that. He remained a staunch Stalinist in his official duties, only resigning in 1987.

His only child, Katya, three times married, died aged 30 in a car crash in the Caucasus in 1982, and that broke him. In 1990 the Soviet Writers Union collapsed and he quietly disappeared from the public scene.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: HR and Payroll Manager

£35000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This dynamic outsourced contact...

Recruitment Genius: Production & Quality Control Assistant

£19000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An excellent opportunity for a ...

Ashdown Group: Group HR Advisor - Kettering - £32,000

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group HR Advisor with an established...

Guru Careers: HR Manager / HR Generalist

£40 - 50k (DOE) + Bonus: Guru Careers: We are seeking a HR Manager / HR Genera...

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss