Obituary: Nikolai Zadornov

Nikolai Pavlovich Zadornov, writer, born Penza 22 November 1909, died Riga 19 June 1992.

IN THE ERA of Stalin, Khrushchev and Brezhnev, Nikolai Zadornov was one of the few novelists who contrived to publish historical novels, more than 20 of them, staying away in his subject matter from the gloomy world of Soviet politics.

Zadornov was a historical writer whose interest lay mainly in the 19th-century history of the Far East, its assimilation by the Russians, and the related heroic exploits by Russian explorers. Born in Russia, in Penza, in 1909, he started his adult life as an actor in Vladivostok, where his interest in the region's history was born. Later he was a reporter in local Far East newspapers and in 1939 he moved to Moscow to join the government newspaper Izvestia as a literary editor.

He started serious research and writing in the mid-1930s but the first part of his first historical novel, the two-volume Amur, the Father, appeared early in 1941. The publication of the second volume was postponed by the Second World War, in which Zadornov worked as a war correspondent. This second part appeared in 1946, nearly simultaneously with his new two-volume novel, The Distant Land (1946-49). The next novel was Towards the Ocean (1949), which was republished 20 years later, completely revised and with a different title, The First Discovery. Under Khrushchev, two historical novels by Zadornov appeared on the same subject - the two-volume Captain Nevelskoy (1956-58) and the two-volume War for the Ocean (1960-62).

Zadornov's second field of interest, which he dug deep, was the development of the Far East by Russian peasant settlers. His best historical novel remains Tsunami (1971), about expeditions made to Japan in 1845-55 by the prominent statesman and diplomat Admiral Count Efim Putiatin, later a naval attache in London. His books dealing with contemporary matters were much less successful. But his travel diary, The Blue Hour (1968), was very successful and the Russian press called him the Russian Jack London. His six-volume Complete Works appeared in Moscow in 1976-79. He was a member of the Writers' Union in Moscow, although he lived in Riga, the capital of Latvia. He appeared a great deal on Russian and Latvian television between the 1960s and 1980s.

Throughout the period from Stalin to Brezhnev, Zadornov maintained an output that made him a rouble millionaire. The Stalin Prize for Literature in 1952 alone gave him 150,000 roubles when the exchange rate was pounds 1 to a rouble, but his earnings and his pension shrank sharply under Gorbachev. Russian 'patriots' and various groups of right-wingers tried to adopt him and depict him as 'suffering as a lonely Russian surrounded by enemies' when last September Latvia became a foreign country relative to the former Soviet Union.

According to his son and close Russian and Latvian friends he kept writing to the end and was apparently glad that Communism had fallen in Latvia and later in Russia, and that he was suddenly able to stop being careful to exercise self-censorship; but he was already very ill. His main novels have been published in translation in England, the US, China and Japan. Sadly, he missed the broadcast of a television film about Admiral Putiatin's mission in Japan, which will take place later this year. His son, the writer Mikhail Zadornov, wrote the script.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
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

Ashdown Group: HR Manager - West London - £50,000

£40000 - £50000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: HR Manager - West London - £...

Recruitment Genius: Recruitment & HR Administrator

£17000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Guru Careers: HR Manager / HR Business Partner

£55 - 65k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: A HR Manager / HR Business Partner i...

Austen Lloyd: Practice / HR Manager - Somerset

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: A rare and exciting opportunity for a Practice...

Day In a Page

Isis in Syria: Influential tribal leaders hold secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over possibility of mobilising against militants

Tribal gathering

Influential clans in Syria have held secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over the possibility of mobilising against Isis. But they are determined not to be pitted against each other
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians
Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously

Illnesses, car crashes and suicides

Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously
Srebrenica 20 years after the genocide: Why the survivors need closure

Bosnia's genocide, 20 years on

No-one is admitting where the bodies are buried - literally and metaphorically
How Comic-Con can make or break a movie: From Batman vs Superman to Star Wars: Episode VII

Power of the geek Gods

Each year at Comic-Con in San Diego, Hollywood bosses nervously present blockbusters to the hallowed crowd. It can make or break a movie
What do strawberries and cream have to do with tennis?

Perfect match

What do strawberries and cream have to do with tennis?
10 best trays

Get carried away with 10 best trays

Serve with ceremony on a tray chic carrier
Wimbledon 2015: Team Murray firing on all cylinders for SW19 title assault

Team Murray firing on all cylinders for title assault

Coaches Amélie Mauresmo and Jonas Bjorkman aiming to make Scot Wimbledon champion again
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Vasek Pospisil must ignore tiredness and tell himself: I'm in the quarter-final, baby!

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

Vasek Pospisil must ignore tiredness and tell himself: I'm in the quarter-final, baby!
Ashes 2015: Angus Fraser's top 10 moments from previous series'

Angus Fraser's top 10 Ashes moments

He played in five series against Australia and covered more as a newspaper correspondent. From Waugh to Warne and Hick to Headley, here are his highlights
Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high