Obituary: Professor Eduard Babayev

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The Independent Online
Eduard Grigoryevich Babayev, scholar, lecturer and writer; born Moscow 1927; died Moscow 12 March 1995.

Eduard Babayev was Director of the Leo Tolstoy State Museum, in Moscow, a leading classical scholar and authority on Tolstoy and Pushkin, and a darling of students at Moscow University.

Born in Moscow, the son of a writer, in 1927, Babayev was evacuated during the Second World War with a colony of writers to Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan. There in 1942 he met the poet Anna Akhmatova. He became a friend of hers and for two years a kind of literary secretary. The meeting influenced him for the rest of his life.

His family returned to Moscow in 1944, and after finishing at a local school, he became a student at the philology department of Moscow University. In 1949 Stalin's campaign against so-called "cosmopolitanism" and any influence of the West in the arts or science reached a peak. While a final- year student Babayev witnessed the campaigns of harassment organised by Stalin's cultural policemen. Many scholars at this period were sacked and writers disappeared or switched to teaching: Boris Pasternak became a literary translator. Students were pressed to join the campaigns by publishing patriotic articles in university magazines. Babayev, at great personal risk, was one of these students who refused to participate in this propaganda campaign.

Babayev graduated in 1949, but continued his education at the university writing a doctorate on Leo Tolstoy. In 1956 he became one of the editors of the last of the monumental 90- volume Tolstoy's Complete Works, which had been started in 1928 by Vladimir Chertkov, Tolstoy's original publisher, editor and private secretary, in order to mark the 100th anniversary of Tolstoy's birth. By the time of his death in 1936, Chertkov had managed to publish 72 volumes. It took the Tolstoy Commission at the USSR Academy of Sciences 20 years to produce the next 17 volumes. Babayev completed the edition in 1958.

In 1957 Babayev was appointed a lecturer at Moscow University. He became a celebrity and students from many disciplines came to listen to his lectures on Tolstoy and Pushkin. For the next 30 years he created a school of Tolstoy and Pushkin scholars. Between 1970 and 1982 Babayev produced a series of books that established him as an authority in the field, including Leo Tolstoy and the Russian Press of his Time, Essays on Aesthetics and Art of Leo Tolstoy, Leo Tolstoy's Novel,and The Art of Alexander Pushkin.

Babayev became director in 1977 of the Leo Tolstoy State Museum, on 11 Kropotkin Street, in Moscow, and under his leadership it became an international centre of Tolstoy studies. It has kept in contact with members of the Tolstoy family living all over the world. But the principal breakthrough came when, under Babayev, the museum started working closely with the Tolstoy Foundation, based near New York, run by Tolstoy's outspoken youngest daughter, Alexandra, who died in 1979. For nearly 50 years, the foundation had been vetoed by the Soviet Union as an "anti-communist" body: Alexandra Tolstoy had left the Soviet Union for the United States via Japan in 1929.

Despite the official bans, Babayev corresponded with the grand old lady, who helped countless Russian refugees for many decades and financed old people's homes, orphanages and many other humanitarian programmes. When Babayev died he left unfinished his memoir Sled Strely ("A Trace of an Arrow"), describing his meetings and correspondence with writers and public figures including Anna Akhmatova and Alexandra Tolstoy. It is due to be published at the end of this year in Moscow.