Obituary: Tamara Ivanova
Friday 28 April 1995
Tamara Ivanova was as a young actress involved with three famous men, Maxim Gorky, Vsevolod Meyerhold and Isaak Babel. But she is better known as an editor of her husband's work and for her memoirs of Babel and of Boris Pasternak.
She was born Tamara Kashrina, into a rich middle-class family. Aged 19, as a pupil of the theatre director Vsevolod Meyerhold, she met Gorky - then at the peak of his fame - in Moscow. Gorky, as is known, had had affairs with the actress Maria Androeva and later with Baroness Moura Budberg. Now it emerges that he was a lover of the young Ivanova. It was Gorky who suggested that she, as an educated girl, should work in the Soviet education system.
As Tamara Nevreva (she was briefly married to Nikolai Nevrev, one of her father's business associates, by whom she had a daughter), she became one of the social workers at "Likbez" (Liquidation of Illiteracy), an organisation set up by Lenin's decree in 1919. Her boss was Lenin's wife, Nadezhda Krupskaya. Two years later Gorky emigrated but Ivanova continued for 10 years organising classes for illiterate adults and schools for children all over Russia. She was one of the close circle who met Gorky on his return from self-exile in 1931 and under his wing in 1932 she set up and ran the women writers' section of the Union of Soviet Writers . She remained in the job until 1962.
In the 1920s she appeared in several of Meyerhold's productions. In 1926 she met the Jewish writer Isaak Babel, and in 1927, the year she had a son, Mikhail, by Babel, she met her future husband Vsevolod Ivanov, when she directed his government-promoted play An Armoured Train 14-69, originally written in 1922, at the prestigious Moscow Art Theatre. Ivanov was a member of the literary group "Serapion Brothers", set up in 1921 and backed by Gorky. They married in 1932.
After Meyerhold's arrest and disappearance in July 1939 all his former pupils and people connected to him kept a low profile and Tamara Ivanova turned to translating. It was she who introduced to Russian readers the French writers Louis Aragon, Elsa Triolet and Jean Cocteau. Shortly after the Soviet Union entered the Second World War in June 1941, when the German armies were advancing towards the capital, she again became engaged in social work, this time with the task of evacuating orphans from Moscow and its suburbs, while her husband was one of the three war correspondents of Izvestia, whose non-journalistic writings she also edited.
In the post-war years she returned to translating and also began writing herself. Her best-known book was about Isaak Babel, who was arrested just before Meyerhold and disappeared in the Gulag (shot) two years later. The book had to wait until the Khrushchev regime to be published. Her recollections of Boris Pasternak, the 1958 Nobel Prize laureate for literature, were published only under Gorbachev, when it was officially recognised that the writer's harassment had been a mistake.
After her husband's death in 1963 she edited his books, plays and diaries. In 1985, she published a memoir, My Contemporaries As I Knew Them, which she had written in the 1970s. The book was very successful and was twice reprinted.
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