Vladimir Voinovich

I was too scared
and can not scare you with anything else.
M. Bulgakov. “Master and Margarita”
“Imagine that you go out to Red Square and do not find on it the Cathedral of St. Basil the Blessed, or Lenin’s mausoleum, or even a monument to Minin and Pozharsky. There is only GUM, the Historical Museum. Execution Ground, statue of the Genialissimus and Spasskaya Tower. Moreover, the star on the tower is not ruby, but tin or molded from plastic. And the clock shows half past eleven, although in reality it is still only a quarter to eight. ”

Have you presented? It doesn’t matter who the Genialissimus is – you can imagine any person in his place, even yourself.

Let’s continue. “When I approached the former Soviet Square, I was even more surprised. The monument to Yuri Dolgoruky, familiar to me from the old days, was not there on a horse. That is, the horse itself was, but it was not Yuri Dolgoruky who was sitting on it, but Genialissimus. In one hand he held his book, and in the other a sword. ”
The book about Moscow of the future – “Moscow 2042”, excerpts from which you just read, was written by Vladimir Voinovich.

I wrote it a long time ago – more than twenty years ago, back in the days of the Soviet Union.

In those days, writing such a book, a book in which the idea of ​​building a communist society was filigreely dissected and skillfully ridiculed, could threaten the writer with great trouble. Even if the writer has already lived outside the Soviet Union. Lenin’s notorious ally, Leon Trotsky, was hiding from his comrades in Mexico. Do you think it helped him? Not at all.

Vladimir Voinovich not only wrote about Moscow – he lived and worked there. A quarter of a century – and this, you see, is a long time. He was forced to leave Moscow. Here is what he himself writes:

“In January 1980, a man from the KGB came to my Moscow apartment and said that the Soviet government and the Soviet people had tolerated me for too long, but now their patience has run out, and therefore I am invited to leave the Soviet Union, and as soon as possible. I thought about it and agreed. Because my patience was also exhausted. On December 21, 1980, practically on the eve of non-Orthodox Christmas, my wife and my seven-year-old daughter ended up in Munich. ”
In pursuit of Vladimir Nikolaevich, he was deprived of Soviet citizenship.


On the deprivation of the citizenship of the USSR Voinovich V.N.
Considering that V.N. Voinovich is systematically engaged in activities hostile to the USSR, damaging the prestige of the USSR by his behavior, the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR decides:

On the basis of Article 18 of the USSR Law of December 1, 1978 “On USSR Citizenship” for actions defaming the high rank of a citizen of the USSR, to deprive the citizenship of the USSR of Voinovich Vladimir Nikolaevich, born in 1932, a native of the mountains. Dushanbe, temporarily residing in Germany.

Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR
Secretary of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR
Moscow, Kremlin, June 16, 1981 5075-X
Vladimir Voinovich then lived in the Federal Republic of Germany, in the city of Munich. I can’t just write “in Germany” because there were two Germanies then. The advanced, very best German Democratic Republic, abbreviated as the GDR, the stronghold of the German communists, and the “decaying”, “torn apart by contradictions” Federal Republic of Germany, abbreviated as the FRG.
He could not help responding to the attention shown to him, which would have looked very impolite, and wrote a letter to Leonid Brezhnev, who then ruled not only the Soviet Union, but the entire socialist world.
It is short and, unlike the Decree, is very well written, so I will quote it in full. Here it is:
“Mr. Brezhnev!

You have undeservedly estimated my work. I did not undermine the prestige of the Soviet state. The Soviet state, thanks to the efforts of its leaders and your personal contribution, has no prestige. Therefore, in fairness, you should deprive yourself of citizenship.

I do not recognize your decree and consider it nothing more than a phony letter. Legally, it is illegal, but in fact, as I was a Russian writer and citizen, I will remain so until my death and even after it.

Being a moderate optimist, I have no doubt that in a short time all your decrees depriving our poor Motherland of its cultural heritage will be canceled. My optimism, however, is not enough to believe in an equally quick liquidation of the paper shortage. And my readers will have to turn in twenty kilograms of your compositions for waste paper in order to receive a ticket for one book about the soldier Chonkin.

Vladimir Voinovich. June 1981, Munich ”
Let me explain about twenty kilograms of waste paper. It was difficult to buy a good book in the Soviet Union. All the printing power of socialism went into printing all kinds of ideological and ideologically consistent rubbish. But there was one loophole. The same “Three Musketeers” by Dumas or “The Tale of Hodja Nasreddin” by Solovyov could be bought with a special coupon, for which one had to hand over twenty kilograms of waste paper to the recycling center. In short, saved the tree – get the book! Of course, in addition to the ticket for the book, there was also money to be paid.

Vladimir Nikolaevich Voinovich was born in the city of Stalinabad – the current capital of Tajikistan, Dushanbe.

The father of Vladimir Voinovich, Nikolai Pavlovich Voinovich, was a journalist. He worked as executive secretary of the newspaper “Communist of Tajikistan”. In 1936 he was arrested and sent to the camps as an “enemy of the people.” Nikolai Pavlovich’s crime was that he did not believe in the construction of complete communism in one single country, believing that this could happen only in all countries at the same time after the world revolution. This was enough to spend five years behind bars.

It must be that the roots of Vladimir Voinovich’s rejection of Soviet power and any totalitarianism in general come from the distant thirty-sixth year.

He, by his own admission, hated Stalin from the age of fourteen. And besides, he doubted Lenin.

Vladimir Voinovich arrived in Moscow in 1956 after serving in the army (then the service lasted four years). For five years he worked as a carpenter at a construction site, studied for a year and a half at the Moscow Regional Pedagogical Institute named after N.K.Krupskaya, and eventually got a job in the editorial office of satire and humor of the All-Union Radio as a junior editor. (And all this time Voinovich wrote. “At one time I gave up everything, – he will write later. – I only wrote. I did not earn money. I was a beggar, I had only trousers, worn out boots, and I wrote, wrote, wrote … to Moscow in 56, and they started printing me in 61. Golodny Some trousers that I looked at the light: are there holes? I could do something to live more or less bearably and have second trousers. But I didn’t do that because I was completely absorbed in my work. ”

One day, towards the end of the working day, Voinovich noticed that one of the editorial staff was calling all the famous songwriters in a row with a request to write a song on a space theme in two weeks.

The poets were indignant – the period of two weeks seemed to them unjustifiably short.
Voinovich plucked up courage and offered his services.
“- You? She looked at me in disbelief. – What, are you writing poetry?
“I’m writing,” I admitted.
– But you never wrote songs?
– I didn’t write, – I agreed, – but I can try.
She looked at me, was silent for a long time, thought.
“Well, okay,” she said finally. – How long do you need?
“I’ll bring it tomorrow,” I said.
I wrote it and brought it.
The famous composer Oskar Borisovich Feltsman, the author of many hits, wrote the music.
Singer Vladimir Troshin sang the song.
The song was broadcast.
The song immediately became famous.

Tucked into tablets space maps,
And the navigator specifies the route for the last time.
Let’s have a smoke before the start, guys
We still have fourteen minutes left.


I believe, friends, rocket caravans
Will rush us forward from star to star.
On the dusty paths of distant planets
Our traces will remain.
On the dusty paths of distant planets
Our traces will remain!
Someday, over the years, my friends and I will remember
As we led the first path along the star roads,
How the first managed to achieve the cherished goal
And look at your native land from the side.


For a long time distant planets await us,
Cold planets, silent fields.
But no planet waits for us like this,
The planet is blue named Earth.


One of the editors made Planet Blue a Road Planet.
They wanted to replace “dusty paths” in the musical edition with “new” or “first” ones – Voinovich defended it.

True, “let’s smoke” was eventually changed to “sing” – the cosmonauts promoted a healthy lifestyle.

For six months, Voinovich composes four dozen more songs, but the first will remain the most famous.

“When they started punishing me for my bad behavior,” Voinovich recalls, “my books, plays and screenplays were immediately banned. And the songs were different, but they continued to perform this one longer than others. True, without mentioning the name of the author of the text. And then they completely removed the words, left only the music. Twenty years later, when I became a licensed writer again, this song also ended in disgrace. But new times have already come. And the people sang new songs. ”

Autumn 1960 was successful for Vladimir Voinovich. And the whole country sang his song, and the magazine “New World”, which was then directed by AT Tvardovsky, accepted for publication his first story “We Live Here.”

Since 1962 Voinovich was admitted to the Union of Writers of the USSR.
Cooperation with Novy Mir did not end with one story.
In the second issue of the Novy Mir magazine for 1963, the story “I want to be honest” will be published, but Voinovich did not have to rejoice at this pleasant event for a long time – the story was recognized as politically harmful, because the author dared to assert that it is more difficult for an honest person to live in a Soviet country than dishonest.

Angry articles began to appear in central newspapers written on behalf of “ordinary Soviet people”. The titles of these articles speak for themselves: “Point and bump of view”, “Literary man with quach”, “This is false!”

Voinovich continues to write. He writes well. Realistic, soulful and humorous. Official criticism continues to scold Voinovich, but for the time being he is published.

And he pulled the devil of a promising talented young Soviet writer! And this same devil whispered in the ear of the Soviet writer all kinds of heresy! And the most interesting thing is that the Soviet writer, who had everything – fame, money, literary title (or rather, membership in the USSR Writers’ Union, without which the Soviet writer turned into a parasite), hearkened to the advice of the devil!

In general, Soviet writers were smart people. Broken, grated, scared and therefore very smart. They firmly knew that if a writer is scolded, but they are not expelled from the coveted Union of writers and are not imprisoned, it means that the writer is given a chance.

A chance to realize your sins before the Soviet government and improve. Having previously repented of their sins publicly – at one of the meetings of the Union.
Words had to be backed up with deeds – urgently to write something ideologically correct and useful.

Not necessarily about Lenin, especially since only trusted and verified personnel were allowed to write about the founding father, it is enough to write about an advanced worker …
Or – about a conscientious milkmaid with a heartache for increasing milk yield …
Or – about the military exploits of the Secretary-General (the deepest, inexhaustible topic).
Vladimir Voinovich wrote about a soldier. Also, you know, not a bad topic. The authorities liked the works about the right soldiers. For such a book they could write off all the sins at once, there was a case.

Only now the stubborn Voinovich wrote about a bad soldier. About a slob, a fool and, one might say, a deserter.
And also about irresponsible collective farmers.
And also – about the bad employees of the NKVD.
And even about the party workers he wrote not as it should be.

What can I say – I could not even invent the name of a suitable one, and also a writer! What are the correct books called? Virgin Soil Upturned, Iron Stream, How Steel Was Tempered. And Voinovich titled his book “The Life and Extraordinary Adventures of the Soldier Ivan Chonkin”. Do you feel the difference? And what kind of life can a soldier have, I ask you? Soldiers have service instead of life. And instead of adventures – feats, sometimes fatal. After all, already by the name it is felt that we are dealing with an anecdote novel, a mocking parody of everything that is dear to the heart of a Soviet person!

In 1970, the first part of the novel was completed. The manuscript is secretly reprinted and distributed in the Soviet Union.
Voinovich was well aware that such a work would not be published in the Soviet Union. Is that in two or three copies “for official use.”

In the end, the manuscript of the first part of “The Life and Extraordinary Adventures of the Soldier Ivan Chonkin” got abroad, where the novel is being published. For the first time “Chonkin” was published in the “anti-Soviet” magazine “Grani” published in Frankfurt am Main in 1969.
Moscow immediately “takes action.”

Voinovich is summoned (or rather, lured) to a meeting of the Secretariat of the Board of the Moscow Writers ‘Organization of the Writers’ Union of the RSFSR, where he hears the following words: “If I even knew that this story was not published anywhere, but simply lies in the author’s table or even just conceived , even then I would have believed that the author should not be dealt with by us, but by those who are professionally fighting the enemies of our system. And I myself will petition the competent authorities for the author to bear the punishment he deserves. ” These words were spoken by a certain Viktor Telpugov, who wrote only the “correct” books.

The meeting comes to the following decision:
“The Secretariat considers it necessary to raise the question of the impossibility of Comrade VN Voinovich’s stay in the ranks of the Writers ‘Union at the very first expanded meeting of the Secretariat of the Board of the Moscow Writers’ Organization.”

Voinovich receives a severe reprimand with entry into his personal file and remains in the ranks of Soviet writers.

Voinovich will be expelled from the Writers’ Union in 1974. The reason will be the writing and publication of an open letter in defense of Solzhenitsyn in the next “anti-Soviet” magazine “Posev”. At the meeting of the Secretariat of the Moscow branch of the Writers’ Union, where his question will be examined, he did not appear. Will send an open letter in which he will write:
“I will not come to your meeting, because it will take place behind closed doors, secretly from the public, that is, illegally, and I do not want to take part in any illegal activity.
We have nothing to talk about, nothing to argue about, because I express my opinion, and you – what you order.
The Secretariat in its current composition is not a democratically elected body, but is imposed on the Writers’ Union by outside organizations. Neither the entire Secretariat as a whole, nor each of its members individually can be authorities for me, either in a creative way, or even more so in a moral sense. Two or three former writers, who are the rest? Look at each other – you yourself do not know what the person sitting with you or opposite to you is writing.
However, it is known about some that they do not write anything.

I am ready to leave the organization, which, with your active assistance, has turned from the Writers’ Union into a union of officials, where circulars written in the form of novels, plays and poems are passed off as literary samples, and their quality is judged by the position held by the author.

Defenders of the Fatherland and patriots! Is your patriotism costing your Fatherland too dear? After all, some of you for their gray and boring compositions receive as much as the farmers praised by you cannot always earn as a whole collective farm.

You are a union of like-minded people … One robbed the party treasury, another sold a state-owned dacha, the third put cooperative money on a personal savings bank … For twelve years of my stay in the Union, I do not remember that at least one such was excluded … ”

Voinovich will be left free, but they will try to “consign to complete oblivion.”
Only the “relevant authorities” will not forget about it; on the contrary, they will begin to annoy with their attention. Everything is natural – Voinovich writes “wrong” books, and in addition is actively engaged in human rights activities.

Also wrong, from the point of view of the authorities.

The right human rights defenders advocate for the rights of the indigenous population of Africa, North American Indians, and British miners. Although I personally cannot imagine that English miners need someone’s protection. Even English football fans are afraid of these simple guys.

As you already understood, Voinovich turned out to be a wrong human rights activist harmful to society. He spoke in defense of those whom “the entire Soviet people angrily condemned” – the writers Sinyavsky and Daniel, the dissident poet Galanskov, the writer Solzhenitsyn, and the academician Sakharov. He defended the “anti-Soviet rabble” and the “capitoline henchmen”.

Voinovich got away with a lot, but the publication of an open letter in Posevo turned out to be the last straw that overflowed the authorities’ cup of patience. As a matter of fact, the condescending attitude towards the petty sins of individual, in plain sight, citizens was due to the desire of the then leadership to create an image of a democratic state for the Soviet Union in the eyes of the world community.

Here is what he writes about his life in the Soviet Union: “My situation has changed dramatically. From the lowest social stratum I moved not to the highest, but still quite high: I became a member of the privileged caste of Soviet writers. My attitude gradually began to change. I began to realize that, as a person and a member of society, I have some responsibilities and some rights. I already understood more about Soviet laws and resorted to their help in practical life. But the more scrupulously I observed these laws, the more my troubles became. In the end, I was expelled from the writing caste and lost even those meager opportunities (for example, the opportunity to get even the lowest paying job) that I had when I was a carpenter or student. First, practically, and then by an official decree, I was stripped of the title of a Soviet person and declared an enemy of the Soviet system. And rightly so. Because, having reached the point with my mind that laws do exist in the Soviet Union, I forgot what I knew instinctively before: there are no laws in the Soviet Union. As I have already said, it is not the written laws that are important, but the unwritten rules of behavior. ”

In December 1980, Vladimir Voinovich and his family left Moscow for Munich.

I do not want to leave, but the writer was unequivocally hinted that otherwise he would be very bad in his homeland. True, in 2004, Vladimir Nikolaevich will say: “When I was kicked out, I really didn’t want to leave, but when I lived abroad, I realized that as a writer I really lacked this experience. He gives a lot, and not only to the writer – in general to man. Here the writer has always been a spoiled person, and even a writer persecuted like me. I was also spoiled – by public attention, love, sometimes even excessive. Even with the attention of the authorities and the KGB, even with the fact that they followed me. I felt like I was such an important person! And I got there and after a while I realized that I am nobody … It is important for a person to make adjustments so that he does not think that he is the navel of the earth. ”

In addition to “Chonkin”, other works by Vladimir Voinovich will be released abroad – “By Mutual Correspondence”, “Ivankiada”, “Hat”, “Moscow 2042”, “Anti-Soviet Soviet Union”, plays “Tribunal” and “Fictitious Marriage”, and this not a complete list.

At home, the writer’s voice will be listened to in the literal sense of the word – in the programs of Radio Liberty.

In 1988, the ban on the printing of Vladimir Voinovich’s works in his homeland will be lifted. The Life and Extraordinary Adventures of the Soldier Ivan Chonkin will be published by the Yunost magazine. The publication will cause a huge response. “Chonkin” was admired, “Chonkin” was scolded, but it seems that none of the readers took this publication indifferently.
In 1990, Mikhail Gorbachev returns Soviet citizenship to Voinovich. And since then Vladimir Nikolaevich lives and works both in Munich and in Moscow.

Books by Vladimir Voinovich are very popular. They have been translated into over thirty languages. Vladimir Voinovich is a laureate of a number of Russian and international literary awards, a member of the Moscow Writers’ Union and the Russian Pen Club, a member of the Serbian Academy of Arts and Sciences, a corresponding member of the Bavarian Academy of Fine Arts, an honorary member of the American Mark Twain Society, an honorary doctor of the University of Nottingham (England ) and Middlebury College (USA).
And Vladimir Nikolaevich is also fond of painting. His personal exhibitions are held in Russia and abroad. But that’s a completely different story …

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