A version of this post appeared in Yiddish here. Translated by Ezra Glinter.
When I bought Natalia Gromova’s book, “The Downfall: The Fate of a Soviet Critic in the 1940 and ‘50s,” it didn’t occur to me that it would have a Jewish dimension. I’m generally interested in this period and in this subject, and I read everything about it that I can get my hands on. Yet many aspects of Soviet literary life remain unclear, particularly regarding the well-paid and well-treated people who constituted the cream of Moscow literary circles but who were, in truth, some of the most unfortunate souls in the entire Soviet Union.
During the last years of Stalin’s government, Soviet intellectuals hoped that the victory over the Nazis would radically change their situation. They believed (or at the very least, many of them believed), that the persecutions of the 1930s were at least partially justified, if only because the country had been besieged from all sides by enemies of Communism. But the Soviet Union came out of the war incomparably stronger, entrenched in a number of satellite countries, and it didn’t need to fear its demise any longer. One could, one would have thought, relax.