Demian Bednyi

Bednyi, Dem’ian

 

(pseudonym of Pridvorov Efim Alek-seevich). Born Apr. 1 (13), 1883, in the village of Gubovka, Kherson Province; died May 25, 1945, in Barvikha, Moscow Oblast. Russian Soviet poet and public figure; one of the founders of socialist realism in poetry. Member of the Communist Party since 1912. Born into a poor peasant’s family.

Bednyi began his education in the village school and then attended a school for military doctors; during 1904–08 he studied in the department of history and philology at the University of St. Petersburg. He began to publish in 1909 in the journal Russkoe Bogatstvo. In 1911 in the Bolshevik newspaper Zvezda he published the verses “On Dem’ian Bednyi, a Dangerous Muzhik”; he took his pseudonym from the poem. He began publishing in the newspaper Pravda in 1912 and did so until the end of his life. Bolshevik Party spirit and a feeling for the people are the basic characteristics of Bednyi’s work.

In his programmatic verses “My Verse,” “Mother-Truth,” “Onward and Upward!,” and “The Nightingale,” Bednyi molded the image of a new kind of poet living according to Lenin’s legacy and keeping before him a supreme goal: to create for the broad masses, to bring the truth of Lenin’s revolutionary ideas to the masses, and to bring politics and culture within their reach. This is the reason for Bednyi’s recourse to the most democratic and accessible genres: fable, song, chastushka, raeshnik (rhymed satirical monologue), and agitational verse stories. Bednyi developed the traditions of N. A. Nekrasov, I. A. Krylov, and the poets of Iskra in his heroic lyrics and satire. In the pre-October period the poet spoke out in the name of the workers and peasants, exposed the policies of the ruling classes and their agents in fables, and caustically ridiculed the Menshevik liquidators.

In 1913, Bednyi’s collection Fables was published and was mentioned by V. I. Lenin in a letter to M. Gorky (see Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 48, p. 180). According to the memoirs of V. D. Bonch-Bruevich, V. I. Lenin “was extremely sensitive, close, and affectionate toward the great muse of Dem’ian Bednyi. ... He characterized Bednyi’s work as extremely witty, beautifully written, well-aimed, and hitting the mark” (Na literaturnom postu, 1931, no. 4, p. 5). Lenin, in Gorky’s words, repeatedly emphasized the agitational significance of Bednyi’s work but said: “He is slightly crude. He follows the reader when he should go ahead of him” (Sobr. soch., vol. 17, 1952, p. 45).

In 1917, Bednyi created the verse tale For the Land, for Freedom, for the Workers’ Lot, reflecting the growth of revolutionary consciousness among the masses in the years of the imperialist war and the victory of the Bolsheviks. Bednyi’s songs played a great role during the Civil War years, raising the morale of the Red Army men and satirically unmasking class enemies and renegades.

His most important works of the 1920’s were the narrative poem Main Street (1922), imbued with a heroic spirit, which recounts the events of 1905 and 1917 in universal terms; the verses on Lenin (including “Snow-flakes” and “No One Knew”); and satiric works dealing with foreign affairs. In 1930, Bednyi was criticized for the pamphlets “Intermissions,” “Come Down Off the Stove,” and “Without Mercy.” Criticism of the libretto of the opera The Bogatyri (1936) was excessively harsh.

During the years of the Great Patriotic War, Bednyi again wrote extensively and published in Pravda and Okna TASS and created verse stories, patriotic lyrics (“I Believe in My People,” and others), and antifascist satire. Bednyi’s work has exerted an influence on the development of Soviet poetry and has contributed to the democratization of the poetic language and to the renewal of the fable. Bednyi was awarded the Order of Lenin, the Order of the Red Banner, and medals.

WORKS

Poln. sobr. soch., vols. 1–19. Moscow-Leningrad, 1925–33.
Sobr. soch., vols. 1–5. Moscow, 1953–54.
Sobr. soch., vols. 1–8. Moscow, 1963–65.

REFERENCES

Makarov, A. Dem’ian Bednyi. Moscow, 1964.
Vospominaniia o Dem’iane Bednom. [Collected by D. E. Pridvorov and A. V. Priamkov.] Moscow, 1966.
Eventov, I. Zhizn’ i tvorchestvo Dem’iana Bednogo. Leningrad, 1967.
Eventov, I. Poet krasnogo Pitera. Leningrad, 1968.
Brazul’, I. Dem’ian Bednyi. Moscow, 1967.

L. K. SHVETSOVA

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