Mikhail Isakovskii

Isakovskii, Mikhail Vasil’evich

 

Born Jan. 7 (19), 1900, in the village of Glotovka, El’nia District, in present-day Smolensk Oblast; died July 20, 1973, in Moscow. Soviet Russian poet; Hero of Socialist Labor (1970). Member of the CPSU from 1918.

Isakovskii, the son of a poor peasant, began writing poetry as a child; the Moscow newspaper Nov’ carried his poem “A Soldier’s Request” in 1914. In 1921 three small volumes of his verses were published in Smolensk. However, the poet felt that his literary career began in 1924, when “Herdsboys” and “The Near and Dear” were published. His book Wires in the Straw came out in Moscow in 1927 and was warmly received by M. Gorky. It was followed by his verse collections The Provinces (1930), Masters of the Soil (1931), and Four Wishes (1936).

The first manifestations of socialism in rural areas and the development of culture and socialist awareness in the peasant milieu are the themes of many of Isakovskii’s poems. Collectivization, the historic revolutionary turning point in village life, is dealt with in a number of his works, including Poem of Departure (1930). In his poetry the protagonist is the new man of the Soviet village, on whose actions, thoughts, and feelings the poet focuses. But Isakovskii was not merely a “peasant poet.” “Mikhail Isakovskii,” wrote Gorky, “is not a man of the countryside but that new man who knows that city and country are two forces that cannot exist separately and knows that the time has come for them to combine into one invincible creative force” (Nesobran-nye literaturno-kriticheskie stat’i, 1941, pp. 117–18).

Patriotic poems about the Great Patriotic War (1941–45) and the heroism of Soviet men and women at the front and in the rear are very important in Isakovskii’s creative work (“To the Russian Woman” and “A Discourse on Russia”). Set to music, many of his poems have become popular folk songs sung all over the world. Among them are “Katiusha,” “And Who Knows,” “In the Woods Near the Front Line,” “The Light,” “Oh, My Mists,” “The Enemy Burned Down Our House,” “All Is Once More Still Until Dawn,” and “Birds of Passage Are on the Wing.” Isakovskii’s translations of works by Byelorussian and Ukrainian poets and of Hungarian ballads and songs are well known. His articles and letters on poetry have been collected in On Poets. On Poems. On Songs (1968; 2nd enl. ed., 1972).

The power of Isakovskii’s poetry lies in its realism and national character. A poet who at all times wrote out of deep emotional need, he expressed even political themes lyrically and with deep feeling. In the words of Aleksandr Tvardovskii, Isakovskii “has found for an urgently political and often purely agitational theme vehicles of expression that are lyrical and earnest and make the heart receptive to that about which the work speaks” (Sobr. soch., vol. 4, 1969, pp. 368–69). Artistic eloquence and melodiousness are wedded in Isakovskii’s poetry with clarity and simplicity of language and style. His work continues the traditions of the Russian classics, particularly of N. A. Ne-krasov, and is linked with the lyric folk song and the chastushka (short rhymed song).

In his last years Isakovskii was working on his autobiography, On El’nia Soil.

Isakovskii won the State Prize of the USSR for the lyrics of “A Border Guard Was Returning After His Army Term,” “Seeing Off,” “And Who Knows,” and “Katiusha” (1943) and for the collection Poems and Songs (1949). He was awarded four Orders of Lenin, two other orders, and a number of medals.

WORKS

Sobr. soch., vols. 1–4. Moscow, 1968–69.
Na El’ninskoi zemle: Avtobiograficheskie stranitsy. (Afterword by A. Tvardovskii.) Moscow, 1971.
“Na El’ninskoi zemle: Avtobiograficheskie stranitsy.” Druzhba narodov, 1971, nos. 11 and 12.
“Na El’ninskoi zemle: Avtobiograficheskie stranitsy.” Druzhba narodov, 1972, no. 8.

REFERENCES

Aleksandrov, V. M. Isakovskii: Kritiko-biograficheskii ocherk. Moscow, 1950.
Rylenkov, N. Narodnyi poet. Smolensk, 1950.
Tvardovskii, A. Poeziia Mikhaila Isakovskogo. Moscow, 1969.

A. G. DEMENT’EV

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