Ilf and Petrov

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Il’f and Petrov


Russian Soviet satirical writers who collaborated in their work.

Il’ia ///(pseudonym of Il’ia Arnol’dovich Fainzil’berg). Born Oct. 3(15), 1897, in Odessa; died Apr. 13, 1937, in Moscow. Son of a bank employee.

Il’f contributed articles to Iugrosta (the southern branch of the Russian Telegraph Agency) and the newspaper Moriak (The Sailor). In 1923 he moved to Moscow and became a professional man of letters. It is not difficult to trace in Il’f’s early sketches, short stories, and feuilletons reflections, observations, and details that were later used in the joint works of Il’f and Petrov.

Evgenii Petrov (pseudonym of Evgenii Petrovich Kataev). Born Nov. 30 (Dec. 13), 1903, in Odessa; died July 2, 1942. Son of a history teacher.

Petrov was a correspondent for the Ukrainian Telegraph Agency and later a criminal investigator. He moved to Moscow in 1923 and became a journalist.

The future coauthors became acquainted in 1925 and in 1926 began their joint work, which in the beginning consisted in the composition of themes for drawings and feuilletons in the satirical journal Smekhach (Amuser) and in developing materials for the newspaper Gudok (The Whistle). The first significant joint work of Il’f and Petrov was the novel The Twelve Chairs, which was published in 1928 in the journal 30 drei (30 Days), and which was published as a separate book in the same year. The novel enjoyed great success. It was noteworthy for its great number of brilliantly executed satirical episodes, characterizations, and details, which were a result of lively observations on issues of the day. After this novel Il’f and Petrov wrote several short stories and novellas, including A Radiant Personality (1928) and 1,001 Days, or The New Scheherazade (1929). Il’f and Petrov began to contribute feuilletons regularly to Pravda and Literaturnaia gazeta at this time. In 1931 they published their second novel, The Golden Calf, which was a history of the subsequent adventures of Ostap Bender, the hero of The Twelve Chairs. The novel presents a whole gallery of petty characters in the grip of greedy motives and passions, who exist simultaneously with a “larger world, in which the big people and things live.” Il’f’s and Petrov’s travels in the USA in 1935–36 resulted in the book Little Golden America (1936).

Il’f died of aggravated tuberculosis in 1937. Notebooks, which was published after his death, was unanimously praised by the critics as an outstanding literary work. After the death of his coauthor, Petrov wrote a number of film scripts (in collaboration with G. Munblit), the play The Island of Peace (published in 1947), and Frontline Diary (1942). Petrov joined the Communist Party in 1940, and in the first days of the war he became a war correspondent for Pravda and Informbiuro. Petrov was killed in 1942 while returning from besieged Sevastopol’. He was awarded the Order of Lenin and a medal. There have been numerous stage and film versions of Il’f’s and Petrov’s books. They have been repeatedly reprinted in the USSR and translated into many foreign languages.


Sobr. soch., vols. 1–4. Moscow, 1938.
Sobr. soch., vols. 1–5. Moscow, 1961.


Simonov, K. Foreword. In I. IPf and E. Petrov, Dvenadtsat’ stul’ev.Zolotoi telenok. Moscow, 1956.
Sintsova, T. N. I. Il’fi E. Petrov: Materialy dlia bibliografii. Leningrad, 1958.
Vulis, A. I. Il’f i E. Petrov: Ocherk tvorchestva. Moscow, 1960.
Galanov, B. Il’ia Il’f i Evgenii Petrov. Moscow, 1961.
Vospominaniia ob I. life i E. Petrove. Moscow, 1963.
lanovskaia, L. Pochemu vy pishele smeshno? Moscow, 1969.
Russkie sovetskiepisateli, prozaiki: Biobibliograficheskii ukazatel’, vol. 2.Leningrad, 1964.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Although she writes that the inclusion of quotations from Ilf and Petrov's The Golden Calf, the supreme Soviet satire, is her way of paying "homage to [her] literary predecessors," the passages, in fact, enrich her essays with burlesque.
Often the wittiest lines are in the dry voiceover, lifted from Ilf and Petrov's book but translated into German.
Ilf and Petrov arrived in Moscow seperately in 1923.
In 1936, following a tour of the United States, Ilf and Petrov wrote Odnoetazhnaya Amerika ("One-Storied America"), a witty expose of American life.
Keith Booker and Dubravka Juraga's ambitious study of the prose of Ilf and Petrov, Zoshchenko, Aksyonov, Aleshkovsky, Bitov, and Sokolov, major writers of twentieth-century Russia, seeks to disavow the univocal appropriation of the legacy of Stalinism and forge, in a truly Bakhtinian stance, an awareness of the multiplicity of possible voices and dialogic perspectives.