Ilia Selvinskii

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Sel’vinskii, Il’ia (Karl) L’vovich


Born Oct. 12 (24), 1899, in Simferopol’; died Mar. 22, 1968, in Moscow. Soviet Russian writer. Member of the CPSU from 1941.

Sel’vinskii graduated from the department of social sciences of Moscow State University in 1923. He published his first work in 1915. During the 1920’s, he was one of the leaders of the constructivist literary group. Some of his early works, for example, the narrative poem The Ulialaev Revolt (1927) and the tragedy Commander of the Second A rmy (1928), deal with the Civil War; others, for example, the novel in verse Pushtorg (1928), deal with the conflicts of the New Economic Policy period. These works, like many others by Sel’vinskii, are characterized by poetic experimentation and a search for the unusual in genre, versification, and language; the same is true of the narrative poem Notes of a Poet (1927) and the slapstick plays Pao-Pao (1932) and Umka the Polar Bear (1933). At the end of the 1930’s, Sel’vinskii turned to the genre of historical tragedy in verse, dealing with turning points in the history of Russia and important events of the revolutionary struggle; examples are The Knight John (1937) and Babek (1941). During the Great Patriotic War (1941–45), Sel’vinskii wrote outstanding patriotic poems, such as “This I Saw!,” and began work on the dramatic trilogy Russia, consisting of The Livonian War (1944), From Poltava to Hängo (1949), and Big Kirill (1957); in the trilogy, he sought to depict the motherland’s greatness and historical mission, to portray the Russian as toiler and warrior, and to re-create V. I. Lenin. Sel’vinskii is also the author of The Poetry Studio (1962), the autobiographical novel Oh, My Youth! (1966), and various other works. His works have been translated into foreign languages. Sel’vinskii was awarded five orders and various medals.


Sobr. soch., vols. 1–6. Moscow, 1971–74.


Reznik, O. Zhizn’ v poezii: Tvorchestvo Il’i Sel’vinskogo, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1972.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.