Ostrovskii, Nikolai

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Ostrovskii, Nikolai Alekseevich


Born Sept. 16 (29), 1904, in the village of Viliia, in what is now Ostrog Raion, Rovno Oblast; died Dec. 22, 1936, in Moscow. Soviet Russian writer. Member of the CPSU from 1924.

The son of a worker, Ostrovskii joined the Komsomol in July 1919 and went to the front as a volunteer. He served in G. I. Kotovskii’s cavalry brigade and in the First Horse Cavalry Army. In August 1920 he was seriously wounded. After demobilization, Ostrovskii was involved in the rehabilitation of the national economy. In 1923 and 1924 he was a leader in the Komsomol in the border regions of the Ukraine. Confined to bed with a severe, progressive disease in 1927, he lost his eyesight in 1928. Summoning all of his inner strength, Ostrovskii fought for his life, occupying himself with self-education. Blind and bedridden, he wrote How the Steel Was Tempered (part 1, 1932; part 2, 1934; complete edition, 1935; film of the same name, 1942; Pavel Korchagin, 1957). From 1934 to 1936 he worked on the three-volume novel Born of the Storm, which describes events in the western Ukraine at the end of 1919 and the beginning of 1920 and the awakening of revolutionary consciousness of the workers; only the first book was completed.

The protagonist of How the Steel Was Tempered, Pavel Korchagin, is an autobiographical figure. Using an author’s creative license, Ostrovskii masterfully gave new meaning to personal impressions and experiences, creating scenes and images of broad artistic significance. Korchagin’s grasp of the organic unity of the personal and the social, his communist principles, and his unswerving will help him overcome what is a terrible tragedy for a soldier—disability. Revolutionary ardor and businesslike language, documentation and artistic invention, and lyricism and narration were all united by Ostrovskii in an artistic whole that was, in principle, new to Soviet literature. The novel portrays the revolutionary upsurge of the people, of which Korchagin felt himself to be only a small part. For many generations of Soviet youth and for progressive young people abroad, Korchagin became a moral example. The novel played a mobilizing role during the Great Patriotic War (1941–45) and during the period of peacetime construction. It influenced the formation of the “young hero” in Soviet literature. The works of Ostrovskii have been translated into the languages of the peoples of the USSR and into many foreign languages.

In 1935 the military title of brigade commissar was conferred on Ostrovskii. He was awarded the Order of Lenin and the Lenin Komsomol Prize (1966). There are memorial museums devoted to him at his birthplace, in Moscow (since 1940), and in Sochi (since 1937), where he lived intermittently from 1928 to 1936.


Sochineniia, vols. 1–3. (Introduction by V. Ozerov.) Moscow, 1968.
Sochineniia, vols. 1–3. (Introduction by S. Tregub.) Moscow, 1969.


Vengerov, N. Nikolai Ostrovskii, 2nd ed., an enlarged and corrected edition. Moscow, 1956.
Timofeev, L. I. O khudozhestvennykh osobennostiakh romana N. Ostrovskogo “Kak zakalialas’stal’,” 2nd ed. Moscow, 1956.
Nikolai Ostrovskii. Fotografii, dokumenty, illiustratsii. (Text by S. Lesnevskii. Compiled by R. Ostrovskaia and E. Sokolova.) Moscow, 1964.
Tregub, S. Zhivoi Korchagin, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1973.
Anninskii, A. “Kak zakalialas’ stal’” Nikolaia Ostrovskogo. Moscow, 1971.
Russkie sovetskie pisateli-prozaiki: Biobibliograficheskii ukazatel’, vol. 3. Leningrad, 1964.


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