Mikhail Svetlov

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Svetlov, Mikhail Arkad’evich


Born June 4 (17), 1903, in Ekaterinoslav, present-day Dnepropetrovsk; died Sept. 28, 1964, in Moscow. Soviet Russian poet.

Svetlov was born into a poor Jewish family. In 1919 he became a Komsomol member. In 1920 he joined the 1st Ekaterinoslav Territorial Regiment as a volunteer rifleman. In 1927 and 1928 he attended Moscow University. Svetlov published his first work in 1917. His first collections were Rails (1923), Verses About the Rabbi (1923), Poems (1924), and Roots (1925). Svetlov revealed a strong flair for romantic themes in his verses about the Civil War, for example, in “Grenada” (1926), “To a Student Workingwoman” (1925), and “On Reconnaissance” (1927). In these works he characteristically combined the lofty with the mundane; he evoked a misty, romantic dreamworld and yet introduced common elements of everyday life.

In the book Night Encounters (1927), Svetlov departed from the style of the heroic song and expressed the anxieties and confusion of the years of NEP (New Economic Policy). At the same time, he revealed a deeper understanding of revolutionary romanticism, tinged with good-natured irony, a quality that gradually became part of his style. In the 1930’s, Svetlov wrote less lyrical poetry. One of the best poems of this period is Song of Kakhovka (1935, set to music by Dunaevskii).

During the Great Patriotic War (1941–45), Svetlov was a special correspondent for the newspaper Krasnaia zvezda (Red Star) at the Leningrad Front and a correspondent for a number of frontline newspapers. Among his works of the war years, including the narrative poem Twenty-eight and a cycle of poems about Liza Chaikina, of particular note is the poem “The Italian” (1943). A contemplative monologue, the poem expresses the hope for peace and brotherhood among men. After a considerable interruption in his writing, Svetlov enjoyed a period of renewed literary creativity in the mid-1950’s. His poetry collection The Horizon (1959), which gave lyrical expression to a new phase of social development, and his last book, A Hunter’s Cottage (1964), marked a transition from romantic exhilaration and melodiousness to a natural conversational tone.

Svetlov’s dramatic works are also noted for their romantic lyricism. They include The Provincial Backwater (staged 1935), A Fairy Tale (1939), Twenty Years Later (1940), Cape Zhelania, (1940, not staged), The Brandenburg Gate (1946), Other People’s Happiness (1953), We Wish You Happiness (1956), and a dramatic fantasy based on themes from C. Gozzis The Love for Three Oranges (1964). Svetlov died while working on a play about A. de Saint-Exupéry. Svetlov’s poetry has been translated into many languages. For his book Poems of Recent Years, Svetlov was awarded the Lenin Prize in 1967. He also received three orders and various medals.


Izbrannye proizvedeniia, vols. 1–2 [Compiled and prepared by Z. Papernyi.] Moscow, 1965.
Stikhotvoreniia i poemy [Introductory article, text preparation, and annotations by E. P. Liubareva.] Moscow-Leningrad, 1966.
Sobr. sock, vol. 1. Moscow, 1974.


Voronskii, A. “Prozaiki i poety ‘Oktiabria’ i ‘Molodoi Gvardii.’” In his Literaturnyeportrety, vol. 2. Moscow, 1929.
Vinogradov, Iv. “O tvorchestve M. Svetlova.” Na literaturnom postu, 1929, no. 20.
Liubareva, E. Mikhail Svetlov: Kritiko-biograficheskii ocherk. Moscow, 1960.
Papernyi, Z. Chelovekpokhozhii na samogo sebia. Moscow, 1967.
Svetov, F. Mikhail Svetlov: Ocherk tvorchestva. Moscow, 1967.
“Ty pomnish, tovarishch”: Vospominaniia o Mikhaile Svetlove. Moscow, 1973. [Compiled by Z. Zibedinskaia and Z. Papernyi.]


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