Was he a literary genius or simply Stalin’s stooge? Public opinion on Russian author Maxim Gorky continues to be divided.
Maxim Gorky never found it hard to find powerfully political contexts for his work.
His novel “The Mother” (1907) became a Soviet literature classic because its protagonist, a factory worker, was seen as a true proletarian.
Gorky was equally outspoken about his friendship with Lenin, the hero of the Russian Revolution, whom he said he loved more than anyone else. static.dw.com/image/17516916…
In the former Soviet Union, the state tended to recognize writers if they could be used for political purposes.
After the Communist Academy decided in 1927 to recognize Gorky as a “proletarian author,” he became a willing accomplice in the dictatorship.
In 1932, Gorky returned from living in Italy for most of the last decade and was welcomed as a hero.
He received the Order of Lenin, the highest award of the Soviet Union, and became a member of the central committee of the communist party — even his birthplace was renamed Gorky in 1932.
While Gorky’s work fitted well into the canon of socialist realism that was promoted by Stalin’s regime, Knigge is convinced that “his treatment as a state poet greatly damaged his reputation.”
“The Soviet state reduced him to a soldier of the communist party,” says Knigge.
But while Knigge is adamant that Gorky “was never a Stalinist,” the persecuted Russian writer Alexander Solzhenitsy later denounced Gorky as “an apologist for executioners.”
It’s true that Gorky’s relationship with those who came into power after the revolution was full of contradictions.
In an essay that he published in 1917-1918 in the Bolshevik daily, Novaya Zhizn, Gorky distanced himself from atrocities committed during the October Revolution and even criticized Lenin before later embracing Bolshevik ideology.