Communist studies


“One Lousy Sheep”: The 1958 Soviet Denunciation of Nobel Prize Winner Boris Pasternak

In an article in the June 30, 2014, edition of the Washington Post, columnist and editorial page editor Fred Hiatt discusses the harsh denunciation of Boris Pasternak in a 1958 speech. The criticism of Pasternak as a pig occurred toward the end of a long and turgid oration on the subject of the Komsomol’s glorious history and mission by its director, Vladimir Semichastny, who later came to head the KGB. 

The attack on Pasternak, who a week earlier had been named the winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature for his novel Doctor Zhivago, was, as Hiatt notes, partially dictated by Nikita Khrushchev himself.  That Oct. 29, 1958, speech was broadcast on the Soviet Home Service, translated by the Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS), and published the following day in the FBIS Daily Report. An excerpt from the 18-page FBIS translation appears below:

However, as the Russian saying goes: “Even in a good flock there may be one lousy sheep” (parshyvaya outsa). We have such a lousy sheep in our socialist society in the person of Pasternak, who has written his slanderous, so-called novel.  He has gladdened our enemies so much that they have bestowed on him—disregarding of course the artistic merits of his trashy book—a Nobel Prize. We have masters of writing, whose works are uncontestable in their artistic merit, but their authors have not been awarded a Noble (sic) Prize. However, for slander, for libelling the Soviet system, socialism, and Marxism, Pasternak has been awarded the Nobel Prize.

“One Lousy Sheep”: The 1958 Soviet Denunciation of Nobel Prize Winner Boris Pasternak

Hello, Comrade Philby

Kim Philby on USSR commemorative stamp

In “Just Browsing: Cool Items from the Past,” I shared several unexpected items I recently stumbled upon in America’s Historical Newspapers. I don’t however expect to find such wonderful things in Foreign Broadcast Information Service Daily Reports. What’s cool there comes more from the benefits of hindsight than sheer surprise. And that backward look lets the propagandistic nature of some of the documents shine through. One I recently read is the somewhat hagiographic interview with Kim Philby, the former high-ranking member of British intelligence agent who spied for and later defected to the Soviet Union. The interview, first published in the Russian daily newspaper Izvestiya on Dec. 19, 1967, was translated into English for publication in FBIS supplement “MATERIALS ON 50TH ANNIVERSARY OF SOVIET STATE SECURITY ORGANS, FBIS-FRB-68-007-S on 1968-01-10. Supplement number 2” Titled “Hello, Comrade Philby,” the article starts with a street scene in chilly Moscow:

Hello, Comrade Philby

Back to top