Mezi kladivem a kovadlinou. Maxim Gorkij
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Between the Hammer and the Anvil: Maxim Gorky
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The article is intended to shed new light on one of the greatest and, at the same time, most controversial writers of twentieth-century Russian literature – Maxim Gorky (1868–1936). Countless myths and legends surround this renowned fi gure. Recent interpretations of his life and work range from describing him as someone who praised the Gulag system (particularly in Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s portrayal of him) to his being depicted as a victim of Stalin. The author of the article, on the basis of sources published in Russia after per- estroika, attempts to reconstruct the events that caused Gorky, formerly a radical opponent of the October Revolution, to become one of the co-implementers of the ideas of the Stalinist régime. The article provides suffi cient evidence to support the argument that Gorky was neither a convinced Stalinist nor an opponent of the Stalinist dictatorship. He was, however, one of the few people after Stalin rose to power, apart from the Party leadership, to be in close touch with the dictator. It was mainly Gorky’s authority and international prestige which Stalin increasingly exploited to further his own political aims. An artist’s compromise with power has always been, and will surely always be, a matter of failed integrity and conscience. In the light of this, one may only conclude that Gorky was ethically inconsistent. Many Soviet writers squandered their talents in writing rhetorical articles for the State-run press, but none of them contributed as much as Gorky to the spread of Stalinism simply by turning a blind eye. In the assessments of his personality and the role that he was destined to play in society and politics during the establishment and building of the ‘fi rst proletarian state in the world’, there will probably always be two extreme positions: the Gorky whose intervention in the highest circles could help certain people out of severe diffi culties and the Gorky who lent his international reputation and voice to one of the greatest criminals of the last century.
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