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Emmanuil Genrikhovich Kazakevich

KAZAKEVICH, EMMANUIL GENRIKHOVICH (1913–1962), Soviet Russian author. Born in the Ukrainian town of Kremenchug, Kazakevich grew up in a Yiddish-speaking mi-lieu. As a young man he went to *Birobidzhan, capital of the autonomous Jewish region in the Soviet Far East, where he worked in a variety of jobs: managing a collective farm, directing a theater, and writing for a Yiddish newspaper. From 1938 he lived in Moscow. In the 1930s Kazakevich was considered one of the most promising young poets in Soviet Yiddish literature. Much of his original Yiddish verse is to be found in the antholoy Di Groyse Velt ("The Great World," 1939). He was also known for his Yiddish translations of prerevolutionary and Soviet Russian writers, including Pushkin, Lermontov, and Mayakovsky.

During World War II Kazakevich served in the Red Army and was wounded four times. He rose from ordinary scout to the rank of deputy commander of an army reconnaissance unit. Most of his later writings were inspired by his wartime experiences. After the war he began to write exclusively in Russian. Indeed, his former career as a Yiddish poet appears to have caused him some embarrassment. His first Russian novel, Zvezda (1947; The Star, 1950), was followed by Dvoye v stepi ("Two on a Steppe," 1948) and Vesna na Odere (1949; The Spring on the Oder, 1953). He was severely criticized for these works, because he emphasized the problems of honor and free choice. Although Kazakevich, twice a Stalin prize-winner, escaped the tragic fate of many Soviet Jewish intellectuals during the virulently antisemitic purges of Stalin's last years, he was undoubtedly aware of the constant danger to his life during that period. This may explain his novel Dom na ploshchadi (1956; The House on the Square, 1960), published at the height of the post-Stalin "thaw." The book describes the atmosphere of morbid suspicion prevalent in the Soviet army during the early post-war years. The 1962 novella Vragi ("The Enemies"), a thinly veiled appeal for tolerance, even toward political dissenters, depicted Lenin's magnanimity to his Menshevik opponents. The work was severely criticized as politically dangerous. Some of his works remained unpublished, such as "The Call for Help," about a ghetto seen through the eyes of a Russian officer. In the 1950s he went back to writing in Yiddish, and his articles were published in the Yiddish press in Warsaw, Poland.


A. Bocharov, Emanuil Kazakevich (Rus., 1965); O.D. Galubeva et al., Russkiye Sovetskiye Pisateli, 2 (1964), 264–73.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.