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Maxim Gorki

(1868 - 1936)

GORKI, MAXIM° (pseudonym of Aleksey Maksimovich Peshkov; 1868–1936), Russian author. Gorki was the outstanding pre-Revolutionary Russian writer who sided with Lenin and the Bolsheviks, but he also distinguished himself as a vigorous champion of the oppressed Jewish people in Russia. Raised in a primitive environment, where the Jews were seen through a strange accumulation of folklore, fantasy, and superstition, Gorki was intellectually at odds with such notions, although emotionally and artistically he sometimes could not help expressing them. His early revolutionary position – which despite periods of dissent and opposition to the Bolsheviks and even voluntary exile, eventually made him a supporter of the Soviet regime – was closely linked with his deep revulsion against Jew-baiting and pogroms, and his warm friendship for many Jewish writers and intellectuals. His story Pogrom (1918), inspired by the *Kishinev outrages of 1903, was no isolated example of Gorki's preoccupation with the Jewish fate in Russia; and in Detstvo (1914; My Childhood, 1915), the first part of his autobiography, Gorki movingly recalled a Jewish boy encountered in his youth. In 1916 Gorki coedited Shchit, an anthology of statements in defense of the Jews drawn from Russian literature, in which he made it clear that he saw in the question of Jewish rights the whole issue of injustice under the Czarist system.

Gorki also showed sympathy for the Hebrew renascence and for Zionist aspirations in Ereẓ Israel. Most of Gorki's impassioned denunciations of antisemitism were omitted from the 30-volume Soviet edition of his works (1949–55). Most of these omissions have been cataloged (B. Suvarin, in Dissent, winter 1965; B.D. Wolfe, The Bridge and the Abyss (1967), 162–3n.). Works not published in this edition include an article on the Hebrew poet *Bialik ; another on the Kishinev pogrom; and an appeal to save the *Habimah theater, then still in the U.S.S.R.

His wife, EKATERINA PESHKOVA (née VOLZHINA, 1876–1965), was, after the October Revolution, for many years a kind of guardian angel of the political prisoners in the U.S.S.R. in her capacity as chairman of the "Political Red Cross." She was warmly remembered by many Jews, particularly Zionists, whom she helped in various ways during their imprisonment, sometimes obtaining for them the permission to emigrate to Palestine.


A.S. Kaun, Maxim Gorky and His Russia (1932); I. Weil, Gorky: His Literary Development and Influence on Soviet Intellectual Life (1966), contains bibl. of works in translation; I. Maor, in Niv Hakevutzah, vol. 5 (Oct. 1956), 643–654; B. Shochetman, in Heavar, 3 (1955). ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: D.L. Levin, Stormy Petrel: The Life and Work of Maxim Gorky (1986); T. Yedlin, Maxim Gorky: A Political Biography (1999).

[Irwin Weil]

Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.