Wednesday 27 March 2019


ARN KUSHNIROV (AARON KUSHNIROV) (January 7, 1890-September 7, 1949)

            The author of poetry, stories, and plays, he was born in Boyerke (Boyarka), near Kiev. His surname was shortened from Kushnirovitsh. He received a traditional Jewish education. His father, a timber merchant, died when he was thirteen years old, and he then left religious elementary school and went to work in a Kiev grain shop. In his free time, he turned to self-study. From 1914 to 1917, during WWI, he served as a soldier in the Tsarist army and in 1920 joined the Red Army. He began writing poetry and stories in 1909, and in 1920 he debuted in print with a poem in the Red Army one-off newspaper Der kamf mit der poylisher shlyakhte (The fight with the Polish nobility), a bulletin of the Kharkov district committee of the Ukrainian Communist Party (Jewish section). In 1921 he brought out his fist collection of poetry, Vent (Walls), with a preface by Dovid Hofshteyn. He also placed poems in the Kharkov newspaper Komunist (Communist) and other publications. In 1922 he moved to Moscow, where he was one of founders and a member of the editorial board of the journal Shtrom (Current), in which he published poems, and he actively participated in the work of the Moscow circle of Yiddish writers and artists. He later stood with the leftist writers’ group which repudiated the program of Shtrom and planned to publish their own journal Ekran (Screen). In 1925 Kushnirov became a member of the Office of the Jewish Section of the Moscow Association of Proletarian Writers (MAPP). In its anthology Oktyabr (October) of 1925, he published his long story “Kinder fun eyn folk” (Children of one people), which Soviet Jewish literary criticism considered an important achievement in modern Yiddish proletarian prose. Together with Moyshe Litvakov, he led the Moscow group “Yungvald” (Young forest) in 1926-1927, which brought out a serial of the same name. In 1928 the Yiddish state theater in Minsk performed his drama in verse Hirsh lekert (Hirsh Lekert), and later for the same theater he translated and adapted Lope de Vega’s Shepsnkval (Fuenteovejuna). Over the course of the 1930s, he published numerous poems and stories. He was also a prominent organizer in the field of literature and editor of a series of journals. A poet of the revolutionary Broyz (Brewery), as he titled one of his first collections, he exercised a formidable influence on the development of Soviet Yiddish poetry. He made a major contribution to the popularization of world literature.

            Following the outbreak of the Soviet-German war, he volunteered to join the Red Army and excelled at the front for his heroism and courage as an officer at the rank of captain. He escaped from German captivity and was awarded with several medals. In the Russian divisional newspaper Doblest' (Valor), he published poems, stories, and notes. He served on the editorial board of Eynikeyt (Unity) and was editor-in-chief of the Moscow almanac Heymland (Homeland) (1947-1948, seven issues). He faced the same fate as all the giants of postwar Soviet Yiddish literature, although he did die a natural death. When the “fight against cosmopolitanism” reached its apex in late 1948, the management of the Soviet Writers’ Association, of which he was a member, demanded that he give a speech at a meeting of writers in Moscow which was to deal with the matter of Yiddish literature. At the dais, he was overcome with a spasmodic inability to speak; he was stricken ill, taken to a hospital, and shortly thereafter died (see Almuni, in Di goldene keyt [The golden chain] 25 [1956]). He died in Moscow.

In 1956 there was published in Moscow a booklet of Kushnirov’s poetry in Russian translation (Izbrannoe, stikhi i poema [Poetry selections], 179 pp.). Several early poems of his literary legacy (dated 1909-1912 and 1919) were published in Sovetish heymland (Soviet homeland) 4 (1962). Kushnirov also published plays in the Yiddish press, such as: Hirsh lekert, fragments of which appeared in Shtern (Star) in Minsk (March 25, 1928), Emes-zhurnal (Journal of truth) (1928), Prolit (Proletarian literature) 16 (1928), and Literarishe bleter (Literary leaves) 16 (1928); and Vays un shvarts (White and black), fragments in Emes (Truth) (February 2, 1934) and Farmest (Competition) 5-6 (1934); among others. Kushnirov collected, edited, and co-edited (in addition to the items mentioned above): Yugnt (Youth) (Kharkov, 1922); with A. S. Rabinovitsh, Layb-eygntum-kinder (Moscow: Central People’s Publishers, USSR, 1926); with Yashe Bronshteyn and Avrom Vevyorke, the journal Shtern (Minsk, 1928); with Yoysef Rabin, Fertsn oktyabers, literarishe zamlung (Fourteen Octobers, literary collection) (Moscow: Emes, 1931), 421 pp.; with Y. Rabin, Der veg fun farat, kamf kegn bundizm un menshevizm in der yidisher proletarisher literatur (The road from treachery, the struggle against Bundism and Menshevism in Yiddish proletarian literature) (Moscow-Minsk: Central People’s Publishers, 1932), 150 pp.; Dos land darf kenen zayne heldn, literarishe zamlung (The country should know its heroes, literary collection) (Moscow: Emes, 1932), 126 pp.; Sovetish (Soviet) (Moscow, 1934-1941); with Elye Gordon and Perets Markish, Komyug, literarishe-kinstlerisher zamlbukh (Communist youth, literary-artistic anthology) (Moscow: Emes, 1938), 138 pp.; Osher shvartsman, zamlung gevidmet dem tsvantsik yortog fun zayn heldishn toyt (Osher Shvartsman, collection dedicated to the twentieth anniversary of his heroic death) (Moscow: Emes, 1940), 138 pp.; Roytarmeyer lider (Red Army poetry) (Moscow: Emes, 1940), 32 pp.

Kushnirov translated many works from Russian: Boris Pilnyak, Speranza (Speranza) (Moscow, 1927), 36 pp.; Ben Jonson, Volpone (Volpone) (Minsk, 1935), 131 pp.; Dos gezang vegn igors khayel (The song of Igor’s campaign [original: Slovo o polku Igoreve]) (Moscow: Emes, 1938), 109 pp.; Nikolay Alekseyevich Nekrasov, Saveli, giber rusisher, fun der poeme “Vemen in rusland lebt zikh gut” (Saveli, Russian hero, from the poem “Who lives well in Russia?” [original: Savelii, bogatyrʹ russkii and Komu na Rusi zhitʹ khorosho]) (Moscow: Emes, 1940), 21 pp.; with Arn Gurshteyn, Oysgeyvelte verk (Selected works) of Mikhail Lermontov (Moscow: Emes, 1946), 310 pp.; and Maxim Gorky’s Dos meydl un der toyt (The girl and death [original, Devushka i smert']).

Kushnirov’s writings were represented in: Ezra Korman’s Brenendike brikn in der nayer yidisher dikhtung fun ukraine (Burning bridges in modern Yiddish poetry from Ukraine) (Berlin: Idisher literarisher farlag, 1923); Dobrushin and Rabin’s Deklamater fun der sovetisher yidisher literatur (Declaimer of Soviet Jewish literature) (Moscow: Emes, 1934); A shpigl af a shteyn, antologye, poezye un proze fun tsvelf farshnitene yidishe shraybers in ratn-farband (A mirror on a star, anthology, poetry and prose from twelve murdered Jewish writers in the Soviet Union) (Tel Aviv: Di goldene keyt, 1964); Af naye vegn (Along new paths) (New York: Yidishe kultur farband, 1949); Moshe Basok, Mivar shirat yidish (Selection of Yiddish poetry) (Tel Aviv: Hakibuts hameuad, 1963); Joseph Leftwich, The Golden Peacock: An Anthology of Yiddish Poetry (Cambridge, MA, 1939; New York: T. Yoseloff, 1961); Joseph Milbauer, comp., Poètes yiddish d’aujourd’hui (Contemporary Yiddish poets) (Paris: Les Cahiers du Journal des Poètes, 1936); Charles Dobzynski, Anthologie de la poésie Yiddish, le miroir d’un people (Anthology of Yiddish poetry, the mirror of a people) (Paris: Gallimard, 1971).

His works include: Vent, poetry (Kiev: State Publishers, 1921), 37 pp.; Shtam-azkore (Tribe—Memorial for the dead) (Moscow: Shtrom, 1924), 15 pp. (Stam is a work by Dovid Hofshteyn); Broyz, lider (Brewery, poems) (Minsk: Byelorussian State Publishers, 1928), 86 pp.; Kinder fun eyn folk, dertseylungen (Children of one people, stories) (Moscow: Shul un bukh, 1928), 16 pp.; Hirsh lekert, a play in three acts (Kiev: Kultur-lige, 1929), 103 pp., (Moscow reissue: Central Publishers, 1930); Di hintishe stezhke (The canine trail), a story (Kharkov: Central Publishers, 1931), 24 pp.; Toyte sopke (Dead hillside), a story (Kharkov-Kiev: Central Publishers, 1932), 16 pp.; Gelungene operatsye (Successful operation), a comedy in one act (Kharkov-Kiev: Ukrainian State Publishers for National Minorities, 1934), 23 pp.; Dramen (Plays) (Moscow: Emes, 1935), 232 pp.; Lider (Poems) (Moscow: Emes, 1938), 88 pp.; A simkhe in birefeld (A happy event in Birefeld), a story (Moscow: Emes, 1938), 11 pp.; Mizrekh un mayrev, dramatishe poemes un lider (East and West, dramatic poems) (Moscow: Emes, 1940), 174 pp.; An eshelon roytarmey (A troop transport of the Red Army) (Moscow, 1940); Geklibene verk (Selected works), poems from the years 1915-1947 (Moscow: Emes, 1947), 303 pp.; Foter-komandir (Father-commander), poetry (Moscow: Emes, 1948), 124 pp.; Geklibene lider (Selected poems) (Moscow: Sovetski pisatel, 1975), 205 pp. Kushnirov is “one of the most talented representatives of modern Soviet Yiddish lyric poetry of the post-Kiev period,” according to Yekhezkl Dobrushin, “and he grew under the influence of Dovid Hofshteyn on the one hand and Russian imagist poetry of A. Esenin” on the other. “The poet comes to us,” wrote Shmuel Gordon, “with long utilized, more confident, compressed experience. Each of Kushnirov’s poems is an accounting of many time-sensations. Totally foreign to him is the incidence of fleeting, precarious moods…. Kushnirov is too psychological to lock himself into the four cubits of imagism, which was an organic system for him, but not a goal.” Kushnirov’s “long story Kinder fun eyn folk,” noted Nokhum Oyslender, “…was one of the most important events in Yiddish prose in the Soviet Union, designating its transition from stilted schematics to genuine artistic depiction…. To be sure, Kushnirov found in his prose the courage to immerse his fine mastery in the fresh wellsprings of the primitive.”

Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 3; Chone Shmeruk, comp., Pirsumim yehudiim babrit-hamoatsot, 1917-1961 (Jewish publications in the Soviet Union, 1917-1961) (Jerusalem, 1961), see index; Prolit (Kharkov) 3, 7 (1928); Ber Orshanski, in Royte velt (Kharkov) 9 (1929); Yashe Bronshteyn, Atake (Attack) (Moscow-Minsk, 1931), pp. 136-55; Yekhezkl Dobrushin, In iberboy, literarish-kritishe artiklen (Under reconstruction, literary-critical articles) (Moscow, 1932), pp. 39-60; Avrom Vevyorke, In shturem (Under assault) (Kharkov-Kiev: Ukrainian state publishers for national minorities, 1932), pp. 11-14, 56ff; Shmuel Zhurkovski, Pruvn, a zamlung konkrete kritik (Endeavors, a collection of concrete criticism) (Kharkov, 1934); Nakhmen Mayzil, Noente un eygene, fun yankev dinezon biz hirsh glik (Near and one’s own, fromYankev Dinezon to Hirsch Glick) (New York, 1957), pp. 238-54; Shmuel Niger, Yidishe shrayber in sovet-rusland (Yiddish writers in Soviet Russia) (New York, 1958), pp. 56-61; Aleksander Pomerants, Di sovetishe haruge malkhes (The [Jewish writers] murdered by the Soviet government) (Buenos Aires, 1961); Arn Vergelis, in Sovetish heymland (Moscow) 8 (1968); Yidisher teater in eyrope tsvishn beyde velt-milkhomes (Yiddish theater in Europe between the two world wars), vol. 2 (New York, 1971), p. 363; A shpigl af a shteyn, antologye, poezye un proze fun tsvelf farshnitene yidishe shraybers in ratn-farband (A mirror on a star, anthology, poetry and prose from twelve murdered Jewish writers in the Soviet Union) (Tel Aviv, 1964), pp. 745-47.
Dr. Eugene Orenstein

[Additional information from: Chaim Beider, Leksikon fun yidishe shrayber in ratn-farband (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers in the Soviet Union), ed. Boris Sandler and Gennady Estraikh (New York: Congress for Jewish Culture, Inc., 2011), pp. 333-34.]

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