MOSCOW, July 25 (RIA Novosti) – Russia’s Federal Security Service, a successor agency to the Soviet KGB, on Thursday released a manuscript of a controversial but now critically acclaimed novel that equated the Communist and Nazi political systems, and was confiscated by the KGB in 1961.
Fourteen years after the manuscript was seized, a copy of Vasily Grossman’s World War II epic “Life and Fate,” was smuggled out of the Soviet Union and published in the West, where it earned acclaim as a morose but credible condemnation of Stalinism.
Grossman, already a renowned novelist who spent years on the front lines of World War II as a Red Army newspaper reporter, had been told by a Soviet official that the 900-page “Life and Fate” was so detrimental to the Communist regime that it would not be published for "another 200 or 300 years," poet Semyon Lipkin, a friend of the author, wrote in a memoir.
On Thursday, Federal Security Service deputy head Sergei Smirnov handed over the manuscript to Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky. The work, as well as thousands of other pages of the book, including samizdat prints and assorted drafts, is to be available to the public at Russia’s State Archive of Literature and Art.
The decision to remove the documents from the old KGB repository was based on “the uniqueness and scientific importance of Vasily Grossman’s manuscripts,” the Federal Security Service said in a brief statement.
"This is the book’s liberation," Grossman's daughter, Yekaterina Korotkova, was quoted by Russian media as saying. "Although it had been published, what was hidden is now open."
The Federal Security Service did not specify whether the manuscript differed from the published novel. A staffer at the receiving archive told RIA Novosti that scholars had not yet had a chance to study the manuscript.
The story of “Life and Fate” centers around the Shaposhnikovs, a family of Jewish origin, several members of which die fighting the Nazis or are sent to gulag prison camps.
“’Life and Fate’ is one of the great novels of the 20th century,” The Wall Street Journal’s Joseph Epstein wrote in 2007. “The book has more than 150 characters, panoramically representing almost all strains of Russian life during the nightmarish Stalin years.”