Andrei Sinyavsky

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Andrei Donatovich Sinyavsky
File:Andrei Sinyavsky (1975).jpg
Sinyavsky in Amsterdam, 29 November 1975
Native name Андрей Донатович Синявский
Born (1925-10-08)October 8, 1925
Moscow, Russian SFSR
Died February 25, 1997(1997-02-25) (aged 71)
Pen name Abram Tertz
Occupation literature, publishing the Russian-language almanac Sintaksis
Nationality Russian
Alma mater Moscow State University
Spouse Maria Rozanova

Signature File:Siniavski-april-1983.jpg

Andrei Donatovich Sinyavsky (Russian: Андре́й Дона́тович Синя́вский, 8 October 1925, Moscow – 25 February 1997, Paris) was a Russian writer, dissident, political prisoner, emigrant, Professor of Sorbonne University, magazine founder and publisher. He frequently wrote under the pseudonym Абрам Терц (Abram Tertz).


During a time of extreme censorship in the Soviet Union, Sinyavsky published his novels in the West under a pseudonym. The historical Abram Tertz was a Jewish gangster from Russia's past, Sinyavsky himself was not Jewish; his father, Donat Sinyavsky, was a Russian nobleman from Syzran, who turned Social Revolutionary and was arrested (after the revolution) several times as an "enemy of the people". During his last stay in jail Donat Sinyavsky became ill and after his release, developed mental illness. Andrei Sinyavsky described his father's experiences in the novel Goodnight! Sinyavsky's mother was of a Russian peasant background.

A protégé of Boris Pasternak, Sinyavsky described the realities of Soviet life in short fiction stories. In 1965, he was arrested, along with fellow-writer and friend Yuli Daniel, and tried in the infamous Sinyavsky-Daniel show trial. On 14 February 1966, Sinyavsky was sentenced to seven years on charges of "anti-Soviet activity" for the opinions of his fictional characters.

The affair was accompanied by harsh propaganda campaigns in the Soviet media and was perceived as a sign of demise of the Khrushchev Thaw.

As historian Fred Coleman writes, "Historians now have no difficulty pinpointing the birth of the modern Soviet dissident movement. It began in February 1966 with the trial of Andrei Sinyavsky and Yuli Daniel, two Russian writers who ridiculed the Communist regime in satires smuggled abroad and published under pen names... Little did they realize at the time that they were starting a movement that would help end Communist rule."[1]

Sinyavsky was released in 1971 and allowed to emigrate in 1973 to France, where he was one of co-founders, together with his wife Maria Rozanova, of the Russian-language almanac Sintaksis. They had a son, Iegor Gran. He actively contributed to Radio Liberty.[2] He died in 1997 in Fontenay-aux-Roses, near Paris.

File:Andrei Sinyavsky's grave.jpg
Andrei Sinyavsky's grave (Cimetière communal de Fontenay-aux-Roses, Rue des Pierrelais 18) Google maps view

Sinyavsky was the catalyst for the formation of an important Russian-English translation team Larissa Volokhonsky and Richard Pevear, who have translated a number of works by Mikhail Bulgakov, Anton Chekhov, Fyodor Dostoyevski, Nikolai Gogol, and Leo Tolstoy. Volokhonsky, who was born and raised in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg), first visited the United States in the early 1970s and happened across Pevear's Hudson Review article about Sinyavsky. At the time, Pevear believed Sinyavsky was still in a Russian prison; Volokhonsky had just helped him immigrate to Paris. Pevear was surprised and pleased to be mistaken: "Larissa had just helped Sinyavsky leave Russia," Pevear recalled. "And she let me know that, while I'd said he was still in prison, he was actually in Paris. I was glad to know it."


  • On Socialist Realism (1959) criticised the poor quality of the drearily positive-toned, conflict-free strictures in the style of the state-backed socialist realism, and called for a return to the fantastic in Soviet literature, the tradition, Sinyavsky said, of Gogol and Vladimir Mayakovsky. This work also drew connections between socialist realism and classicism. It asserted that greater similarities exist between Soviet literature and that predating the 19th century than exist between Soviet (socialist realist) literature and the intellectual skepticism plaguing the protagonists of 19th-century Russian novels.
  • The Trial Begins (1960) is a short novel with characters reacting in different ways to their roles in a totalitarian society, told with elements of the fantastic.
  • The Makepeace Experiment (1963) is an allegorical novel of Russia where a leader uses non-rational powers to rule.
  • Fantastic Stories is a collection of short stories, such as "The Icicle". The stories are mostly culled from the 1950s and 1960s and are written in the fantastic tradition of Gogol, E. T. A. Hoffmann, and Yevgeny Zamyatin.
  • A Voice from the Chorus (1973) is a collection of scattered thoughts from the gulag, composed in letters he wrote to his wife. It contains snippets of literary thoughts as well as the comments and conversations of fellow prisoners, most of the criminals or even German war prisoners.
  • Goodnight! (1984) is an autobiographical novel.
  • Soviet Civilization: A Cultural History (1990).
  • Кошкин дом. Роман дальнего следования (1998).


  1. Coleman, Fred (August 15, 1997). The Decline and Fall of Soviet Empire : Forty Years That Shook The World, From Stalin to Yeltsin. St. Martin's Griffin. p. 95. ISBN 0-312-16816-0.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Andrei Sinyavsky RADIO LIBERTY: 50 YEARS OF BROADCASTING. Hoover Inst, Stanford University

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