How the Steel Was Tempered

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How the Steel Was Tempered
File:How the Steel Was Tempered (novel) cover.jpg
Russian cover
Author Nikolai Ostrovsky
Original title Как закалялась сталь
Country Soviet Union
Language Russian
Genre Novel
Publisher Young Guard (serial)
Publication date
1932–1934 (serial) – 1936 (book)
Media type Print (Hardback & Paperback)

How the Steel Was Tempered (Russian: Как закалялась сталь, Kak zakalyalas' stal') is a socialist realist novel written by Nikolai Ostrovsky (1904–1936). Pavel ("Pavka") Korchagin is the central character.


The story is a fictionalized autobiography. In real life, Ostrovsky's father died, and his mother worked as a cook. As he joined the war with the Red Army, he lost his right eye from artillery fire during the war.


  • Pavel Korchagin – The novel's protagonist. He is fighting on the Bolsheviks' side in the Civil War (1918–1921). He is a quintessential positive hero of socialist realism.
  • Tonia Toumanova – Pavel's teenage love. Tonia and Pavel became good friends after their first encounter, which later develops into an intimate relationship. Though born of a wealthy and influential family, Tonia treated everyone equally unlike her friends, who only interact with other children of well-reputed families. However, this changed as she grew up, as she became more aware of her appearance and social status of others.

Publication history

The first part of How the Steel was Tempered was published serially in 1932 in the magazine Young Guard. The second part of the novel appeared in the same magazine from January to May, 1934. The novel was published in 1936 in book form in a heavily edited version that conformed to the rules of socialist realism. In the serial version Ostrovsky had described the tense atmosphere of Pavel's home, his suffering when he became an invalid, the deterioration of his relationship with his wife, and their separation. All of this disappeared in the 1936 publication and in later editions of the novel.[1]

A Japanese translation of the novel was made by Ryokichi Sugimoto, who was sentenced to death as a "spy" after illegally crossing the border of the USSR together with his wife, the famous actress Yoshiko Okada, in the hope of meeting Vsevolod Meyerhold and participating in outbuilding of the socialist theater.


In the Soviet Union, three films were produced based on this novel:

  • How the Steel Was Tempered, 1942
  • Pavel Korchagin, 1956 (Korchagin was played by Vasily Lanovoy)
  • How the Steel Was Tempered, 1975 (TV series of 6 episodes; Korchagin was played by Vladimir Konkin)

In China, the novel was adapted into a television series of the same title in 2000; all the members of the cast were from Ukraine.


  1. A History of Soviet Literature, pgs 43–44, Vera Alexandrova, Doubleday, 1963.

External links