Konstantin Simonov

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Konstantin Simonov
Born 28 November [O.S. 15 November] 1915
Petrograd, Russian Empire
Died 28 August 1979(1979-08-28) (aged 63)
Moscow, Soviet Union
Occupation War poet, novelist, playwright, war correspondent
Nationality Russian


Konstantin Mikhailovich Simonov, born Kirill Mikhailovich Simonov (Russian: Константи́н Миха́йлович Си́монов, 28 November [O.S. 15 November] 1915 – 28 August 1979) was a Soviet author and a war poet. He was a playwright and a wartime correspondent, most famous for his poem Wait for Me.

Early years

Simonov was born in Petrograd in 1915. His mother was born Princess Obolensky of a Rurikid family. His father, an officer in the Tsar's army, left Russia after the Revolution of 1917 and died in Poland in 1921. Konstantin's stepmother, Alexandra, remained in Russia with Konstantin. In the early 1920s, his mother married Alexander Ivanischev, a Red Army officer and veteran of World War I.

Konstantin spent several years as a child in Ryazan while his stepfather was employed as an instructor at a local military school. They later moved to Saratov, where Konstantin spent the remainder of his childhood. After completing a basic seven-year education in 1930 in Saratov, he went into the factory workshop school (Fabrichno-Zavodskoe Uchilishche-FZU) to become a lathe-turner. In 1931 his family moved to Moscow. After completing his precision engineering course, Simonov went to work in a factory, where he remained until 1935. During these years he changed his given name from 'Kirill' to 'Konstantin' because he could not pronounce the letter "r" without an aristocratic lisp.[1]

The first of Simonov's poems were published in 1936 in the journals Young Guard and October. After completing schooling at the Maxim Gorky Literature Institute in 1938, Simonov entered the Moscow Institute of History, Philosophy, and Literature. His time there was interrupted when he was sent as a war correspondent to cover the Battle of Khalkhin Gol in Mongolia. Simonov returned to the institute in 1939.


Simonov's first play, The History of One Love, was written in 1940, and performed on stage at the Memorial Lenin Komsomol Theater in Leningrad. He wrote his second play, A Lad from Our Town, in 1941.

Studying war correspondence at the military-political academy, Simonov obtained the service rank of quartermaster of the second rank. At the beginning of World War II Simonov received a job with the official army newspaper Krasnaya Zvezda. Simonov rose through the army ranks becoming a senior battalion commissar in 1942, lieutenant colonel in 1943, and a colonel after the war.

During the war years, he wrote the plays Russian People, Wait for Me, So It Will Be, the short novel Days and Nights, and two books of poems, With You and Without You and War. His poem Wait for Me, about a soldier in the war asking his beloved to wait for his return, remains one of the best-known poems in Russian literature. The poem was addressed to his future wife, the actress Valentina Serova. Many of his poems for Valentina were included in the book With You and Without You.

During the war, it was widely rumored that Serova was a mistress of Gen. Konstantin Rokossovski. While it is true that Serova, working as a hospital volunteer, met Rokossovski several times while he was recovering from a shell fragment wound in early 1942, there is no evidence they were lovers.[2] Rokossovski already had a mistress at this time, Dr. Lt. Galina Talanova, with whom he had a daughter in 1945.[3]

As a war correspondent, Simonov served in Romania, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Poland, and Germany, where he was present at the Battle of Berlin. After the war his collected reports appeared in Letters from Czechoslovakia, Slav Friendship, Yugoslavian Notebook and From the Black to the Barents Sea: Notes of a War Correspondent.

Post-war works

For three years after the war ended, Simonov served in foreign missions in Japan, the United States and China. From 1958 to 1960 he worked in Tashkent as the Central Asia correspondent for Pravda. His novel Comrades in Arms was published in 1952, and his longer novel, The Living and the Dead, in 1959. In 1961 his play, The Fourth, was performed at the Sovremennik Theatre. In 1963–64 he wrote the novel Soldatami ne rozhdaiutsia, which can be translated as "Soldiers Are Made, Not Born" or "One Isn't Born a Soldier." In 1970–71 he wrote a continuation, The Last Summer.

For two spells, 1946–50 and 1954–58, Simonov was editor in chief of the journal Novy Mir. From 1950 through 1953, he was editor in chief of the Literary Gazette; from 1946 through 1959 and from 1967 through 1979, secretary of the Union of Writers of the USSR. In the year before his death, Simonov tried to create a special archive of memories of soldiers in the archives of the Defense Ministry in Podolsk, Moscow Region, but leaders of the army, in the high echelons, blocked the idea.[4] Simonov died on 28 August 1979 in Moscow.

He is the central character in Orlando Figes' book The Whisperers (2007).

Awards and honors

Film adaptations of Simonov's works

Numerous films were released in the Soviet Union on Simonov's scenarios and based on his works:


  1. Braithwaite, Rodric; Moscow, 1941, Vintage Books, New York, 2006, p. 33.
  2. Braithwaite, Rodric; Moscow, 1941, Vintage Books, New York, 2006, p. 295
  3. Braithwaite, Rodric; Moscow, 1941, Vintage Books, New York, 2006, p. 208.
  4. "O popytke K. Simonov sozdat, arkhiv voennykh memuarov", Otechestvennye arkhivy, 1993, nº I, pp. 63–73.

External links