Vladimir Voinovich

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Vladimir Nikolayevich Voinovich
Vladimir Voinovich2.jpg
Native name Владимир Николаевич Войнович
Born (1932-09-26) 26 September 1932 (age 89)
Stalinabad, Tajik SSR, USSR
Occupation Writer
Period 1960–present
Notable works The Ivankiad (1976)
Moscow 2042 (1986)
Monumental Propaganda (2000)
Notable awards Andrei Sakharov Prize For Writer's Civic Courage

Vladimir Nikolayevich Voinovich, also spelled Voynovich (Russian: Влади́мир Никола́евич Войно́вич, born 26 September 1932, Stalinabad), is a Russian-speaking (formerly Soviet) writer and a dissident. He is a member of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts in Department of Language and Literature.

Early life

Voinovich was born in Stalinabad, Tajik SSR, Soviet Union. Voinovich's father was a journalist of Serbian descent, his mother a professor of mathematics of Jewish descent.

Between 1951 and 1955, Voinovich did peacetime service in the Soviet Army.


Voinovich is famous for his satirical fiction but also for writing some poetry. While working for Moscow radio in the early 1960s, he produced the lyrics for the cosmonauts' anthem, Fourteen Minutes To Lift-off ("14 минут до старта").

At the outset of the Brezhnev stagnation period, Voinovich's writings stopped being published in the USSR, but became very popular in samizdat and in the West. In 1974, because of his writing and his participation in the human rights movement, Voinovich was excluded from the Soviet Writers' Union. His telephone line was cut off in 1976 and he and his family were forced to emigrate in 1980. He settled in Munich, West Germany and worked for Radio Liberty.

Voinovich helped publish Vasily Grossman's famous novel Life and Fate by smuggling photo films secretly taken by Andrei Sakharov.

Mikhail Gorbachev restored his Soviet citizenship in 1990 and since then the writer spends most of his time in the new Russia.

Literary work

The first and second parts of his magnum opus The Life and Extraordinary Adventures of Private Ivan Chonkin ("Жизнь и необычайные приключения солдата Ивана Чонкина") are set in the Red Army during World War II, satirically exposing the daily absurdities of the totalitarian regime. "Chonkin" is now a widely known figure in Russian popular culture and the book was also made into a film by the Czech director Jiří Menzel. Chonkin is often referred to as "the Russian Švejk". The third part of the novel was published in 2007. Not as well known so far as the previous two parts, it portrays the post-War life of the characters until the present, including Chonkin's involuntary emigration to the USA. Much attention is also paid to the figures of Lavrentiy Beria and Joseph Stalin, the latter being mockingly depicted as a son of Nikolai Przhevalsky and a Przewalski's horse. According to the author, the writing of the whole novel took him almost fifty years.

In 1986 he wrote a dystopian novel, Moscow 2042 (published 1987). In this novel, Voinovich portrayed a Russia ruled by the "Communist Party of State Security" combining the KGB, the Russian Orthodox Church and the Communist party. This party is led by a KGB general Bukashev (the name means "the bug") who meets the main character of the novel in Germany. A Slavophile, Sim Karnavalov (apparently inspired by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn), eventually overthrows the Party and enters Moscow on a white horse.[1]

Voinovich's other novels have also won acclaim. His The Ivankiad concerns a writer trying to get an apartment in the bureaucratic clog of the Soviet system. The Fur Hat, is a satire alluding to Gogol's Overcoat. His Monumental Propaganda is a stinging critique of post-Communist Russia, a story that shows the author's opinion that Russians haven't changed much since the days of Joseph Stalin.

On February 25, 2015, Voinovich published an "Open Letter from Vladimir Voinovich to the President of Russia," in which he concerned himself with the impending death of Ukrainian pilot Nadiya Savchenko in a Russian prison due to a hunger strike. In this letter, he advised President Putin that allowing the young Ukrainian heroine to die might have a greater effect on world opinion than the annexation of Crimea and the war in the Donbass. In the event of her death, he advised the Russian president to avoid public appearances in Western capitals since "crowds of people will greet you with insulting cries and hurl foul-smelling things at you, while Savchenko’s name will be known everywhere." He concluded the letter with the words, "Judging by the absurdity of the charges laid against her, she should simply be released."[2]

Other work

Since 1995 he has ventured into graphic arts and sells his paintings in Russian galleries and on the Web.

Awards and honors

Voinovich has won many international awards and honor titles, including State Prize of the Russian Federation (2000), Andrei Sakharov Prize For Writer's Civic Courage (2002), among others.

Personal life

Voinovich has been married three times. His first marriage produced a son. His second marriage, to Irina Voinovich, produced a daughter, Olga, and ended when Irina died in 2004. He currently lives in Moscow.


  • 1963 I Want to be Honest ("Хочу быть честным")
  • 1967 Two Comrades ("Два товарища")
  • 1969–1975 The Life and Extraordinary Adventures of Private Ivan Chonkin ("Жизнь и необычайные приключения солдата Ивана Чонкина") (published in 1974, translated into English in 1977)
  • 1972 A Degree of Trust ("Степень доверия")
  • 1973 By Means of Mutual Correspondence ("Путем взаимной переписки")
  • 1976 The Ivankiad ("Иванькиада")
  • 1979 Pretender to the Throne: The Further Adventures of Private Ivan Chonkin ("Претендент на престол: Новые приключения солдата Ивана Чонкина")
  • 1985 The Anti-Soviet Soviet Union ("Антисоветский Советский Союз")
  • 1987 Moscow 2042 ("Москва 2042") (translated 1987), Harvest Books (24 September 1990), ISBN 0-15-662165-7
  • 1988 The Fur Hat ("Шапка") (translated 1989)
  • 1994 The Design ("Замысел")
  • 2000 Monumental Propaganda ("Монументальная пропаганда") (translated 2004), Overlook TP (6 June 2006), ISBN 1-58567-811-2
  • 2002 A Portrait Against the Background of a Myth ("Портрет на фоне мифа")
  • 2007 Displaced Person ("Перемещённое лицо") (the third part of the Private Chonkin trilogy)


External links