Grigory Baklanov 11.09.1923-23.12.2009
Academician of The Russian Academy of Arts. Writer.
Graduated from the Maxim Gorky Literature Institute in 1951.
The USSR State Prize Laureate, State Prize of the Russian Federation Laureate, the USSR Union of Writers Member, the President’s of Russian Federation Council for Culture and the Arts Member (1996-2001), Editor-in-chief of Znamya magazine (1986-1991). Companion of the Order of the Red Star, Order of the Patriotic War(1st class), Order of the Red Banner of Labor, Order of the Badge of Honor, Order of Friendship of Peoples, Order of Merit for the Fatherland (3rd class).
Once Grigory Baklanov said about himself: «Looks like I was born under a lucky star anyway. And it still shines.» Such a strange confession of a man who has never got anything for free during his entire life. On the contrary he often had to go against the tide.
He met his adulthood in the artillerist’s coat. It was a generation of Soviet boys of 20s. They went to war straight from the classroom and most of them never came back. But Grigory Baklanov managed to survive in spite of all the deaths. He was early able to see all kinds of human nature, be it heroism or meanness. But he didn’t become a cynic. He wanted to tell the truth about these lieutenant boys. Those who bore the cross of the Great War but were betrayed and blackened by the official propaganda that praised the «exploits» of generals.
After demobilization Grigory Baklanov entered the Literature Institute. «This peaceful world was too unusual forme, so I had to do something with that, — Baklanov says recalling the autumn of 1945. — I had already started writing but didn’t tell anyone. Like it was some kind of shame. I didn’t have any ambitious dreams, but continued writing by nights with closed blinds on my window. I somehow needed it.» Years passed and then the answer appeared: books come on their own and not without purpose. «In the beginning there is the life. The world is seen through it. Through your unwritten book, — Grigory Baklanov reflects today. — There is nothing interesting besides that. You begin to discover people’s souls, the life itself and sometimes wonder: how could you miss the sense being there and seeing it all? And then you feel that you just can’t help writing. And while you’re writing you live both your past life and the one you’ve created in your mind. It’s also real, you can see it. And later you can’t even remember which things have happened in your real life and which ones have been changed in the process of writing.»
For Grigory Baklanov, as for the writer, it doesn’t matter how many people will read his books. The more important thing is how many readers will be re-reading them. If people open his books two or three times, then Baklanov considers his work done. «Some thoughts may lose their importance with time, while some others can strike you and become deeper and topical than before, — so he said. — But books don’t lose anything, as our lives don’t either. We can change our ideas of it but the life still goes on and everyone discovers his own secrets. In this case true art is very similar to life.»
Perestroika gave Grigory Baklanov a chance to present his books to millions of readers. In 1986 he becomes editor-in-chief in Znamya magazine. Back to the front again. Today there are not so many people who remember what it was like to publish a novel rejected by the Party censorship. An Alexander Bek’s novel New Appointment published in 1986 in the 9th and 10th issues of Znamya was just the beginning. It was followed by Mikhail Bulgakov’s Dog’s Heart, George Vladimov’s Faithful Ruslan, Anatoly Zhigulin’s Black Stones and Anatoly Pristavkin’s The Inseparable Twins.
«Being editor-in-chief of Znamya I started my day at 7 a.m. and was writing until 11 a.m. — Grigory Baklanov recalls. — Then I had to go to the office and returned home with a headache. Reading tons of manuscripts, many of which were weak and unprofessional was like poisoning yourself! But I can’t say that these seven years in Znamya were a pure waste of time. I didn’t want to take the editor’s chair. I was 62 and it was a good thing to write during the first half of a day and to read and meet various people during the rest of the time. But it was a necessity and I took the place. I guess we managed to do something.»
«Something» is too modest word. In 1987 the Pravda Publishing House gained several millions rubles due to Znamya magazine. Three years later its circulation reached one million copies. It was an unimaginable thing for a big literature magazine. Moreover readers got a library as a bonus. It mainly consisted of war books. Ten books a year and almost a half a million copies total. Again Grigory Baklanov stayed true to himself and published Viktor Nekrasov’s Front-line Stalingrad. For the first time since its author had been exiled from the USSR
Grigory Baklanov left good wishes for XXI century. «Let the young people among whom I see my two grandsons and my granddaughter will enter the century of humanity, kindness and wisdom. Let them never live the life I lived. Though I am the one of those who had a chance to live the second life, to raise children and exult at my grandchildren. I can call myself a happy man in contrast with my brothers, who got only 19-20 years of life. But it was the dark century and I hope the young will have the merciful one.» And we must admit that Grigory Baklanov tried hard to make this world better.