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Last Lieutenant of Russian Literature

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Last Lieutenant of Russian Literature


Boris Vasiliev

Boris Vasiliev, the last representative of an entire Russian literary school, passed away on March 11. I mean literature created by soldiers of the Great Patriotic War. Their works are usually described as “lieutenant prose”, although Viktor Astafyev, for example, never was an officer while Alexander Solzhenitsyn who landed in GULAG as an officer has never ranked himself among the lieutenants.

Boris Vasiliev corresponded both to his rank and title in his creativity, emphasizing that his heroes are united by absolute moral foundations, no matter what situations a writer places them in.

Boris Vasiliev was born on May 21, 1924, in Smolensk and was a veteran of the Great Patriotic War. He graduated from the Engineering Department of the Military Academy of Armored Tank and Mounted Forces. Among his works are such stories as The Dawns Here Are Quiet (1969), Tomorrow There Was War (1984), To Whom Do You Belong, Old Folks? (1982), such novels as His Name Was Not Listed (1974), Do Not Shoot at White Swans (1973) and others. Mr. Vasiliev also authored two historic series: Novels about Ancient Rus’ (1996-2010) and History of the Oleksin Clan (1988-1998).

The outstanding Russian prosaic of the second half of the last century died on Monday at the 89th year of his life. He will be buried on Thursday in Moscow on Vagankovo Cemetery, near to his beloved spouse Zorya Polyak whom he outlived only by two months. The public funeral will take place in the Big Hall of the Central House of Literary Men at noon.

Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed his deepest and sincere sympathy to the loved ones of Boris Vasiliev, said Dmitry Peskov, Press Secretary of the Head of State.

“Boris Vasiliev was the conscience of the time and the tuning-fork of morality,” believes Elena Drapeko, First Deputy Chair of Parliamentary Committee for Culture. “I regret that such a man who was the conscience of our time has left us,” she said to journalists. She noted that she was happy to have met such a great man and writer:

“While yet a girl during my student years I starred in The Dawns Here Are Quiet after the story of Boris Vasiliev. He came to the filming grounds where we met. He was a kind and warm fellow and a wonderful story-teller. He told us about the war – terrible and real that cannot be filmed or described in fiction in a veritable way.

Drapeko is says that “at all times the voice of Vasiliev was the ‘tuning-fork’ of morality – both when they published his stories which were something new in literature, where war was portrayed at a rather unexpected angle, and when perestroika set in.” “He was always a very independent thinker and a very honest man and his death is a great loss for the national art and culture,” she concluded.

The writer’s demise is a huge loss for culture, people and conscience of Russia, believes director Yuri Kara. “Very sad news for me personally and for the family of Boris and for all of our people, because he was not only a wonderful writer of genius, but also a very nice person with the purest soul. He is a true moral ‘guidepost’, such people are fewer and fewer in numbers,” said Mr. Kara for RIA Novosti, having noted that he was lucky enough to work with Boris only at one film made in 1987: Tomorrow There Was War.

As nobody else, Boris Vasiliev felt what it meant to be a defender of the Motherland and his memories should touch the souls and morals of the younger generation, according to actor Vasily Lanovoy. “All works of Boris Vasiliev were permeated with a sense of responsibility for Motherland. He was a great nation builder like Peter the Great, I am not kidding. I want to thank him now, because he did a lot in his life for Motherland, for all of us.” said Mr. Lanovoy, adding that “he was lucky to know Vasiliev personally” due to their mutual work on the movie The Officers.

The famous Soviet film by director Vladimir Rogovoy with Lanovoy, Yumatov and Pokrovskaya starring was based on the script written by Boris Vasiliev and Kirill Rapoport. Critics believe that the picture was such a tremendous success because it was made by four combat veterans: Vasiliev and Rapoport served in tank corps, Rogovoy was an infantry man and former deck boy Yumatov, according to his own words, ploughed the whole Malaya Land with his chest.

Lanovoy admitted that the news about the death of Boris Vasiliev was "tragic, dreadful and unexpected" for him: "Unexpected because, although Boris was not a young man, I saw inexhaustible potential of human and spiritual life in him during our conversations."

(Reports of RIA Novosti were used in the material)

Andrei Severtsev


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