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Kol’tsov, Mikhail Efimovich

(1898–1940), journalist. Mikhail Kol’tsov (originally Fridliand) was born into an artisan family in Kiev. In 1915, he started his studies at the Petrograd Psycho-Neurological Institute, and in 1916 wrote articles for the periodical Put’ studenchestva (Students’ Way). Kol’tsov participated in the February and October 1917 revolutions, and as a member of the workers’ militia took part in the arrest of tsarist ministers.

After the October Revolution, Kol’tsov worked on documentaries and newsreels. In 1918, he became chair of the Moscow Cinema Committee’s (Moskinokomitet) newsreel department and joined the Bolshevik Party. He filmed the Soviet–Ukrainian peace talks in Smolensk, and then went to Kiev with Soviet Russia’s delegation, remaining there after German units had entered the city. During fall and winter 1918–1919, Kol’tsov published in Kiev newspapers, where some of his articles were critical of the Soviet authorities.

In 1919, after the Red Army entered Kiev, Kol’tsov worked for the army press, subsequently serving in Red Army units on the southern and southwestern fronts. The following year he took part in the war against Poland, and in 1921 in the suppression of the Kronstadt uprising. From 1920 he worked in the Commissariat of Foreign Affairs Press Department and frequently traveled abroad.

Kol’tsov joined the editorial board of the party newspaper Pravda (Truth) in 1922. A brilliant essayist, his satirical sketches and feature articles appeared regularly, gaining him a wide audience. Kol’tsov was founder and editor of the periodical Ogonek (Spark; 1923), editor of the satirical journals Chudak (The Eccentric; 1928–1930) and Krokodil (Crocodile; 1934–1938), coeditor (with A. M. Gor’kii) of the weekly Za rubezhom (Abroad; 1932–1938), and a member of the editorial board of the periodical Tribuna evreiskoi sovetskoi obshchestvennosti (Tribune of the Soviet Jewish Community; 1927–1937), the central press organ of the Society for the Settlement of Jewish Toilers on the Land (OZET).

In the 1920s, Kol’tsov spoke out publicly against the “antiquated” Jewish religious culture, but nevertheless participated in the campaign against antisemitism that unfolded in the press between 1926 and 1931. From 1934, he headed the foreign commission of the Soviet Writers Union. He participated in the organization of international writers’ congresses in France (1935) and Spain (1937), and became a member of the secretariat of the International Association of Writers in Defense of Culture.

In 1936 and 1937 Kol’tsov covered the Spanish Civil War as a correspondent for Pravda; his articles from this period were published in the collection Ispanskii dnevnik (Spanish Diary; 1938). Simultaneously, he served as a political adviser to the Spanish Communist Party and the Republican government. In November 1937, he was recalled to Moscow, and the following year was elected deputy to the Supreme Soviet and corresponding member of the Academy of Sciences. In early December 1938, Kol’tsov was appointed one of Pravda’s two editors-in-chief, but was arrested that same month. He was executed in February 1940.

Suggested Reading

Naum Zinov’evich Beliaev, Boris Efimovich Efimov, and Mikhail Borisovich Efimov, eds., Mikhail Kol’tsov, kakim on byl: Sbornik vospominanii (Moscow, 1989); Boris Efimovich Efimov, Sud’ba zhurnalista (Moscow, 1988); Aleksandr Rubashkin, Mikhail Kol’tsov: Kritiko-biograficheskii ocherk (Leningrad, 1971).



Translated from Russian by I. Michael Aronson