Jewish writers on the occasion of a visit by Yiddish writer H. Leyvik (front row, center), Moscow, 1925. Among those in the portrait are Izi Kharik and Zelik Akselrod (back row, first and third from left), Yehezkl Dobrushin, Borekh Glazman (also visiting from New York), Shmuel-Nisn Godiner, and Arn Kushnirov (front row, first, second, fourth, and fifth from left). Photo by B. Kapustinskii. (YIVO)

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Kushnirov, Arn

(1890–1949), Yiddish writer. Arn Kushnirov was born in Boyarka (known as Boyberik in Sholem Aleichem’s works), near Kiev, and worked in Kiev as a sales assistant in a grocer’s shop. Starting his writing career in 1909, Kushnirov and his friends Osher Shvartsman and Nokhem Oyslender planned to publish a poetry collection, but the project failed. After serving in the Russian army during World War I, Kushnirov joined the Red Army in 1920. That same year he met with success in publishing. In 1921, he edited Yugnt (Youth), which included the work of young Ukrainian Yiddish poets.

Kushnirov’s own first anthology, Vent (Walls), appeared in 1921 under the imprint of Vidervuks (New Growth), a group of young Yiddish writers from Kiev; Dovid Hofshteyn wrote the preface. The opening poem of the collection had a cinematic title: “Ekran” (Screen), reflecting the fact that many Bolsheviks, including Lenin, regarded cinema as an important medium of mass culture.

In 1922, Kushnirov began to coedit the influential Moscow literary journal Der shtrom (The Stream). In a 1923 letter to the poet Moyshe Khashchevatski, Kushnirov complained about journal’s problems, stressing that “not a single issue had come out without intrigues and conflicts.” On 18 October 1923, the Moscow central Yiddish daily Der emes (The Truth) announced that a new journal, Ekran, edited by such writers as Avrom Vevyorke and Kushnirov, was to appear by 15 November. The announcement stressed that its authors based their literary work on the ideas of the October Revolution. The Ekran project was eventually shelved, but Kushnirov’s quest for mass culture, combined with his passion for Sergei Esenin’s imaginism, led him to join a circle of proletarian writers.

Kushnirov became a member of the Bureau of the Yiddish Section of the Russian Association of Proletarian Writers (Evreiskaia sektsiia RAPP [RAPP K Rossiiskaia assotsiatsiia proletarskikh pisatelei]) in 1925. With Vevyorke and Yashe Bronshteyn, he also coedited the Minsk journal Shtern (Star; 1925–1941), the main forum for Yiddish proletarian writing. In the 1930s and 1940s, Kushnirov was a prolific writer and an editor of literary periodicals and collections. Yekhezkl Dobrushin called him “a great and profound poet.” Kushnirov was a dramatist as well. His play Hirsh Lekert was performed by the Minsk Yiddish Theater in 1928; it was published in Yiddish editions in 1929 and 1930, and in Eduard Bagritskii’s Russian translation in 1930.

During the 1930s, Kushnirov took part in the literary campaign devoted to the Jewish settlement in Birobidzhan, depicting it as a land flowing with milk and honey and even as a place where men had extraordinary sexual potency. He also welcomed the results of Soviet social engineering in his poem “Mayn tsveyter held” (My Second Hero; 1934), particularly in such industrial centers as Donbass, which “reforged in its smelting furnaces” the “human raw material” of “young people from Shklov and Shpola.”

Kushnirov coedited the Moscow Yiddish almanac Sovetish from 1934 to 1941. He translated literature from Russian, including works by Iurii Lermontov, Nikolai Nekrasov, and Iurii Lebedinskii. Kushnirov was a member of the presidium of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee (JAC) and served on the editorial board of its newspaper, Eynikayt (Unity). He edited the Moscow Yiddish almanac Heymland (Homeland) in 1947 and 1948.

Kushnirov died in September 1949, at the peak of the witch-hunt against Yiddish writers, and is regarded as a victim of its repression. Posthumous collections of his poems were published in Moscow in Russian (Izbrannoe [Selected Works]; 1956; and Stikhi [Poems]; 1964) and Yiddish (Geklibene lider [Selected Poems]; 1975). In Shmuel Gordon’s autobiographical novel Yizker (Commemorating the Dead; 2003), Kushnirov is portrayed under the false name Meir Arens, and is regarded as the most respected member of the Moscow circle of Yiddish writers.

Suggested Reading

Yekhezkel Dobrushin, In iberboy (Moscow, 1932); Aron Kushnirov, Geklibene lider (Moscow, 1975); Chone Shmeruk, ed., A shpigl oyf a shteyn (Jerusalem, 1987).