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Daniel’, Iulii Markovich

(1925–1968), fiction writer, poet, translator, and Soviet dissident. Born in Moscow, Daniel’ went from school directly to the front lines of World War II, where he was wounded and demobilized. Upon his return, he graduated from the Moscow Pedagogical Institute and began publishing his poems and translations. Beginning in the 1950s, he smuggled his works to the West, where they were issued under the pseudonym Nikolai Arzhak. In the fall of 1965, this activity led to his arrest, as well as to the arrest of his fellow writer Andrei Siniavskii, a non-Jew who had published abroad under the Jewish-sounding name Abram Terts. In February 1966, Daniel’ was sentenced to five years in labor camp, an experience reflected in his poetry. His works were not officially published in Russia until after his death.

Because of his arrest and imprisonment, Daniel’s fiction brought him widespread popularity both abroad and in Russia, where illegal typescripts (samizdat) of his writing were distributed. Daniel’s stories incorporate fantastic elements, lending a grotesque and satiric tone to his narratives. Thus in “Chelovek iz MINAPa” (The Man from MINAP; published in the early 1960s), the rogue hero declares that he can help conceive babies of a desired gender if during the sexual act he concentrates on either Karl Marx or the German Communist leader Clara Zetkin. Daniel’s best-known work is the novella Govorit Moskva (This is Moscow Speaking; also published in the early 1960s), the plot of which begins with a radio announcement declaring Murder Day. The announcement, styled to resemble official Soviet jargon, proclaims: “On this day (10 August 1960), all citizens are granted the right to freely annihilate any other citizen.” The narrator realistically depicts reactions of ordinary Soviet professionals. Some of his fictitious characters consider the day a call to legalize pogroms, while others use it to further their private interests.

Even though Daniel’s prose was not overtly anti-Soviet (at his trial, he insisted that his main goal was literary experimentation), his works were banned. The trial of Siniavskii and Daniel’ engaged worldwide attention. Within Russia, it marked the end of the liberal thaw, creating a permanent rift between the broad-minded intelligentsia and the government. At their trial, the writers courageously withstood accusations of treachery and duplicity, refusing, unlike many others, to confess their guilt. Daniel’s Jewish background and Siniavskii’s demonstratively Jewish pseudonym gave the newspaper campaign organized by the government a decidedly antisemitic feel. In addition, Daniel’s prose, along with Aleksandr Ginzburg’s transcript of the trial (Belaia Kniga po delu A. Siniavskogo i Iu. Danielia [The White Book on the Sinyavsky–Daniel’ Affair]; 1967) played a major role in the creation of political and literary samizdat and in the history of the Soviet dissident movement.

Suggested Reading

Margaret Dalton, Andrei Siniavskii and Julii Daniel’: Two Soviet Heretical Writers (Würzburg, 1973); Iulii Daniel, The Man from M. I. S. P (London, 1967); Iulii Daniel, This Is Moscow Speaking, and Other Stories, trans. Stuart Hood, Harold Shukman, and John Richardson (London, 1968); Iulii Daniel, Prison Poems (Chicago, 1972); Iulii Daniel, Tsena metafory, ili, Prestuplenie I nakazanie Siniavskogo I Danielia (Moscow, 1990); Leopold Labedz and Max Hayward, eds., On Trial: The Case of Sinyavsky (Tertz) and Daniel (Arzhak) (London, 1967), transcript of the trial, including 16 pages of photographs.



Translated from Russian by Alice Nakhimovsky