From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Lev Zalmanovich Kopelev (also Lev Zinovevich Kopelev; Russian:
Лев Залма́нович Ко́пелев or Лев Зино́вьевич Ко́пелев, German
spelling Lew Kopelew: April 9, 1912 – June 18, 1997) was a
Jewish author and a dissident.
Kopelev was born in Kiev, Ukraine, to a middle-class Jewish
family. In 1926, his family moved to Kharkov. While a student at
Kharkov State University in the philosophy faculty, Kopelev
began writing in the Russian and Ukrainian languages; some of
his articles were published in the Komsomolskaya Pravda
An idealist Communist and active Bolshevik, he was first
arrested in March 1929 for "consorting with the Bukharinist and
Trotskyist opposition," and spent ten days in prison.
Later, he worked as an editor of radio news broadcasts at a
locomotive factory. In 1932, as a correspondent, Kopelev
witnessed the NKVD's forced grain requisitioning and the
"liquidation" (the Bolshevik term) and deportation of the
kulaks. Later, he described the Holodomor in his memoirs The
Education of a True Believer, quoted in Robert Conquest's The
Harvest of Sorrow (see also Collectivisation in the USSR).
He graduated from the Moscow State Institute of Foreign
Languages in 1935 in the German language faculty, and, after
1938, he taught at the Moscow Institute of Philosophy,
Literature and History where he earned a PhD.
When the Great Patriotic War broke out in June 1941, he
volunteered for the Red Army and used his knowledge of German to
serve as a propaganda officer and an interpreter. When he
entered East Prussia with the Red Army throughout the East
Prussian Offensive, he sharply criticized the atrocities against
the German civilian population and was arrested in 1945 and
sentenced to a ten-year term in the Gulag for fostering
bourgeois humanism and for "compassion towards the enemy". In
the sharashka Marfino he met Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. Kopelev
became a prototype for Rubin from The First Circle.
Released in 1954, in 1956 he was rehabilitated. Still an
optimist and believer in the ideals of Communism, during the
Khrushchev Thaw he restored his CPSU membership. In 1957–1969 he
taught in the Moscow Institute of Polygraphy and the Institute
of History of Arts.
It was Kopelev who first urged Aleksandr Tvardovsky, editor
of the literary journal Novyi mir, to publish Solzhenitsyn's
short novel about the Gulag, "One day in the life of Ivan
Denisovich." The appearance of the work in "Novyi mir" in
November 1962, with approval of the Soviet leadership, caused a
Since 1966 Kopelev actively participated in the human rights
and dissident movement. In 1968 he was fired from his job and
expelled from the CPSU and the Writers' Union for signing
protest letters against the persecution of dissidents, publicly
supporting Andrei Sinyavsky and Yuli Daniel and actively
denouncing the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia. He also
protested Solzhenitsyn's expulsion from the Writers' Union and
wrote in defense of dissenting General Pyotr Grigorenko,
imprisoned at a psikhushka.
Kopelev's books were distributed via samizdat and were
published in the West.
For his political activism and contacts with the West, he was
deprived of the right to teach or be published in 1977.
As a scientist, Kopelev led a research project on the history
of Russian-German cultural links at the University of Wuppertal.
In 1980, while he was on a study trip to West Germany, his
Soviet citizenship was revoked. After 1981 Kopelev was a
Professor at the University of Wuppertal.
Kopelev was an honorary Ph.D. at the University of Cologne
and a winner of many international awards. In 1990 Gorbachev
restored his Soviet citizenship.
Kopelev was married for many years to Raisa Orlova, a Soviet
specialist in American literature, who emigrated with him to
Germany. Her memoirs were published in the United States in
Lev Kopelev died in 1997 in Cologne, Germany.