|Boris Andreevich Mozhayev|
June 1, 1923|
Pitelino, Ryazanskaya Oblast, USSR
|Died||March 2, 1996
Moscow, Russian Federation
|Notable works||Zhivoy (1966)
Muzhiki i baby (1972-1980)
Boris Andreyevich Mozhayev (Борис Андреевич Можаев, June 1, 1923, Pitelino village, Ryazanskaya Oblast, USSR, - March 2, 1996, Moscow, Russian Federation) was a Russian Soviet author, dramatist, script-writer and editor, the USSR State Prize (1989) laureate, best known for his novel Zhivoy (Alive, 1966) and the two-part epic Peasant Men and Women (Muzhiki i babyi, 1972-1980). Supported by Alexander Tvardovsky and admired by Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Mozhayev, although never a dissident, experienced serious difficulties with publishing his harshly realistic, tinged with bitter humour Village prose, dealing with trials and tribulations of the Soviet peasantry in the years of collectivisation and beyond.
Boris Andreyevich Mozhayev was born on June 1, 1923, in Ryazanskaya Oblast. His father was Oka River steamship pilot; all of his ancestors (on mother's side too) were connected to Oka, Volga and the Caspian Sea, where they worked as sailors, skippers, navigators, even burlaks. In 1935, during the Stalin purges, Andrey Mozhayev was arrested and deported to the Russian far East where he died. Boris was one of the six children his mother had to raise on her own. In 1940, after graduating the secondary school, Mozhayev enrolled into the shipbuilding faculty of the Gorky Institute of Navy Transport Engineers. He had to leave it for financial reasons and after spending half a year working as a teacher, got drafted. In 1943 he joined the Military Engineering-Technical University in Leningrad.
In 1948, after the graduation in the rank of a lieutenant-engineer, Boris Mozhayev went to the Soviet Far East, to build fortifications in Port Arthur. While there he started writing poetry. His first book of verses, Dawns at the Ocean, was published in Vladivostok in 1955. The same year the book of the Uedegean folklore collected and edited by Mozhayev came out. In 1957 the short story "The Power of Taiga", considered to be his debut, appeared in the Oktyabr magazine. Even in his early works, according to critic Andrey Turkov, Mozhayev's approach differed from what was considered the norm: "instead of singing paeans to the 'achievements of Socialism', he was among the first to express deep concern about the consumerist attitude towards natural resources which was becoming more and more evident."
In 1961 Mozhayev's essay "The Land Awaits Its Master" caused controversy and Oktyabr magazine editor Fyodor Panfyorov had to approach one of Nikita Khrushchev's secretaries to receive the permission for the publication. In 1963 the Heaven Against Earth novel caused scandal and its publication was stopped. It came out only in 1966 under the new title Polyushko-Pole. Mikhail Kedrov's production of Mozhayev’s play Having Lied Once (Yedinozhdy solgav) was banned by the Soviet Ministry of Culture. Also in 1966 one of the best known work by Mozhayev, Episodes of the Life of Fyodor Kuzkin was published by Alexander Tvardovsky's Novy Mir. The publication of a sequel was cancelled by the Minister of Culture Ekaterina Furtseva personally who (despite the Central Committee member Dmitry Polyansky's efforts to save it) declared it a parody on the Soviet way of life. Also stopped was Yuri Lyubimov's production of "Fyodor Kuzkin" at Taganka Theatre, where the play could be premiered only in 1986. In 1973 Kuzkin was at last published in a small almanac called Forest Roads, under the new title Alive.
In 1980 Boris Mozhayev finished his magnum opus Peasant Men and Women a two-part epic telling the story of collectivization at Ryazanshchina, the subsequent peasant mutiny and its brutal suppression. The first part of it was published by Nash Sovremennik in 1973. The second had to wait until 1987, when it appeared in the Don Magazine. Mozhayev was planning a trilogy but could manage only several chapters of the third, autobiographical part, called Izgoy (The Outcast). In 1995 he started editing the Rossiya magazine but soon was diagnosed with cancer and retired.
Boris Andreyevich Mozhayev died on March 2, 1996, in Moscow.