Konstantin Simonov

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Konstantin Simonov
Konstantin Michailowitsch Simonow 1943.jpg
Born 28 November [O.S. 15 November] 1915
Petrograd, Russian Empire
Died 28 August 1979(1979-08-28) (aged 63)
Moscow, Soviet Union
Occupation War poet, novelist, playwright, war correspondent
Nationality Russian


Konstantin Mikhailovich Simonov (Russian: Константи́н Миха́йлович Си́монов) (28 November 1915[1] – 28 August 1979) was a Russian/Soviet author, known as a war poet. He was born Kirill, and later changed his name to Konstantin.

Early years[edit]

Konstantin Simonov was born in Petrograd. His mother was born Princess Obolensky of a Rurikid family. His father, an officer in the Tsar's army, left Russia after the Revolution in 1917 and died in Poland in 1921. Konstantin's stepmother, Alexandra, remained in Russia with Konstantin. In the early 1920s, his mother married Alexander Ivanischev, a Red Army officer and veteran of World War I.

Konstantin spent several years as a child in Ryazan while his stepfather was employed as an instructor at a local military school. They later moved to Saratov, where Konstantin spent the remainder of his childhood. After completing his basic seven-year education in 1930 in Saratov, he went into the factory workshop school (Fabrichno-Zavodskoe Uchilishche-FZU) to become a lathe-turner. In 1931 his family moved to Moscow, and Simonov, after completing the course in the factory workshop school of precision engineering, went to work in a factory, where he remained until 1935. During these years he changed his given name from Kirill to Konstantin because, due to his background, he could not pronounce the letter "r" without an aristocratic lisp.[2] He also began to write poems.

The first of Simonov's poems were published in 1936 in the journals Young Guard and October. After completing a course at the Maxim Gorky Literature Institute in 1938, Simonov entered a graduate course at the Moscow Institute of History, Philosophy, and Literature (IFLI), but he was sent as a war correspondent to the Battle of Khalkhin Gol campaign in Mongolia, and did not return to the institute until 1939.


Simonov's first play, The History of One Love, was written in 1940, and performed on the stage of the Leningrad Leninist Komsomol Theater. He wrote his second play, A Lad from Our Town, in 1941. He spent a year on the course for war correspondents in the military-political academy, and obtained the service rank of quartermaster of the second rank. At the beginning of the war he was posted into the army, where he worked for the newspaper Krasnaya Zvezda [Red Star].

In 1942 Simonov became a senior battalion commissar. He was promoted to a lieutenant colonel in 1943, and became a colonel after the war. Most of his war reports were published in Red Star. During the war years, he wrote the plays Russian People, Wait For Me, So It Will Be, the short novel Days and Nights (1943–44), and two books of poems, With You and Without You and War. His poem Wait For Me, about a soldier in the war asking his beloved to wait for his return, and was addressed to his future wife, the actress Valentina Serova. It was immensely popular at the time and remains one of the best-known poems in Russian literature.

During the war it was widely rumored that Serova was a mistress of Gen. Konstantin Rokossovski. While it is true that Serova, working as a hospital volunteer, met Rokossovski several times while he was recovering from a wound from a shell fragment in early 1942, there is no evidence they were lovers.[3] Rokossovski already had a mistress at this time, Dr. Lt. Galina Talanova, with whom he had a daughter in 1945.[4]

Simonov wrote many more poems to Valentina, subsequently included in With You and Without You. As a war correspondent he spent time on all the fronts. He served in Romania, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Poland, and Germany and was present at the Battle of Berlin. His collected reports appeared after the war: Letters from Czechoslovakia, Slav Friendship, Yugoslavian Notebook and From the Black to the Barents Sea: Notes of a War Correspondent.

Post-war works[edit]

For three years after the war ended Simonov served in foreign missions in Japan, the USA and China. From 1958 to 1960 he worked in Tashkent as the correspondent of Pravda in the republics of Central Asia. His novel Comrades in Arms was published in 1952, and his longer novel, The Living and the Dead, in 1959. In 1961 his play, The Fourth, was performed at the Contemporary Theater. In 1963–64 he wrote the novel Soldatami ne rozhdaiutsia, which can be translated as "Soldiers Are Made, Not Born" or "One Isn't Born a Soldier." In 1970–71 he wrote a continuation, The Last Summer.

From 1946 through 1950 and from 1954 through 1958, Simonov was editor in chief of the journal New World; from 1950 through 1953, editor in chief of the Literary Gazette; from 1946 through 1959 and from 1967 through 1979, secretary of the Union of Writers of the USSR. In the year before his death Simonov tried to create a special archive of memories of soldiers in the archives of the Defense Ministry in Podolsk, Moscow Region, but leaders of the army, in the high echelons, blocked the idea.[5] Simonov died in 1979 in Moscow.

Awards and honors[edit]

Film adaptations of Simonov's works[edit]

Numerous films were released in the Soviet Union on Simonov's scenarios and based on his works:


  1. ^ 28 November [O.S. 15 November] 1915
  2. ^ Braithwaite, Rodric; Moscow, 1941, Vintage Books, New York, 2006, p. 33
  3. ^ Braithwaite, Rodric; Moscow, 1941, Vintage Books, New York, 2006, p. 295
  4. ^ Braithwaite, Rodric; Moscow, 1941, Vintage Books, New York, 2006, p. 208
  5. ^ "O popytke K. Simonov sozdat, arkhiv voennykh memuarov", Otechestvennye arkhivy, 1993, nº I, pp. 63–73