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Genrikh Averyanovich Borovik (Russian: Ге́нрих Аверьянович Борови́к; born 16 November 1929 in Minsk) is a Soviet and Russian publicist, writer, playwright and filmmaker, the father of journalist Artyom Borovik, USSR State Prize winner, Chairman of the Artyom Borovik Charity Foundation, an academic and a board member of the National Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences of Russia.
Genrikh Borovik was born in 1929 to a Jewish family of theater professionals. His father, Aviezer Abramovich Borovik (1902–1980), was a conductor, and his mother, Mariya Vasilyevna Borovik-Matveeva (1905–1970), was a leading musical theater actress. His wife, Galina Mikhailovna Borovik (Finogenova) (born 1932), has been a teacher and historian; she was first a history teacher and then worked as an editor at the Cultural Department of Central Television's Vremya program. His daughter, Marina Genrikhovna Yakushkina (born 1956), has a PhD in philology; and his son, Artyom Genrikhovich Borovik (1960–2000), is a famous journalist, writer and social activist, founder and first head of the Sovershenno Sekretno holding company before he was killed in a plane crash. He has three grandchildren: Ivan Dmitrievich Yakushkin (born 1976), Maximilian Artyomovich Borovik (born 1995), and Kristian Artyomovich Borovik (born 1997).
Genrikh's parents have devoted their entire life to the theater. In 1939, they were among the founders of the Pyatigorsk Theater of Musical Comedy. It was there in Pyatigorsk where their son spent his school years.
Early life and education
In 1944–1945, while still at school, Genrikh was working as an assistant electrician at the Pyatigorsk Theater and from time to time appeared before the audience as an extra. There, he became longtime friends with Mahmud Esambaev and Mikhail Vodyanoy who were at the very beginning of their artistic path.
In 1947, after finishing school with honors, Genrikh went to Moscow to study at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO). His 'backup' option was the Department of General State Management at the Russian University of Theater Arts (GITIS). He never gave up his passion for theater and music.
After graduating from MGIMO with honors, Genrikh Borovik was hired by the editorial office of the Ogoniok magazine, as a clerk at their International Department. It seemed that the holder of an honors diploma could have expected more, but he was happy with what he had: It was a very 'cold summer' of 1952. The young man received an unusually warm welcome from the editorial staff. They were wonderful people; almost all of them were war veterans or front-line journalists. Chief Editor was the poet Alexei Surkov. The magazine was practically managed by Deputy Editor Boris Burkov, a man who was working as the chief editor of Komsomolka through the entire war. People would occasionally stop by the editorial office, including Konstantin Simonov, Boris Polevoy, Sergey Mikhalkov, Irakli Andronikov, etc.
Genrikh Borovik was the youngest staff member of the magazine, and the older generation was interested in him – "Could this lad be a journalist?" – but more often treated him like a loving father would treat his son.
In 1953, Borovik became a copy editor and then a special correspondent at the International Department. He became famous in the mid-1950s. His essays from 'hot spots' – Vietnam, China, Indonesia, and Burma – published in Ogoniok were very different from the common style of international periodicals of that time. His materials were lacking propaganda clichés; they didn't portray some fictional characters but rather normal people with their doubts and hopes; and instead of hackneyed political schemes they described quite ordinary life situations.
The first book of Borovik's essays on Vietnam was published by Ogoniok in 1956. A great success came to the young writer and journalist after he published his essays on revolutionary Cuba in Ogoniok in 1960 and – using these essays as the foundation – wrote his book The Tale of Green Lizard, which depicted real-life people with extraordinary characters. His essay on meeting Ernest Hemingway in Cuba and fishing alone with him on his legendary schooner Pilar became a real sensation. After reading Borovik's essays on Cuba, the outstanding documentary filmmaker Roman Karmen invited him to write a script for a documentary. Soon, Burning Island came out – a film about the Cuban revolution that was shown everywhere in the Soviet Union. Shortly after that, the brilliant stage manager Andrei Goncharov put The Mutiny Of The Unknown, the first play by Genrikh Borovik, on the stage of the Moscow Drama Theater on Malaya Bronnaya Street. The images and the contents of the play were inspired by the author's trips to the 'hot spots' in Southeast Asia. The play was staged at many theaters in the country (and so his 'backup dream' came true).
In 1962, Genrikh Borovik was accepted into the USSR Union of Writers at the Congress of Young Writers. He wrote more than 20 books. Among them: The Tale of Green Lizard, Your Special Correspondent Met..., One Year of Turbulent Sun, Prologue, May in Lisbon, Report from Fascist Borders, Kim Philby, etc. Some of them have been translated into different languages. He wrote scripts for dozens of documentaries, including the documentary series The Most Expensive, Nine Years Before The War's End, Russia At War – Blood On The Snow, etc. His plays The Mutiny Of The Unknown (1962), The Man Before The Shot (1963), Three Minutes Of Martin Grove (1970), Interview in Buenos Aires (1976), and Agent 00 (1985) were a big success in theaters in the USSR and abroad.
Hundreds of essays published in many countries of the world, TV programs and feature stories, documentary and feature film scripts and theatrical plays – such is the creative range of Genrikh Borovik, a writer, publicist, playwright, journalist and an anchorman. Hardly anyone would dispute the fact that among the international journalists of older generation the works of Genrikh Borovik – whether published in newspapers, magazines, books; showed on screen and television, or staged at theaters – were always one of the most popular among readers and audience.
Here is an example. Borovik's essay book Prologue was published in 1986. It was noted by readers and critics and quickly vanished from the bookstore shelves. In a year, the editorial staff of Roman-Gazeta conducted an interesting survey of readers' opinions. They sent to their subscribers a questionnaire where they listed 100 most notable works of prose, which have enjoyed public attention recently, and asked readers to choose 12 works to be published in 12 issues of Roman-Gazeta in 1988. Prologue, the latest book of Genrikh Borovik, was also mentioned among those 100 works. It didn't have a detective plot or love affair, or other components that are so notoriously attractive to the reader. But the feedback received from the readers revealed that this book of essays took third place by the number of votes cast for it. The book was published in two issues of Roman-Gazeta because of its size. Only in the USSR, the book was sold in more than 5 million copies! The explanation is simple. Despite not being a novel, the book is a true work of literature. The author introduces the reader to a whole gallery of characters and situations. He introduces the reader to the American people and to America as a country. They are the main characters of the book. Besides, there is also one more character that appears before the eyes of the reader, whether the author wants it or not. It's the author himself. It's his views, hopes and disappointments, moral values, and character. And this is what the reader finds very interesting.
Of all the dramas written by Genrikh Borovik, his piece Interview in Buenos Aires, written in 1976 following a hot scent of the Chilean events witnessed by the author was a particular success. Not only was it staged at almost a hundred theaters in the USSR, but also at one and a half dozens of theaters in the world's largest cities, including New York, Madrid, Stockholm, Prague, Warsaw, Tokyo, Damascus, Paris, Caracas, etc. When speaking about the success of his piece, the author himself was inclined to attribute it primarily to the atmosphere of solidarity with the people of Chile as this was exactly how the Chilean coup d'état of September 11, 1973 lead by General Augusto Pinochet was perceived by many in the world. Despite the fact that those events were described in dozens, or rather hundreds of works (including dramas), the play by Borovik was the most popular at that time. His essays written hot on the heels of the Chilean tragedy were officially included among the documents of the International Tribunal, which dealt with the crimes of the Chilean military junta.
Igor Vladimirov, Chief Director of the Theater named after Lensovet, who also directed this play at his theater and who brilliantly played the lead role of journalist Carlos Blanco, told a story about how in 1977 the play was staged at the Theater of Nations festival in Paris. The play was received very well, and a famous French theater critic said, "The secret of why this play is so successful is that it tells not only of Chile. It also tells of the threat of fascism in France as well as in any country of the world. In each scene and in each conversation, I see and hear something that relates to me, a French journalist, personally."
These words describe the entire creative work of Genrikh Borovik, regardless of genre. His works always have something very important that readers, viewers and listeners can and do relate with personally, and with the society which they live in.
Borovik in Afghanistan
Genrikh Borovik is a very versatile person. His life was marked by quite a few acts of courage that are worth mentioning, even if only briefly. In the spring of 1980, G. A. Borovik spent a few months in Afghanistan. He traveled all over the country and was in the most dangerous places and situations, but he didn't write much either in newspapers or magazines. He couldn't write a lie, and no one would dare to publish the truth. Back in Moscow, he declined a lucrative offer of the Mosfilm studio to write a script for a feature film about the war. The agreement was signed before his trip to Afghanistan. The screenwriter was guaranteed a government order and almost surely the State Prize. The film was to be directed by a famous film director. But, after returning home, Borovik canceled the agreement and returned the advance payment. Instead of writing the script, he went to the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and told them about what he saw in Afghanistan. He said that this war was pointless, that the USSR was repeating the same mistakes and committing the same crimes that the United States had committed in their war against Vietnam; that the Soviet troops put the war on their shoulders but proved not ready for it; that military authorities were hiding the true size of the country's losses, etc. By doing so, Borovik brought down the wrath of the head of the Chief Political Directorate of the Soviet Army upon himself. Army Gen. A. A. Epishev was going to complain about the 'irresponsible journalist' to L. I. Brezhnev himself. The only thing that saved the 'irresponsible journalist' was the help of his friends at the Central Committee – Yevgeny Samoteykin and Nikolay Shishlin – along with the fact that at that time Borovik has left journalism for 1.5 years to work on a series of documentaries and write a new play.
From 1982 to 1985, G. A. Borovik was a chief editor of the Theater magazine. During that time its circulation has doubled.
From 1985 to 1987, G. A. Borovik was a secretary for International Affairs of the Writers' Union of the USSR. It was during these years, when some of his old friends, prominent writers and cultural figures from different countries – Graham Greene, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Norman Mailer, Peter Ustinov, etc. – visited the USSR on invitation of the Writers' Union. This has contributed to the popularity of the country abroad and spread the truth about perestroika, which had just begun. Soon, G. A. Borovik appealed to the Central Committee with a proposal to end the isolation of the Soviet writers from major international writers' organizations, particularly PEN International. His arguments were very convincing, and the Secretariat of the Central Committee made a decision that put an end to the 'Berlin Wall' between the Soviet writers and the rest of the world.
In 1987, G. A. Borovik was elected Chairman of the Soviet Peace Committee and Vice-President of the World Peace Council. This work was very time-consuming. The Soviet Peace Committee became a prominent social organization that was firmly supporting democratic reforms in the country. This has been proven by many actions of the renewed organization that has done a lot to end the 'Cold War' and eliminate the 'enemy image.' But, in addition to international affairs, Borovik had to deal with internal conflicts on ethnic grounds that began to rise in the USSR. As always, he was one of the first to travel to the new, dangerous 'hot spots.' But this time it was within the country's borders. Wherever a conflict was brewing or being deployed, people saw him and turned to him for advice. It was in the midst of the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, in the days of the conflict between North Ossetia and Ingushetia, and in the days of the conflict in Transdniestria.
In those same years, G. A. Borovik was working as political commentator for USSR State Committee for Television and Radio Broadcasting. He was the author and host of the popular Position program. It was during this TV program when for the first time he told people about the origins of the various ethnic conflicts; for the first time he openly and sharply raised the question about the activities of chauvinist organizations in the USSR. As a result, one of these organizations made Borovik number one on their secret 'kill' list. During perestroika, M. S. Gorbachev invited G. A. Borovik to accompany him as an expert to almost every meeting with the heads of foreign countries.
In 1989, he was elected a people's deputy of the USSR and became a member of the Standing Committee of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR on International Affairs. In the early 1990s, he sent a note to the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, in which he insisted that the situation when all channels of All-Union TV and Radio obeyed the same organization and basically one person – chairman of the USSR State Committee for Television and Radio Broadcasting – weakened the television and contradicted democratic principles. He proposed to leave just one TV channel and one radio station under the authority of the USSR State Committee for Television and Radio Broadcasting, and transfer the others under the authority of the non-governmental organizations, and above all creative unions. As it turned out, he was right.
In the critical days of the August 1991 putsch, the Soviet Peace Committee adopted a formal statement on August 19, in which it condemned the unconstitutional actions of the State Committee for a State of Emergency. The statement was made on the radio in the evening on August 19 and published in the newspapers the next morning. On August 19, 20 and 21, Genrikh Borovik appeared on CNN from Moscow, telling the world about how the leaders of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union betrayed their Secretary General, betrayed perestroika, and violated the constitution of the country (the Soviet television would not have allowed something like this). Genrikh Borovik's son, Artyom – who was already a very popular journalist at that time – together with his wife, Veronica, spent these three days and three nights at the 'White House' on Krasnopresnenskaya Naberezhnaya.
In June 1991, G A. Borovik left the Communist Party for good. In the years of reforms, he actively supported the democratization of the country. In 1994, he created TV series Nine Years Before The War's End on the Ostankino TV channel (he was the project author, script writer and presenter). For the first time in the history of national television, these series revealed the truth about how in 1979 an infamous decision was made to engage Soviet troops in Afghanistan and how it was carried out. The following year, Genrikh Borovik started working (as the project author and one of the script authors) on a 10-episode documentary Russia At War – Blood On The Snow. It revealed the real truth about the Great Patriotic War, which – for obvious reasons – Roman Karmen couldn't show in his remarkable 20-episode film epic The Great Patriotic War. For its creators, the new series became a kind of a continuation of Karmen's film.
G. A. Borovik made a significant creative contribution to the formation of the Culture TV channel. His educational program The Will of the 20th Century, in which the writer and journalist described his meetings with prominent people of the 20th century, such as Alexander Kerensky, Ernest Hemingway, Kim Philby, Konstantin Simonov, Graham Greene, Walter Cronkite, Mother Teresa and others, was highly praised by audiences and critics, and constantly enjoyed the highest rating among the programs on Culture. Being a writer, playwright, publicist, TV journalist, prominent social activist, politician, and finally, citizen, Genrikh Borovik is one of the most prominent figures of the creative and social life of modern Russia. His is known throughout the former USSR, as well as in many countries of the world. His work is marked by state prizes of the USSR and Russia: Orders of the October Revolution, Orders of the Red Banner of Labor, Peoples' Friendship Orders, the Order of Merit for the Fatherland (III degree), and medals.
G. A. Borovik is a two-time winner of USSR State Prizes (for his play Interview in Buenos-Aires and for his book Prologue); a winner of prizes named after Alexei Tolstoy and Mikhail Koltsov of the USSR Union of Writers; a winner of several awards of the Russian Union of Journalists, and a number of prestigious international creative awards, including the Golden Feather Award. In 2002, G. A. Borovik was elected to be a board member of the National Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences of Russia. On March 9, 2000 Borovik's family was overtaken by a terrible misfortune: Genrikh's son, Artyom, was killed in a plane crash during takeoff at the Sheremetyevo airport. Artyom was following his father's footsteps. He was a talented journalist and writer. He became famous for his essays from Afghanistan in the mid-1980s, in which he was the first in the country to tell the truth about the Afghan war. His essays, published in the Ogoniok magazine, have been translated into many languages and published in magazines such as Life, Paris Match, Der Spiegel, etc. In addition, he won the love and trust of readers and viewers because newspapers, magazines and TV programs of the independent Sovershenno Sekretno holding company, which he founded, were reporting and investigating crimes, which law enforcement agencies were hesitant or unable to engage in for various reasons. Despite the pressure on Artyom and his holding company, and despite open threats, he remained independent, honest and incorruptible.
During his last TV interview on the country's main TV station, one of the viewers paged him asking, "If you are so honest, then why are you still alive?" The answer came in two days: Artyom's plane crashed during takeoff at the Sheremetyevo airport. The cause of the crash has not yet been completely identified. Nowadays, Genrikh Borovik is the head of the Artyom Borovik Charity Foundation founded by Artyom's relatives. The foundation aims to promote the development of independent journalism in Russia, that is, to continue the main work started by Artyom and to defend his ideals as a citizen and a patriot. The work of the Sovershenno Sekretno holding company is continued by Artyom's friends and associates. And of course, by his widow, Veronika Borovik-Hilchevskaya, who was his true supporter and loyal ally in everything. It was her who headed the holding company after Artyom's death. Genrikh Borovik's family finds comfort in this work and in two sons – Maximilian and Kristian – who Artyom left behind. Although they are small, they already dream of becoming journalists, "just like Daddy and Genrikh".
In 2003, in connection with the 300th anniversary of the Russian journalism, the Russian Union of Journalists instituted the highest honorary title: The Legend of Russian Journalism. It was awarded to five Russian journalists, including Genrikh Borovik and Artyom Borovik, who was awarded posthumously. Genrikh Borovik lives and works in Moscow.