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Russian Music since 1917Reappraisal and Rediscovery$

Patrick Zuk and Marina Frolova-Walker

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780197266151

Published to British Academy Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.5871/bacad/9780197266151.001.0001

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Composers in the Gulag: A Preliminary Survey

Composers in the Gulag: A Preliminary Survey

(p.188) Chapter 9 Composers in the Gulag: A Preliminary Survey
Russian Music since 1917

Inna Klause

British Academy

Abstract and Keywords

It has generally been supposed that the repressions of the Stalinist period affected musicians and composers to a far lesser extent that other artists. The researches carried out by the author of the present chapter indicate that this assumption is not altogether tenable. The reminiscences of former prisoners, the archival holdings of the Memorial organisation and a variety of other sources allude to numerous names of musicians who were either shot or who served sentences in labour camps between the 1920s and 1950s. The chapter focuses in particular on composers, analysing the grounds for their arrest and the conditions that they experienced in the camps.

Keywords:   Gulag, Great Terror, Stalin, Repressed musicians

THIS CHAPTER ATTEMPTS TO gauge the extent to which composers in the Soviet Union were subject to arrest and detention in camps.1 As it is the first attempt of its kind, it offers neither a comprehensive treatment nor an appraisal of this complex phenomenon, but seeks to review known cases and derive initial conclusions from an evaluation and analysis of the data that they yield.

It is often asserted in writings on Soviet music that musicians suffered repression to a lesser degree than artists working in other domains. Wolfgang Mende, for example, asserts that ‘it remains unclear to this day whether a “leniency directive” existed for musicians, and especially composers, during the Great Terror. The fact that music, unlike literature and theatre, remained essentially exempt from the wave of terror supports this theory.’2 Pauline Fairclough has expressed the view that ‘the perceived “harmlessness” of music served as protection for composers and musicians even during the years of Stalin’s icy grip on Soviet culture; it was far more dangerous to be a writer, film-maker or theatre director’.3

A hint about the possible origin of the ‘leniency directive’ theory can be found in Solomon Volkov’s Testimony, and remains of interest despite the doubts that have been cast on the memoirs’ authenticity. Volkov’s ‘Shostakovich’ remarks: ‘Someone could say to me … what were you afraid of? They didn’t touch musicians. I’ll reply, that’s not true, they did touch them—and how. The story that musicians weren’t touched is being spread by (p.189) Khrennikov and his henchmen, and since men of the arts have short memories, they believe him.’4

Up to the time of his death in 2007, Tikhon Khrennikov, who had been Secretary-General of the Union of Soviet Composers for over forty years, persistently reiterated the claim that can still be found on the homepage of his official website: ‘[No] Soviet composer suffered repression. This can be directly attributed to Tikhon Khrennikov, who not only never misused his power to harm anyone, but always strove to be of help. The Composers’ Union never made a single negative evaluation of its members that could have resulted in arrests.’5 A definitive judgement concerning the accuracy of this claim—which refers to the period after 1948, the year when Khrennikov was appointed Secretary-General—is currently impossible. It would require one to compile comprehensive statistics concerning the number of composers arrested and a thorough examination of documentation held by the Composers’ Union. To judge from what we know at present, the number of arrested composers seems to have decreased initially after Khrennikov’s accession to power, but rose again in 1950 on account of numerous arrests made in the Baltic Republics.

The theory of a ‘leniency directive’ for musicians obviously arises from comparisons with other artistic groups, as is apparent from the statements of Wolfgang Mende and Pauline Fairclough. More prominent writers, film producers and theatre professionals are known to have been victims of the OGPU or the NKVD than musicians. Contemporary witnesses also expressed this opinion, such as the émigré musician Yury Yelagin: ‘The Great Purge of 1937,’ he averred, ‘affected the Soviet Union’s musical life even less than its theatre.’6

It is not possible to say at present whether some artistic domains were more deeply affected by state repression than others. We know much more about the fates of imprisoned poets and writers, for example, than we do about musicians—because of the influence of an idea that Yevgeny Yevtushenko summed up as follows: ‘For seventy years our people was robbed of the history of their own poetry, and had no chance to read poets who had emigrated or were swallowed by the enormous maw of the GULAG. […] not only they, but also their poems were expunged from life.’7 The same is true of composers and musicians, but the validity of this perception has yet to enter musicological awareness. Nevertheless, there have always been voices that (p.190) testified to this state of affairs. For example, on 7 February 1989 the Hamburg-based émigré composer and professor of violin Michael Goldstein wrote the following to the human rights organisation Memorial in Moscow, which possesses extensive archives pertaining to the Gulag:

The erroneous opinion that Soviet musicians were virtually unaffected by the Stalinist Terror is now widespread. Many leading figures in the Union of Soviet Composers zealously promote this view. But if one considers the facts more closely… And one should. On the one hand, Soviet musicians were accorded recognition and honour. But there was another side to the story. For example, an opera group that was made up entirely of prisoners and people who had been wrongfully convicted.8

The Kolyma survivor Semyon Vilensky, co-founder of the publishing house Vozvrashcheniye which specialises in publishing memoirs by Gulag inmates, informed the author that there were many musicians in the camps.9 To date, however, no detailed statistics have been compiled giving a breakdown of imprisoned artists by profession, or lists of proscribed members of artists’ unions, including the Composers’ Union. Moreover, there was no publication in the USSR comparable to the Lexikon der Juden in der Musik in Nazi Germany.10

On the basis of previous studies of the composition of the Gulag population, Nicolas Werth concludes that it was a mirror image, sociologically and ethnically, of Soviet society, though the proportion of intellectuals was slightly higher than in the civilian population.11 In consequence, they must have contained a comparable proportion of musicians.12 The randomness of the arrests, which have been described by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn amongst others, also suggests that musicians were just as endangered as other professions, since most arrests were not made because of actual criminal acts, but because the secret police were set targets that they had to meet within a given period.13

(p.191) The author is not aware of any case in which a musician was prosecuted on account of something that pertained to music per se. This does not exclude the possibility that informers, whose denunciations often furnished the grounds for an arrest, may have sought to impugn their victims on musical grounds. However, musical issues do not seem to have been of much importance as far as interrogations and sentencing were concerned.14 Some investigating judges used music-related allegations in conjunction with other charges to compel prisoners to admit to their usually non-existent guilt. For instance, in late 1950 and early 1951, the composer Aleksandr Veprik was indicted for composing ‘Zionist music’, amongst other things.15 The music student Georgiy Golubev, who was arrested in January 1937 at the age of 23, was forced by the presiding investigator-in-chief to sign a statement that he revered Tchaikovsky’s music, but had disparaged Soviet composers and claimed that musicians fared better under the Tsar than in the USSR.16 In 1950, clarinettist Boris Gol’dberg was accused of espionage because he had allegedly praised American music and criticised the fact that no American orchestras performed in the Soviet Union.17

However, no evidence relating specifically to their activities as musicians had a bearing on the sentences that they eventually received. These followed the standard formulae of the penal code—for example, espionage, anti-Soviet propaganda, membership of a counter-revolutionary organisation, collaboration with German occupiers or homosexuality. These allegations were typical at that time, irrespective of the professions of the accused. A suspect had to be convicted at all costs: denunciations, so-called ‘operations’ against certain nationalities and the like, could affect musicians as well as other professions. Musicians were victims as much as anyone else because chance and blind terror reigned.18 That music did not furnish one with a secure alibi we (p.192) know from Solzhenitsyn, who told in The Gulag Archipelago of a group of young people who organised musical evenings and drank tea afterwards. To pay for the tea, they collected money in a kitty. In 1927, they were all arrested and their interest in music was interpreted as a camouflage for their alleged ‘counter-revolutionary beliefs’. It was insinuated that they planned to support the ‘world bourgeoisie’ with the amassed money. Some were sentenced to death and others were punished by being interned in camps for periods from three to five years.19

Neither did a musician’s celebrity prevent his or her arrest, as the fates of popular performers such as the tenor Vadim Kozin, the jazz band leader Eddie Rosner and the folk singer Lidiya Ruslanova show. The same was true of composers: the song ‘Vzveytes’ kostrami, siniye nochi’ [Blaze like Bonfires, Blue Nights] by Sergey Kaydan-Dyoshkin remained the hymn of the national Young Pioneer Organisation from the 1920s until the collapse of the Soviet Union, but this fact did not prevent the OGPU from sentencing its composer in 1932 to ten years’ imprisonment, which he served in full. The song continued to be widely performed all the while.

Clearly, until such time as these questions are investigated more thoroughly, attempts to compare the severity of the repression suffered by musicians with other artistic groups will not be very meaningful. The present chapter seeks to make a start by presenting my preliminary findings concerning two groups of musicians affected by repressions during the Stalinist Era—first, the staff of the Bolshoi Theatre; and secondly, composers.

Case Study: the Arrests of Bolshoi Theatre Employees

In addition to the reasons adduced previously, the fact that the Chekists did not even spare the country’s most prestigious opera house, the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, seems to contradict the possibility of a special ‘leniency directive’ for musicians. The surviving documentation in the Bolshoi’s archive gives an insight into the atmosphere prevailing in music institutions at that period and illuminates the kind of thinking to which people resorted in the face of mass arrests. During the Great Terror, forty-seven employees of the Bolshoi were arrested within the six months between 15 September 1937 and 15 March 1938. This group comprised eighteen musicians and singers, including soloists.20 A (p.193) file with lists of those arrested gives information about the circumstances. The highest number of arrests took place in February 1938, when five people became victims.21 Shortly beforehand, in 1937, the theatre had been awarded the Order of Lenin.22

The theatre administration, as though seeking an explanation for the arrests, noted possible reasons next to some names in the list—for example, that the persons concerned had relatives in the Russian exclave of Kharbin in China.23 Perhaps in an attempt to assess how many more employees and which ones might be threatened with arrest, the administration compiled further untitled lists of persons whose personal circumstances potentially made them vulnerable. These are marked with the inscription ‘Compromising material’. One such list with names of orchestral musicians runs to sixty people.24 Some of the names recorded there also feature on the lists of those who were arrested. When and why these lists were created remains unclear, but their existence shows that contemporaries did not recognise—or did not want to recognise—the arbitrariness of the Terror, and sought explanations for each arrest.

One of the lists with information about ‘compromising material’ reveals that the orchestral musician Ivan Amanov, who was arrested on 15 September 1937, had a father who was a clergyman whose right to vote had been revoked owing to his religious activity. This ‘compromising’ circumstance is also specified for other orchestral musicians—that one of their parents had been stripped of their voting rights because they were clergymen, traders, high-ranking members of the tsarist army or property owners, for example. Most of the people on the lists, however, had relations who lived abroad. Other grounds for inclusion were the imprisonment of relatives or their own previous detention; corresponding with family members abroad; expulsion from the Communist Party; and having previously held foreign citizenship or spent a lengthy period of time outside the country. A separate list was made of people who had not renounced their foreign citizenship.25 The names of the musicians Yekaterina Fuks-Nemerenetskaya and Zenon Svetlikovsky, who were arrested in the period between September 1937 and March 1938, recur (p.194) in the list with ‘compromising material’. In both cases, corresponding with relatives abroad is indicated as a compromising circumstance—in Yekaterina Fuks-Nemerenetskaya’s case, with relatives in Kharbin.26 One learns from the list that two other members of the orchestra had been taken into custody by the Cheka: the orchestra musician Anton Pisanko, who had been consigned to Arkhangel’sk in 1930, as well as the deputy leader Abram Khalip, who was remanded in custody for twenty-eight days in 1933. In the list of thirty-nine dancers, the fact that they were of aristocratic descent appears frequently as ‘compromising material’. In a further list of twenty-six employees, we find, for example, one Nadezhda Shustova, a chorus member whose brother lived in Kharbin: her name also features in the list of arrestees.27

Information about some of the arrested artists can be gleaned from index cards in the Bolshoi archives on which details of their performances are noted. The card on the mezzo-soprano Ol’ga Mikhaylova, for example, states that she was employed at the theatre from October 1933. She was supposed to have sung in Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Tsar’s Bride on 6 September 1937 and in Delibes’ Lakmé the following 15 September, but appeared in neither performance. An annotation on her card reads: ‘Did not return after holiday’.28 However, the list of arrested employees states that she was arrested on 22 August 1937.29 Yury Yelagin reports that she was shot.30 Artemy Kharchenko was taken on by the theatre in September 1936. In September and October 1937 he sang the role of the Coachman in Ivan Dzerzhinsky’s opera The Quiet Don five times and a minor part (one of the d’yaki or ‘clerks’) in Rimsky-Korsakov’s Tale of the Tsar Saltan twice, the last occasion being on 6 October. He was arrested on 10 October,31 and did not return to work thereafter.32 From Butovskiy poligon [The Butovo Polygon], a book memorialising victims of the Terror that was published in 1997, we learn the fate of the Bolshoi répétiteur Lyubov’ Aptekareva.33 Born into a Jewish middle-class family in Yalta in 1892, she had worked at the theatre since October 1935.34 On 2 October 1937 she was arrested on charges of conducting espionage for Japan and shot on 21 October. She was declared innocent and rehabilitated on 2 October 1989. Some of the arrested musicians were more fortunate—they were not shot, but sentenced to detention in the camps. The ballerina (p.195) Raisa Shteyn, who was sent to Usol’lag (a camp near the town of Solikamsk in the Perm district) after her arrest in April 1938, confirms that musicians from the Bolshoi played in the camp orchestra.35

The high number of arrests in 1937–1938 can be attributed to the Great Terror, but Bolshoi employees were also arrested outside this time-span, as mentioned previously. Another list reveals the arrests of eighteen service personnel and twenty members of the artistic staff in 1933–1934. Amongst them were an opera director, two orchestral players and a chorus-master. The latter three were released relatively quickly,36 but one of the orchestral musicians, Sergey Gosachinsky, was arrested again in February 1938.

The year 1940 saw the arrest of the Bolshoi’s director-in-chief Boris Mordvinov (1899–1954), who had staged Glinka’s opera Zhizn’ za tsarya [A Life for the Tsar] in the new Soviet version Ivan Susanin in 1939, and was simultaneously employed as a professor at the Moscow Conservatoire. He acted as artistic director of the Vorkuta camp theatre during his internment. He was released in 1946, but was not allowed back to Moscow until after Stalin’s death. Tragically, he died of a heart attack the night after his return.37

The numerous arrests at the Bolshoi demonstrate clearly that musicians were not immune from persecution, no matter how eminent they were or how prestigious the institution at which they worked, and cast severe doubt on the existence of a special ‘leniency directive’.

Composers in the Camps

My search for composers who were imprisoned and arrested began with an exploration of the Memorial electronic database,38 which turned out to contain twenty names of prisoners who are described as being such. This group was supplemented with other persons whom I identified during my five-year research project on music in the Gulag, drawing on recollections of former prisoners, camp press publications, GULAG archives, as well as the Memorial archives in Moscow and St Petersburg. My investigations did not focus specifically on composers, so the list is by no means complete. It (p.196) comprises sixty-six people who were subject to detention during Stalin’s period in power. In comparison to the number of writers who were arrested, in excess of 3,000,39 this number might seem insignificant, but it must be viewed in the context of the total membership of the Composers’ Union. In 1948, the Union had only 908 registered members, a figure that includes musicologists as well as composers, while the Writers’ Union already had 1,500 members in the year 1934. In 1968, the Composers’ Union had 1,645 members, whereas membership of the Writers’ Union had grown to 6,608 by 1967. The Composers’ Union was by far the smallest artists’ association in the Soviet Union.40 Even if not all creative artists belonged to state associations, the fact remains that composers were less numerous than writers, which is why it can seem as though they were less affected by repression from a purely quantitative perspective. It should also be borne in mind that the number of composers identified by the author is only to be regarded as the provisional result of a comparatively limited study, whereas the impact of state repression on writers has been studied for several decades.

Table 9.1, which summarises my findings, only features individuals who can be established beyond reasonable doubt to have been composers. They fall into three categories: (i) persons who are identified as composers in Memorial’s database or archives; (ii) persons who are known to have trained as composers; and (iii) persons who did not study composition formally, but wrote songs that became famous—such as Yuliy Khayt, Boris Fomin or Boris Prozorovsky. Fomin, for example, composed the internationally popular ‘Dorogoy dlinnoyu’ [By the Long Road], which was performed by the British folk singer Mary Hopkin under the title ‘Those Were the Days’ and climbed to first place in the British and German charts in 1968. A number of figures were omitted because they were musically untrained—such as the noted writer Nyobdinsa Vittor (alias Viktor Savin) (1888–1943), who composed around seventy folksong-like pieces in the Komi language—he was imprisoned in 1937 and died in the camps.41 Others were not included because too little information was available.

Neither does the table include the names of Gulag prisoners who only began to compose in the camps, as is known to have happened in a number of cases. Their compositions range from small-scale works, such as the songs of (p.197) Svetlana Shilova,42 the piano pieces of Vladimir Klempner,43 and the ‘difficult polyphonic fantasy’ for two solo violins on Ukrainian themes by Samuil Zisser,44 to more ambitious scores such as the opera Plotina N° 6 [Dam No. 6] that the organist Igor’ Veys, a graduate of Moscow Conservatoire, composed as a prisoner while building the White Sea Canal.45 Similarly, it does not include young musicians who showed compositional talent but were unable to realise it: we will never know what they could have accomplished.

‘Those who already had a literary name when they fell into this abyss [the Gulag] are at least known to us—but how many were overlooked, never publicly mentioned! And nearly none succeeded in returning. A whole national literature remains there. …’46 These remarks about writers from Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech are equally applicable to composers. Some musicians, whose educations were interrupted by their arrests, could have gone on to become creative artists of note. They represent just as much a part of the ‘erased’ and irretrievable aspects of Soviet cultural history as do the writers of whom Roy Medvedev declared: ‘[Nobody] can publish the books that these people had planned, the majority of whom were not yet forty years old, and some not even thirty.’47

Some works that did actually get written down also became part of what the German historian Alexander Demandt has described as ‘unhappened history’ (ungeschehene Geschichte).48 Solzhenitsyn records the burning of numerous manuscripts in the Lubyanka prison: a whole culture was wiped out as a result.49 Medvedev also speaks of the destruction of virtually all the archives of those who were condemned.50 It is to be assumed that not only literary manuscripts perished, but musical manuscripts as well. For example, (p.198)

Table 9.1. Composers arrested and imprisoned in the Soviet Union up to 1959

Name, date and place of birth

‘Nationality’,1 education

Date and place of arrest

Juridical authority, date and grounds of conviction, sentence

Detention period


Admoni-Krasny, Iogann Grigor’yevich, 1906 (Dessau) – 1979


1941, Leningrad



L. Naydich, ‘Leningradskiye filologi na frontakh Velikoy Otechestvennoy voynï’, in N. Kazansky (ed.), Lingvistika v godï voynï: lyudi, sud’by, sversheniya (Sankt-Peterburg, Nauka, 2005), pp. 229–67 at p. 248.

Leningrad Conservatoire

Barsky, Vladimir Borisovich, 1905 (Kiev) – 1946 (Siblag)

Russian/Jewish (conflicting data in sources), higher education

1941, Leningrad

Military tribunal of the NKVD in west Siberia, 20.12.1941, § 582; 8 years of camp detention

4 years, 4 months in prisons and camps, death in the camp

http://gulagmuseum.org/showObject.do?object=496295; http://gulagmuseum.org/showObject.do?object=496282 (accessed 23 May 2011); Memorial archive, St Petersburg.

Benediktov (Feygenzon), Maksim Benediktovich, 1882 (Kurland Government) – 25.08.1937 (Moscow)

Russian, Paris Conservatoire

24.05.1937, Moscow

Military Collegium of the Supreme Court of the USSR, 25.08.1937, espionage, death by firing squad

3 months in prison, death by firing squad

http://lists.memo.ru/d4/f165.htm; http://stalin.memo.ru/spiski/pg02226.htm (accessed 2 June 2011).

Bergmane, Irēna, 1909 (Riga) – 1971 (Riga)

Latvian, Riga Conservatoire

1950, Riga


5 years in prison and camp

http://vip.latnet.lv/lpra/muziki.htm (accessed on 2 June 2011).

Binkin, Zinovy Yur’yevich, 1913 (Yuzovka, today Donetsk) – 1985 (Moscow)


1945, Moscow


8 years in prison and exile

http://www.sever-press.ru/501/doc/3.htm (accessed 2 June 2011); Yury Keldïsh (ed.), Muzïkal’naya ėntsiklopediya, 6 (Moscow, Sovetskaya ėntsiklopediya, 1982), column 686–7; interview of author with the former fellow prisoner Lazar’ Shereshevsky (†) at the end of 2007 in Moscow.

Moscow Conservatoire

(p.199) Bogoslovsky, Georgy Vasil’yevich, 1901 (Vladimir) – 29.01.1943 (Camp No. 188)

Russian, higher education

08.04.1942, Camp No. 188 of the NKVD

Special Council of the NKVD, 13.01.1943, espionage/aiding the German occupiers, execution by firing squad

9 months in prison, execution by firing squad

http://lists.memo.ru/d4/f464.htm (accessed 2 June 2011).

Chernyak, Mikhail Yakovlevich, 14.02.1906 (Chernigov) – ?


30.04.1929, Moscow

OGPU Council, 08.07.1929, § 58-8, § 58-2; 5 years of camp detention

7 years in prison and camp (?)

Grigory Bernandt and Aleksandr Dolzhansky (eds.), Sovetskiye kompozitorï (Moscow, Sovetskiy kompozitor, 1957), p. 631; Izrail’ Mazus (ed.), Demokraticheskiy soyuz. Sledstvennoye delo. 1928–1929 gg. (Moscow, ROSSPĖN, 2010), pp. 327–30.

First State Music Technicum Moscow

Chernyatinsky, Nikolay Nikolayevich, 1897 (Odessa) – 1961 (Kishinyov)


17.04.1945, Kishinyov

?, 21.06.1945, § 54-1a; 10 years of camp detention

10 years in prison and camp

http://lists.memo.ru/d35/f489.htm#n128; http://gulagmuseum.org/showObject.do?object=1434008; http://www.musica-ukrainica.odessa.ua/_a-smirnov-wind.html#_t2 (accessed 23 May 2011).

Odessa Conservatoire

Ėykhenval’d, Anton Aleksandrovich, 1875 (Moscow) – 1952 (Leningrad)

Russian, private instruction in composition (with Taneyev, Rimsky-Korsakov et al.)

15.10.1937, Kazan’

Special Council of the NKVD, 15.04.1938, § 58-10, Part 1, released after remand

6 months in prison

http://lists.memo.ru/d38/f43.htm (accessed 2 June 2011); Keldïsh, Muzïkal’naya ėntsiklopediya, 6, column 494.

Feils, Alfrēds, 1902 (Riga) – 1942 (near Yeniseysk)

Latvian, Riga Conservatoire

June 1941, Daugavpils

?, espionage, ?

1 year in prison and camp, died in the camp

http://vip.latnet.lv/lpra/muziki.htm (accessed 2 June 2011).

Fomenko, Georgy Nikolayevich, 1902 (Odessa) – 1951 (in the camp)


21.08.1945, Odessa

?, 15.12.1945, membership in anti-Soviet organisations, 10 years of camp detention

5½ years in prison and camp, death in the camp

http://lists.memo.ru/d34/f173.htm; http://www.musica-ukrainica.odessa.ua/_a-smirnov-wind.html#_t2 (accessed 23 May 2011).

Odessa Conservatoire

(p.200) Fomin, Boris Ivanovich, 1900 (St Petersburg) – 1948 (Moscow)

Russian, private music instruction

1937, Moscow

?, acquittal

1 year in prison

http://ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/Фомин,_Борис_Иванович_(композитор) (accessed 2 June 2011).

Geygner, David Isaakovich, 1898 (area Kiev) – 08.01.1938 (Moscow)

Jewish, no professional training

03.12.1937, Moscow

Military Collegium of the Supreme Court of the USSR, 08.01.1938, espionage/preparation of a terrorist attack, execution by firing squad

1 month in prison and death

Memorial (Moscow), f. 1, op. 1, d. 1022; Lyudmila Shcherbakova, ‘Poteryannaya muzïka’, 30 oktyabrya, No. 761, p. 4.

Graubiņš, Jēkabs, 1886 (Preilļi) – 1961 (Riga)

Latvian, Riga Conservatoire

Spring 1950, Riga

?, aiding the German occupiers, 5 years of camp detention

5 years in prison and camp

http://vip.latnet.lv/lpra/muziki.htm (accessed 2 June 2011).

Grinevich, Anton Antonovich, 1877 (Vitebsk Government) – 08.12.1937 (Solovki)

Belarus, specialist college

a) 06.09.1933, Minsk

Collegium of the OGPU, 09.01.1934, § 58-4-6-11, execution by firing squad, changed to 10 years of camp detention

4 years in prison and camp, death in the camp by shooting

http://lists.memo.ru/d9/f473.htm (accessed 2 June 2011); database of Memorial (see footnote 38).

b) Prison on the Solovki

Special troika of the UNKVD for the Leningrad area, 25.11.1937, § 58-10-11, execution by firing squad

Grishpan, Roman Germanovich, 1915 (Warsaw) – ?

Jewish, ?

05.09.1942, Sovkhoz Rabochiy (location unknown)

?, 15.05.1943, § 58-1a, 10 years of camp detention


http://lists.memo.ru/d10/f4.htm (accessed 2 June 2011).

Ismagambetov, Madel’khan Mukanovich, 1916 (North Kazakhstan region) – ?

Kazakh, specialist college

31.12.1941, Alma-Ata

Court for the Alma-Ata region, 22.05.1942, § 58-10; 7 years of camp detention


http://lists.memo.ru/d14/f394.htm (accessed 2 June 2011). (p.201)

Izvekov, Georgy Yakovlevich, 1874 (Kaluga) – 27.11.1937 (Moscow)

Russian, specialist college

02.11.1937, Moscow region

Troika of the UNKVD for the Moscow region, 23.11.1937, counter-revolutionary fascist agitation, execution by firing squad

1 month in prison, execution by firing squad

http://lists.memo.ru/d14/f227.htm (accessed 2 June 2011).

Kalniņš, Eduards, 1893 (Riga) – 1948 (Siberia)

Latvian, Petersburg Conservatoire

Beginning of 1945, Riga


3½ years in prison and camp, death in the camp

http://vip.latnet.lv/lpra/muziki.htm (accessed 2 June 2011).

Karindi, Alfred (Karafin Alfred until 1935), 1901 (Kõnnu) – 1969 (Tallinn)

Estonian, Tartu Higher Music School, Tallinn Conservatoire

1950, Tallinn


4 years in prison and camp

http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfred_Karindi (accessed 2 June 2011).

Kaydan-Dyoshkin, Sergey Fyodorovich, 1901 (Vilno) – 1972 (Velikie Luki)

Russian, specialist college

09.08.1930, Moscow

Collegium of the OGPU for Moscow, 05.01.1932, § 58-8-11; 10 years in prison and camp

10 years of camp detention

http://lists.memo.ru/d15/f57.htm; http://www.sakharov-center.ru/asfcd/auth/author1b3b.html?id=1204 (accessed 2 June 2011); A. Sizov, ‘Tak slozhilas’ sud’ba kompozitora’, in N.P. Korneyev (ed.), Ne predat’ zabveniyu. Kniga pamyati zhertv politicheskikh repressiy (Pskovskaya oblast’), 15 (Pskov, Velikolukskaya gorodskaya tipografiya, 2004), pp. 80–6. (p.202)

Kenel’, Aleksandr Aleksandrovich, 1898 (St Petersburg) – 1970 (Abakan)

Frenchman, Leningrad Conservatoire

14.06.1927, Leningrad

Collegium of the OGPU, 15.06.1927, § 58-5; 3 years of camp detention

3 years in prison and camp

Aleksey Annenko, ‘Tayna kompozitora Sharlya Lui de Kenelya’, http://gorod.abakan.ru/autors_projects/hronograf_annenko/kenel/ (accessed 16 November 2008); Detlef Gojowy, Neue sowjetische Musik der 20er Jahre (Laaber, Laaber-Verlag, 1980), p. 106; Bernandt and Dolzhansky, Sovetskie kompozitorï, p. 267; Inna Klause, ‘The life and work of Aleksandr Kenel’, colleague of Georgy Rimsky-Korsakov in the Circle of Quarter-Tone Music’, in Lidia Ader et al. (eds.), N. Rimsky-Korsakov and his Heritage in Historical Perspective. International Musicological Conference Proceedings (Sankt-Peterburg, 2010), pp. 307–13. (p.203)

Keshe, Al’bert Ivanovich, 1889 (St Petersburg) – 1961 (Temryuk, Krasnodar region)


a) Beginning of the 1940s


Camp detention at least twice, altogether at least 15 years in prison and camp

E. S. Goncharenko, ‘Zamechatel’nïy regent i kompozitor nashego bratstva’, Bratskiy vestnik, 4 (1981). http://www.mbchurch.ru/publications/brotherly_journal/201/3126/ (accessed 4 December 2010); Nikolay Khrapov, Schast’ye poteryannoy zhizni, 3 volumes, 1990/91, vol. 3, http://www.blagovestnik.org/books/00055.htm (accessed 25 December 2011); Ol’ga Ivanova, ‘I smech, i slyozï, i lyubov’…’, Vecherniy Magadan, 27 June 1992, p. 5; Boris Savchenko, Opal’nïy Orfey. Sud’ba i tvorchestvo Vadima Kozina (Magadan, Magadanskoye knizhnoye izdatel’stvo, 1991), p. 66.

Berlin Conservatoire (?)

b) End of the 1940s

Khayt, Yuly Abramovich, 1897 (Kiev) – 1966 (Moscow)

Jewish (?), private instruction in composition

Second half of the 1940s



Valery Safoshkin, Lidiya Ruslanova. Ot Reykhstaga do GULAGa (Moscow, ĖKSMO, 2002), p. 141; Mariya Kucherova, ‘Zhestokiy romans’, http://sb.by/article.php?articleID=17618, published on 8 June 2002 (accessed 15 July 2009); Keldïsh, Muzïkal’naya ėntsiklopediya, 5, column 1015.

Khromushin, Oleg Nikolayevich, 1927 (Sal’sk) – 2003



§ 58-1a, 10 years of camp detention and 5 years’ revocation of civil rights

4 years in prison and camp

http://www.sakharov-center.ru/asfcd/auth/?t=author&i=851 (accessed 6 November 2011).

Leningrad Conservatoire

(p.204) Kirkor, Georgy Vasil’yevich, 1910 (Moscow) – 1980 (Moscow)


May 1935, Moscow

Special Council of the NKVD, ?, § 154a, 5 years of camp detention

3 years in prison and camp (because of good work)

Archival information provided by VMOMK to the author.

Moscow Conservatoire (without graduating because of arrest)

Kokoyti, Tatarkan Yasonovich, 1908 (South Ossetia) – 1980

Ossetian, Tiflis Conservatoire (no degree?)

a) ?, Ordzhonikidze

Military tribunal of the armed forces of the NKVD, 08.07.1942, ?, 10 years of camp detention

Dismissed after 6 months as severely ill

http://lists.memo.ru/d17/f19.htm; http://ossetians.com/rus/news.php?newsid=362 (accessed 2 June 2011).

b) 14.10.1943, ?

NKGB (People’s Commissariat for State Security) of the ASSR (Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic) South Ossetia, 27.09.1944, ?, acquittal

11 months in prison

Kozin, Vadim Alekseyevich, 1905 (St Petersburg) – 1994 (Magadan)

Russian, no professional training

a) 18.05.1944, Moscow

Special Council of the NKVD SSSR, 10.02.1945, anti-Soviet agitation, homosexuality, 8 years of camp detention

5 years and 7 months in prison and camp

Savchenko, Opal’nïy Orfey; Igor’ Dorogoy, ‘Yubiley za gorami’, Kolïmskiy trakt, 2 October 2002, p. 11; Vadim Kozin, Proklyatoye iskusstvo (Moscow, VAGRIUS, 2005).

b) October 1959, Magadan

Court for the Magadan area, 25.02.1960, § 19-154-a, Part 1, § 152; 3 years of detention


(p.205) Kvadri, Mikhail Vladimirovich, 1897 (St Petersburg) – 12.07.1929 (Moscow)


31.10.1928, Moscow

Collegium of the OGPU, 08.07.1929, § 58-6, § 58-8, death by firing squad

8 months of detention, death by firing squad

Manashir Yakubov, ‘Vokal’nïye tsiklï Shostakovicha 1920–1930-kh godov’, in Dmitri Shostakovich: New Collected Works, vol. 87 (Moscow, DSCH, 2006), pp. 109–12 at p. 110; Mazus, Demokraticheskiy soyuz, pp. 86–91, 102–3.

Moscow Conservatoire

Līcītis, Jānis, 1913 (Matīši) – 1978 (Riga)

Latvian, Riga Conservatoire

Spring 1950

?, 25 years of camp detention

9 years in prison and camp

http://vip.latnet.lv/lpra/muziki.htm (accessed 23 May 2011).

Līdaks, Kārlis, 1893 (Riga) – 1942

Latvian, Riga Conservatoire



Death by firing squad

http://vip.latnet.lv/lpra/muziki.htm (accessed 2 June 2011).

Litvinenko, Nikolay Vasil’yevich, 1905 (Khar’kov region) – 25.05.1938 (Khabarovsk)

Ukrainian (?)

13.03.1938, Khabarovsk

Military Collegium of the Supreme Court of the USSR, 25.05.1938, § 58-1a-7-8-11, death by firing squad

2 months in prison, death by firing squad

http://lists.memo.ru/d20/f226.htm (accessed 2 June 2011).

Mikosho, Vladimir Vladimirovich, 1897 (Valka, Latvia) – 1991 (Moscow)

Latvian, Kiev Conservatoire, Moscow Conservatoire

1943, at the front (as bandleader)

Military tribunal of the armed forces of the NKVD for the Kursk area, ?, treason, 10 years of camp detention and 5 years’ revocation of civil rights

8 years of camp detention and one year exile

Aleksandr Kleyn and A. Popov, ‘Zapolyarnaya drama…’, in G. Nevsky (ed.), Pokayaniye. Martirolog, vol. 2 (Sïktïvkar, Komi knizhnoye izdatel’stvo, 1999), pp. 219–60; V. Markova, V. Volkov et al., Gulagovskiye taynï osvoyeniya Severa (Moscow, Stroyizdat, 2001/2002), pp. 115–16.

Mosolov, Aleksandr Vasil’yevich, 1900 (Kiev) – 1973 (Moscow)

Russian, Moscow Conservatoire

04.11.1937, Moscow

Troika of the UNKVD for the Moscow area, 23.12.1937, § 58-10, 8 years of camp detention

10 months in prison and camp

Inna Barsova, ‘Dokumente zu den Repressionen gegen Aleksandr Mosolov’, in Friedrich Geiger and Eckhard John (eds.), Musik zwischen Emigration und Stalinismus (Stuttgart/Weimar, Metzler, 2004), pp. 137–48. (p.206)

Nosyrev, Mikhail Iosifovich, 1924 (Leningrad) – 1981 (Voronezh)

Russian, Leningrad Conservatoire

30.11.1943, Leningrad

Military tribunal of the Leningrad Military District, 10.12.1943, § 58-1a-10, death by firing squad, changed to 10 years of camp detention

10 years of prison and camp, then exile

Card catalogue of Memorial St Petersburg; http://nosyrev.ru/biography (accessed 2 June 2011).

Orlov, Sergey Borisovich, 1908 (Moscow) – ?

Russian, Odessa Conservatoire

04.02.1937, Odessa

UNKVD for the Odessa region, 17.07.1937, § 54-10, Part 1; 5 years of camp detention and 3 years’ revocation of civil rights


http://www.musica-ukrainica.odessa.ua/_a-smirnov-wind.html#_t2 (accessed 23 May 2011).

Päts, Riho, 1899 (Tartu) – 1977 (Tallinn)

Estonian, Tallinn Conservatoire

1950, Tallinn


5 years in prison and camp

http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Riho_Päts (accessed 2 June 2011).

Pavlov-Azancheyev, Matvey Stepanovich, 1888 (Batumi) – 1963 (Armavir)

Russian, Moscow Conservatoire

1941, on a tour in Sochi

?, § 58-10, Part 2; 10 years of camp detention (?)

10 years in prison and camp

Vladimir Markushevich, ‘Matvey Stepanovich Pavlov-Azancheyev’, in: Gitaristï i kompozitorï, http://abc-guitar.narod.ru/pages/pavlov_azancheev.htm (accessed 16 July 2009).

Popov, Yevgeny Vasil’yevich, ?




Imprisoned in the Pechorlag

http://gulagmuseum.org/showObject.do?object=1433798 (accessed 23 May 2011).

Moscow Conservatoire

Protopopov, Sergey Vladimirovich, 1893 (Moscow) – 1954 (Moscow)

Russian, Kiev Conservatoire

04.03.1934, Moscow

Special Council of the OGPU, 04.04.1934, resolution of the TsIK SSSR of 17.12.1933, 3 years of camp detention

2 years and 3 months in prison and camp

Inna Klause, ‘Sergej Protopopov – ein Komponist im Gulag’, Die Musikforschung, 63 (2010), 134–46. (p.207)

Prozorovsky, Boris Alekseyevich, 1891 (Voronezh) – 1937 (near Khabarovsk)

Russian, trained physician

a) February 1925, Moscow

?, accused of bribery, 3 years’ exile from Moscow


http://lists.memo.ru/d27/f252.htm; Sergey Smetanin, ‘Boris Prozorovsky’, http://a-pesni.golosa.info/romans/prozorovsky/a-prozorovsky.htm (accessed 2 June 2011).

b) 20.11.1930, Leningrad

Troika of the authorised agency of the OGPU for the Leningrad Military District, 20.02.1931, § 58-10-11; 10 years of camp detention

2 years and several months in prison and camp

c) 1935, Moscow (?)


Exiled to Svobodnïy, near Blagoveshchensk

d) 1937, camp near Khabarovsk

Death by firing squad

Death by firing squad

Rassadin, Oleg Leonidovich, ?



?, 1936, ?, 8 years of camp detention

8 years in prison and camp

http://gulagmuseum.org/showObject.do?object=621592 (accessed 23 May 2011).

Reimers, Vilis, 1910 (Riga) – ?

Latvian, Riga Conservatoire

03.07.46, ?

?, 10.10.1946, treason, 20 years of camp detention

10 years in prison and camp

http://vip.latnet.lv/lpra/muziki.htm (accessed 2 June 2011).

Ris, Renė Lyudvigovich, 1908 – ?


?, Moscow



http://lists.memo.ru/d28/f135.htm (accessed 2 June 2011).

Rosner, Adolf (Eddie), 1910 (Berlin) – 1976 (Berlin)

Polish-Jewish, Stern Conservatoire and Hochschule für Musik Berlin

November 1946, L’vov (Lemberg)

Special Council of the MGB SSSR, 07.07.1947, § 58-1a, 10 years of camp detention

Almost 8 years in prison and camp

Yury Tseytlin, Vzlyotï i padeniya velikogo trubacha Eddi Roznera (Moscow, Oniks, 1993); Gertrud Pickhan and Maximilian Preisler, Von Hitler vertrieben, von Stalin verfolgt. Der Jazzmusiker Eddie Rosner (Berlin, be.bra wissenschaft verlag, 2010); Dmitry Dragilyov, Eddi Rozner: Shmalyayem dzhaz, kholera yasna! (Nizhniy Novgorod, DEKOM, 2011). (p.208)

Rozanov, Aleksandr Semyonovich, 1910 (St Petersburg) – 1994


1933, Leningrad

? 5 years of camp detention

4½ years in prison and camp

Valentina Kotlyarova, ‘Aleksandr Rozanov’, http://www.cio.arcticsu.ru/projects/pr1200/kirovsk.htm; Valentina Kotlyarova, ‘Pianist’, http://www.cio.arcticsu.ru/projects/pr1200/konservatoriya.htm (accessed 31 October 2011).

Leningrad Conservatoire

Rusakov, Paul Marcel (Pavel) Aleksandrovich, 1908 (Marseille) – 1973 (Leningrad)

Ukrainian (emigrant family from Russia), Leningrad Conservatoire

02.06.1937, Leningrad

Troika of the UNKVD for the Leningrad region, 20.11.1937, membership in an anti-Soviet organisation, death by firing squad, changed to 10 years of camp detention

10 years in prison and camp

Natal’ya Lartseva, Teatr rasstrelyannïy (Petrozavodsk, Petropress, 1998), pp. 83–4, 154; http://www.requiem.spb.ru/list/person.php3?id=315&y=1 (accessed 24 May 2011); P. Ozhegin, ‘Zagadochnïy Pol’ Marsel’’, in Viktor Berdinskikh (ed.), Istoriya odnogo lagerya (Vyatlag) (Moscow, Agraf, 2001), pp. 256–9.

Samts, Edgars, 1909 (Riga) – 1941/42 (Astrakhan’)

Latvian, Riga Conservatoire

13.04.1941, Riga


Death by firing squad

http://vip.latnet.lv/lpra/muziki.htm (accessed 2 June 2011).

Shtrassenburg, Stanislav Kazimirovich, 1893 (Nikolayev) – 27.08.1937 (Leningrad)

Pole, ?

07.08.1937, Leningrad

Commission of the NKVD and the Public Prosecutor’s office of the USSR, 25.08.1937, § 58-10-11, death by firing squad

20 days in prison, death by firing squad

http://lists.memo.ru/d37/f347.htm (accessed 2 June 2011). (p.209)

Shutenko, Taisiya Ivanovna, 1905 (Khar’kov) – 1975 (Kiev)

Ukrainian, Moscow Conservatoire

1937, Moscow

Relative of a traitor

7 years in prison and camp

Bernandt and Dolzhansky, Sovetskiye kompozitorï, pp. 672–3; A. Bernshteyn, ‘Muzïiternii’, Muzykal’naya zhizn’, 17 (1990), 27; Anton Mukha, Kompozytory Ukraïny ta ukraïnskoï dyaspory (Kiev, Muz. Ukraïna, 2004), p. 334.

Silis, Artūrs, 1904 (Valmieras apr., Katvaru pag.) – 1943 (Siberia)

Latvian, Riga Conservatoire

1941, Ventspils


2 years in prison and camp, death in the camp

http://vip.latnet.lv/lpra/muziki.htm (accessed 2 June 2011).

Sorokin, Vladimir Konstantinovich, 1914 (Polotsk) – ?





Card index of Memorial St Petersburg; Keldïsh, Muzïkal’naya ėntsiklopediya, 5, column 216.

Leningrad Conservatoire

Tatarinov, Boris Nikolayevich, ?


1943 (?), Kiev

?, 1943, § 58, ?

Imprisoned in the Gorlag (special camp of the Noril’ lag)

http://www.memorial.krsk.ru/martirol/tas_taia.htm (accessed 24 May 2011); Ėduard Tarakanov, ‘“Gde tï – blagoslovennoye, trepetnoye, romanticheskoye, ZHIVOYE televideniye?”’, in Galina Kasabova (ed.), O vremeni, o Noril’ske, o sebe …, vol. 9 (Moscow, ‘PoliMEdia’, 2007), p. 527.3

Terpilovsky, Genrikh Romanovich, 1908 (Novgorod) – 1988 (Perm’)

Pole, higher education

a) 1935, Leningrad

Exile to Alma-Ata

2 years’ exile

http://lists.memo.ru/d32/f226.htm; http://www.sakharov-center.ru/asfcd/auth/authord662.html?id=1031 (accessed 22 May 2011). (p.210)

b) 29.10.1937, Alma-Ata

Troika of the UNKVD for the Alma-Ata region, 25.11.1937, § 58-10; 10 years of camp detention

10 years in prison and camp

c) 15.06.1949, Perm’

Exile to the Krasnoyarsk region Camp detention

2 years’ exile 2 years of camp detention

d) Summer 1951, village of Atamanovo, Krasnoyarsk region

Turenkov, Aleksey Evlampiyevich, 1886 (St Petersburg) – 1958 (Minsk)

Russian, St Petersburg Conservatoire

22.07.1944, Minsk

Judicial committee, 23.06.1945, § 63-1 of the penal code of the BSSR (aiding the German occupiers), 10 years of camp detention and 5 years’ revocation of civil rights


http://lists.memo.ru/d33/f87.htm (accessed 2 June 2011); Keldïsh, Muzïkal’naya ėntsiklopediya, 5, column 639.

Val’dgardt, Pavel Petrovich, 1904 (Tambov) – 1978 (Moscow)


10.01.1929, Leningrad

Special Council of the Leningrad OGPU, 22.07.1929, membership in the circle Voskreseniye (Resurrection or Sunday), 3 years of camp detention

3 years in prison and camp

http://lists.memo.ru/d6/f150.htm#n76 (accessed 2 June 2011).

Leningrad Conservatoire

Varlamov, Aleksandr Vladimirovich, 1904 (Simbirsk) – 1990 (Moscow)

Russian, specialist college (Moscow Gnesin Institute)

1943, Moscow

?, § 58; 8 years of camp detention followed by ‘perpetual exile’

8 years in prison and camp and 5 years’ exile

Memorial Moscow: F. 1, op. 1, d. 704; Nina Zavadskaya, ‘Ostanovlennoye vremya’, Muzïkal’naya zhizn’, 7 (1989), 26–8; Arnol’d Volyntsev, ‘Aleksandr Varlamov’, in Dzhazovïye portrety (= Molodyozhnaya ėstrada. Literaturno-muzïkal’nïy al’manakh), 5 (1999), 19–21.

Vasil’yev, Panteleymon Ivanovich, 1891 (Moscow) – 1977 (Moscow)

Russian, Moscow Conservatoire

1934 (?), Moscow


4 years in prison and camp (?)

http://lists.memo.ru/d6/f283.htm; http://www.proza.ru/2010/03/10/404 (accessed 2 June 2011). (p.211)

Vaynberg, Moisey Samuilovich, 1919 (Warsaw) – 1996 (Moscow)

Jewish, Warsaw and Minsk Conservatoires

07.02.1953, Moscow

78 days’ remand

Lecture of Inna Barsova at the symposium Composers in the Gulag, Göttingen, 16–19 June 2010; Inna Barsova, ‘Sem’desyat vosem’ dney i nochey v zastenke: kompozitor Mechislav Vaynberg’, Nauchnïy vestnik Moskovskoy konservatorii, 2 (2014), 90–104.

Veprik, Aleksandr Moiseyevich, 1899 (Odessa region) – 1958 (Moscow)

Jewish, Hochschule für Musik Leipzig, Leningrad and Moscow Conservatoire

20.12.1950, Moscow

Special Council, April 1951, § 58-10; 8 years of camp detention

3 years and 8 months in prison and camp

Jascha Nemtsov, ‘“Ich bin schon längst tot”. Komponisten im Gulag: Vsevolod Zaderackij und Aleksandr Veprik’, in Manfred Sapper, Volker Weichsel and Andrea Huterer (eds.), Das Lager schreiben. Varlam Šalamov und die Aufarbeitung des Gulag (= Osteuropa, 2007, No. 6) (Berlin, BWV, 2007), pp. 315–39.

Vettik, Tuudur, 1898 (Uniküla) – 1982 (Tallinn)

Estonian, Tallinn Conservatoire

1950, Tallinn


6 years in prison and camp

http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tuudur_Vettik (accessed 2 June 2011).

Veys, Pavel Filippovich, 1905 (Igló/Nová Ves, Hungary, today Czech Republic) – ?

Hungarian, Hochschule für Musik Berlin (pupil of Paul Hindemith)

26.07.1937, Semipalatinsk

Troika of the UNKVD, 01.12.1937, ?, 10 years of camp detention

? (starting from 1951 in Ukhta)

http://lists.memo.ru/d6/f400.htm; http://dic.academic.ru/dic.nsf/enc_biography/128411/Вейс (accessed 2 June 2011).

Vygodsky, Nikolay Yakovlevich, 1990 (St Petersburg) – 1939




In the second half of the 1920s on the Solovki

Rustem Valayev, ‘Les’ Kurbas na Solovkakh’, Teatral’naya zhizn’, 7 (1989), 26; http://mosconsv.ru/page.phtml?11094#prokoll (with photo); http://www.mmv.ru/p/organ/vygod-sky.htm (accessed 8 November 2008).

Tiflis and Moscow Conservatoires

(p.212) Zaderatsky, Vsevolod Petrovich, 1891 (Rovno, Ukraine) – 1953 (L’vov)

Russian, Moscow Conservatoire

a) 1920, at the front

Captivity as a member of the White Army

2 years in captivity

Nemtsov, ‘“Ich bin schon längst tot”’, pp. 315–39; Vsevolod Zaderatsky, Per aspera… (Moscow, Kompozitor, 2009); Vsevolod Zaderatsky, ‘Poteryavshayasya stranitsa kul’turï’, Muzïkal’naya akademiya, 3 (2005), 75–83; 4 (2005), 67–75; and 1 (2006), 74–81.

b) 1926 (?), Ryazan’ c) May 1937, Yaroslavl’


2 years in prison (?)

c) May 1937, Yaroslavl’

Special Council of the court the Yaroslavl’ region, 08.08.1937, § 58-10; 6 years of camp detention

Almost 2 years in prison and camp

Zhilyayev, Nikolay Sergeyevich, 1881 (Kursk) – 20.01.1938 (Moscow)


03.11.1937, Moscow

Military Collegium of the USSR Supreme Court, 20.01.1938, § 58-1a-8-11, death by firing squad and confiscation of personal property

2½ months in prison, death by firing squad

Inna Barsova, ‘Opfer stalinis-tischen Terrors: Nikolaj Žiljaev’, in Friedrich Geiger and Eckhard John (eds.), Musik zwischen Emigration und Stalinismus (Stuttgart/Weimar, Metzler, 2004), pp. 149–57; Inna Barsova (ed.), Nikolay Sergeyevich Zhilyayev. Trudï, dni i gibel’ (Moscow, Muzyka, 2008).

Moscow Conservatoire

Zolts, Pēteris, 1892 (Nītaurē) – 1987 (Tyumen’)

Latvian, Moscow Conservatoire

31.01.45, ?

?, 10 years of camp detention

11 years and 8 months in prison and camp

http://vip.latnet.lv/lpra/muziki.htm (accessed 2 June 2011). (p.213)

(1) The nationality of the convicted prisoners was almost invariably recorded. Since Judaism was considered a nationality in the Soviet Union, this information is shown in the table to indicate the potential importance of anti-Semitism as a factor in their arrest.

(2) The number following the § symbol refers to the article of the Soviet penal code under which the prisoner was sentenced: see the next section.

(3) The score of a ballad by Tatarinov entitled Dumï moi, dumï, is preserved in RGALI in the archive of the singer Maksim Mikhaylov, f. 2725, op. 1, ed. 10, ll. 53–6.

Yevgeny Ėpshteyn reports that when Sergey Prokofiev’s first wife Lina was arrested, the Chekists seized music manuscripts as well as letters, documents and photographs.51


Since the information presented in the table is incomplete in many respects (as is evident from the number of question marks), the statistics in the commentary that follows must often be regarded as minimum figures. By far the greatest number of arrests (sixteen) took place in 1937 during the Great Terror (see Figure 9.1). Many arrests were also made during the war years and in 1950. Six of the eight arrests made in 1950 occurred in the Baltic Republics (three Estonian and three Latvian composers).

At least nineteen of those affected were arrested in Moscow and ten in Leningrad. At a minimum, forty-five had received a third-level education—fourteen at the Moscow Conservatoire and ten at the St Petersburg/Leningrad Conservatoire. Russian nationals were most strongly represented, with at least seventeen victims—a proportion that corresponds to the general trend in the Gulag as a whole.52 Latvians form the second largest group with eleven internees, but this number must be interpreted with caution: the author was able to draw on the findings of research undertaken in Latvia about the fates of Latvian composers, so the chance circumstance that more information happened to be available about this group definitely skews the statistics.53 Jewish composers are represented by at least six people. Such a high percentage does not correspond to the general Gulag trend, and may indicate that the proportion of Jewish victims among musicians was possibly higher than that of Jewish internees in general. The low number of women—a mere two composers—can be attributed to the fact that the percentage of women in the Gulag was generally low (approximately 5.9 per cent in 1934, 9.2 per cent in 1942 and 19 per cent in 1948),54 as was the proportion of women in the Composers’ Union.

The music written by the internees comprises different types, genres and styles: romansï and songs by Boris Fomin, Vadim Kozin, Boris Prozorovsky or Paul Marcel Rusakov; mass songs by Yuly Khayt; sacred songs by Al’bert Keshe; jazz by Zinovy Binkin, David Geygner, Eddie Rosner, Genrikh (p.214)

Composers in the Gulag: A Preliminary Survey

Figure 9.1 Number of composers interned per year

Composers in the Gulag: A Preliminary Survey

Figure 9.2 Age of composers at time of arrest

Terpilovsky and Aleksandr Varlamov; and so-called ‘serious music’ by Aleksandr Kenel’, Aleksandr Mosolov, Mikhail Nosyrev, Sergey Protopopov, Moisey Vaynberg, Aleksandr Veprik, Vsevolod Zaderatsky and others.

The average age of the composers when arrested was 41, so it was principally established artists who were removed from musical life, as can be seen from Figure 9.2.

Many of the imprisoned composers held key positions in the musical world, conducting orchestras (Zinovy Binkin, David Geygner, Matvey Pavlov-Azancheyev, Eddie Rosner and Aleksandr Varlamov), writing incidental music for theatres (Aleksandr Kenel’ and Paul Marcel Rusakov) and teaching in specialist music colleges (Pavel Val’dgardt) or conservatoires (Irena (p.215) Bergmane, Jekabs Graubiņš and Nikolay Zhilyayev). Others were still in the middle of their studies, such as Georgiy Kirkor and Mikhail Nosyrev.

In all save three cases in which a court passed judgement, and thirty-four in which the sentencing body is unknown, the composers were tried extra-judicially, usually by special councils (osobïye soveshchaniya) of the OGPU or the NKVD, as was customary at the period. By far the most judgements, at least thirty-six, were made in accordance with the notorious section 58 of the penal code of the RSFSR (Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic) or section 54 of the penal code of the Ukrainian SSR, both of which were invoked to combat ‘counter-revolutionary activity’. In twenty-six cases, the reason for the conviction is unknown; homosexuality was punished four times. Figure 9.3 shows the sentences passed, insofar as they are known.

Ten composers were sentenced to execution by firing squad. Nine of these death sentences were pronounced and carried out in the second half of 1937 and the first half of 1938, when the Great Terror was at its height. During this period over 1.7 million people were arrested and at least 725,000 of them were killed in this manner.55 The death sentence was passed, for example, on the distinguished musicologist and composer Nikolay Zhilyayev, who had studied composition under Sergey Taneyev and Mikhail Ippolitov-Ivanov. By the time of his arrest, he had ceased composing, but continued to teach a composition class at the Moscow Conservatoire. His arrest resulted from his friendship with Marshal Mikhail Tukhachevsky, who was executed in June 1937.

Composers in the Gulag: A Preliminary Survey

Figure 9.3 Trial outcomes


Composers in the Gulag: A Preliminary Survey

Figure 9.4 Fates of composers after sentencing (if known)

Composers did not necessarily serve their sentences in full—sometimes because they died in the camps, as can be seen from Figure 9.4.

All of the death sentences passed were carried out. At least five composers died because of living conditions in the camps, and at least two were shot there. In four cases, data is missing on the duration of the period of detention actually served. At least twenty-six composers were imprisoned for between five and fifteen years or more, and some had to live in exile for lengthy periods upon their release, such as Vladimir Mikosho, Mikhail Nosyrev, Aleksandr Rozanov and Aleksandr Varlamov. Some never returned to their original place of residence, but remained in provincial towns, including Sergey Kaydan-Dyoshkin, Aleksandr Kenel’, Vladimir Mikosho and Mikhail Nosyrev. The contributions that these and other previously incarcerated musicians made to improving the quality of musical life in the provinces has yet to be adequately documented. The fact of being a musician helped some (p.217) composers to survive the inhuman conditions in the camps. For example, Vadim Kozin, Mikhail Nosyrev, Eddie Rosner and Paul Marcel Rusakov worked in camp theatres and were spared hard labour, at least for a time. But abilities other than purely musical ones also contributed to their survival. For example, Sergey Protopopov related in his letters from the camp to Boleslav Yavorsky and others that he was allowed to work as a medical orderly and thus enjoyed certain privileges.56 Vsevolod Zaderatsky survived Kolyma because he was a highly gifted raconteur and told stories to the staff and his fellow prisoners, which enlivened the soul-destroying daily routine of camp life.57

This initial study, which almost certainly only reveals the tip of the iceberg, makes it clear that the loss of so many Soviet composers should not be underestimated. The various musical domains in which they worked were weakened by the wound that their imprisonment, and that of numerous other musicians, inflicted upon Soviet musical life.58 Although the gaps that they left could generally be filled, thanks to the rigorous standards of Soviet musical training, one can only conjecture how Soviet musical life might have developed if it had not sustained these great losses. In view of the large number of victims, which cannot be definitively established at present, it is important to commemorate these musicians in narratives of music history in order to allow their ‘unhappened history’ to become somewhat more tangible. As Mstislav Rostropovich pointed out in a passage in his 1988 preface to the Russian version of Yury Yelagin’s book The Taming of the Arts: ‘Our history was falsified for so long, so persistently, and so relentlessly, that it will require the efforts of several thousand people to re-establish the truth—including the truth about the history of our art [of music].’59 With this in mind, it is hoped that the present chapter will serve as a stimulus for further research projects on Soviet musicians who were consigned to the camps. (p.218)


Proceedings of the British Academy, 209, 188–217. © The British Academy 2017.

(1) The term ‘Gulag’ is given in all capitals when it refers to the camps’ central administration and appears with just an initial capital when referring to the camp system as a whole.

(2) Wolfgang Mende, ‘Zensur—Klassenkampf—Säuberung—Beugung—Strafverfolgung. Aleksandr Mosolov und Nikolaj Roslavec im repressiven Netzwerk der sowjetischen Musikpolitik’, in Friedrich Geiger and Eckhard John (eds.), Musik zwischen Emigration und Stalinismus (Stuttgart/Weimar, Metzler, 2004), pp. 70–118 at p. 114.

(3) Pauline Fairclough, ‘Narrative Strategies in Shostakovich’s Fourth Symphony’, in Melanie Unseld and Stefan Weiss (eds.), Der Komponist als Erzähler. Narrativität in Dmitri Schostakowitschs Instrumentalmusik (Hildesheim, Georg Olms Verlag, 2008), pp. 147–65 at p. 147.

(4) Solomon Volkov (ed.), Testimony: The Memoirs of Dmitri Shostakovich, trans. Antonina Bouis (New York, Harper Colophon Books, 1979), p. 120.

(5) http://www.khrennikov.ru/biography. Accessed 2 February 2016.

(6) Yury Yelagin, Ukroshcheniye iskusstv (Moscow, Russkiy put’, 2002), p. 255.

(7) Yevgeny Yevtushenko (ed.), Strofï veka. Antologiya russkoy poėzii.(Minsk and Moscow, Polifakt, 1995), p. 10.

(8) Memorial Archive (Moscow), f. 1, op. 3, d. 1696, l. 3.

(9) Interview with author, 18 December 2007.

(10) Theo Stengel, Lexikon der Juden in der Musik. Mit einem Titelverzeichnis jüdischer Werke (Berlin, Hahnefeld, 1940).

(11) Nicolas Werth, ‘Der Gulag im Prisma der Archive. Zugänge, Erkenntnisse, Ergebnisse’, in Manfred Sapper et al. (eds.), Das Lager schreiben. Varlam Šalamov und die Aufarbeitung des Gulag [= Osteuropa, 2007, No. 6] (Berlin, BWV, 2007), pp. 9–30 at p. 19.

(12) As of September 2007 the card index in Memorial’s St Petersburg branch, which holds data on approximately 12,000 victims, contained 147 names of musicians—about 1.25 per cent of the total. The number could well be larger, as information about the professions of detainees was not always available.

(13) Aleksandr Solzhenitsïn, Arkhipelag GULag. 1918–1956. Opït khudozhestvennogo issledovaniya, I–II (Paris, YMCA-Press, 1973), pp. 25 and 82.

(14) These observations are based on my examination of a small sample of records of investigatory procedures and statements of former prisoners, their relatives and friends. A comprehensive study of this issue would require unrestricted access to interrogation records and other documentation that is currently accessible only to former prisoners and their relatives. Researchers would need to obtain a declaration of consent from the descendants of the parties involved; and if no descendants can be identified, access is impossible.

(15) Jascha Nemtsov, ‘“Ich bin schon längst tot”. Komponisten im Gulag: Vsevolod Zaderackij und Aleksandr Veprik’, in Sapper et al. (eds.), Das Lager schreiben, pp. 315–39 at p. 323.

(16) Memorial Archive (Moscow), f. 1, op. 2, yed. khr. 1446, ll. 4, 4ob.

(17) Memorial Archive (Moscow), f. 1, op. 2, d. 1453, l. 9ob.

(18) The British–American historian Robert Conquest, a leading authority on the Great Terror, similarly argued that anyone was potentially liable to arrest. All groups of artists seem to have been affected to a more or less equal degree: many actors, musicians and dancers ended up in the camps. Conquest gives the example of a conductor named Mikoladze, who was shot in 1937. (See Robert Konkvest, ‘Bol’shoy Terror’, Neva, 6 (1990), 136–59 at 157–8.) Yevgeny Mikoladze’s arrest was described by Nina Dzhibuti in Lev Lur’ye’s 2008 film Podsudimïy Beriya (http://www.ruarchive.com/archives/375. Accessed 5 June 2011). Roy Medvedev also mentions this conductor among the victims of the latter half of the 1930s, though gives his surname as ‘Mikeladze’. Roy Medvedev, O Staline i stalinizme (Moscow, Progress, 1990), p. 399.

(20) Amongst the arrested musicians was the violinist Klara Khudyakova (1901–1973), who subsequently performed in the camp theatre of Pot’ma in Mordovia: see A. Bernshteyn, ‘Muzï i ternii’, Muzïkal’naya zhizn’, 17 (1990), 25–8 at 27. Condemned to eight years detention as ‘a relative of a traitor to the fatherland’, she was released in 1943 after a serious operation, thanks to a physician who had certified an incorrect diagnosis for her: see ‘Martyrologium’, Teatral’naya zhizn’, 3 (1990), 33.

(22) I.P. Abramsky (ed.), Bol’shoy teatr SSSR. Opera, balet (Moscow, Gosudarstvennoye muzïkal’noye izdatel’stvo, 1958), p. 24.

(24) RGALI, f. 648, op. 8, ed. 53, ll. 6–9. These lists would almost certainly have been compiled at the request of the NKVD—but this assumption would have to be verified by consulting the NKVD archives, which is currently impossible.

(33) Yu. Blinov et al. (eds.), Butovskiy poligon. 1937–1938 godï. Kniga pamyati zhertv politicheskikh repressiy, vïp. 1 (Moscow, Panorama, 1997), p. 39.

(35) Yevgeny Ėpshteyn, ‘Iskusstvo za kolyuchey provolokoy’, Muzïkal’naya zhizn’, 24 (1990), 8–10 at 9.

(37) Archive of the Bakhrushin Theatre Museum (Moscow), f. 660, yed. khr. 1, ll. 4, 7, 12, 54.

(38) Memorial’s database Zhertvï politicheskogo terrora v SSSR [Victims of the Political Terror in the USSR], which can be consulted online at http://lists.memo.ru, is still the most extensive repository of its kind, though it is far from exhaustive: it contains over 2,600,000 names, an estimated 13–20 per cent of the total number of Gulag inmates. Although the data on internees is not always complete (many records, for example, do not record prisoners’ occupations), its value as a resource can hardly be overestimated.

(39) This estimate was suggested by Vitaly Shentalinsky at the symposium Composers in the Gulag, Göttingen, 16–19 June 2010.

(40) Ts. Yampol’skaya et al., Tvorcheskiye soyuzï v SSSR (organizatsionno-pravovïye voprosï) (Moscow, Yuridicheskaya literatura, 1970), p. 45.

(41) ‘Pis’mo iz 37-go’, Teatral’naya zhizn’, 7 (1988), 13–14.

(42) Inna Klause, ‘Musikausübung als Beitrag zur Stärkung der Identität. Musizierende Frauen im Gulag von 1937–1953’, in Nina Noeske and Melanie Unseld (eds.), Blickwechsel Ost|West. Gender-Topographien (Hildesheim, Olms, 2009), pp. 69–82 at pp. 80–2.

(43) Alexander Solschenizyn, Der Archipel GULAG. Folgeband. Arbeit und Ausrottung, Seele und Stacheldraht (Bern, Scherz, 1974), pp. 468–9.

(44) Nadezhda Kravets, ‘Shest’ let “rezhima”’, Sovetskaya muzïka, 9 (1988), 80–7 at 86.

(45) Nikolay Antsiferov, Iz dum o bïlom. Vospominaniya (Moscow, Feniks, 1992), p. 383.

(46) Alexander Solschenizyn, Nobelpreis-Rede über die Literatur 1970 (Munich, dtv, 1973), p. 19.

(48) Alexander Demandt, Ungeschehene Geschichte. Ein Traktat über die Frage: Was wäre geschehen, wenn…? (Göttingen, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1984). Demandt introduced this term to refer to speculative retrospective constructions of alternative possible courses of history. The author considered the transferability of this model of ‘unhappened history’ to the fates of persecuted Soviet musicians in the following chapter: ‘Rol’ repressiy v SSSR v dele marginalizatsii kompozitorov (1920–1950-e gg.)’, in Lyudmila Kovnatskaya (ed.), Sever v traditsionnïkh kul’turakh i professional’nïkh kompozitorskikh shkolakh (Petrozavodsk, Izdatel’stvo PetrGU, 2012), pp. 192–203. Needless to add, in this new context, the term loses its original playful connotation.

(50) Allegedly, the Chekists even burnt three letters of Immanuel Kant that they had confiscated: see Medvedev, O Staline i stalinizme, pp. 398, 459–60.

(51) Yevgeniy Ėpshteyn, ‘Moskva, sotvori blagodarnuyu pamyat’!’, Muzïkal’naya zhizn’, 17 (1993), 7.

(52) See Viktor Zemskov, ‘GULAG (istoriko-sotsiologicheskiy aspekt)’, Sotsiologicheskiye issledovaniya,6 (1991), 10–27; and 7 (1991), 3–16.

(53) http://vip.latnet.lv/lpra/muziki.htm. Accessed 2 June 2011.

(55) http://lists.memo.ru. Accessed 3 July 2011.

(56) VMOMK, f. 329, yed. khr. 670, ll. 5, 5ob, 7; yed. khr. 673, l. 6.

(57) V. Zaderatsky, ‘Poteryavshayasya stranitsa kulturï’, Muzïkal’naya akademiya, 3 (2005), 75–83 at 81.

(58) See Inna Klause, Der Klang des Gulag. Musik und Musiker in den sowjetischen Zwangsarbeitslagern der 1920er-bis 1950er-Jahre (Göttingen, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2014).