Short Biography: Maxim Gorky

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Maxim Gorky
Russian short story writer, novelist, autobiographer and essayist, whose life was deeply interwoven with the tumultuous revolutionary period of his own country. Gorky ended his long career as the preeminent spokesman for culture under the Soviet regime of Joseph Stalin. Gorky formulated the central principles of Socialist Realism, which became doctrine in Soviet literature. The rough, socially conscious naturalism of Gorky was described by Chekhov as "a destroyer bound to destroy everything that deserved destruction." LIFE

Maxim Gorky whose real name was Aleksei Maximovich Peshkov, was born on March 16, 1868, in the Volga River city of Nizhny Novgorod, which in 1932 was renamed Gorky in his honor. His father, a cabinetmaker, died when Gorky was 4 years old, and the boy was raised in harsh circumstances by his maternal grandparents, the proprietors of a dye works. From the age of 10 Gorky was virtually on his own, and he worked at a great variety of occupations, among them shopkeeper's errand boy, dishwasher on a Volga steamer, and apprentice to an icon maker. At a very tender age he saw a great deal of the brutal, seamy side of life and stored up impressions and details for the earthy and starkly realistic stories, novels, plays, and memoirs which he later wrote. He was self-taught in many areas, including literature, philosophy, and history, both Russian and Western. In 1884 Gorky moved to Kazan, dreaming of entering university. That didn’t come to happen because of lack of money. Instead he enrolled in the “revolutionary underground school.” He attended gymnasium and university populist clubs, reading the relevant literature and fighting with police. At the same time he earned his living doing menial work. In December 1887 a series of misfortunes led him to a suicide attempt. After that, Gorky traveled around Russia in search of a job and experience. He traveled to the Volga Region, the Don, Ukraine, Crimea, South Bessarabia (now part of Moldova) and the Caucasus. He worked as a labourer in a village, a dishwasher, a railroad guard and a worker at a fishery, a salt-works and a repair workshop. At the same time he managed to get acquainted with people from arts circles, take part in clashes with police and earn an overall reputation as an “untrustworthy” individual. In his travels, he collected prototypes for his future characters, which can be seen in his early works, where the characters were people from the “bottom” echelons of society. In 1895 he was appointed at the “Samara Newspaper” (“Samarskaya gazeta”), where he wrote daily articles for the gossip column “By the Way” (“Mezhdu prochim”), signing them as Iegudiil Khlamida. While at the paper he met Ekaterina Volzhina, an editor, whom he married a year later. In 1897 he suffered from aggravated tuberculosis and moved to the Crimea together with his wife. Later they moved to the village of Maksatikha in Ukraine’s Poltava Region. That same year, his son Maksim was born. At the beginning of 1898 Gorky returned to Nizhniy Novgorod and in April 1901 Gorky was detained in Nizhniy Novgorod for having taken part in student unrest in St. Petersburg. Later he was expelled to Arazmus. Gorky was elected an honorary academic of polite literature. However, under Emperor Nikolay II’s order, the result of the election was annulled. In 1903 he broke up with his wife and in 1904, the Moscow Theatre Actress Maria Andreeva became his common law wife. In 1905 Gorky was an active participant in the revolution. He was a close associate of the social-democrats but at the same time, on the eve of “Bloody Sunday” (a key moment in Russia’s history, which served as a trigger for the 1905 Revolution) he visited Sergey Witte, the author of the October Manifesto of 1905, and together with a group of intellectuals he tried to prevent the tragedy. After the revolution Gorky was arrested on charges of preparing a coup d'état, but both Russian and European cultural figures rose up to...
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