Evidence that the Communist
regime of the Soviet Union might have wilfully starved Boris Pasternak to death
emerged in a book, Moscow: Under the Skin,
written by an Italian journalist, Viro Roberti.
Roberti interviewed the
great author of
times during the ordeal. On
March 15, 1960, Roberti met Pasternak, who was
emaciated and sickly looking. The novelist told the interviewer, "I have been
expelled from the Union of Soviet Writers so that I shall starve. No one
publishes my poetry or my translations anymore, which was my daily bread. The
first payments from my editor have been confiscated by order of the authorities
Pasternak died ten weeks later, on May 30, 1960. The monopoly
State, it seems, had exercised the full logic of its power, disallowing a
genius, who had been but mildly critical of communism in Dr Zhivago, the right even to eat.
"In a February 21, 1966 newsletter, I wrote,
may be defined as government by potential starvation. I have frequently
tried to illustrate this power by the case of Boris Pasternak … I have
repeatedly raised the question of whether he starved to death … I have
never stated that the communists did starve him to death but have insisted
that their system gave them the power to starve him and have questioned
whether they did so. The same power controls all employment, all banks, all
stores, all law courts, and all communications. The plight of an individual
who falls foul of this power is obvious. Once dismissed from his job, he
cannot secure another; if he has savings in the bank, he cannot withdraw
them; he has no prospect of legal redress; he cannot sell his possessions;
and he has no free press to publicize his condition. He retains the freedom
"There is now evidence from his own statements that
Pasternak himself was vitally concerned with this possibility. This evidence
is presented in a book, Moscow Under the
Skin, written by an Italian journalist, Viro Roberti, who interviewed
Pasternak several times during his ordeal."
Schwarz, Dr Fred, The Three Faces
of Revolution, Prospect House, Washington, USA, 1972, pp. 43 - 48
"Suddenly (Pasternak's) eyes lit up and in a harsh voice
he exclaimed: 'They have taken away this money in the hope that I will go
down on my knees and disown my novel and my poetry. But nothing will ever make
me yield … I yield only to
"Two days later the same friend, whose name I cannot reveal,
came to see me at the Central Telegraph Office and told me that Boris
Pasternak was 'gol kak sokol' (hungry as a hawk), extremely poor and had to
borrow money to exist. 'All his works have been ostracised. Boris
Leonidovich is unaware that his brother Alexander helps him and seeks help
for him from his friends. If he knew this he would rather starve to death.
He is also very ill!'"
Viro, Roberti, Moscow:
Under the Skin, Geoffrey Bles,
London, 1961, pp. 212 - 216
All media in
the Soviet Union were controlled by the state including television and radio
broadcasting, newspaper, magazine and
This was achieved by ownership of all production
facilities, thus making all those employed in media state employees. This
extended to the fine arts including the theater, opera and ballet. Art and Music was
controlled by ownership of distribution and performance venues.
Like a beast in a
pen, I'm cut off
From my friends, freedom, the sun,
But the hunters are gaining ground.
I've nowhere else to run.
and the bank of a pond,
Trunk of a fallen tree.
There's no way forward, no way back.
It's all up with me.
Am I a
gangster or murderer?
Of what crime do I stand
Condemned? I made the whole world weep
At the beauty of my land.
one step from my grave,
I believe that cruelty, spite,
The powers of darkness will in time
Be crushed by the spirit of light.
beaters in a ring close in
With the wrong prey in view,
I've nobody at my right hand,
Nobody faithful and true.
such a noose on my throat
I should like for one second
My tears to be wiped away
By someone at my right hand.
Boris Pasternak, 1959