Lev Kopelev

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Lev Kopelev (Russian: Лев Копелев, German spelling Lew Kopelew: April 9, 1912 - June 18, 1997) was a Russian author and a dissident.

He was born in Kiev, Ukraine to a middle-class Jewish family. In 1926 his family moved to Kharkov. While being a University student, Kopelev began writing in Russian and Ukrainian languages, some of his articles were published in the Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper.

An idealist Communist and active Bolshevik, he was first arrested in March 1929 for "consorting with Bukharinist and Trotskyist opposition," and spent ten days in prison.

Later he worked as an editor of radio news broadcasts at a Locomotive factory. In 1932, as a correspondent, Kopelev witnessed the NKVD's forced grain requisitioning and the "liquidation" (the Bolshevik term) and deportation of the kulaks. Later he described the Holodomor in his memoirs The Education of a True Believer, quoted in Robert Conquest's The Harvest of Despair (see also Collectivisation in the USSR).

He graduated from Moscow Institute of Foreign Languages and after 1938 he taught at Moscow Institute of Philosophy, Literature and History.

When Great Patriotic War broke out in June 1941, he volunteered for the Red Army and used his knowledge of German to serve as a propaganda officer and an interpreter. When he entered East Prussia with the Red Army, he sharply criticized the atrocities against German civilian population and was arrested and sentenced to a ten-year term in the Gulag for fostering bourgeois humanism and for "compassion towards the enemy". In the sharashka Mavrino he met Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. Kopelev became a prototype for Rubin from The First Circle.

Released in 1954, in 1956 he was rehabilitated. Still an optimist and believer in the ideals of Communism, during the Khrushchev Thaw he restored his CPSU membership. In 1957-1969 he taught in the Moscow Institute of Polygraphy and Institute of History of Arts.

Since 1966 Kopelev actively participated in the human rights and dissident movement. In 1968 he was fired from his job, excluded from the CPSU and the Writers' Union for signing protest letters against persecution of dissidents, publicly supporting Andrei Sinyavsky and Yuli Daniel and actively denouncing the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia. He also protested Solzhenitsyn's expulsion from the Writers' Union and wrote in defense of dissenting General Pyotr Grigorenko, imprisoned at a psikhushka.

Kopelev's books were distributed via samizdat and were published in the West.

For his political activism and contacts with the "West" he was expelled from the CPSU.

As a scientist, Kopelev led a research project on the history of Russian-German cultural links at Berg University. In 1980, while he was on a study trip to Germany, his Soviet citizenship was revoked. After 1981 Kopelev was a Professor at Wuppertal University.

Kopelev is a honorary Ph.D. at University of Cologne and a winner of many international awards. In 1990 Gorbachev returned him Soviet citizenship.

Lev Kopelev died in 1997 in Cologne, Germany.


  • We lived in Moscow (Мы жили в Москве), 1974
  • The Education of a True Believer ("И сотвори себе кумира"), 1976
  • To Be Preserved Forever ("Хранить вечно"), 1976
  • Ease My Sorrows: A Memoir ("Утоли моя печали"), 1981
  • No jail for thought ("О правде и терпимости"), 1982
  • Holy Doctor Fyodor Petrovich ("Святой доктор Федор Петрович"), 1985de:Lew Sinowjewitsch Kopelew

ru:Копелев, Лев Зиновьевич


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