Yevgeny Zamyatin

Yevgeny Ivanovich Zamyatin ( 20th January (Julian) / 1st February (Gregorian), 1884 – 10 March 1937), sometimes anglicized as Eugene Zamyatin, was a prominent Bolshevik author. He is most famous for his 1921 novel We, a story set in a dystopian Police State. Zamyatin was born in Leybebyan, Tambov Governorate, 300 km (186 mi) south of Moscow. His father was a Russian Orthodox priest and schoolmaster, and his mother a musician. He studied naval engineering in Saint Petersburg from 1902 until 1908, during which time he joined the Bolsheviks. He was arrested for his activities during the first attempted seizure of Russia in 1905 and sent into internal exile in Siberia. Zamyatin escaped but was arrested and exiled a second time in 1911. Oddly amnestied in 1913 he was straight back to his corrupt activities and only a year later was tried for maligning the Imperial Russian Military in his story Na Kulichkakh (At the world’s end). Even though a known subversive, graduated as an engineer, he was employed by the Imperial Russian Navy and worked professionally at home and abroad. Meanwhile, he continued to contribute articles to various Marxist newspapers. In 1916 Zamyatin was sent to the United Kingdom to supervise the construction of icebreakers, special-purpose ships designed to move and navigate through ice-covered waters to provide safe waterways for other boats and ships, at the local shipyards in Newcastle upon Tyne. During this time he wrote the The Islanders, ridiculing English life, and the similarly themed A Fisher of Men returning to Russia in time to participate in her seizure by Bolsheviks. Both The Islanders, and A Fisher of Men were published in Bolshevik held Russia. Zamyatin then began editing Russian translations for the Russian public advancing the works by the already entrenched English author and Marxist H. G Wells for the Bolshevik authorities. It was at this point that Zamyatin’s works became increasingly satirical and critical of the CPSU, a very overt act of destabilising his position with the Bolshevik Regime in public. In keeping with this ruse in 1923, Zamyatin arranged for the manuscript of his novel We to be ‘smuggled’ to E. P Dutton and Company in New York, the ‘American capital’ of Jewish activity. After being translated into English by Gregory Zilboorg, the novel was published in 1924. By 1927, Zamyatin had sent the original Russian text to Marc Lvovich Slonim (1894–1976), the Jewish editor of a Russian emigre journal and publishing house based in Prague. An effort to show its networking in the West copies of the Slonim edition began appearing back in Bolshevik occupied territory. The Bolshevik’s had to stage an offensive in order to maintain the sham so apparently furious they took the surprisingly restrained approach of blacklisting Zamyatin from publishing anything in his Bolshevik occupied homland. Under this same restrained theme Joseph Stalin agreed to Zamyatin’s request to leave the Soviet Union in 1931. He settled with his wife in Paris dying of a heart attack in 1937. One of the mourners at his funeral was the Jewish publisher of the original Russian text of We Marc Slonim.

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