Korney Chukovsky was one of the most popular children's poets in the Russian language. His poems, Doctor Aybolit (Айболит), The Giant Roach (Тараканище), The Crocodile (Крокодил), and Wash'em'clean (Мойдодыр) have been favourites with many generations of Russophone children. He also was an influential literary critic and essayist.
Chukovsky was affiliated with Factography and the Left Front of the Arts (Levyi Front Iskusstv—Левый фронт искусств), a wide-ranging association of avant-garde writers, photographers, critics, and designers in the Soviet Union, and their journal, LEF (ЛЕФ). It had two runs, one from 1923 to 1925, as LEF, and later from 1927 to 1929, as Novyi LEF (New LEF). The journal's objective, as set out in one of its first issues, was to "re-examine the ideology and practices of so-called leftist art, and to abandon individualism to increase art's value for developing communism." Like many artists, he sought to align his work with state goals. The communists saw the problem of individualism; the pursuit of freedom of expression has no essential content. A meaning that is created by the individual is no meaning at all. In the first giddy days of communism, which had the aura of historical inevitability as the wave of the future, artists attempted to lend their efforts to help create that future. However, communism, too, proved to have no stable truth other than the shifting sands of the party line.
As Dostoevsky had predicted, "Without God, everything is permitted." It took time for the artist community to come to this realization.
After Stalin's death, there was a lessening of the use of terror and repression under Khrushchev. This was extended to literature as well. However, in the mid-1960s, after the Khrushchev Thaw was reversed by the Brezhnev regime's crackdown, two authors were arrested and tried for anti-Soviet activities. The Sinyavsky-Daniel trial (Russian: процесс Синявского и Даниэля) became a cause celèbre. Russian writers Andrei Sinyavsky and Yuli Daniel were tried in the Moscow Supreme court, between autumn 1965 and February 1966, presided over by L.P. Smirnov. The writers were accused of having published anti-Soviet material in foreign editorials using the pseudonyms Abram Terz or Абрам Терц (Sinyavsky) and Nikolay Arzhak or Николай Аржак (Daniel). The court sentenced the writers to 5 and 7 years of forced labor.
The affair was accompanied by harsh propaganda campaign in the media. A group of Soviet luminaries sent a letter to Brezhnev asking that he not rehabilitate Stalinism. Chukovsky, already in his 70s, was among the distinguished signatories, which also included academicians Andrei Sakharov, Igor Tamm, Lev Artsimovich, Pyotr Kapitsa, Ivan Maysky, the writer Konstantin Paustovsky, actors Innokenty Smoktunovsky, Maya Plisetskaya, Oleg Yefremov, directors Georgy Tovstonogov, Mikhail Romm, and Marlen Khutsiyev, among others.