Yuli Daniel

From New World Encyclopedia

Yuli Markovich Daniel (Russian: Юлий Маркович Даниэль) (November 15, 1925 – December 30, 1988) was a Soviet dissident writer, poet, translator, political prisoner and gulag survivor. He frequently wrote under the pseudonyms Nikolay Arzhak (Николай Аржак) and Yu. Petrov (Ю.Петров). Daniel was best known for his trial and conviction, along with Andrei Sinyavsky (Abram Tertz), of anti-Soviet slander in 1966, which would mark the official end of the period known as the "Great Thaw." Kicked-off with the publication of Alexander Solzhenitsyn's "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich" in Novy Mir in 1962, the Thaw had been Nikita Khrushchev's attempt to stifle dissent by "letting off some steam with the publication of selected works. The result was an outpouring of dissent.

The trial of Daniel and Sinyavsky was the beginning of another period of literary repession that would continue until the era of glasnost during the Mikhail Gorbachev era.

Early life and World War II

Yuli Daniel was born in Moscow into the family of Yiddish playwright M. Daniel (Mark Meyerovich, Russian: Марк Наумович Меерович), who took the pseudonym Daniel. The famous march song of the Soviet young pioneers, "Орленок" (Young Eagle), was originally written for one of his plays. Daniel's uncle, an ardent revolutionary (alias Liberten), was a member of Comintern who perished in the Great Purge.

In 1942, during Great Patriotic War, Daniel lied about his age and volunteered to serve at the front. He fought in the second Ukrainian and the third Belorussian fronts, in 1944 was heavily wounded in his legs and demobilized due to disability.

Writing and arrest

In 1950, he graduated from Moscow Pedagogical Institute and worked as a school teacher in Kaluga and Moscow regions. He published his poetry translations from a variety of languages. Daniel and his friend Andrei Sinyavsky also wrote satirical novels and smuggled them to France to be published under pseudonyms as тамиздат Tamizdat. (Tamizdat is a linguistic play on самиздат Samizdat, a neologism for self-publishing, a common practice for literary works that could not pass censorship. Tam is Russian for there. Tamizdat means published abroad.)

He married Larisa Bogoraz who later also became a famous dissident. In 1965, Daniel along with Sinyavsky were arrested and tried in the infamous Sinyavsky-Daniel trial. The Sinyavsky-Daniel trial (Russian: процесс Синявского и Даниэля) took place in Moscow Supreme Court, between autumn 1965 and February 1966, presided by L.P. Smirnov. The writers were accused of having published anti-Soviet material in foreign editorials using pseudonyms "Abram Tertz" (Абрам Терц) for Sinyavsky and Nikolay Arzhak (Николай Аржак) for Daniel.

In fact, Daniel and Sinyavsky could not publish their creations in USSR, so they sent them to western countries (mainly, France) for publications under pseudonyms. When KGB revealed the authorship of the novels mentioned, the writers were arrested.

There was a strong pressure on the writers through the mass media,[1] as was typical in the Soviet show trials. Daniel was sentenced to five years of hard labor. On February 14, 1966, Sinyavsky was sentenced to seven years for "anti-Soviet activity." Unprecedented in the USSR, both writers plead not guilty. Neither were allowed to put on a defense.

Prominent French writer and life-long communist sympathizer, Louis Aragon, wrote about the trial: "To make opinion a crime is something more harmful to the future of socialism than the works of these two writers could ever have been. It leaves a bit of fear in our hearts that one may think this type of trial is inherent in the nature of Communism."[2]

The affair was accompanied by harsh propaganda campaign in the media. A group of Soviet luminaries sent a letter to Leonid Brezhnev asking not to rehabilitate Stalinism. Among the signatories were the academicians Andrei Sakharov, Igor Tamm, Lev Artsimovich, Pyotr Kapitsa, Ivan Maysky, writers Konstantin Paustovsky, Korney Chukovsky, actors Innokenty Smoktunovsky, Maya Plisetskaya, Oleg Yefremov, directors Georgy Tovstonogov, Mikhail Romm, Marlen Khutsiyev and others. Several people, including Larisa Bogoraz, sent independent letters in support of Siniavski and Daniel.

Late years

After four years of captivity in Mordovia labor camps and one year in Vladimir prison, Daniel refused to emigrate (as was customary among Soviet dissidents) and lived in Kaluga.

Before his death, Bulat Okudzhava acknowledged that some translations published under Okudzhava's name were ghostwritten by Daniel who was on the list of authors banned to be published in the USSR.


According to Fred Coleman, "Historians now have no difficulty pinpointing the birth of the modern Soviet dissident movement. It began in February 1966 with the trial of Andrei Sinyavsky and Yuli Daniel, two Russian writers who ridiculed the Communist regime in satires smuggled abroad and published under pen names... Little did they realize at the time that they were starting a movement that would help end Communist rule."[3]

The trial of Sinyavsky and Daniel brought to the end the period of Khruschev's liberalism (Khrushchev Thaw), and helped to initiate the retrenchment associated with the Brezhnev's epoch (Brezhnev Stagnation).


  1. Secret protocol of Central Committee of Communist party about restriction of publicity of the Daniel-Sinyavsky trail (in Russian) Retrieved February 14, 2008.
  2. A Bit of Fear. "Time magazine" Retrieved February 14, 2008.
  3. Fred Coleman, The Decline and Fall of Soviet Empire : Forty Years That Shook The World, From Stalin to Yeltsin (St. Martin’s Griffin, 1997, ISBN 0-312-16816-0), 95.


  • "Бегство" (The Escape), 1956
  • "Говорит Москва" (Report from Moscow), 1959
  • "Человек из МИНАПа" (A Man from MINAP), 1960
  • "Искупление" (The Redemption), 1964
  • "Руки" (The Hands)
  • "Письмо другу" (A Letter to a Friend), 1969
  • "Ответ И.Р.Шафаревичу" (The Response to Igor Shafarevich), 1975
  • "Книга сновидений" (A Book of Dreams)
  • "Я все сбиваюсь на литературу..." Письма из заключения. Стихи (The Letters from Prison), 1972. ISBN 0-87955-501-7

ISBN links support NWE through referral fees

  • Brown, Edward J. Russian Literature since the Revolution. Harvard University Press, 1982. ISBN 0-674-78204-6
  • Terras, Victor. A History of Russian Literature. Yale University Press, 1991. ISBN 0-300-05934-5
  • Tertz, Abram, et. al. On trial: the Soviet State versus Abram Tertz and Nikolai Arzhak. Harper & Row, 1967. OCLC 358400

External links

All links retrieved June 7, 2023.


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