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Author photo. Portrait of David Bergelson from the book «David Bergelson. Selected Works» (in Russian, translated from Yiddish). Moscow, 1957, Soviet Writer Publishing House

Portrait of David Bergelson from the book «David Bergelson. Selected Works» (in Russian, translated from Yiddish). Moscow, 1957, Soviet Writer Publishing House

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Dovid Bergelson was born in Okhrimovo, Ukraine, to a well-to-do Hasidic Jewish family. He received a traditional Jewish education and also a general education from private tutors. His parents died when he was a teenager and he was raised by his older brothers. In 1903, he went to live in Kiev, which became an important center of modern Yiddish culture. He began writing in Hebrew, but these early writings were never published; he switched to Yiddish around 1907. His first novella, Arum vokzal (At the Depot; English translation, A Shtetl) was published in 1909 to favorable reviews. His novel Nokh alemen (When All Is Said and Done, 1913) was his most important contribution to the creation of the modern Yiddish novel. In 1917, he founded the avant garde Jidishe Kultur Lige (Yiddish Culture League). He also served as an editor of the literary miscellany Eygns, in which he published two of his own works, including Yoysef Shur (English translation Ashes out of Hope). The dangers of the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia drove Bergelson into exile as part of an emigrant wave that included many other important writers and artists. In 1921, he settled in Berlin, where in 1922 he published the first edition of his collected works, in six volumes. He began contributing stories and journalistic reports to the Jewish Daily Forward (Forverts) in New York. In 1926, Bergelson came to believe that only the Soviet Union offered the possibility for a wider development of Yiddish literature and culture. He began writing for the Communist Yiddish press in both New York and Moscow and moved to the USSR in 1933. He wrote more novel and plays and participated in the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee during World War II. However, like many Jewish writers, he later became a target of Stalin's anti-Semitism. In 1949, he was arrested and tried secretly before being executed by a firing squad in the event known as the Night of the Murdered Poets, August 12–13, 1952. After Stalin's death, he was posthumously rehabilitated in 1955, and his complete works were published in the Soviet Union in 1961.
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