Isaac Babel

Russian, 1894-1940

Isaac Babel was arguably the greatest Russian Jewish author of the past century. Several of his works are considered great classics of Russian literature, including Odessa Tales and Red Cavalry. He was a celebrity during his life, and avoided censorship despite the Soviet suspicion of Jews by remaining loyal to the the Communist Party. However, his life was spotted with vices and infidelities, one of which led to his downfall: he was executed during Stalin’s Great Purge due to his affair with the wife of an NKVD chief. He was declared a “nonperson” after his death, and all mentions of his name and works were excised from textbooks and other written material. His collected works could only be published after the fall of the Soviet Union.