Pavlenko, Pyotr Andreyevich. Born 29 June 1899 in Petersburg, the son of an office worker. He received his education at the Bakinsky Tekhnicum, from which he graduated in 1920. That same year, he joined the Bolshevik Party and the Red Army, where he served as a political worker, including duty in the oil city of Baku. After the Civil War, he worked in the Soviet trade mission which took him to Turkey, Syria, Greece, Italy, and France between 1924 and 1927.
As a writer, Pavlenko made his literary debut with Aziatskiye Povesti ("Asian Tales"), exotic in subject matter and florid in style. Pavlenko became associated with the Pereval ground, and his story Shematony appeared in a Pereval anthology of 1930. Two years later, he published Barrikady ("Barricades"), a short novel dealing with the Paris Commune of 1870. A larger work, Na Vostoke ("In The East"), appeared in December 1936. It chronicles the adventures and enthusiasm of ordinary Soviets building new cities in the far eastern reaches of wildest Siberia. Pavlenko characterized these new Soviet citizens this way:
And so they came out there in hundreds of thousands and in millions in order to keep pace with the Revolution and not lag a step behind it. Their fathers had burned down estates, had defended scores of front, had lost their wives and become disused to their children, while the sons were building cities and setting up stable families, were getting used to sleeping eight hours and eating three meals a day.
It is a picture of stabilization after the hectic Revolutionary period. But still there are White Russian spies and military worries. And--wouldn't you just know it--Japan starts a war. But the Soviet Union bombs Tokyo, sinks the Japanese fleet with its submarines, and stops a Japanese attack with a new secret weapon. Pavlenko seemed to have a particular dislike for England which he invoked as a symbol of the old capitalist world bound to fall:
England was tossing in agony, and the young nations, her laborers, stood by, their mouths agape with joy and happiness. With England, a whole era in the history of mankind was passing away. If it were possible to impersonate political systems we would have seen a decrepit gentleman posing as a diplomat and an educator, who, after his death, turned out to be only a secondhand dealer and usurer.
Pavlenko also undertook to write several successful film scripts, most notably his collaboration with film genius Sergei Eisenstein on Aleksandr Nevsky (1938). His second film script was for Yakov Sverdlov (1940), about the life and work of the famous Bolshevik. This film won a State Prize, second class. In 1942 he produced a script for the film Slavnii Malii, a "heroic musical comedy" adaptation of his own story, Mstiteli ("The Avengers"), which tells the tale of a French flyer who is shot down during the war and winds up in a detatchment of partisans around Novgorod. His next film script, Klyatva ("Vow") (1946), centers around a woman's two meetings with Stalin--the first after Lenin's death when Stalin vows to remain true to the great leader's legacy, and the second following the end of the Great Patriotic War. Pavlenko continued his service to the cult of the personality in the script for Padeniye Berlina ("The Fall of Berlin") (1949), a war film. Pavlenko's last script was for Kompozitop Glinka ("Composer Glinka") (1952), a film in which he also acted the role of F. Bulgarin.
Besides his artistic work, Pavlenko also worked as a journalist. He reported directly from the court room during the 1927 trial against the anti-Soviet Trotskyite Center. He was a war correspondent during the Soviet-Finnish War of 1939 and 1940 and again during World War II, working for Pravda and Krasnaya Zvezda. Between 1942 and 1943 he also served as the Chairman of the Defense Commission of the Union of Writers.
Numerous of his stories and war sketches appeared in the books Put Otvagi ("Path of Bravery") (1942) and Narodniye Mstiteli ("People's Avengers").
Pavlenko's main work, for which he won the Stalin Prize in 1947, is Schastye ("Happiness"). Set mainly in the Crimea in 1944 and 1945, it is the story of a wounded war veteran who comes to the war-torn Crimea hoping to settle down to a nice, quiet life. Instead, he finds happiness by plunging himself into Party work to aid in the reconstruction of the area.
In the course of the novel, Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin show up for their famous Yalta Conference. The author treats Roosevelt with respect, as in this passage:
Roosevelt created a good impression upon those who saw him. The people like to see in great men the features of the zealot, for what, after all, is the measure of greatness if not zeal?
It is even suggested in the novel that Roosevelt might eventually come over to the Communist side. Churchill, on the other hand, doesn't come off looking so well:
Churchill, with the inevitable cigar in his mouth, obese and senile-looking, but youthfully active and possessing amazing power of endurance, also created an impression, but not the same as that created by Roosevelt. Far from it. The British Prime Minister was astonishing rather than likeable. It was felt that the British Prime Minister was a tireless businessman consumed with anxiety lest he arrive too late and miss something supremely important likely to be going on at any moment?.People wanted to respect him, but there was nothing likeable about him. He gave the impression of an old gentleman who had lunched well and had washed his lunch down with some delicious and bracing beverage.
Stalin, naturally, is portrayed somewhat more flatteringly, as when the hero of the novel, Voropaev, is brought to see him:
Stalin was incredibly calm. It seemed to Voropaev that Stalin had not aged at all since he had last seen him at the parade in Red Square on November 7, 1941, but that he had changed in a different way. His face was the same, familiar down to the smallest wrinkle, but it had acquired a new air, an air of triumph, and Voropaev rejoiced on observing this. Stalin's face could not help changing and becoming slightly different, because the people looked into it as in a mirror in which they saw the reflection of themselves, and the people had changed, had become still more majestic.
Despite his heavy work load at the Yalta Conference, Stalin takes the time to study the local conditions, advising a gardener on grape-growing techniques and pointing out a good location for a future olive sovkhoz. He also makes a veiled reference to a purge to come soon in the Moscow cadres, a comment which brings a twinkle to the eyes of Molotov, who is also present.
The novel Happpiness also highlights a difference between the Soviet and Western social systems: In Austria, the Soviet army takes time to help some peasants plow their field, asking for only a thank you in return. The Americans see this as insidious propaganda, while at they same time they see nothing wrong with painting soap advertisements on the sides of their tanks.
The short novel Stepnoe Solntse ("Steppe Sun") was published in 1949.
Pytor Pavelko won a total of four Stalin Prizes (1941, 1947, 1948, and 1950).
He died on 16 June 1951.