Birthday: March 28, 1868
Died At Age: 68
Sun Sign: Aries
Also Known As: Alexei Maximovich Peshkov
Born in: Nizhny Novgorod, Russia
Famous as: Writer, Political Activist
Spouse/Ex-: Maria Andreyeva, Moura Budberg, Yekaterina Peshkova
father: Maksim Peshkov
mother: Varvara Peshkova
children: Catherine Zhelyabuzhskiy, Maxim Peshkov, Yekaterina Peshkova, Yuri Zhelyabuzhsky, Zinovy Peshkov
Died on: June 18, 1936
place of death: Gorki-10, Russia
Cause of Death: Pneumonia
Who was Maxim Gorky?
Alexei Maximovich Peshkov, better known as Maxim Gorky, was a Russian author considered the father of Soviet revolutionary literature and founder of the doctrine of socialist realism. After having a difficult childhood, he roamed across the Russian empire, frequently changing jobs for about fifteen years before he became a successful writer. The experiences he had during those fifteen years deeply influenced his writing. Initially, he wrote stories mainly based on the lives of tramps and social outcasts, and he became known for his naturalistic style of writing. One of his greatest works is ‘The Mother,’ which Lenin praised as “a very timely book.” Gorky was deeply associated with fellow Russian writers, Anton Chekhov and Leo Tolstoy and later wrote memoirs on them. Gorky was not only a great writer but also an influential figure in the political thinking. He was active with the emerging Marxist social-democrat movement. Initially a Bolshevik supporter, he became a critic when Vladimir Lenin seized power. However, later Gorky served as a Soviet advocate and headed the Union of Soviet Writers. His life was marked with a number of politically forced and sometimes self-imposed exiles.
Childhood & Early Life
Aleksey Maksimovich Peshkov was born on March 28, 1868, in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia and became an orphan at the age of eleven.
He was raised by his maternal grandmother who helped his development as a storyteller. He ran away from home at the age of twelve in 1880.
After an attempt at suicide in December 1887, he travelled on foot across the Russian Empire for five years, frequently changing jobs. His jobs included, among many others, work as assistant in a shoemaker’s shop, as errand boy for an icon painter, and as a dishwasher on a Volga steamer, where the cook introduced him to reading—soon to become his main passion in life.
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In the 1890s, he began writing. He adopted the pseudonym Maxim Gorky (choosing the name Gorky because it meant "bitter").
His first short story, “Makar Chudra” was published in various journals in 1892, and it became very popular with readers.
Then, in 1895, “Chelkash,” a short story about a thief and a peasant boy was published. In all his writings, Gorky wrote using all the experiences he had gained from living in poverty. He wrote with sympathy about the simple folks, the outcasts, the gypsies, the hobos and dreamers in the context of social decay in the Russian Empire. His perspective won him great acclaim around the country, and he was soon viewed as one of the leading writers.
In 1898, a collection of Gorky’s writings, “Sketches and Stories” was published.
He also produced full-length books and plays beginning with the novel “Foma Gordeyev” in 1899.
He became friends with Anton Chekhov and Leo Tolstoy and later penned their memoirs.
His play “The Lower Depths” was praised by Chekhov and was successfully played in Europe and the United States in 1902.
Gorky was a devoted Marxist and gave much of his writing income to the cause. He followed the Bolshevik wing following a party split in 1903, though he was never an official party member.
Gorky was imprisoned for his actions during the Russian Revolution of 1905.
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He went to live in Europe and America during 1906-13. In America he started his classic novel, “The Mother”, about a Russian Christian woman and her imprisoned son, who both joined revolutionaries under the illusion that revolution follows Christ's messages.
Gorky eventually returned to Russia in 1913, and was living there when the Bolsheviks and Vladimir Lenin seized control of the country in 1917. Gorky objected to the undemocratic tactics that were used in this takeover and frequently wrote in his newspaper, “New Life”, about the violence and repression that Russia experienced under Lenin's rule. Gorky was silenced in 1918 when his newspaper was shut down.
For his criticism of the Bolsheviks, Gorky was forced to leave Russia in 1921.
For the next few years, he traveled through Europe before settling in Sorrento, Italy, in 1924. There, he continued to write and completed his autobiographical trilogy and published a new collection of stories.
He returned to Russia in 1928. Joseph Stalin who took control of the Soviet Union after Lenin’s death decided that it would be better to have Gorky return permanently so that he could keep an eye on his activities.
Among his many writings, Gorky’s play “The Lower Depths” was praised by Chekhov and was successfully played in Europe and the United States in 1902.
“Twenty-six Men and a Girl”, “The Song of the Stormy Petrel”, “Summerfolk”, and “Children of the Sun” are among the most well-known works of Gorky.
Personal Life & Legacy
Moura Budberg, who was initially hired by Gorky as his secretary in 1921, became his unofficial wife.
On June 18, 1936, Gorky died at his villa in Gorki Leninskiye, outside of Moscow. He was 68. Gorky had been unwell and undergoing medical treatment, but rumors circulated that Stalin had arranged for his death.