A Call from Stalin

Boris Pasternak, author of the classic novel Doctor Zhivago, was the recipient of one of the most dreaded events in Soviet Russia. He was a friend of the poet Osip Mandelstam¬†who was a thorn in the side of Stalin. Mandelstam had written the Stalin Epigram which was highly critical of the dictator. Pasternak received a late-night call from Comrade Stalin wanting to know about this poem of Mandelstam. Pasternak instead wanted to discuss matters of life and death with the dictator who quickly hung up on him. Mandelstam eventually went to the gulag and tragically died there. Stalin spared Pasternak, writing on his list: “Don’t touch this cloud-dweller.” Pasternak eventually won the Nobel Prize and outlived Stalin.

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