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“Who is Tyorkin?” The Presidential Library illustrates Alexander Tvardovsky’s legendary hero

21 June 2019

June 21, 2019 marks 109 years since the birth of Alexander Tvardovsky. The poet's national beloved literary hero Vasily Tyorkin turns 80 years.

The Presidential Library’s collections contain electronic copies of works by Tvardovsky, published during the Great Patriotic War. Thanks to them, the reader can not only feel the atmosphere of those years, but also feel the mood and fortitude of people opposing the enemy and not wanting to surrender to him even the smallest inch of his native land.

Alexander Tvardovsky was called up for military service in 1939. As a war correspondent, he participated in the liberation campaign of the Soviet troops in Western Belarus, participated in the Finnish military campaign. It was at this time that the literary hero Vasya Tyorkin, a character created by A. Tvardovsky and members of the editorial board of the newspaper of the Leningrad Military District “On Guard of the Motherland” N. Tikhonov, S. Vashentsev, V. Sayanov and others, first appeared on the printed pages.

Before new hero appeared on the newspaper pages in the editorial, there was a lot of controversy about how to call a soldier. In the army press, there were already conditional characters: The Machine Gunner Vanya, the grandfather Sysoy, Pulkin, Mushkin ... And then the feuilleton signed by “Vasya Tyorkin” caught sight of the editorial board. The sonorous, mischievous name, rhymes well. There were proposals to rename Tyorkin to Vanya, Fyodor, but still stopped at Vasya. And although the author of the pseudonym remained unknown, the “Pryamaya Navodka” appeared a hero, whose name has become legendary.

The Presidential Library’s portal provides a wide access to electronic copies of the front-line edition, where the reader will find the very first materials about the life and exploits of the people's favorite.

Readers loved Tyorkin. The fighters were looking forward to the issues of newspapers to find out what else had happened to Vasya, memorized simple lines by heart, carefully cut out and hung notes on his exploits on the walls of dugouts. In 1940, it was published, however, in small circulation, supplement to the newspaper in the form of a small book with drawings about the heroic everyday life of the national favorite. This brochure about Vasily Tyorkin was presented at the front to the best fighters as a kind of reward.

By the middle of 1941, Tvardovsky planned to complete the work on a collection of poems about the struggle of Vasya Tyorkin and the White Finns, but the Great Patriotic War began. From the first days of its life, the poet was appointed to the post of military officer in the newspaper "Krasnaya Armiya" and went to the front. Together with the army, he found himself in the hottest spots, leaving the encirclement... Tvardovsky returned to the thought of "Tyorkin" a year later, in June 1942. After collecting the scattered notes and sketches, he again gets to work, but this is no longer “Vasya Tyorkin”, but “Vasily Tyorkin”. It was not only the name that changed. Against the background of fascist atrocities, Vasya’s mischief and playfulness became inappropriate, an image of an epic liberator warrior was required.

On September 4, the first chapters of the poem were published in the Krasnoarmeyskaya Pravda newspaper. They came out after a heavy and lengthy retreat of our troops, when the spiritual support of the fighters was most needed, when words were needed that could make them smile against all odds and believe in their own strength.

The fantastic success of the poem is largely due to the fact that the hero of Tvardovsky - Vasya, Vasily Tyorkin - was a “simple”, “ordinary” person.

The heroes of Tvardovsky are strong in spirit, fearlessly fighting for their land, home, loved ones and relatives, constituted an entire nation.

On the eve of the memorable date of the beginning of the Great Patriotic War - June 22, 1941 - front-line poems of Tvardovsky are more relevant than ever. This is the memory of the incredible feat that was committed by the defenders of our country. Together with them, the day of the Great Victory was approached by the literary hero Vasily Tyorkin - the composite character of the Russian soldier.