Peretz Markish was born on November 25, 1895 in Polonnoye, modern western Ukraine. One of the most well-known and widely translated Yiddish writers of Eastern Europe, Markish’s life and work reflect many complex and frequently overlapping themes; the historical context of his life, his personal background and identity, the evolution of an artist and the disillusionment of a man. Moreover, the very language of his art, Yiddish, connotes a unique history of geography, people and culture, and poses a nearly impossible challenge for meaningful interpretation.

Markish’s early poetry of the late 1910s and early 1920s reflect a radical modernist who, while deeply knowledgeable in literary and cultural traditions, is eager to overturn the past and assume a role of leadership in an environment of change and revolution. Within the Soviet world, Markish adapted to the prevailing socialist realist prose and became a popular Soviet Yiddish writer and playwright. He was Soviet, yet in featuring Jewish characters in his work, especially during the Great Patriotic War, he refused to accept the distinction between being a good Jewish nationalist and a committed patriot. After the war, as a blatant and official anti-Semitic campaign was launched, Markish’s poem “A Memorial Flame in Your Coffin,” in honor of the murdered Jewish cultural leader Solomon Mikhoels, challenged the regime and its role in the mysterious death. The administration was quick to answer. On January 27, 1949, Markish was among 15 members of the Jewish anti-Fascist Committee who were falsely accused and arrested.  At secret trials they were convicted of treason and espionage, and executed on August 12, 1952.

On the occasion of the 120th anniversary of the birth of Peretz Markish, the Blavatnik Archive is thrilled to share a selection of archival photographs and documents recently donated by the Markish family. The poet’s youngest son, David Markish, an award-winning Russian author who currently resides in Israel, is writing a book about his father and the context of his life. In addition, a short documentary has been recently produced with the support of Nicolas V. Iljine, and directed by Murad Ibragimbekov; it can be viewed here. A long list of biographical and analytical work about Markish and his literary work has also been published, including the authoritative, "A Captive of the Dawn: The Life and Work of Peretz Markish (1895-1952)," edited by eminent scholars Joseph Sherman, Gennady Estraikh, Jordan Finkin and David Shneer.  The Blavatnik Archive is currently engaged in processing the recently donated Markish family collection and will share its contents in their entirety on this website. We are humbled by the trust of the Markish family and join the Jubilee Committee Comemorating Peretz Markish in celebration of his beautiful life and eternal legacy.