"the Jewish writer of genius Isaac Emmanuilovich Babel"
Isaac Babel 1984-1940
Public DomainIsaac Babel 1984-1940 - Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Isaac Babel was a Russian author, playwright and journalist born in the Soviet suburb of Moldavanka, Odessa, in 1894. He is best known for writing Story of My Dovecote, Tales of Odessa, and the Red Cavalry, a collection of short stories based on his experience in the 1920 Polish-Soviet War.

Babel married and had two children by Yevgenia Gronfein, but the marriage didn’t last. He had several other romantic relationships resulting in two more children, but it was his affair with the wife of NKVD head Nikolai Yezhov that led him to be placed under NKVD surveillance. In 1939, Babel was arrested and interrogated under torture until he confessed to "deliberate sabotage and a refusal to write". Declared a nonperson in the Soviet Union, Babel had his name removed from literary dictionaries, encyclopedias, and school and university programmes, and any mention of him in public was forbidden. After a subsequent interrogation, in which Babel denied his previous confession, the writer was convicted of spying for the French and Austrian governments, participating in an anti-Soviet organisation, and being part of a terrorist conspiracy. He was sentenced to death by firing squad in 1940.