16.12 Obituary (Yu.G. Oksman)

No 16 : 31 October 1970

Professor Julian [Yulian] Grigorevich Oksman, Doctor of philological sciences, died on 15 September 1970 in his seventy-sixth year.

J.G. Oksman was born in 30 December 1894 in Voznesensk in the Kherson Province. After leaving high school in 1911 he entered the History and Philology Faculty of St. Petersburg University. For about a year he worked abroad, studying the history of civilisation and the science of source materials [istochnikovedeniye] in Bonn, and attending lectures in Heidelberg. From the summer of 1915 he began to work in the archives [presumably in St. Petersburg], studying the history of Russian censorship and the press. After the February Revolution he took part in the preparation and implementation of the archive reform.

From 1919 to 1923 he taught in institutes of higher education in Odessa, and was the acting head of the archive of the Odessa Region. From the end of 1923 he was a lecturer at Leningrad University, then reader and later professor. From 1927 Oksman was the chairman of the Pushkin Commission at the State Institute of Art History. In the thirties he was deputy-head of Pushkin House (the Institute of Russian Literature at the Academy of Sciences). He was the initiator of much research in the field of Russian literature and the social movements of the nineteenth century. He took part in the preparation of the Academy’s Complete Works of Pushkin, the multi-volume Decembrist Uprising [1825] and many other works, including – in recent years – the Complete Works of Herzen.

Arrested in 1937, J.G. Oksman was fortunate enough to return from imprisonment and exile in 1947. He worked at Saratov University. After his rehabilitation he worked at the Institute of World Literature in Moscow, led the Herzen group and prepared for the press Belinsky’s Works and Days [Trudy i dni], for which he was honoured with the Gold Medal of the Academy of Sciences.

In 1963 his flat was searched. He was under suspicion of supplying the western press with material about the provocative activities [1] of a number of Soviet writers (Elsberg, Samarin, Lesyuchevsky) [2-4]. In autumn 1964 Oksman was expelled from the Union of Writers, and at the same time compelled to leave the Institute of World Literature. Since then his publications have either not appeared or have appeared under pseudonyms. His name is removed from finished works, and the censorship crosses out all mention of him. A few weeks before Oksman’s death an official of the KGB, briefing translators for the International History Congress [in Moscow], named Oksman as one of the “representatives of the Soviet intelligentsia who easily fall for western propaganda”.

J.G. Oksman was buried at the Russian cemetery at Vostryakovo on 18 September. It proved impossible to place a notice about Oksman’s death in the Moscow press.