Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 485
The Trial Begins is a 1960 satirical novella, which is a part of the 1960 social critique of Soviet literary doctrine titled On Socialist Realism, written by Abram Tertz. The novel is popular in Russian literature because it is actually written by Andrei Sinyavsky, who used the pseudonym Abram Tertz to write and publish his work outside of Soviet Russia. Alongside his fellow author, Yuli Daniel, Sinyavsky was sentenced to seven years of hard labor for spreading anti-Soviet propaganda through his satirical writings.
The Sinyavsky-Daniel trial was the first show trial in Soviet Russia, in which the defendants pledged not guilty and were convicted solely for their work. The authors received a lot of support from academics and intellectuals from and outside of Russia, and from the general public as well, and many of them protested against the Soviet’s jurisdiction and judge’s decision to sentence the authors to five (Daniel) and seven years (Sinyavsky) in a strict-regime labor camp.
The Trial Begins focuses on the ideology and the atmosphere in Soviet Russia, before Stalin’s death in 1953. Furthermore, it tells the story of Prosecutor Vladimir P. Globov, who accuses Dr. Rabinovich, a Jewish doctor, for performing illegal abortion. Thus, we are given insight into the “Doctor’s plot,” in which several (Jewish) physicians were falsely accused for conspiring against government officials. The doctors were sentenced to death by public hanging, but Stalin decided to “spare” their lives and send them to Siberia instead. However, neither of these sentences were executed, as Stalin died, and some of the physicians managed to save themselves.
The narrator—Seryozha, Globov’s son, is a young man with revolutionary ideas, who suggests to his classmates that they should form a secret society in which they will discuss various moral issues and determine what is just and unjust. However, only his friend Katya seems to share his ideals, and the two of them exclaim that only a revolution can truly save the unjust world. Globov strongly disagrees with his son’s opinions, and on top of that, learns that his wife Marina, who is constantly flirting with her suitor Yuri Karlinsky, has had an abortion. Furious, he focuses on Dr. Rabnovich’s trial and accuses him of illegal medical practice and dishonoring Stalin and the Soviet regime. Thus, Dr. Rabinovich is sent to a labor camp. Soon, Seryozha is also arrested for allegedly selling state secrets, and the two of them meet in prison. Rabinovich then finds a dagger which resembles a cross and asks of God to “forge a new dagger for the new Purpose,” as the people of Russian are now living in confusion and disorganization.
The Trial Begins is one of the novellas which appeared in On Socialist Realism, the first one being Ljubimov. Aside from these two novels, On Socialist Realism contained a volume of stories titled Fantastic Stories and a series of aphorisms titled Unguarded Thoughts.