Details the exposure of Volkov's "Testimony" fraud and other lies, errors, fantasies, twisted scholarship and wishful thinking in the West's cold war version (still egregious in far too many CD liner notes, and despite pounds of onanistic "reconsidering") of Soviet composer Dmitri Shostakovich.

Reality Check 

It is most unfortunate that much of the information available on the Internet about Shostakovich is inspired by the rabid anti-Sovietism of a few extremists and unreconstructed cold-warriors. While I cannot completely remedy this myself, I can detail some of the grossest abuses.

During the cold war, some of us in the west, dismayed by the radicalism of our own artists, looked for dissidence in Soviet artists to somehow validate western ideology and values. In the case of Shostakovich, a complete lack of evidence (and the fact that his closest friend in the west was Benjamin Britten) told against that hope.

Nonetheless, music criticism at the level of record magazines and CD liner-notes today finds it fashionable to propose that Shostakovich harbored hidden anti-Soviet or anti-communist views. It is even supposed that he managed to secretly express these sentiments in works which were widely performed on both sides of the Iron Curtain. Such speculation is echoed in popular books whose provenance ("Testimony") and scholarship ("The New Shostakovich") are extremely doubtful.

As a reality check it might be useful to note that, despite more than two decades since Shostakovich's death of revisionism from the rabid right and hypocritical hand-wringing "reconsideration" by neo-liberals (it has even been claimed that all credited western musicologists are involved in some huge Stalinist conspiracy) there is no definite evidence that can disprove the following:

  • Shostakovich was a patriotic Soviet citizen and lifelong socialist. He revered Lenin and the revolution. He rejected Stalinism. He was a member of the Communist Party from 1960 until his death in 1975.  He was himself a Soviet official- a deputy member of the Supreme Soviet and also the Secretary (highest office) of the Union of Composers of the Russian Federation.  In many works, including symphonies 2, 3, 7, 11, and 12, he honored heroic accomplishments of the Soviet people. Despite a two brief periods of friction much dramatized in the West, he was by far the most often, and most highly, officially honored member of the Soviet musical establishment in its history.

These facts were obvious in 1975 and remain consistent with everything that Shostakovich can be proven to have ever said or written.


[Blue Ribbon Campaign icon]
Join the Blue Ribbon Online Free Speech Campaign!