poly arthritis

Nikolai Ostrovsky

Nikolai Alexeevich Ostrovsky (Николай Алексеевич Островский) (29 September 190422 December 1936) was a Soviet socialist realist writer, who published his works during the Stalin era. He is best known for his renowned novel How the Steel Was Tempered on the Russian Civil War.


Nikolai was the fifth child of poor worker parents in western Ukraine. He attended the village church school until he was nine and then in 1913 he started working as a herds-boy. In 1914, his family moved to the railroad town of Shepetovka where Nikolai joined an elementary school from which he is expelled by his scripture teacher. He started working in the kitchens at the railroad station, but was dismissed in 1917 for sleeping on the job. He switched jobs working at a timber yard, then becoming a stoker's mate and then an electrician at the local power station.

When the Germans occupied the town in spring of 1918, Nikolai ran errands for the local Bolshevik underground. In July 1918 he joined the Komsomol and the Red Army in August. He served in the Kotovsky cavalry brigade. In 1920 he was wounded near Odessa and contracted typhus. He returned to the army only to be wounded again and was demobilized on medical grounds. In 1921, he began working in railway workshops of Kiev as an electrician and as the secretary of the local Komsomol.

Suffering from rheumatism and typhus, in August 1922 he was sent to Berdybsk, a resort on the Sea of Azov, for treatment. In October 1922 he was officially declared an invalid; however he continued working. In 1923 he was appointed Commisar of the Red Army's Second Training Battalion and Komsomol secretary for Berezdov in western Ukraine. In January 1924 he went to Izyaslav as the head of Komsomol district committee and in August 1924 he joined the Communist Party. In 1925, with his health rapidly declining, he went to Kharkov for medical treatment and in May 1926 he went to a sanatorium in the Crimea. By December 1926 poly-arthritis deprived him of almost all mobility and be became virtually bedridden. In December 1927 Nikolai began a correspondence course at the Sverdlov Communist University in Moscow that he completed it in June 1929. In August, he lost his vision.

Undaunted by his paralysis and blindness, in 1930, he began work on first novel, How the Steel Was Tempered which became renowned and influential in the Communist world. He also wrote articles for newspapers and journals and spoke often on the radio. In April 1932 he became a member of the Moscow branch of the Association of Proletarian Writers and in June 1934 he joined the Union of Soviet Writers. On October 1, 1935, he was awarded the Order of Lenin.

After suffering for years from paralysis, illness and blindness, Nikolai passed away on 22 December 1936, aged 32. His death did not allow him to complete his second novel, Born of the Storm on the Russian civil war in Ukraine.

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