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Lev Navrozov

Lev Navrozov (Russian: Лев Наврозов; born 1928 in Moscow[1]) is a Russian author, historian and polemicist and father of poet Andrei Navrozov. A leading translator of Russian texts into English under the Soviet regime, Navrozov emigrated to the United States in 1972, where he published a best-selling memoir, The Education of Lev Navrozov,[2] and became a prominent Russian dissident.[3]


Early life

Navrozov was born to playwright Andrei Navrozov (after whom his son was named), a founding member of the Soviet Writers’ Union, who volunteered in World War II and was killed in action in 1941. After completing the course at Moscow Power Engineering Institute, did not take the degree, switching to the exclusive Referent Faculty of the Moscow Institute of Foreign Languages, a faculty created by Joseph Stalin's personal order to produce a new generation of experts with a superior knowledge of Western languages and cultures. On graduation in 1953 was offered a "promising position" at the Soviet Embassy in London, with the attendant obligation to join the Communist Party. Declined both offers, and thenceforth refused all government posts or academic affiliations as a matter of principle. Regarded as a unique expert on the English-speaking countries, but only ever worked as a freelance.

Position as translator

Navrozov was the first, and to date the last, inhabitant of Russia to translate for publication works of literature from his native tongue into a foreign language, including those by Dostoevsky, Hertzen and Prishvin, as well as philosophy and fundamental science in 72 fields.[4] In 1965, still freelance but now exploiting what amounted to his virtual monopoly over English translations for publication,[5] acquired a country house in Vnukovo, sixteen miles from Moscow, in a privileged settlement where such Soviet nabobs as Andrei Gromyko, then Foreign Minister, and former Politburo member Panteleimon Ponomarenko had their country houses.

Dissident historian

In 1953 he began his clandestine documented study of the history of the Soviet regime, working on a cycle of books in the hope of smuggling the manuscript abroad. During this period he published translations only, publishing no original work in view of the unacceptable limits imposed by censorship. In 1972 he emigrated to the United States with wife and son,[2] after receiving a special invitation from the U.S. State Department arranged through the intercession of several politically influential American friends. During 1972-1980 he contributed articles to Commentary, including the scandalous 1978 publication of the articles "What the CIA Knows About Russia," which Admiral Stansfield Turner publicly admitted he was unable to rebut,[6][7] and "Notes on American Innocence," which resulted in an unsuccessful $3 million action for defamation brought against the author by the former Prime Minister of Israel Golda Meir.[8]

The Education of Lev Navrozov

In 1975, Harper & Row published the first volume of his study of the Soviet regime from within, The Education of Lev Navrozov.[1] The book recounts the contemporary effects of Joseph Stalin's public relations campaign in the aftermath of the assassination of rival Sergei Kirov.[9] "It bids fair to take its place beside the works of Laurence Sterne and Henry Adams," wrote the American philosopher Sidney Hook,[10] "… but it is far richer in scope and more gripping in content." Eugene Lyons, author of the pioneering 1937 work Assignment in Utopia, described the book as "uniquely revealing," while Robert Massie, author of Nicholas and Alexandra, wrote of the author’s "individual genius." Saul Bellow, the Nobel Prize–winning novelist, responded to The Education by using Navrozov as the model for a modern Russian dissident thinker in two of his books, thereby beginning a lively correspondence that continued until the American novelist's death. In particular, the narrator of More Die of Heartbreak describes Navrozov, along with Sinyavsky, Vladimir Maximov and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, as one of his epoch's "commanding figures" and "men of genius."[11]

Later life

After 1975, Navrozov published several thousand magazine articles and newspaper columns, which, however diverse the subjects drawing his attention and commentary, have a common theme, namely the incapacity of the West to survive in the present era of increasingly sophisticated totalitarianism. He was the founder, in 1979, of the Center for the Survival of Western Democracies, a non-profit educational organisation whose original Advisory Board brought together Saul Bellow, Malcolm Muggeridge, Dr. Edward Teller, Lt. Gen. Daniel O. Graham, the Hon. Clare Boothe Luce, Mihajlo Mihajlov, Sen. Jesse Helms, and Eugène Ionesco.[12]

Current work

Navrozov is concerned with the possibility that China is developing deadly weapons based on nanotechnology; and the need for the United States to counter this threat with its own nanoweapon research.[1] He often cites Eric Drexler as the inspiration for this interest.[2]


  1. ^ a b Kirk, Irina (1975). Profiles in Russian Resistance. New York: Quadrangle/New York Times Book Co. p. 3. ISBN 0-8129-0484-2. 
  2. ^ a b Tyson, James (1981). Target America. Washington: Regnery Gateway. p. 2. ISBN 0-89526-671-7. 
  3. ^ Thought, Fordham University Press, ISSN 0040-6457 OCLC 1767458, p.140
  4. ^ On Navrozov's uniqueness as a translator, see John Updike's introduction to Mikhail Prishvin's Nature’s Diary, translated by Lev Navrozov ; New York : Penguin Books, 1987. ISBN 0-14-017003-0.
  5. ^ Native Russian speakers born and bred in Russia translated into Russian for publication in Russia, while native English speakers, resident in Russia, translated into English for publication in the West. Navrozov, as the catalogues of Moscow's Foreign Languages Publishing House confirm, was the sole exception.
  6. ^ Harrison, Mark : Accounting for War: Soviet Production, Employment, and the Defence Burden 1940-1945 ; Cambridge Russian, Soviet and Post Soviet Studies ; Cambridge : Cambridge University Press, 2002. ISBN 0-521-89424-7.
  7. ^ "Navrozov versus the Agency" in Wiles, Peter, ed., The Soviet Economy on the Brink of Reform : essays in honor of Alec Nove ; Boston : Allen & Unwin, 1988. ISBN 0-04-335063-1.
  8. ^ See "Statement by Elmer J. Winter, President, American Jewish Committee," Commentary, February, 1976.
  9. ^ Johnson, Scott W. (March 20, 2004). "Staging Hate Crimes: The Academic Left's Reichstag Gambit". =Men's News Daily. Retrieved 2008-10-06. [dead link]
  10. ^ For the Hook review of Navrozov, see Cotter, Matthew J.: Sidney Hook Reconsidered ; Amherst NY : Prometheus Books, 2004. ISBN 1-59102-193-6.
  11. ^ Bellow, Saul : More Die of Heartbreak ; London : Secker & Warburg first world edition, 1987. ISBN 0-436-03962-1. In Bellow's non-fictional account To Jerusalem and Back, Navrozov is referred to in the same vein, this time by the author.
  12. ^ Source: CSWD letterheads, statement of purpose, and certificate of incorporation as a 501(c)(3) not for profit educational organization. The name was later changed to "Center for the Survival of Western Democracies." See the Lifeboat Foundation biographies current listing at for Lev Navrozov, and an early reference to the organization in "The Record" (No. 59, February 1979) of the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin.

External links

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