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July 2004


On June 19, 1936, as Muscovites waited for a total solar eclipse to darken Russian skies, some donned protective viewers designed to filter out retina-burning rays. Others seemed more interested in Pravda's news about one of Russia's native sons than in the sun overhead.
Maksim Gorky, beloved novelist and playwright, had died the day before. Despite his stature as the "father of Soviet literature" and head of the Soviet Writers Union, Gorky became disillusioned with Stalin's leadership. Suffering from tuberculosis and heart problems, Aleksey Maksimovich Peshkov (Gorky, meaning "bitter one," was his pen name) died at 68. He may well have been helped along by a fatal dose of poison: Rumors persist that Stalin ordered Gorky's murder.         
—Margaret G. Zackowitz
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Photograph from Corbis

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