Classical Music

How Josef Stalin Stole Sergei Prokofiev's Flowers

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The composer pined for his homeland, and returned there in the 1930s. He was lulled by promises of continued artistic freedom by the Soviets, but he was quickly drafted to write flowing, flowery musical praise to Stalin's dream. Eventually, his work fell out of favor, and Prokofiev lived in poor health and near poverty in a small apartment just off Red Square.

He did not live to see the end of Stalin... by about 50 minutes. Both men died on March 5, 1953, and it was this coincidence that Stalin's regime dealt Prokofiev his final indignity.

The crowds in Red Square mourning Stalin's passing were so thick that Prokofiev's body couldn't even be removed for three days. His death made page 116 in the papers. Pages 1-115 were dedicated to Stalin.

Adding further insult, no musicians could be found to play the great composer's funeral. Every musician of any note was ordered to perform at Stalin's funeral and the various surrounding festivities. Prokofiev's family was reduced to playing a recording of the funeral march from his ballet Romeo and Juliet.

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Jef Rouner is a contributing writer who covers politics, pop culture, social justice, video games, and online behavior. He is often a professional annoyance to the ignorant and hurtful.
Contact: Jef Rouner