Activities on Babi Yar

Shostakovich Symphony

The famed Russian composer and conductor, Dmitri Shostakovich had a close association with Babi Yar. He wrote his Sympony No.13 in B flat minor, Opus 113, for Babi Yar. It was first performed in Moscow in late 1962 by the Moscow Philharmonic and the Choir of the Gnessin Institute, conducted by Kirill Kondrashin. The regular conductor, Yevgeny Mravinsky, refused to conduct the work of its controversial nature.


In the first part of the symphony, Shostakovich sets Yevtushenko’s poem “Babi Yar” as the theme. Listen to Shostakovich’s work, especially the first movement, and explore its relationship to Yevtushenko’s poem. Explore how the other movements: “Humor,” “In the Store,” “Fears,” and “A Career” all relate to oppression and the need to speak out in times of censorship and oppression.

Work with others to design a performance event, film, or computer generated piece combining the work of Shostakovich and Yevtushenko or other materials found in this section. Research the internet for what other visual and written materials are available to include in your work. Consult “Flickr” and “You Tube” to see how others may have created similar pieces. 


  Novel by Anatoly Kuznetsov

Anatoly Kuznetsov, a 14-year-old witness to Babi Yar, wrote what he saw in a notebook. He contends in the first page of the book, Babi Yar: A Document in the Form of a Novel:

"Everything in this book is true. When I recounted episodes of this story to different people, they all said I had to write the book. The word ‘document’ in the subtitle of this novel means that I have provided only actual facts and documents without the slightest literary conjecture as to how things could or must have happened."
Kuznetsov re-wrote his memoirs many times until they were published in a censored version in the Soviet magazine, Yunost in 1966. A few years later he fled the Soviet Union with his book on microfilm and hidden in his coat. He traveled to England and there his book was published by Penguin in 1970. The censored part, appearing in bold text, was added alongside the Soviet version. The novel explores the wanderings of an adolescent boy who by accident was able to see what he did. 
Kuznetsov’s novel is readily available today. Read the book and explore one or more of the following:
      Report on the history of Babi Yar and the German occupation of Kiev. 
      One of the chapters, “How Many Times I Should Have Been Shot,” relates why Kuznetsov felt he should have been shot by order of the Nazis. Explain these points and the reasons why Kuznetsov was able to survive. 
      Explain the documents that are referred to in the book and their significance to the war.
      Explore how Kuznetsov’s work is relevant in today’s world.