Dmitri Shostakovich


Personal Life

Dmitri Shostakovich

1906 - 1975

Zoya Born


Met Tatiana Glivenko


Mariya described Tatiana as 'The One', he fell in love with her while on retreat for his ill health in 1923. They saw each other on and off over the next years, spending the summer together in 1926. Tatiana is the dedicatee of his 1st piano trio. She remained friends with the composer and his family after their relationship had ended.

Dmitri Boleslavovich Shostakovich death

24 February 1922

The composer's father fell suddenly ill and died from pneumonia. The Suite for two pianos, op. 6 was dedicated to his memory.

Met Nina Varzar


Tatiana Married


Her Marriage did not deter Shostakovich in his pursuit of their relationship. She also did consider leaving her husband for the composer.

Tatiana first child


Tatiana told Elizabeth Wilson in 'Shostakovich: A Life Remembered' that she felt that her given birth was directly related to the composers decision to finally marry Nina. Wilson, Shostakovich: A Life Remembered, p. 97.

First Marriage to Nina Varzar

13 May 1932 - Approx. 1935

missed the first wedding date in 1931, wrote three songs and dedicated them to Nina after he missed the wedding

Met Elena Konstantinovskaya


Translator and student. They began an intense and short affair in 1934 that led to the destruction of his marriage. He sent her over 40 letters during their relationship and expressed his desire to marry her.

Second Marriage to Nina

Approx. 1935 - 5 December 1954

Information about their divorce and remarrying is varied, some sources call it a separation, others do say there was a divorce but cannot agree on when it happened. They were reunited in Spring of 1935. The marriage continued without major incident and ended In Nina's Death.

Galina Shostakovich Born

May 1936

Maxim Shostakovich Born

May 1938

Evacuation from Leningrad to Moscow

1 October 1941

Family was evacuated from Leningrad as the siege was truly beginning.

Met Galina Ustvolskaya

Approx. 1944

One of his composition students whom he proposed marriage to after Nina's death. From her side she claimed to be repelled by him, actively rejecting him and his musical ideas. He quoted her works in his own. noticeably in the 1949 trio for Clarinet, Violin and Piano, 5th Quartet and Suite on the texts of Michaelangelo Buonarroti.

Met Elmira Nazirova


Composer and Composition student of D.S. Elmira's name is used as a motif in his Tenth Symphony however, from interviews it seems this may have been one sided.

Sofya Vasilievna Kokoulina death

November 1955

D.S.'s mother

Marriage to Margarita Kainova

July 1956 - November 1960

This marriage seemed doomed to failure from the beginning. She did not get along with his children, and none of his friends believed in the match. It is rumoured that they were together before Nina's death.

Marriage to Irina Antonova Shostakovich

1962 - 1975

Ending in D.S.'s death.

In letters to Isaak Glikman D.S. occasionally mentions Irina being silly, but gentle. His friends approved of the match, she supported him and took care of him.

Letters & Interviews

Glazunov to The People's Commissariat of Enlightenment re. D.S.'s health

Approx. May 1921 - Approx. June 1923

“death of such a person would be an irreparable loss for the world of art.”

Exact date unknown.

Letter from Klavdia Lukashevich to Anatoly Lunarcharsky re. rations for D. S.

16 August 1921

regarding D.S.'s health
"From lack of nutrition - ...our dear boy is very pale and emaciated. He shows signs of nervous disorder, and, what is more terrible, he has severe anaemia...... It is terrible to think what future awaits him."

Letters from Mariya Shostakovich to Mother re. Tatiana Glivenko

Approx. 1923

" happy and in love. This is quite clear. She is a strange girl, coquettish, I don't like her, but then it is so hard to please one's sisters"

Letters from D.S. to Mother re. love

3rd August 1923

He writes about how love is free and fleeting. "there is no such thing as impure love, but there is filthy debauchery"

From Shostakovich and His World

Letter from D.S. to his Mother re. relationships and parenthood

3 August 1923

"Of course the best thing imaginable would be the total abolition of the institu- tion of marriage, with all its fetters and constraints on love...... But at the same time, there exists the sacred vocation of motherhood and fatherhood."

From Fay Shostakovich: A Life p. 45

Music Critic C. Valter

November 1923

"In Shostakovich’s playing one is struck by that same joyously serene confidence of genius. My words relate not only to the exceptional playing of Shostakovich, but to his works as well. What wealth of fantasy and astonishing conviction, confidence in one’s own work (especially in the Variations)—at just seventeen years old!"

Fay Shostakovich: A Life p.45

Letter from D.S. to Mother re. piano trio and conservatoire exam

8th April 1924

"Stupid Formalists" re. his piano trio counting as his sonata form exam and allowing him straight to free composition.

He was later named as a formalist

D.S. to his Mother re. first public concert

21 March 1925

“Let them write that Shostakovich doesn’t have tal- ent, that his works—excuse the expression—are dogs—. Just let them. We’ll show them.”

After the unenthusiastically received first performance of several of his chamber works in Moscow the previous night.

D.S. to Tatiana Glivenko re. music

April 1925

“For me there is no joy in life other than music. All life for me is music”

Letter from D.S. to Elena Konstantinovskaya re. their relationship


"You tore into my life like thunder out of the blue. I am passionately in love, I cannot exist without you. Wait for me. Once I return we shall settle it all. We shall be together"

D.S. to unknown re. simplicity in language.


“Sometimes the struggle for a simple language is understood somewhat superficially. Often ‘simplicity’ turns into epigonism. But to speak simply doesn’t mean one should speak as they spoke fifty to a hundred years ago. This is a trap many composers fall into, afraid of accusations of formalism. Both formalism and epigonism are the worst enemies of Soviet musical culture.”

Letter from D.S. to Elena Konstantinovskaya re. their relationship

June 1934

"There is nothing in you which fails to send a wave of joy and fierce passion inside me when I think of you....Lyalya, I love you so, I love you so, as nobody ever loved before. My love, my gold, my dearest, I love you so; I lay down my love before you."

Letter from D.S. to I.I. Sollertinsky re. marriage to Nina

Approx. August 1934 - Approx. March 31, 1935

Undated Letter.
"There can be no question of divorcing Nina. Only now do I understand and appreciate what a wonderful woman she is and how dear she is to me"

Sollertinsky is the dedicatee of the Piano Trio no. 2 in E minor

Letter from D.S. to Elena Konstantinovskaya re. their relationship

August 1934

"I must confess that I have been trying to fall out of love with you and to forget you, but all in vain. I am dreaming of you falling in love with me and becoming my wife"

P. M. Kerzhenstev to I. V. Stalin and V. M. Molotov re. meeting with D. S.

7 February 1936

Head of the Committee on Arts Affairs letter to Soviet leaders regarding a meeting with Shostakovich.

"To my question about what conclusions he had drawn for himself from the article in Pravda, he replied that he wants to show by his creative work that he has accepted Pravda's instructions for himself."

From A. I. Angarov to the Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party re. Pravda article

20 March 1936

Angarov was the Deputy Head of the Department of CUltural-Educational Work.

"Direct Statments of disagreement with the Pravda articles were made by Sollertinsky and Rabinovich at meetings of Leningrad critics and music scholars....a music scholar(non-Party) stated that he disagreed with Pravda in its assessment of Shostakovich's opera Lady MacBeth of the Mtensk District, which he considers a brilliant work."

Soviet Culture and Power, p. 237.

letter from D.S. to Sollertinsky re. Seeing Stalin give a speech

November 1936

"Today I had the enormous good fortune of attending the concluding session of the Congress of Stakhanovites. In the presidium I saw Comrade Stalin, Comrades Molotov, Kaganovich, Voroshilov, Ordzhonikidze, Kalinin, Kosior, Mikoyan, Postïshev, Chubar, Andreyev, and Zhdanov. I heard the speeches of Comrades Stalin, Voroshilov, and Shvernik. I was captivated by Voroshilov’s speech, but after hearing Stalin I completely lost any sense of moderation and shouted “Hurrah!” along with the whole hall and applauded endlessly. You will read his historic speech in the newspapers so I won’t reproduce it for you. Certainly, today is the happiest day of my life: I saw and heard Stalin.
The Congress began today at 1 PM. That is why I left the rehearsal."

D.S letter to Isaak Glikman re. the death of Glikman's wife

17 April 1943

"First of all, please forgive me for not writing for such a long time. Tatyana Ivanovna's death caused me such grief that I could not bring myself to write"

Written after the death of Glikman's wife, Tatyana.

D.S. to I. Glikman re. the death of Sollertinsky

13 February 1944

"I have no words with which to express the pain that racks my entire being."

Dedicated the 2nd piano trio to his late friend

Letter from D.S. to Stalin re. upcoming visit to America.

17 March 1949

"First of all please accept my most heartfelt gratitude for the conversation that took place yesterday. you supported me very much, since the forthcoming trip to America has been worrying me greatly. I cannot but be proud of the confidence that has been placed in me. I will fulfil my duty. To speak on behalf of pur Soviet people in defence of peace is a great honour for me."

This letter was sent after Stalin personally rang the composer to discuss the trip.

Letter from D.S. to Elmira Nazirova re. Elmira motif


"I thought about you a great deal, and so I decided to turn your name into music"

Isaak Glikman re. letter writing


Writes that everything is good, says he only writes with complaints

letter from D.S. to Stalin re. meeting and advice

16 February 1950

"Dear Iosif Vissarionovich! Some burning issues in our musical life that also touch me personally compel me to disturb you. I beg you to receive me and hear me out. I am in pressing need of your help and adive"

It is not known if any meeting took place as there are no official records of the event.

Letter from D.S. to Elmira Nazirova re. missing her

November 1953

"I feel your absence. If you do not think ill of me, please write. I feel bad, and I am worried, and a word from you will help me recover."

D.S to I. Glikman re. 8th Quartet

19 July 1960

“However much I tried to draft my obligations for the film, I just couldn’t do it. Instead I wrote an ideologically deficient quartet nobody needs. I reflected that if I die some day then it’s hardly likely anyone will write a work dedicated to my memory. So I decided to write one myself. You could even write on the cover: ‘Dedicated to the memory of the com- poser of this quartet.’”

Interview with Maxim Shostakovich


Talking about Testimony. He agrees there is some truth in what Volkov has written. However, he talks about the number of rumours that are in the book, saying that rumours could be true or untrue. About his father being a "dissident" he says "In his life, but in his music, he was a great creator, a great composer"

Political Events

*Note; I have only displayed the 'official' leaders and have not shown the leadership challenges/battles.

World War 1

1914 - 1918

Russian Revolution


Revolution begun by the Bolsheviks, later the Communist Party.


October 1917 - January 1924

Lenin was the leader of the Bolshevik party which later was renamed the Communist party. In 1917 Lenin did not hold the balance of power, this was held by the Social Revolutionaries, however he seized power by dissolving the Assembly formed by the Provisional Government and eventually banning all opposition parties. He is generally portrayed as a more benevolent leader of the people than his successor.


1924 - 1953

Stalin's bid for leadership began before 1924 when Lenin was ill after his stroke. This struggle for leadership was principally against Trotsky, a left communist. This battle was won after a failed uprising by the left and Trotsky being expelled from the party and exiled in 1927.

Socialist Realism Declared


Soviet Writers congress saw the true beginning of socialist realism. It is reported that the congress were sent letters by every class of person, showing just how important literature and art were at that time.

Elena Arrested


D.S. visited her upon her release, after the Pravda review. He remarked "You see how fortunate it is that you didn't marry me" p.132n E.W. A Life Remembered

The Great Purge

1936 - 1938

A campaign of terror used to quiet any Party members threatening Stalin's rule. Starting in 1934 after the assassination of Sergey Kirov. This started as removing any threats from his own party, however many artists and academics who did not follow Party guidelines were also rounded up in this bloodshed, with many exiled or condemned to death.

Many people close to the composer were caught up in the purges, his brothr-in-law was arrested, also his Mother-in-law and sister Mariya were exiled.

Committee on Art Affairs founded

17 January 1936

Founded after a party resolution on 15th December 1935 to unify artists.

Allegedly founded after Stalin had voiced his dissatisfaction with the number of formalist and naturalist works, and the ineffectiveness of the Commissariat in repressing them. Historical Dictionary of Russian Music, Daniel Jaffé 2012, p.90.

Shostakovich Denounced, Prokofiev blamed

20 January 1936

'Muddle Instead of Music' Article link;

Date may differ from other sources due to different calenders, date shown here from Soviet Culture and Power, p. 229.

World War 2

1939 - 1945

Initially The USSR and Nazi Germany had a pact from which they both benefitted, dividing Europe between the two and supplying weaponry. This pact was fully broken when Germany invaded the USSR in June 1941 known as Operation Barbarossa. This invasion is often seen as the start of Germany's defeat as they struggled to survive the bitter cold of Russia. Russia was underprepared for the attacks in large part due to the purging of top military officials in the 1930s. The Invasion lasted until 1944 when Germany began retreating, until Russian troops met the allies in Germany dividing the country in East and West. It is estimated that 26 million Russians died during World War 2.
The pact would always have broken down, with reports suggesting that Russia had been planning it's own surprise attack of German forces for July 1941.

The Siege of Leningrad

September 1941 - January 1944

It is thought that over 600,000 people died in Leningrad, mainly due to starvation during the siege. The city was almost entirely surrounded a few weeks into September and transport was cut off by early November. Named the 900-day siege, it lasted 872 days.

Composers Retreat


spent the summer at the retreat organised by the Organizational Committee of the Union of Composers in 1943. This is where he wrote most of his 8th Symphony, Second Piano Trio, Second String Quartet and the 9th symphony

Committee on Art Affairs, and Organisational Committee of the Union of Composers punished


punished after allowing the opera written by Vano Muradeli

Muradeli, Shostakovich, Prokofiev, Khachaturian, Shebalin, Myakovsky, Popov


Muradeli Subject of Decree which denounced several composers

Moscow Conservatoire Denounced


The Leningrad Affair

1948 - 1950

A purge of up to 2,000 party officials in Leningrad after the death of Stalin's advisor A. A. Zhdanov.


1955 - 1964

Here most notable for 'The Krushchev Thaw' and denouncing Stalin or 'De-Stalinisation'. His rule saw a significant ease of the rules governing artists and culture.

Committee resolution softening the denunciation of 1948

28 May 1958

Titled "On the Correction of Errors in the Evaluation of the Operas The Great Friendship, Bogdan Khmelnitsky, and From All My Heart." It did not reverse the original denunciation but instead acknowledged the good work of the composers too.
“Gifted composers, Comrades Prokofiev, Shostakovich, Khachaturyan, Shebalin, Popov, Myaskovsky, and others, who demonstrated faulty tendencies at times in some of their works, were indiscriminately denounced as representatives of the formalist, anti-people trend.”


1964 - 1982


This contains anecdotes from family and friends including stories with alternative versions.

Dmitri Shostakovich


Victor Ilyich Seroff 1943, p.80

'Later in life Mitya stated proudly: "I met the October Revolution on the Street."'

Playing at the cinema

Approx. 1923

Zoya described this as torture, people would boo as he improvised as he went off script. This is where he first debuted the first piano trio.


Approx. 1923 - 1975

Shostakovich's life was marked by many illnesses. In his teenage years he was plagued by 'Scrofula' and old fashioned term for tuberculosis in the lymph nodes which required an operation in 1923. In April 1927 he needed an appendectomy. In 1965 he began to have heart trouble, and had three heart attacks in 1966, 1971 and 1975. In 1972 he was diagnosed with cancer which started in his lungs and then spread to his liver. He was also diagnosed with poliomyelitis in 1969, a condition that had been slowly reducing his movement since 1958.

The following Book and articles suggesting his illness which truly took hold in 1958 was MND/ALS.

D.S. Interrogation by the NKVD


Shostakovich 5th Symphony


Sir Mark Elder. Elena Konstantinovskaya married a man named Carmen, D.S. quotes Carmen in the first page of the symphony. He ends with a page of relentless A similar to Elena's nickname Lyalya

Weekend away with couple


Nina's Affair with Artiom Alikhaniyan

Approx. 1943 - Approx. 5-Dec-1954

One of Nina's colleagues with whom she had a relationship. It also appears that he was acquainted with and even friends with D. S.

In Elizabeth Wilson's 'Shostakovich: A Life Remembered' 2006 p.99, Shostakovich's ex-love and life long friends says that Nina" lived much of the time with another man" there is no name mentioned but it is possible this was Artiom.

D.S. Editior in Chief of Children's Radio Show

June 1945

Shostakovich: A Life

Rostropovich and cello concerto

Approx. 1950

When Mstislav Rostropovich asked Nina for her advice to commision a piece from D.S. she told him not to mention it to him and that would be the best thing.

Letters to his Mother

November 1955

In her accounts to E. Wilson in 'A Life Remembered' Zoya remarks that D.S. burnt all of his letters to his mother, around the time of her funeral. This of course was not true as we have surviving letters today. However this does display his secretive nature.

Frivolous liaisons

27 January 1956

"You know, by nature, I am incapable of frivolous liaisons with women. I need a wife, a woman to live with me and be at my side"
on Nina's name day to Flora Litvinova. Shows again his feelings about love.

People's Artist Award

This shows when Dmitri Shostakovich's peers were in favour. Some of these awards came after denunciations and some before. I have only included composers on this list.

Alexander Vasilyevich Alexandrov


Wrote National Anthem, founder of Alexandrov Ensemble also known as Red Army Band

Reinheld Gliere, Uzeyir Hajibayov


Ivan Kozlovsky, Maxim Mikhaylov


Ivan Patorzhinsky


Nikolai Myakovsky, Boris Asafyev


Natan Rakhlin


Mukhtar Ashrafi


Yelizaveta Charder


Dmitri Shostakovich, Yuri Shaporin


Gara Garayev


Dmitri Kabelevsky, Tikhen Khrennikov


Janis Ivanovs, Veli Mukhatov


Vasily Solovev-Sedoy


Vano Muradeli, Andrei Balanchivadze


Anatoliy Novikov, Georgi Sviridov, Margeris Zarins, Vladimir Kandelaki


Arno Babadzhanyen, Anatoli Aleksandrov


Dmitri Pokras, Matvei Blanter