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Zhivago’s ‘Lara’ Defended

January 9, 1998

MOSCOW (AP) _ The daughter of the Russian woman who inspired the character of Lara in ``Doctor Zhivago″ angrily denied Friday that her mother informed on author Boris Pasternak to the communist government.

A newspaper article that suggested Olga Ivinskaya had betrayed Pasternak ``was all slander and mud-slinging,″ her daughter, Irina Yemelyanova, said in an interview on the Echo Moscow radio station.

The Russian daily Moskovsky Komsomolets published an article in November containing excerpts from a letter Ivinskaya had written to Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev in 1961, while she was in prison for helping Pasternak.

Ivinskaya, who died in 1995, was Pasternak’s longtime agent and mistress. Yemelyanova said her mother’s letter was a last-ditch attempt to fool the repressive regime and win some concessions.

``Millions of prisoners wrote such letters in despair,″ she said. ``This miserable letter can only cause pity for her. It was immoral to use it.″

In the letter, Ivinskaya asked to ease her punishment, and cited services rendered to the authorities to help silence the rebellious author.

Ivinskaya reminded Khrushchev she had contacted the KGB and Communist Party officials on how to prevent publication of ``Doctor Zhivago″ abroad and to keep the writer under control when the book finally appeared in the West.

She also claimed that she often had held up Pasternak’s letters addressed abroad and tried to prevent him from meeting foreigners.

Yemelyanova is locked in a long-running court battle for Pasternak’s archives with the author’s daughter-in-law, Natalia Pasternak, and a state archive that has custody of the documents.

In the radio interview, Yemelyanova described the newspaper publication as an unscrupulous attempt to influence the court by smearing her mother.

Ivinskaya was a 34-year-old editor at Novy Mir literary magazine when she met Pasternak shortly after World War II, when the author was 56. They soon became romantically involved, but the Soviet authorities, trying to control Pasternak, arrested Ivinskaya in 1949. She was sentenced to four years of hard labor and had a stillborn child in jail.

Ivinskaya served as a model for Lara, a romantic heroine of ``Doctor Zhivago,″ published abroad to wide acclaim in 1957 and officially banned in the Soviet Union as an anti-Soviet work.

Under government pressure, Pasternak rejected the Nobel Prize for literature in 1958 and lived out his final years amid well-orchestrated hounding by authorities. He died in 1960 at age 70.

Ivinskaya was arrested for a second time after Pasternak’s death and sentenced to eight years in a labor camp for smuggling fees from ``Dr. Zhivago’s″ publication in the West. She was released in 1964 after serving half her term.

Yemelyanova, imprisoned along with her mother, was freed in 1962 and later allowed to emigrate. She now lives in Paris.

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