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Touches for the Portrait

The Roots of the Sholokhovs’ Family

We don’t know much about the forefathers of M.A. Sholokhov, and each new fact of the roots of the genealogical tree of this great man is important for us. According to the Moscow literary critic V. Levchenko, “the genealogy of Sholokhov is of great interest in itself as a human document of the Russian history and as a deep-water spring source of the “Quiet Don”, its underground bed”.

The roots of the Sholokhovs’ family lie in an old town of Zaraisk. Late in XVII – early in XVIII centuries the family of the direct Sholokhov’s ancestor, Serghey Firsovich Sholokhov, lived there. Together with his three brothers Serghey Firsovich lived in Pushkarskaya Sloboda settlement. They were gunners, rather close to Cossacks by their status. The gunners were mentioned in the home history in 1444 under the name of “Ryazan Cossacks”. Their main duty was to protect the settlement against the enemy and to take part in the military campaigns. As we see, the genealogy of the Sholokhovs’ family ascends to the estate of soldiers (strelets, gunners and others).

Many years later, when Zaraisk ceased to be the southern outpost of Moscow Rus and became a merchant town, the Sholokhovs turned into the merchant estate. There were the first-guild merchants among them.

Sholokhov’s grandfather, Mikhail Mikhailovich, was a merchant of the third guild. In the first half of the XIX century he moved to the Don, as the steady grain trading connections of Rus and the Don ran through Zaraisk.

The first mentioning of M.M. Sholokhov, the writer’s grandfather, as kept in the Don archives, dates back to 1852. By that time he had got a certificate for trading right from the regional exchequer.

Mikhail Mikhailovich settled in Stanitsa Vyoshenskaya. At first he sold fabric goods in a small shop. Soon he came into effect and possessed three manufacture shops: in Veshki, in the villages of Dudarevka and Kruzhilin. And at the end of the century Mikhail Mikhailovich was mentioned among the merchants of the second guild, the highest for the merchants of Stanitsa Vyoshenskaya. By annual turnover of the capital Sholokhov was rated the third among the stanitsa’s merchantry.

Soon Mikhail Mikhailovich got married Mariya Vasiliyevna Mokhova, the daughter of a rich merchant Vasiliy Timofeyevich Mokhov. Mokhov originated from the Boguchar petty bourgeois of the Voronezh region, whose genealogy was traced in the novel “And Quiet Flows the Don” from the time of Peter the Great.

The Sholokhovs rooted deeply on the land of Vyoshenskaya. Mikhail Mikhailovich and Mariya Vasiliyevna got eight children: four daughters and four sons. In Vyoshenskaya the children were raised, brought up and educated.

According to recollections of the old residents, the Sholokhovs were educated, intellectual people. The writer’s uncle, Nikolay Mikhailovich Sholokhov, had a big private library, a rare thing in the stanitsa. The library was available for the relatives as well as for the ordinary Cossack countrymen. Certainly, young Misha Sholokhov also used the library.

The writer’s father, Alexander Mikhailovich Sholokhov, was born in 1865, finished the parochial school. When grown up enough he took after his forefathers in trading traditions and served as shop-assistant in his father’s shop in Kruzhilin Village. Alexander Mikhailovich possessed no immovable property, but being an enterprising man he tried his best to gain economic independence, he sowed grain on the rented Cossack land, sold different hardware goods travelling about the villages and stanitsas, was a cattle buyer, manager of the steam-mill, manager of the Karghin purveyance office.

Alexander Mikhailovich was an outstanding, real rural intellectual in a broad sense of the word. The old residents remembered him to be sympathetic, modest, besides, he was a wit, clever person and book lover. He read a lot, possessed a fine library, he loved Russian classic literature, was interested in the history of the Russian state, economics, agriculture, philosophy.

A.M. Sholokhov influenced  greatly on bringing up of his son and developing his natural gift. He gave Misha a taste for reading, always talked with him about the books read. At the age of 12 the boy liked talking and disputing with his father on philosophical subjects. Being of unique memory, he imbibed all what he read, amazing the people with his knowledge.

The mother of M.A. Sholokhov, Anastasiya Danilovna, Chernikova by origin, was born in 1971 in a village of Yasenovka (near Kruzhilin Village) to a big poor family. Her ancestors (from serf peasants of the Chernigov region) had been bought and taken out to the Don by landowner Popov.

At the age of twelve Anastasiya began working as housemaid for rich people. She was pretty, had a fine voice, natural intelligence, strong character and diligence. The Popovs married her to an adult Cossack, Stefan Kuznetsov, from Stanitsa Yelanskaya. However her married life was not a success, Anastasiya left her husband and the Popovs let her resume her job. Just here Anastasiya got acquainted with Alexander Mikhailovich Sholokhov, who visited the Popovs on business dealing with grain purchases and resale. This acquaintance grew into a deep mutual feeling. First Alexander Mikhailovich dated up with Anastasiya in Yasenovka, then, not long before the birth of her son, took her to Kruzhilin, to his home.

Here, in a village of Kruzhilin of Stanitsa Vyoshenskaya, the Donetsk District of the Great Don Army Region, on May, 24, 1905, to the Sholokhovs’ family a boy was born, who was christened Mikhail by the priest Father Eugheniy.

Alexander Mikhailovich and Anastasiya Danilovna had live unwed for a long time, and Misha, till he was eight, bore a surname of Kuznetsov (his mother’s first husband) and was considered a son of a Cossack. The parents of M.A. Sholokhov wedded only in 1913, when the first husband of Anastasiya Danilovna diceased. Since then Misha  had been no more considered a Cossack and began bearing his legal father’s surname.

The experience by his child’s heart of the “illegality”  status of his position,  Sholokhov artistically recreated in the short story “Bastard”, of which he said it was partly “an autobiographical story”.

Sholokhov’s parents lived 20 years together. Alexander Mikhailovich died in 1925, aged 60, having had time to read only “The Don Stories” of his beloved son. A.M. Sholokhov was buried in Stanitsa Karghinskaya. After her husband’s death Anastasiya Danilovna lived with her son and his family first in Karghinskaya, then from 1926 in Vyoshenskaya.

In the time of the Great Patriotic war, on July, 8, 1942, Anastasiya Danilovna perished during the bombardment of Stanitsa Vyoshenskaya. She was buried at the stanitsa’s cemetery. His mother’s death shook the writer, became a great grief which was difficult to survive. With pain in his heart he said: “It was a real Russian woman, strong and steady, of great moral strength”. A number of traits of his mother were embodied by M.A. Sholokhov in the images of the women personages of his books.

In May, 1922, after finishing the short-term courses of the provision inspection in Rostov, Sholokhov was sent to Bukanovskaya, where he worked as stanitsa’s inspector. Here Mikhail Alexandrovich met with his future wife, Mariya Petrovna Gromoslavskaya, the daughter of the former stanitsa’s ataman.

In 1924 they got married and from that time on they were inseparable till the end of their days. The Sholokhovs lived 60 years together, having raised and brought up four children. They had many grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Mikhail Alexandrovich and Mariya Petrovna were buried near each other, in the garden by their house.

At present in Vyoshenskaya the writer’s children live: Svetlana Mikhailovna, Mikhail Mikhailovich and his family. Every year the younger daughter of the writer, Mariya Mikhailovna, comes to Vyoshenskaya. Alexander Mikhailovich, the grandson of Mikhail Alexandrovich, is the director of the State M.A. Sholokhov Museum-Reserve.

The roots of the Sholokhovs’ family have grown deep, and the genealogical tree keeps growing green and ramifying.

N. Kirsanova