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Alexander Volkov
Russian writer Alexander Melentyevich Volkov, 1914
Russian writer Alexander Melentyevich Volkov, 1914
Born Alexander Melentyevich Volkov
(1891-06-14)June 14, 1891
Ust-Kamenogorsk, Semipalatinsk Oblast, Russian Empire
Died July 3, 1977(1977-07-03) (aged 86)
Moscow, Soviet Union

Alexander Melentyevich Volkov (Russian: Александр Мелентьевич Волков June 14, 1891 – July 3, 1977) was a Soviet novelist, playwright, university lecturer. Аuthor of novels, short stories, plays and poems for children, mostly remembered for Magic Land series of books based on L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.


Volkov was born in Ust-Kamenogorsk, Semipalatinsk Oblast, Russian Empire (now Oskemen, Kazakhstan). At the age of 12 he graduated from the Ust-Kamenogorsk town school as valedictorian, where he later began his pedagogical activity. In 1907 he entered the Tomsk Teachers Institute. In 1909 he graduated from it with right to teach all subjects of the school curriculum, except for the Law of God.

He began to work as a teacher in Ust-Kamenogorsk. Since 1910 he worked as mathematician teacher in the village of Kolyvan. In the 1920s he moved to Yaroslavl, where he worked as a school principal. In absentia he graduated from the mathematical faculty of the Yaroslavl Pedagogical Institute.

In 1929 he moved to Moscow, where he worked as the head teacher of the rabfak. For seven months he completed the course and passed the external examinations at the Physics and Mathematics Faculty of Moscow University.

Since 1931 he worked as teacher, and later as Docent of the Department of Higher Mathematics of the Moscow Institute of Non-Ferrous Metals and Gold.


Magic Land series

The first of these books, The Wizard of the Emerald City, is a loose translation of the first Oz book, with chapters added, altered, or omitted, some names changed (for example, Dorothy becomes "Ellie", Oz is renamed "Magic Land" (Russian: Волшебник Изумрудного города), and Toto can talk when in Magic Land), and several characters given personal names instead of generic ones. Baum's name is mentioned in the first of Volkov books but the Soviet Union paid no royalties to the Baum estate. First published in 1939 in the Soviet Union, the book became quite popular; and in the 1960s Volkov also wrote his own sequels to the story. He liberally borrowed from some of the originals, such as using the "Powder of Life" idea from The Marvelous Land of Oz, but mostly created a divergent universe. From 1963 to 1970, four more books in the series were published, with the sixth and final story published posthumously in 1982. Other authors such as Yuri Kuznetsov, Sergei Sukhinov, and Leonid Vladimirsky (Volkov's original illustrator) have recently written additional sequels in Russian, creating in effect an alternative series of Oz books.

The context and situations found in the Volkov version are notably different from the original Baum version in their political tones. The situations, while still maintaining a childlike clarity of good versus evil, often involve the characters encountering very mature political and ethical decisions. The heroes are repeatedly called upon to defend Magic Land against invasions or topple feudalistic or aristocratic governments to free the populace. Both themes are often found in Soviet sci-fi and adventure literature (see the Strugatsky brothers' novels Hard to be a God and Inhabited Island).

Volkov had faith in the omnipotence of the man-made technique, so the wizardry of his heroes was usually won with the help of various technical inventions (a cannon designed by Charly Black, a mechanical drill, and Tilly-Willy's super-robot).

Volkov's Magic Land series was translated into many languages and was popular with children all over the Eastern bloc. Volkov's version of Oz seems to be better known than Baum's in some countries, for example in China, in Germany (especially former East Germany), and also in Arab countries such as Syria. In Germany, one author has written his own set of sequels to Volkov's books. The books in Volkov's Magic Land series have been translated into English — or retranslated, in the case of the first book — by Peter L. Blystone, and were published by Red Branch Press in three volumes (two books a volume) in 1991 (revised edition 2010), 1993, and 2007.

Volkov's Magic-Land books

  • The Wizard of the Emerald City (Волшебник Изумрудного города, 1939)
  • Urfin Joos and his Wooden Soldiers (Урфин Джюс и его деревянные солдаты, 1963)
  • The Seven Underground Kings (Семь подземных королей, 1964)
  • The Fiery God of the Marrans (Огненный бог марранов, 1968)
  • The Yellow Fog (Жёлтый туман, 1970)
  • The Secret of the Deserted Castle (Тайна заброшенного замка, 1975, published in 1982)

Other books

  • Wonderful balloon (The first aeronaut) (1940)
  • The Two Brothers (1950, rewritten in 1961)
  • The Architects (1954)
  • Astern trace (1960)
  • The Wandering (1963) (about childhood and youth of Giordano Bruno
  • Prisoner of Zargrad (1969)
  • Land and Sky (1972)
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