Ilf and Petrov

Ilf and Petrov - life and work

NEW ON THE WEBSITE: (16/07/2012) Dutch version of chess page added.

This website is dedicated to the life and work of Ilya Ilf and Yevgeny Petrov. Every modern-day Russian knows some quotes from their work, even if they are not always aware that the quotes belong to Ilf and Petrov. 'Командовать парадом буду я' may be as well-known in Russia as 'To be or not to be' is in England and the rest of the world (including Russia).
But I suspect Ilf and Petrov themselves are not as well-known as their two immortal novels, The Twelve Chairs and The Little Golden Calf. Well, most people who have read these novels probably know that they were written somewhere between the Revolution and World War II, which gives a pretty precise indication of the birth years of the authors. But surely there must be more? What about their other work? What about their relationship with the authorities, how did the Great Terror affect them? What is their place in Russian and world literature?
With this website I attempt to answer these kind of questions, providing some background for readers who are still curious after reading the novels.

For whom is this site intended?

This website is intended for all lovers of the work of Ilya Ilf and Evgeny Petrov, be they 'common readers', students or 'professionals'.

The site will be mostly in English, but when quoting from their work I will quote in Russian. It means that the website will be more useful for those who are able to at least read Russian, but I have tried to make it interesting as well for those with no or limited knowledge of Russian.


As said, all quotes will be given in Russian, except in a few cases on the page on translation issues.
I will refer to the two novels by their English titles (using The Little Golden Calf rather than The Golden Calf, see the discussion on the translation page). Titles of other works are given in Russian, as non-English readers might not recognize the English titles.

A short overview of what you can find on this site:


A one-page biography is to be found on many Internet pages. I have tried to give more than the standard story. I have gathered information from various sources which you will not find so easily elsewhere.

Ideological background

How did Ilf and Petrov relate to Soviet ideology? Writers more knowledgeable than myself have written about this tricky subject, but I have tried to shed some new light on it anyway, by comprehensively presenting passages with an ideological character from The Little Golden Calf and Одноэтажная Америка and trying to draw conclusions from that. Also I share some thoughts of my own on a more general level. For good historical background information I refer the reader to the bibliographical page, where they can see which experts wrote about this.

Translation issues

I hope this section is interesting for both Russian and non-Russian readers - problems with translating the works of Ilf and Petrov shed some light on their style and other peculiarities.


Which writers influenced Ilf and Petrov? Which writers were influenced by them, or show some sort of thematical relationship with Ilf and Petrov?


Books by and about Ilf and Petrov, and background reading.

Modern allusions

The works of Ilf and Petrov have become part of collective Russian consciousness, particularly the two novels. One can still allude to them and be understood. I here present a small collection of such allusions and hope to receive additions from you.


The Vasyuki chapter from The 12 chairs is one of the most humourous chapters from their work. Ilf and Petrov also referred to chess elsewhere and I think many chess players are familiar with their work. On this page I present chess-historical background, I will explain the chess content of The Twelve Chairs in particular. Chess lovers can find a number of interesting Ilf and Petrov related games here. Also I will give some examples of allusions to Ilf and Petrov in the chess world.

This site is still in its development phase

This means that some links are not 'alive' yet. Please have a look and... come back again in the near future!


I thank Mrs Alexandra Ilf, daughter of Ilya Arnoldovich Ilf, for kindly giving and sending me books and electronic materials, and especially for her warm welcome in Moscow.


Ilf and Petrov at the First All-Union Soviet Writers’ Congress. 1934

Document history of this page:
First online - 18/11/2010
Last minor corrections - 17/12/2010
Last major corrections -

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