One of the landmarks of Peredelkino, a picturesque artists' colony on the outskirts of Moscow, has been a three-story brown and white building in which Boris Pasternak lived the last decades of his life.
Since his death in 1960, his heirs have lived in the house, preserving it as a memorial to the Nobel Prize- winning author of "Doctor Zhivago" and some of the best 20th century Russian poetry.
Friends and admirers of Pasternak used to go there on weekends to view memorabilia associated with the writer and his father, Leonid, who was a well-known painter.
From the dacha, or country home, across the cornfield, one could see the three pine trees near Pasternak's grave in the shadow of a 17th century Russian Orthodox church.
On Oct. 16, with the winter's first snow, the Pasternak relatives were told that they would have to vacate the house immediately. His son Yevgeny and Natasha, the widow of Pasternak's other son, Leonid, emptied the house of the memorabilia.
The next day, accompanied by a local policeman, a group of Peredelkino activists seized the remaining furniture and other effects. These are now under lock and key at the House of Creativity at Peredelkino, which serves as a community center and literary museum. Only Pasternak's Bechstein piano was left on the premises.
THE EVICTION marked the end of a long battle between Pasternak's heirs and the Soviet literary authorities. Houses in Peredelkino are not owned by writers but rented from Litfond, a writers' organization. By contract, dachas revert to Litfond on the death of an author and are reassigned to other writers.
The Litfond officials have been trying to evict the Pasternak family for some time, and during the past five years the case has been heard by the courts. A lower court initially ruled against Litfond, but a Moscow provincial court overturned this decision.
It is believed that Litfond decided to go ahead with the eviction because they have at least 22 relatives of other dead writers occupying Peredelkino dachas and they want to repossess all of them.
Peredelkino residents are divided. Some deplore the official action, arguing that Pasternak was an author of such stature that he deserves a museum in the house where he lived and worked.
OTHERS ARGUE that Pasternak was a writer of genius whose legacy belongs to the nation rather than his relatives. The Pasternak relatives are campaigning to turn the house into a museum with themselves as custodians.
It seems apparent that the controversial author, who was once publicly assailed here as a "literary traitor," will eventually get a museum of his own.
Such literary figures as poets Andrei Voznesensky and Yevgeny Yevtushenko were said to have strongly argued that his Peredelkino dacha be turned into a memorial to Pasternak.
Pasternak's "Doctor Zhivago" has yet to be published in the Soviet Union. When he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature for the novel, the author was subjected to strident criticism.
One senior government figure described him as a "pig who has fouled the spot where he eats and cast filth on those by whose labor he lives and breathes."
A writers' union official called him "a literary whore hired and kept in America's anti-Soviet brothel." But the controversy had died down long ago and Pasternak was forgiven his political sins. He is now acclaimed as one of the country's great poets.