The famous Soviet writer and journalist Boris Gorbatov was born in 1908, in a Jewish family living in the mining town of Petromaryevsk (present-day Pervomaisk in Lugansk Oblast). His childhood and adolescence passed in the shadow of the coal industry. As a boy, he was apprenticed to a planer at a factory in the Donbass. At the age of 15, he was already working as а reporter for a local newspaper. He made his literary debut with a short story titled "The Sated and the Hungry," which was published in the newspaper Vsesoyuznaia Kochegarka.
Boris Gorbatov moved to Moscow in 1926, and that move marked the beginning of his active literary career. However, Gorbatov was no "armchair" journalist. He traveled the length and breadth of the USSR, making repeated trips to the Donbass, the Urals, Bodaybo in Irkutsk Oblast, and the Kamchatka Krai. In the 1930s, he served as a correspondent of Pravda in the Arctic, wintering there for several years. His journalistic work in the Arctic resulted in a well-known short story collection titled The Ordinary Arctic (1940).
Gorbatov had an ardent faith in Communist ideology and the Soviet regime, and was an utterly sincere "bard" of socialism (e.g., in his novella The Cell (1928)) who idealized labor. Despite this, he always remained a thoughtful writer. His novella Our City, written in 1930, was based on the judicial records of the "Artyomovsk Affair". In it, he tried to think through the rigors of life of the Soviet countryside. The novella drew the ire of the authorities and remained unpublished. Gorbatov lost his job and the support of his friends. He was subjected to withering criticism, and lived in fear of imminent arrest and expulsion from the Party. The threat of persecution increased because of the fate of Gorbatov's siblings: His middle brother was shot on charges of having ties with Trotskyites, while his older brother was repressed in those same years. His acquaintances would later recall that, even when faced with the prospect of losing his liberty, Gorbatov offered to help repressed individuals and interceded on their behalf.
In the late 1930s, Gorbatov was drafted into the Red Army. Although he could have obtained an exemption on medical grounds, his conscience prevented him from taking this course. He served in the Caucasus and Western Belorussia, and took part in the Soviet-Finnish War of 1939-1940.
From the first days of the Soviet-German War, officer Gorbatov served as a reporter for frontline newspapers. During the war, he published hundreds of sketches, short stories, and novellas. His novel The Unvanquished, written in 1943, became the basis for an eponymous Soviet feature film released in 1945. That film, directed by Mark Donskoy, was the first depiction of the Holocaust in Soviet cinema. In August 1944, he published a sketch titled "The Camp in Majdanek" in the Soviet press. Boris had visited the camp shortly after its liberation by Soviet troops. In this sketch, he explicitly identified the Jews as victims of Nazism, describing them as a separate category of victims of the death camp and detailing their identification badges.In the course of the war, Boris Gorbatov was awarded the orders of the Red Star and of the Patriotic War, 1st class, as well as medals.
In 1947, Gorbatov was one of the screenwriters of The Judgment of the Nations (released in English under the title The Nuremberg Trials), a documentary about the Nuremberg Trials produced by the documentary filmmaker Roman Karmen.
Boris Gorbatov died in 1954, at the age of 45. He was buried at the Novodevichye Cemetery in Moscow.