Manuvakh Dadashev was born in 1913 in Derbent, Dagestan, in southern Russia, into a family of Mountain Jews. Upon graduating from high school, he moved to Moscow and studied at the rabfak (preparatory courses) for entering Moscow's IFLI (Institute for Philosophy, Literature, and History). In 1933 he returned to Derbent, where he married. Dadashev found a job as courier for the newspaper Zaħmәtkәş (or Zahmetkesh, the Toiler), which was published in Derbent in the Judeo-Tat, or Juhuri, language, the mother-tongue of the Mountain Jews. Having begun as a courier, in a short time Dadashev joined the newspaper's literary staff. He published his first poems in the Judeo-Tat language on the pages of Zaħmәtkәş. In 1934, together with Semenduev, Dadashev was one of the two Mountain-Jewish delegates to the first convention of Dagestani writers. In the following years, he translated Russian poetry and collected folklore of the Mountain Jews.
Dadashev was drafted into the Red Army in 1941 or, according to a different source, he volunteered for the Red Army in the summer of 1941, saying to his wife Galina: "Our big clan is well known in Dagestan. I do not want to hide behind the backs of others. […] When I return, I will write a book about this war. Take care of our sons". Dadashev, reached the frontlines, with the rank of lieutenant, only in the following year. Since this was during the second offensive of the Wehrmacht in southern Russia and the Caucasus, Dadashev experienced the humiliating retreat of the Red Army. The Stalingrad operation began in the fall of 1942 and, as the commander of a rifle company, Senior Lieutenant Dadashev took part in it. During the retreat at the Don River, Dadashev captured two German soldiers. After that, he was appointed adjutant to the commander of the 613th Rifle Regiment. Later, "for his valiant rescue of the life of his regiment's commander" (the circumstances are unknown), he was awarded the Medal For Courage.
In 1943,Dadashev took part in the Soviet offensives in the Northern Caucasus, and then in Ukraine. "What a wonderful direction – to be heading west!" he wrote in one of his letters home. In August 1943, he was fatally wounded during the fighting in the Donbass (in Eastern Ukraine). On the following day he died in a military hospital. He was buried in a common grave in Luhansk.
His wife Galina could not believe that Manuvakh had been killed – after all, in each of his letters to her, he wrote "I will return!" She did not remarry and brought up their sons by herself. Now one of them lives in Israel.
From Manuvakh Dadashev's letters
In a letter to a friend who was a literary critic, that was written at the peak of the Red Army's retreat in the summer of 1942, Dadashev applied in an original way, relevant to this time, a well-known passage from Midrash Rabba:
"… Hitler's Germany is like the pot, about which our old proverb says: 'If a pot falls upon a stone, woe to the pot; if a stone falls upon a pot, woe to the pot; either way, woe to the pot' [(Esther Rabbah, 7:10)]. The pot will be broken, because I have never known a stone harder than our Red Army… But all of this will be in future; today the pot is rolling over us, and during these past months I have been tasting the bitterness of retreat."
From a letter to his wife, written after the liberation of Rostov-on-Don, in the Northern Caucasus
"We who have experienced the bitterness of retreat are now fully enjoying our victory. My dear one, I cannot convey to you the joy and happiness that I have experienced during the two days of our stay in Rostov. [...] I am happy, and only the monstrous traces of the German brutality poison the joy of victory. They destroyed everything. In the zoological garden1 14 thousand killed Jews of Rostov [are lying]. I saw this and, filled with hatred, I clenched my fists. Women and children, children, children [...] We had only one wish – to take revenge! The only consolation was the corpses of the Germans, that we could see everywhere".
- 1. Sic, should be botanical garden. Irina Mikhailova, Evrei Derbenta v Velikoi Otechestvennoi Voine. Moscow, 2013, p.202.