Mishi Bakhshiev was born in 1910 in Derbent, Dagestan (the northeastern Caucasus), in a family of Mountain Jews. When Mishi was 11 years old, his father Yusuf (Iosef) had him apprenticed to a cobbler’s workshop. However, Mishi wanted to obtain an education: He ran away from his parental home and came to Krasnodar, where he enrolled in a rabfak (lit. workers’ faculty) that prepared working youths for higher education. In 1928, he moved to Moscow and entered the Moscow Land Management Institute (the present-day Moscow State University of Land Management). At the same time, Mishi (Mikhail, according to his official Soviet documents) joined the writers’ circle that had been established under the auspices of the Molodaia Gvardiia publishing house, and began to write prose and poetry. Among the members of this circle, there were some young Russian-Jewish poets, such as Aleksandr Bezymenskii, Semion Kirsanov, and others. In 1931, Molodaia Gvardiia published Bakhshiev’s first short novel (in Russian). Next year, an Azerbaijani publishing house in Baku published his first collection of poems in Juhuri, the language of the Mountain Jews. Throughout his life, Bakhshiev wrote in both Russian and Juhuri.
In 1934, Mikhail Bakhshiev graduated from the Land Management Institute and came back to Dagestan, where he made a rapid career in the administrative apparatus: By the late 1930s, he was head of the Land Management Administration of the Dagestan Autonomous Republic. In 1938, Mishi Bakhshiev (he kept this form of his name as a pen-name) became secretary of the Union of Writers of Dagestan.
Following the outbreak of the Soviet-German War in June 1941, Bakhshiev volunteered to serve in the Red Army. In 1942, he was already on frontline duty. Mikhail Bakhshiev became a special correspondent of the frontline newspaper of the 53rd Army. With this army, he passed through the Northwestern and the 2nd Ukrainian Fronts, and fought in northwestern Russia (the Battle of Demyansk), and then in Ukraine and Romania. In late 1944 and 1945, he saw action in Hungary and Czechoslovakia. In 1945-46, Bakhshiev served in the Far East, on the Transbaikal Front, and was deployed to Mongolia and Manchuria in 1945. His job as a military correspondent was to offer an insider's view of the life of the army. However, he also wrote about soldiers’ frontline exploits. A citation for his military award read: “Captain Bakhshiev spent most of his time with the frontline units, studying the experience of battles. Staying under enemy fire, he compiled the materials obtained from the combatants into newspaper items.... He put forward a lot of interesting and instructive materials ...
Bakhshiev focused in particular on materials relating to [the exploits of] heroes of non-Russian ethnicity." Bakhshiev himself pointed out that his reports were meant to refute the fabrications of Nazi propaganda, according to which the indigenous peoples of the Caucasus had greeted the German Army with joy. In the course of the war, Bakhshiev was awarded the Order of the Red Star; the Order of the Patriotic War, 2nd class, and at least one medal “For Battle Merit.” His highest rank during the war was that of major. He was discharged from the army in 1953 in the rank of lieutenant-colonel.
Following his discharge, Mikhail Bakhshiev served as a Party functionary in Dagestan, worked as deputy editor-in-chief of the Dagestanskaia Pravda newspaper, and wrote prose works and stage plays in Russian and Juhuri. Only after 1956 did the normally law-abiding Bakhshiev dare to voice criticism of the Stalinist period.
Mikhail Bakhshiev died in Makhachkala in 1972.