For decades a pillar of the Soviet literary establishment, Sholokhov owes his stature to And Quiet Flows the Don (1928--40), a four-volume epic of the life and fate of the Don Cossacks in the Revolution and civil war. Although himself a party member, Sholokhov depicts fairly impartially both sides in the conflict between the Reds and the Whites and shows how his hero, Grigory Melekhov, is driven by background and fate from one camp to the other. This realistic novel captures the exotic Cossack milieu superbly, and the whole works on a scale unseen since Tolstoy's War and Peace. Among Sholokhov's later works, Virgin Soil Upturned (1932--60), which deals with the collectivization of agriculture, deserves particular mention; the first volume is far more direct and honest than the much-later second volume. Over the years, Sholokhov's authorship of And Quiet Flows the Don has been questioned, most recently by Solzhenitsyn, but Sholokhov has had strong defenders in both the Soviet Union and the West. His political stance accounts for part of the anger directed against him. Extremely conservative, Sholokhov made vicious attacks on dissidents and the West and, aside from his concern for environmental issues, was a devoted follower of the party line.