Monday, 28 February 2011

Mikhail Glinka, Biography

Mikhail Glinka was the founder of the nationalist school of Russian composers and is often regarded as the father of Russian classical music. Glinka's compositions were an important influence on future Russian composers, notably the members of the Mighty Five, who took Glinka's lead and produced a distinctive Russian style of music.

Mikhail Glinka was born in 1804 in the village of Novospasskoye, not far from the Desna River, in Smolensk Province in the Russian Empire. His father was a wealthy retired army captain, intelligent and homely; he was busy laying out and modernizing his park so the boy was brought up by his grandmother (his father’s mother) – an autocratic woman, a “thunderbolt” of bondsmen and the whole family.

Mikhail was a feeble, nervous, weak child, manipulated by his grandmother until she died when he was six years old. After that, Glinka was moved to his maternal uncle’s estate 10 kilometers away from home, and once, quite by accident, heard his uncle’s orchestra, whose repertoire included Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven. Music produced such an indelible impression upon Glinka that he asked to be taught music along with the lessons of Russian, German, French and geography that his governess was in charge of. The future musician was especially charmed by the sounds of the violin and the flute, and in his uncle’s orchestra he played these very instruments. His first violin teacher was a bondsman from Smolensk.

At the age of 13 Glinka was sent to the then capital, Saint Petersburg, to study at a school for children of the nobility. He took piano, violin and voice lessons from the Italian, German, and Austrian teachers there.

When Mikhail left school his father wanted him to join the Foreign Office, and the young man was appointed assistant secretary of the Department of Public Highways (a post he held for four years – from 1824 to 1928). Glinka did not particularly like civil service, at the age of 19 he had already decided to dedicate his life to music, but at the beginning of the 19th century the profession of a musician was considered at best odd and at worst disgraceful among representatives of the nobility. Thus Mikhail gave in to his father’s demands. The work was not tough, which granted Glinka much free time, which he spent frequenting drawing rooms and socializing in the cultural circles of the city. At this time Glinka started composing music; he focused on romances that entertained rich amateurs.

In 1830 Glinka decided to travel to Italy with the tenor Nikolay Ivanov. In Milan he took lessons at the conservatory with Francesco Basili (the famous Italian composer and conductor). Glinka spent three years in Italy listening to trendy music, gallanting women and meeting famous people including Mendelssohn and Berlioz. The country charmed the young composer - after evenings spent listening to new operas, he returned home and recalled the music and arias he had heard. Glinka continued to work hard on new compositions which were no longer immature and imitative, but self-contained and formed. During this period Glinka concentrated on writing pieces on the theme of famous operas; he also paid special attention to instrumental ensembles and wrote two eccentric compositions – a sestet for piano, two violins, viola, cello and contrabass and a pathetical trio for piano, clarinet and fagotto. These musical compositions are considered to best illustrate the unique composition “signature” of Mikhail Glinka.

His return journey took him through the Alps; he stopped for a while in Vienna, where he heard the music of Franz Liszt. Glinka spent the next five months in Berlin - during this time he studied composition under the guidance of Siegfried Dehn (the great German music theorist, editor, teacher and librarian).

In 1834 the sad news of his father’s death reached Glinka, who collected his gear and hastily left Berlin and returned to his native village of Novospasskoye. ...

Alexander Blok: The Twelve

Our sons have gone
to serve the Reds
to serve the Reds
to risk their heads!

O bitter,bitter pain,
Sweet living!
A torn overcoat
an Austrian gun!

-To get the bourgeosie
We'll start a fire
a worldwide fire, and drench it
in blood-
The good Lord bless us!

-O you bitter bitterness,
boring boredom,
deadly boredom.

This is how I will
spend my time.

This is how I will
scratch my head,

munch on seeds,
some sunflower seeds,

play with my knife
play with my knife.

You bourgeosie, fly as a sparrow!
I'll drink your blood,

your warm blood, for love,
for dark-eyed love.

God, let this soul, your servant,
rest in peace.

Such boredom!

... On they march with sovereign tread...
‘Who else goes there? Come out! I said
come out!’ It is the wind and the red
flag plunging gaily at their head.

The frozen snow-drift looms in front.
‘Who’s in the drift! Come out! Come here!’
There’s only the homeless mongrel runt
limping wretchedly in the rear ...

‘You mangy beast, out of the way
before you taste my bayonet.
Old mongrel world, clear off I say!
I’ll have your hide to sole my boot!

The shivering cur, the mongrel cur
bares his teeth like a hungry wolf,
droops his tail, but does not stir ...
‘Hey answer, you there, show yourself.’

‘Who’s that waving the red flag?’
‘Try and see! It’s as dark as the tomb!’
‘Who’s that moving at a jog
trot, keeping to the back-street gloom?’

‘Don’t you worry ~ I’ll catch you yet;
better surrender to me alive!’
‘Come out, comrade, or you’ll regret
it ~ we’ll fire when I’ve counted five!’

Crack ~ crack ~ crack! But only the echo
answers from among the eaves ...
The blizzard splits his seams, the snow
laughs wildly up the wirlwind’s sleeve ...
Crack ~ crack ~ crack!
Crack ~ crack ~ crack!
... So they march with sovereign tread ...
Behind them limps the hungry dog,
and wrapped in wild snow at their head
carrying a blood-red flag ~
soft-footed where the blizzard swirls,
invulnerable where bullets crossed ~
crowned with a crown of snowflake pearls,
a flowery diadem of frost,
ahead of them goes Jesus Christ.

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Words and Music of Bulat Okudzhava - The Last Trolley Bus


When I'm in trouble and totally done
and when all my hope I abandon
I get on the blue trolley bus on the run,
the last one,
at random.
Night trolley, roll on sliding down the street,
around the boulevards keep moving
to pick up all those who are wrecked and in need
of rescue
from ruin.
Night trolley bus will you please open your doors !
On wretched cold nights, I can instance,
your sailors would come, as a matter of course,
to render
So many a time they have lent me a hand
to help me get out of grievance...
Imagine, there is so much kindness behind
this silence
and stillness.
Last trolley rolls round the greenery belt
and Moscow, like river, dies down...
the hammering blood in my temples I felt
calms down
calms down.

Okudzhava was born in Moscow on 9 May 1942, to a Georgian father and an Armenian mother, both good communists. Young Bulat grew up speaking only Russian because his mother insisted that only “the language of Lenin” be spoken at home. As with many good communists, Okudzhava’s father was arrested in 1937 and executed as a spy; his mother was sent to the gulag for 18 years.
After his parents’ arrest, Okudzhava lived with relatives in Tbilisi, until 1941 when he was drafted into the Red Army. He served throughout the Great Patriotic War (World War II) in the infantry. Following the war, Okudzhava became a school teacher, first in a rural region, then in the city of Kaluga. He began writing poetry and had modest success. As Okudzhava recalled it, “I wrote the kind of poems that would not irritate anyone - neither the editors nor the public… Very comfortable poetry. I wrote for all the holidays and different seasons. Everyone was satisfied. Although somewhere there dwelled a worm of doubt. I understood that it was all too easy and not what it was supposed to be.”
In 1956, he moved to Moscow where he worked as an editor for the Young Guard publishing house and later as head of the poetry division for Literaturnaya Gazeta.
In the mid-1950s, Okudzhava started to write music to accompany his poetry. The tunes were simple. At the beginning, Okudzhava knew only three chords; later he expanded his repertoire to a whole seven. Friends recorded his singing, and copies were widely distributed as magnitizdat (recorded samizdat). As Okudzhava’s popularity grew, so, too, did a scandal. Okudzhava explained, “The composers hated me. The singers detested me. The guitarists were terrified by me. And that is how it went on, until a very well-known poet of ours announced: ‘Calm down, these are not songs. This is just another way of presenting poetry.’”
Okudzhava’s songs are melodic and poetic and not overtly political. Nonetheless, they received no official publication until the late 1970s. Official recordings of his works began to appear in the 1980s, and in the fateful year of 1991, Bulat Okudzhava was awarded the USSR State Prize.

A Short Biographical Notice of Alexander Pushkin

Alexander Sergevitch Pushkin was born in 1799 at Pskoff, and was a scion of an ancient Russian family. In one of his letters it is recorded that no less than six Pushkins signed the Charta declaratory of the election of the Romanoff family to the throne of Russia, and that two more affixed their marks from inability to write.

In 1811 he entered the Lyceum, an aristocratic educational establishment at Tsarskoe Selo, near St. Petersburg, where he was the friend and schoolmate of Prince Gortchakoff the Russian Chancellor. As a scholar he displayed no remarkable amount of capacity, but was fond of general reading and much given to versification. Whilst yet a schoolboy he wrote many lyrical compositions and commenced Ruslan and Liudmila , his first poem of any magnitude, and, it is asserted, the first readable one ever produced in the Russian language. During his boyhood he came much into contact with the poets Dmitrieff and Joukovski, who were intimate with his father, and his uncle, Vassili Pushkin, himself an author of no mean repute. The friendship of the historian Karamzine must have exercised a still more beneficial influence upon him.

In 1817 he quitted the Lyceum and obtained an appointment in the Foreign Office at St. Petersburg. Three years of reckless dissipation in the capital, where his lyrical talent made him universally popular, resulted in 1818 in a putrid fever which was near carrying him off. At this period of his life he scarcely slept at all; worked all day and dissipated at night. Society was open to him from the palace of the prince to the officers’ quarters of the Imperial Guard. The reflection of this mode of life may be noted in the first canto of Eugene Oneguine and the early dissipations of the “Philosopher just turned eighteen,”— the exact age of Pushkin when he commenced his career in the Russian capital.

In 1820 he was transferred to the bureau of Lieutenant–General Inzoff, at Kishineff in Bessarabia. This event was probably due to his composing and privately circulating an “Ode to Liberty,” though the attendant circumstances have never yet been thoroughly brought to light. An indiscreet admiration for Byron most likely involved the young poet in this scrape. The tenor of this production, especially its audacious allusion to the murder of the emperor Paul, father of the then reigning Tsar, assuredly deserved, according to aristocratic ideas, the deportation to Siberia which was said to have been prepared for the author. The intercession of Karamzine and Joukovski procured a commutation of his sentence. Strangely enough, Pushkin appeared anxious to deceive the public as to the real cause of his sudden disappearance from the capital; for in an Ode to Ovid composed about this time he styles himself a “voluntary exile.” (See Note 4 to this volume.)

During the four succeeding years he made numerous excursions amid the beautiful countries which from the basin of the Euxine — and amongst these the Crimea and the Caucasus. A nomad life passed amid the beauties of nature acted powerfully in developing his poetical genius. To this period he refers in the final canto of Eugene Oneguine (st. v.), when enumerating the various influences which had contributed to the formation of his Muse:

Then, the far capital forgot,
Its splendour and its blandishments,
In poor Moldavia cast her lot,
She visited the humble tents
Of migratory gipsy hordes.

During these pleasant years of youth he penned some of his most delightful poetical works: amongst these, The Prisoner of the Caucasus, The Fountain of Baktchiserai , and the Gipsies . Of the two former it may be said that they are in the true style of the Giaour and the Corsair . In fact, just at that point of time Byron’s fame — like the setting sun — shone out with dazzling lustre and irresistibly charmed the mind of Pushkin amongst many others. The Gipsies is more original; indeed the poet himself has been identified with Aleko, the hero of the tale, which may well be founded on his own personal adventures without involving the guilt of a double murder. His undisguised admiration for Byron doubtless exposed him to imputations similar to those commonly levelled against that poet. But Pushkin’s talent was too genuine for him to remain long subservient to that of another, and in a later period of his career he broke loose from all trammels and selected a line peculiarly his own. Before leaving this stage in our narrative we may point out the fact that during the whole of this period of comparative seclusion the poet was indefatigably occupied in study. Not only were the standard works of European literature perused, but two more languages — namely Italian and Spanish — were added to his original stock: French, English, Latin and German having been acquired at the Lyceum. To this happy union of literary research with the study of nature we must attribute the sudden bound by which he soon afterwards attained the pinnacle of poetic fame amongst his own countrymen. ...

Feodor Bruni:  Alexander Pushkin in the Coffin, 1837,

Friday, 25 February 2011

Vladimir Tatlin (1885-1953)

Russian artist, called the father of constructivism though he rejected the role and was regarded in 1920s Western Europe as the man who led art into technology and industrial production.

He was essentially poetic, capable of leadership but loved for his quiet ways, his craftsman's skills and his playing and singing of Russian folk music on instruments he made himself.

His father was a railway engineer, his mother a poet.

Young Tatlin divided his study years between art schools in Penza and Moscow and time at sea as a merchant sailor. Friends described his studio and his life-style as essentially shipshape and his knowledge of rigging and sails shows in his mature work. Little of that, however, remains, the most important productions being a vast tower, shown in drawings and models, his stage production of a poem by Khlebnikov, and models of a flying machine. Even less remains of papers etc. that might give us insight into his thinking but some may be gained from his close friendship with Khlebnikov who combined passionate enquiry into the functioning of mathematics, history, birds and language with speculation into the sort of world the revolution (which he prophesied) would bring, and wrote about towers and flight and in praise of Tatlin.

He began and ended his career as a painter and stage designer. Some of his training was in painting and restoring icons and he was later to stress that these had had an important influence on his work, but a major event in his formation was a visit to Paris, in 1914, where he called on Picasso and saw his current work, including constructed sculptures.

For a time such sculpture dominated Tatlin's output; 'pictorial reliefs', 'corner reliefs' hovering in the angle of two walls and 'counter reliefs' slung on ropes or cables at some distance from any wall. These works are often designated abstract, but the first of them included glass and the image of a bottle and may well have been a visual essay on representation and reality, and others imply meaning in a variety of ways.

A corner relief has a strong iconic quality and echoes Russia's favourite icons of the Mother of God. Few of these constructions, made principally of found bits of wood and metal, survive; those that do seem to have changed in being restored.

In 1914-16, they were exhibited in Moscow and Petrograd and attracted the notice of avant-garde artists, some of whom became his disciples, hut little attention from the critics of the day.

In 1918, Tatlin was appointed head of the Commissariat for Enlightenment's Moscow art directorate and charged with realizing Lenin's wish to see Moscow (and other cities) equipped with statues to the glory of past revolutionaries.

Dissatisfied with the old-fashioned sculptures that resulted, Tatlin conceived a project for a vast monumen: to the revolution, an engineering structure of steel and glass, at once sculpture and architecture, to outdo the Eiffel Tower of Paris in size and dynamic form and to house Comintern, the headquarters of international Communist action. It would stand in Petrograd, straddling the river Neva like a Colossus and, pointing to the pole star, would link Earth to the cosmos. Retitled Monument to the Third International, it was displayed in large model form in the winter of 1920-21, drew a great deal of attention at home and abroad and was seen as a new form of art, at once visionary and real in its intended use of modern materials and technology. A smaller model was the centrepiece of the Soviet display at the 1925 Exposition of Decorative Arts in Paris.

He taught in the new art institutes of Moscow, Kiev and Petrograd, developing a course in 'the culture of materials'. He and his students made exploratory prototypes for economical and efficient ceramics, clothing and furniture. With government backing he and assistants, with specialist advice from aeronautics and medicine, worked during 1930-33 to fashion a flying machine, to bear and he controlled by one person, from a range of natural and synthetic materials and in organic forms. He intended it to be mass produced, like bicycles, in order to realise mankind's ancient dream of personal flight. Three versions were exhibited in Moscow in 1932. His widow has stated that one was actually flown.

In 1931, he had been given the title of Honored Art Worker of the Soviet Union as an 'artist of great culture, a true master, who is a devoted worker for the proletarian revolution'.

In the 1930s, Tatlin returned to figurative painting, mostly as a private pursuit worked as stage designer and continued to develop his flying machine. Rather than a hothead, eager to end art as an activity beset by bourgeois priorities, he should be seen as a profoundly creative artist as conscious of his inheritance as of the new opportunities and demands created by modern art and the revolution.

There is evidence that he wished to be a modern Leonardo da Vinci and, like the legendary Daedalus of ancient times, to add to the wonders of the world in the name of the new egalitarian society, through work vivid to the popular mind by being enmeshed in folk and religious traditions.

Lena River Delta

The Lena in Siberia is the 10th longest river in the world and has the seventh largest watershed. Rising at the height of 1640 m at its source in the Baikal Mountains south of the Central Siberian Plateau, 7 km west of Lake Baikal, the Lena flows northeast, being joined by the Kirenga River and the Vitim River. From Yakutsk it enters the lowlands, joined by the Olyokma River and flows north until joined by its right-hand affluent the Aldan River. The Verkhoyansk Range deflects it to the north-west; then, after receiving its most important left-hand tributary, the Vilyuy River, it makes its way nearly due north to the Laptev Sea, a division of the Arctic Ocean, emptying south-west of the New Siberian Islands by a delta 10,800 km² in area, and traversed by seven principal branches, the most important being Bykov, farthest east.

At the mouth of the Lena River is a delta that is about 400 km (250 miles) wide. The delta is frozen tundra for about 7 months of the year, but in May transforms the region into a lush wetland for the next few months. Part of the area is protected as part of the Lena Delta Wildlife Reserve. (Wikipedia)

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Ulyana Lopatkina - Interview

"I interviewed Miss Uliana Lopatkina on Wednesday 9 December 1998 at 6:30 pm in the coffee shop of a hotel near the Shatin Town Hall in Hong Kong where the Kirov Ballet gave five performances of 'Swan Lake' that week. Lopatkina, accompanied by Miss Shirin Chu who is one of the local organisers of this Hong Kong tour, also brought along Luba, a young Russian interpreter whom the Kirov has engaged from Moscow for this tour. The interview lasted for about an hour, but of course a considerable amount of time was taken up by the translations. Miss Lopatkina had just finished her rehearsal, which explained why she was half an hour late for my interview. That evening's cast of Swan Lake was Yulia Makhalina, and Danila Korsuntsev who only joined the Kirov last year from Moscow Classical Ballet. Lopatkina herself danced on the opening and closing nights partnered by Evgeny Ivanchenko.
In the beginning of our conversation, I was very flattered that Lopatkina remarked about my long fingers just as I started taking notes. I started off by mentioning that I was very impressed by her performance in the second movement of Balanchine's 'Symphony in C' during the Kirov's London Coliseum season in 1997. She said that she enjoyed very much doing that ballet, and told me that she also did Balanchine's 'Serenade' in St. Petersburg recently.

On Balanchine

Lopatkina remarked that Balanchine's foundation was built on Petipa. In her opinion Balanchine is the Petipa of the 20th century. There is an obvious connection between these two genius choreographers. Furthermore, she thinks that Balanchine enriched the quality of Petipa's work.

On the coaching system in the Kirov

Lopatkina loves her personal coach, Miss Ninel Kurgapkina, who was in Hong Kong and also coached Irma Nioradze's Swan Lake. (Kurgapkina helped Nureyev considerably to mount his production of "La Bayadere" for the Paris Opera Ballet in October 1992, several months before Nureyev's death.)

On foreign schools of ballet

I mentioned Darcey Bussell of the Royal Ballet who guested with the Kirov last year. Lopatkina said that she is not very familiar herself with the Royal Ballet's style. When I asked if Igor Zelensky might perhaps have been partly responsible for Bussell's guest performances at the Kirov, Lopatkina agreed.

Lopatkina is more familiar with the French school. She admires greatly Sylvie Guillem. She admires the technique of the Paris Opera Ballet, but still prefers the spiritual quality of the Russian school.

Whether she is satisfied with the present state of the Kirov

Lopatkina remarked enthusiastically that the Kirov is at a 'high point' at present. The dancers are in 'high spirits'. Young ballerinas such as Svetlana Zakharova are being pushed forward in their career. Lopatkina mentioned another talented young dancer named Dasha Pavlenko who is of the same age as Zakharova. (I haven't heard of her before.)

Artistically the company is also on a high level. Alexei Ratmansky's "Poeme de l'Extase" was just premiered in St. Petersburg. There was a new production of "Raymonda". "Legend of Love" was also danced recently.

Whether in her opinion the senior ballerinas are neglected

I mentioned a complaint by some Kirov watchers that senior ballerinas such as Altynai Asylmuratova, Zhanna Ayupova, and Veronika Ivanova etc. who dazzled the London public back in the Kirov's historic 1988 season - the Kirov won the Laurence Olivier Award for dance that year - have been neglected by the present artistic director Makharbek Vaziev. Lopatkina disagreed that they have been neglected. She agreed though that there is a tendency in the search for new talent.

Lopatkina said that Asylmuratova and Ayupova are more visible on the Kirov's foreign tours than perhaps in St. Petersburg. She can see them quite often on these foreign tours.

New breed of tall Kirov ballerinas

I mentioned about the nickname "the Basketball Team" used by some New York critics to describe the current crop of tall Kirov ballerinas such as herself, Makhalina, and Anastasia Volochkova (now with the Bolshoi). In Lopatkina's opinion, Galina Mezentseva (who guested with the Scottish Ballet in the early 1990s) was the first Kirov ballerina to have this long and thin line. Audiences gradually got used to this new aesthetic look. Lopatkina said that right now she herself is the tallest ballerina in the Kirov.

On her partners

Lopatkina said that Evgeny Ivanchenko is more experienced than Ilya Kouznetsov.

Her guesting overseas

Lopatkina hasn't really guested with foreign companies, except in galas and concerts. At present she is contented being with the Kirov, and is not pushing for guest appearances abroad. (I wish Mr. Vaziev were present to hear this!)" ...

Kevin Ng in Ballet Magazine

Andrei Rublev: The Virgin of Vladimir

 Andrei Rublev, Late 14th—early 15th centuries,  102.2 × 69.5 cm

Monday, 21 February 2011

Pyotr Konchalovsky, founding father of Russian avant-garde art

Pyotr Konchalovsky, Self-portrait in Grey
If there’s no light, no painting will emerge”, the well-known Russian painter Pyotr Konchalovsky used to say. February 21st marks the 135th birth anniversary of the remarkable master of the portrait and of the landscape genre. Besides, Konchalovsky, who was the founding father of the Russian avant-garde art, was an officially recognized painting academician and the author of more than 5,000 paintings. And another fact of importance here is that he is the representative of a powerful artistic dynasty, which today as before plays a pivotal role in Russia’s culture: suffice it to mention here the names of Konchalovsky’s grandchildren - such as film directors Nikita Mikhalkov and Andrei Konchalovsky.

Pyotr Konchalovsky died at the age of 80, and it would be good to mention here that half of his life he lived in tsarist Russia and the other half – in Soviet Russia. Pyotr Konchalovsky dedicated himself to painting, which was his only passion, an art critic from St. Petersburg, Yevgeniya Petrova, says. And as distinct from his colleagues, he was not subjected to repressions on the part of the Soviet authorities.

"The Russian expert says that he was neither imprisoned nor declared a formalist. That is why an opinion emerged at that time that Pyotr Konchalovsky had established good contacts with the Soviet-era times’ authorities. Many years have passed since his death, and now we can make an objective assessment of his work. It has become absolutely clear today that he was a non-conformist. Nobody has any doubts that Konchalovsky loved nature and painting as such." ...

Voice of Russia

N.A.Berdyaev - The Soul of Russia

The world war sets in sharp relief the question concerning the Russian national self-consciousness. Russian national thought senses the need and obligation to solve the enigma of Russia, to comprehend the idea of Russia, to define its purpose and place in the world. Everyone tends to sense in the present day world, that great worldwide tasks face Russia. But this profound feeling is accompanied by a consciousness of the vagueness, almost the indefinableness of these tasks. In times past there was a presentiment, that Russia is destined for something great, that Russia -- is some special land, not like any other land in the world. Russian national thought grew up with the sense of Russian as God-chosen and God-bearing. This courses its way from the old idea of Moscow as the Third Rome, through Slavophilism -- to Dostoevsky, Vladimir Solov'ev and the contemporary Neo-Slavophils. To ideas of this sort had fastened an accretion of falsehood and lie, but there is reflected in these ideas something also genuinely of the people, something genuinely Russian. A man cannot all his life have an idea of some special and great vocation and be keenly aware of it during the periods of greatest spiritual ascent, if this man have neither the calling nor be foreordained to anything remarkable. This is biologically impossible. This is impossible likewise in the life of an entire people.

Russia has not as yet played a defining role within world life, it has not as yet genuinely entered into the life of European mankind. GreatRussia has still entirely remained an isolated province within European and world life, its spiritual life has been aloof and closed. Russia still all entirely does not know the world, it distortedly perceives its image and falsely and superficially makes judgements about it. The spiritual powers of Russia have not yet become innate to the cultural life of European mankind. For Western cultural mankind, Russia all still remains completely transcendent, some sort of an alien East, which attracts by its mystery, whilst repelling by its barbarity. Even Tolstoy and Dostoevsky attract Western cultural man, as some sort of an exotic fare, unwontedly acute for him. The mysterious depths of the Russian East attracts to itself many in the West. But all the same there has not ensued a time with the acknowledging of the spiritual life of the Christian East on an equal par with the spiritual life of the West. In the West they have still not sensed, that the spiritual strengths of Russia can redefine and transform the spiritual life of the West, that Tolstoy and Dostoevsky can make for a change in the prevailing mindsets of the West both for the West itself and that within it. The light from the East has been seen only but by a few select individuals. The Russian state long since already is acknowledged a great power, with which all the states of the world have to reckon, and which plays a visible role in international politics. But the spiritual culture of Russia, that core of life, in regards to which the statecraft itself is but a superficial externality and implement, still does not occupy a great-power position in the world. The spirit of Russia cannot yet dictate to peoples those conditions, which Russian diplomacy can dictate. The Slavic race has not yet occupied that position, which the Latin or the German races have occupied. Here at root is what ought to change after the present day Great War, which presents a completely unprecedented inter-connection and enmeshing of Eastern and Western mankind. The great strife of the war ought to lead to a great unification of East and West. Russia occupies, certainly, a great-power position within the spiritual world concert. That which has transpired within the bosom of the Russian spirit, ceases to be something still provincial, isolated and closed-in, has become of the world and in common for mankind, not Eastern only, but Western also. And for this, long since already have ripened the potentials of the spiritual powers of Russia. The War of 1914 is more intensely and more deeply plunging Russia into the whirlwinds of world life and it melds together the European East with the European West, than had the War of 1812. It is already possible to foresee, that in the results of this war Russia will ultimately become European in the same measure, in which Europe acknowledges the spiritual influence of Russia upon its own inner life. Thus strikes an hour of world history, when the Slavic race with Russia at its head will be summoned to a defining role within the life of mankind. The forefront Germanic race is exhausting itself in militaristic imperialism. Many keen people in the West have had a presentiment of the vocation of the Slavs. But the realisation of the world tasks of Russia cannot be left to the caprice of the elemental powers of history. Creative efforts are necessary in the national mindset and the national will. And if the peoples of the West be compelled, finally, to catch sight of the unique visage of Russia and admit its calling, it then remains all still unclear, how do we perceive ourself, what is Russia and to what is it called? Russia remains for us ourself an enormous mystery. Russia -- is full of contradictions, antinomies. The soul of Russia is not veiled over by any sort of doctrines. Tiutchev said for his Russia:

Russia by mind comprehended cannot be
Nor by wide arshins measured:
Its uniqueness be that --
In Russia is possible only but to believe.
... more>>

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Alexander II Liberator

Alexander II Liberator

On February 19, 1861, Emperor Alexander II carried out the first and the most important of his reforms – he declared the abolishment of serfdom in the Russian Empire to improve the Russian economy and avert a possible revolution.

The history of serfdom in Russia began in 1649, when Tsar Aleksey Mikhailovich issued a decree which prohibited peasants from leaving their lands and gave landowners full control over the peasants. This decree was followed by a number of others depriving peasants of their personal liberty and turned them into actual slaves – into “baptized property”. The peasants had to work for their owners and to pay them labor rent, while the owners had the right to buy and sell them, often separating families; to punish them; and even to exile them to Siberia for crimes such as escape attempts or for trying to dodge army recruitment.

The defeat in the Crimean War (1853-1856) exposed all the drawbacks of Russian industry, economy and agriculture, and served as a trigger for Alexander’s II reforms. That war put the peasantry in hard straits. For war purposes, the government had raised taxes, regularly commandeered peasants’ horses and cattle, and conducted extra recruitment among serfs. At the time the service lasted for 20 years, and that considerably affected landowners’ incomes, which in turn led to landowners increasing labor rents. Recruited serfs were also treated with scorn and were often left hungry and poorly equipped.

In 1857, 192 mass riots took place, and in 1859 there were already 938 riots. Sometimes, the peasants of several neighbor villages rose together against their owners. The armed clashes between the rebels and the military forces became frequent. The country was ripe for revolution, and the reform was meant to prevent the upcoming catastrophe.

The “Royal Manifest of the Abolishment of Serfdom” returned personal liberty and civil rights to serfs. The landowners were obliged to give them plots of land, and a special commission defined the sizes of those plots. However, nine years after liberation the peasants still had to pay the rent for the given land and to work for the landowners. Only at the end of the term were they able to redeem the rented plots. ...

Monday, 14 February 2011

Leonid Pasternak (1862-1945)

Self portrait with wife Rosa Kaufman, 1927
Leonid Pasternak, a leading Russian Impressionist, was an artist with wide European cultural interests. He was born in Odessa on the Black Sea in 1862, and taught in the Moscow School of Art from 1894-1921. Here he was the friend and colleague of the artists Repin, Serov and Levitan. He studied in Munich as a young man, and travelled extensively in Europe before the Revolution. He married Rosalia Kaufmann, a gifted pianist, who bore him four children: the eldest was the poet, Boris Pasternak, author of Doctor Zhivago. In 1921 Pasternak with his wife and two daughters left Moscow for Germany, where the artistic milieu included his friends Max Liebermann and Lovis Corinth. Following the rise of Hitler, Pasternak came to England in 1938. The last years of his life were spent working in Oxford. The Pasternak Family Collection is held in the house where he died in 1945. ...

Sons, Boris and Alexander

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Leo Tolstoy / Лев Толстой - Кинохроника 1908-1910 гг. (HQ)

Chronicle. Rare film footage of Leo Tolstoy at the end of his life (music: Tchaikovsky - Piano sonata in G major, op. 37, 1st movt).

1. Лев Николаевич Толстой уезжает в Москву из имения Черткова (00:03)
2. Графиня Софья Андреевна Толстая (00:17)
3. Л. Н. Толстой, Чертков и семья великого писателя (00:29)
4. Приезд в Москву (01:34)
5. На станции Брянск (01:43)
6. Лев Толстой прибывает в дом свой в Хамовниках; дом этот будет превращен в толстовский музей (01:51)
7. Отъезд Льва Николаевича в Ясную Поляну (02:16)

8. Семья Л. Н. Толстого (02:51)
9. Лев Николаевич раздает милостыню бедным крестьянам (03:02)
10. Прогулка Толстого верхом в сопровождении доктора Маковецкого (04:05)
11. Л. Н. на прогулке в пять часов утра (04:57)
12. Лев Николаевич и его супруга графиня Софья Андреевна (05:05)
13. Внуки Льва Николаевича (05:56)
14. Лев Николаевич Толстой за работой (06:34)
15. Граф Толстой на балконе с семьей (06:47)
16. Больной гр. Л. Н. Толстой у себя на балконе в день юбилея. 28 августа 1908 г. (07:13)

17. Л. Н. Толстой на смертном одре (07:22)

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Valentina Vladimirovna Tereshkova

Valentina Vladimirovna Tereshkova 
Pilot-cosmonaut of the USSR,
Airforce Major General in retirement
10th person in space in the world,
the 6th cosmonaut in the USSR

The world's firsts:
- first woman in space (Vostok-6, 1963);
- first woman pilot (commander) of a spacecraft (Vostok-6, 1963);
- first single (without a crew) flight of a woman in space (Vostok-6, 1963).

Date and place of birth: March 6, 1937, village Maslennikovo, Tutaev district, Yaroslavl region, RSFSR (Russia).

In 1960 graduated from Yaroslavl extra-mural light industry college specializing as process technician for cotton spinning.
In 1969 graduated with honors from N.Ye.Zhukovsky Airforce Engineering Academy and received a "pilot-cosmonaut-engineer" qualification".

Academic degree: candidate of science, engineering (1976), author of more than 50 published papers.

Working career:
From 1954 worked at Yaroslavl tire factory.
In 1955-1960 worked at the Yaroslavl Order of Lenin Duck Fabric Industrial Complex Krasny Perekop.
Went in for parachuting at Yaroslavl aviation club (made 163 jumps), 1st class in parachuting.
On March 12, 1962, by Order №67 of the Airforce Chief Commander, she was enrolled in the cosmonaut corps of the Airforce Cosmonaut Training Center as a trainee cosmonaut.
March through November, 1962, she completed basic cosmonaut training at the Cosmonaut Training Center.
She made 21 flights on planes Il-14 and MiG-15 with an instructor (total flying time of 16 hours 42 minutes), made 44 parachute jumps with delays ranging from 5 to 60 seconds, 4 out which were the jumps with special outfitting on. Studied spacecraft Vostok-3A and its systems. She was the senior in the women trainees team. Concurrently (till April 1963) she was being trained for the Vostok-6 mission, along with I.Solovieva, V.Ponomareva, Zh.Yerkina.
In December 1962 she passed her exams and received the qualification of "cosmonaut".
She made her 1st space mission on June 16 through 19 as a commander of Vostok-6. The mission took place simultaneously with the mission of Vostok-5 piloted by V.Bykovsky. The duration of her mission was 2 days 22 hours 50 minutes. Her call sign was "Chaika" ("Seagull").
From June 1963 to 1997 she worked as a cosmonaut and test cosmonaut instructor at the Airforce Cosmonaut Training Center.
On April 28, 1997, by Decree №429 of the President of Russian Federation she was retired from cosmonaut corps in connection with reaching the age limit (Ministry of Defense Order dated April 30, 1997).
Since 1997 she has been working as a senior staff scientist at Yu.A.Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center. ...

Nikolay Aleksandrovich Dobrolyubov

Nikolay Dobrolyubov

(b. Jan. 24 [Feb. 5, New Style], 1836, Nizhny Novgorod, Russia—d. Nov. 17 [Nov. 29], 1861, St. Petersburg), radical Russian utilitarian critic who rejected traditional and Romantic literature.
Dobrolyubov, the son of a priest, was educated at a seminary and a pedagogical institute. Early in his life he rejected traditionalism and found his ideal in progress as represented by Western science. In 1856 Dobrolyubov began contributing to Sovremennik (“The Contemporary”), an influential liberal periodical, and from 1857 until his death he was chief critic for that journal. He was perhaps the most influential critic after Vissarion Belinsky among the radical intelligentsia; his main concern was the criticism of life rather than of literature. He is perhaps best known for his essay “What is Oblomovism” (1859–60). The essay deals with the phenomenon represented by the character Oblomov in Ivan Goncharov’s novel of that name. It established the term Oblomovism as a name for the superfluous man of Russian life and literature. ...

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Aleksandr Ivanovich Kuprin: The Outrage--a True Story

It was five o'clock on a July afternoon. The heat was terrible. The whole of the huge stone-built town breathed out heat like a glowing furnace. The glare of the white-walled house was insufferable. The asphalt pavements grew soft and burned the feet. The shadows of the acacias spread over the cobbled road, pitiful and weary. They too seemed hot. The sea, pale in the sunlight, lay heavy and immobile as one dead. Over the streets hung a white dust.

In the foyer of one of the private theatres a small committee of local barristers who had undertaken to conduct the cases of those who had suffered in the last pogrom against the Jews was reaching the end of its daily task. There were nineteen of them, all juniors, young, progressive and conscientious men. The sitting was without formality, and white suits of duck, flannel and alpaca were in the majority. They sat anywhere, at little marble tables, and the chairman stood in front of an empty counter where chocolates were sold in the winter.

The barristers were quite exhausted by the heat which poured in through the windows, with the dazzling sunlight and the noise of the streets. The proceedings went lazily and with a certain irritation.

A tall young man with a fair moustache and thin hair was in the chair. He was dreaming voluptuously how he would be off in an instant on his new-bought bicycle to the bungalow. He would undress quickly, and without waiting to cool, still bathed in sweat, would fling himself into the clear, cold, sweet-smelling sea. His whole body was enervated and tense, thrilled by the thought. Impatiently moving the papers before him, he spoke in a drowsy voice.

"So, Joseph Moritzovich will conduct the case of Rubinchik... Perhaps there is still a statement to be made on the order of the day?"

His youngest colleague, a short, stout Karaite, very black and lively, said in a whisper so that every one could hear: "On the order of the day, the best thing would be iced kvas..."

The chairman gave him a stern side-glance, but could not restrain a smile. He sighed and put both his hands on the table to raise himself and declare the meeting closed, when the doorkeeper, who stood at the entrance to the theatre, suddenly moved forward and said: "There are seven people outside, sir. They want to come in."

The chairman looked impatiently round the company.

"What is to be done, gentlemen?"

Voices were heard.

"Next time. Basta!"

"Let 'em put it in writing."

"If they'll get it over quickly... Decide it at once."

"Let 'em go to the devil. Phew! It's like boiling pitch."

"Let them in." The chairman gave a sign with his head, annoyed. "Then bring me a Vichy, please. But it must be cold."

The porter opened the door and called down the corridor: "Come in. They say you may."

Then seven of the most surprising and unexpected individuals filed into the foyer. First appeared a full-grown, confident man in a smart suit, of the colour of dry sea-sand, in a magnificent pink shirt with white stripes and a crimson rose in his buttonhole. From the front his head looked like an upright bean, from the side like a horizontal bean. His face was adorned with a strong, bushy, martial moustache. He wore dark blue pince-nez on his nose, on his hands straw-coloured gloves. In his left hand he held a black walking-stick with a silver mount, in his right a light blue handkerchief.

The other six produced a strange, chaotic, incongruous impression, exactly as though they had all hastily pooled not merely their clothes, but their hands, feet and heads as well. There was a man with the splendid profile of a Roman senator, dressed in rags and tatters. Another wore an elegant dress waistcoat, from the deep opening of which a dirty Little-Russian shirt leapt to the eye. Here were the unbalanced faces of the criminal type, but looking with a confidence that nothing could shake. All these men, in spite of their apparent youth, evidently possessed a large experience of life, an easy manner, a bold approach, and some hidden, suspicious cunning.

The gentleman in the sandy suit bowed just his head, neatly and easily, and said with a half-question in his voice: "Mr. Chairman?"

"Yes. I am the chairman. What is your business?"

"We--all whom you see before you," the gentleman began in a quiet voice and turned round to indicate his companions, "we come as delegates from the United Rostov-Kharkov-and-Odessa-Nikolayev Association of Thieves."

The barristers began to shift in their seats.

The chairman flung himself back and opened his eyes wide. "Association of what?" he said, perplexed.

"The Association of Thieves," the gentleman in the sandy suit coolly repeated. "As for myself, my comrades did me the signal honour of electing me as the spokesman of the deputation."

"Very ... pleased," the chairman said uncertainly.

"Thank you. All seven of us are ordinary thieves--naturally of different departments. The Association has authorised us to put before your esteemed Committee"--the gentleman again made an elegant bow--"our respectful demand for assistance."

"I don't quite understand ... quite frankly ... what is the connection..." The chairman waved his hands helplessly. "However, please go on."

"The matter about which we have the courage and the honour to apply to you, gentlemen, is very clear, very simple, and very brief. It will take only six or seven minutes. I consider it my duty to warn you of this beforehand, in view of the late hour and the 115 degrees that Fahrenheit marks in the shade." The orator expectorated slightly and glanced at his superb gold watch. "You see, in the reports that have lately appeared in the local papers of the melancholy and terrible days of the last pogrom, there have very often been indications that among the instigators of the pogrom who were paid and organised by the police--the dregs of society, consisting of drunkards, tramps, souteneurs, and hooligans from the slums--thieves were also to be found. At first we were silent, but finally we considered ourselves under the necessity of protesting against such an unjust and serious accusation, before the face of the whole of intellectual society. I know well that in the eye of the law we are offenders and enemies of society. But imagine only for a moment, gentlemen, the situation of this enemy of society when he is accused wholesale of an offence which he not only never committed, but which he is ready to resist with the whole strength of his soul. It goes without saying that he will feel the outrage of such an injustice more keenly than a normal, average, fortunate citizen. Now, we declare that the accusation brought against us is utterly devoid of all basis, not merely of fact but even of logic. I intend to prove this in a few words if the honourable committee will kindly listen."

"Proceed," said the chairman.

"Please do ... Please ..." was heard from the barristers, now animated.

"I offer you my sincere thanks in the name of all my comrades. Believe me, you will never repent your attention to the representatives of our ... well, let us say, slippery, but nevertheless difficult, profession. 'So we begin,' as Giraldoni sings in the prologue to Pagliacci.

"But first I would ask your permission, Mr. Chairman, to quench my thirst a little... Porter, bring me a lemonade and a glass of English bitter, there's a good fellow. Gentlemen, I will not speak of the moral aspect of our profession nor of its social importance. Doubtless you know better than I the striking and brilliant paradox of Proudhon: La propriete c'est le vol--a paradox if you like, but one that has never yet been refuted by the sermons of cowardly bourgeois or fat priests. For instance: a father accumulates a million by energetic and clever exploitation, and leaves it to his son--a rickety, lazy, ignorant, degenerate idiot, a brainless maggot, a true parasite. Potentially a million rubles is a million working days, the absolutely irrational right to labour, sweat, life, and blood of a terrible number of men. Why? What is the ground of reason? Utterly unknown. Then why not agree with the proposition, gentlemen, that our profession is to some extent as it were a correction of the excessive accumulation of values in the hands of individuals, and serves as a protest against all the hardships, abominations, arbitrariness, violence, and negligence of the human personality, against all the monstrosities created by the bourgeois capitalistic organisation of modern society? Sooner or later, this order of things will assuredly be overturned by the social revolution. Property will pass away into the limbo of melancholy memories and with it, alas! we will disappear from the face of the earth, we, les braves chevaliers d'industrie."

The orator paused to take the tray from the hands of the porter, and placed it near to his hand on the table.

"Excuse me, gentlemen... Here, my good man, take this,... and by the way, when you go out shut the door close behind you."

"Very good, your Excellency!" the porter bawled in jest. ...