Thursday, 31 March 2011

Andrei Bely: Petersburg

Your Excellencies, Your Worships, Your Honors, and Citizens!

. . . . . . . .

What is this Russian Empire of ours?
This Russian Empire of ours is a geographical entity, which means: part of a certain planet. And this Russian Empire includes: in the first place—Great, Little, White, and Red Rus; in the second place—the Kingdoms of Georgia, Poland, Kazan, and Astrakhan; in the third place, it includes. . . . But—et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
This Russian Empire of ours consists of a multitude of cities: capital, provincial, district, downgraded; and further—of the original capital city and of the mother of Russian cities.
The original capital city is Moscow, and the mother of Russian cities is Kiev.
Petersburg, or Saint Petersburg, or Pieter (which are the same) actually does belong to the Russian Empire. And Tsargrad, Konstantinograd (or, as they say, Constantinople), belongs to it by right of inheritance. And we shall not expatiate on it.
Let us expatiate at greater length on Petersburg: there is a Peters­burg, or Saint Petersburg, or Pieter (which are the same). On the basis of these same judgments, Nevsky Prospect is a Petersburg prospect.

Nevsky Prospect possesses a striking attribute: it consists of a space for the circulation of the public. It is delimited by numbered houses. The numeration proceeds house by house, which considerably facilitates the finding of the house one needs. Nevsky Prospect, like any prospect, is a public prospect, that is: a prospect for the circulation of the public (not of air, for instance). The houses that form its lateral limits are-hmmm . . . yes: . . . for the public. Nevsky Prospect in the evening is illuminated by electricity. But during the day Nevsky Prospect requires no illumination.
Nevsky Prospect is rectilineal (just between us), because it is a European prospect; and any European prospect is not merely a prospect, but (as I have already said) a prospect that is European, because . . . yes. . . .
For this very reason, Nevsky Prospect is a rectilineal prospect.
Nevsky Prospect is a prospect of no small importance in this un-Russian-but nonetheless-capital city. Other Russian cities are a wooden heap of hovels.
And strikingly different from them all is Petersburg.
But if you continue to insist on the utterly preposterous legend
about the existence of a Moscow population of a million-and-a-half, then you will have to admit that the capital is Moscow, for only capitals have a population of a million-and-a-half; but as for provincial cities, they do not, never have had, and never will have a population of a million-and-a-half. And in conformance with this preposterous legend, it will be apparent that the capital is not Petersburg.
But if Petersburg is not the capital, then there is no Petersburg. It only appears to exist.
However that may be, Petersburg not only appears to us, but actually does appear—on maps: in the form of two small circles, one set inside the other, with a black dot in the center; and from precisely this mathematical point, which has no dimension, it proclaims forcefully that it exists: from here, from this very point surges and swarms the printed book; from this invisible point speeds the official circular.

Chapter the First

in which an account is given of a certain worthy

person, his mental games, and the

ephemerality of being


It was a dreadful time, in truth,
Of it still fresh the recollection . . .
Of it, my friends, I now for you
Begin my comfortless narration.
Lugubrious will be my tale . . .
Pushkin

Apollon Apollonovich Ableukhov

Apollon Apollonovich Ableukhov was of venerable stock: he had Adam as his ancestor. But that is not the main thing: it is more important that one member of this venerable stock was Shem, progenitor of the Semitic, Hessitic, and red-skinned peoples.
Here let us make a transition to ancestors of an age not so remote.
Their place of residence was the Kirghiz-Kaisak Horde, whence, in the reign of the Empress Anna loannovna, Mirza Ab-Lai, the great-great-grandfather of the senator, valiantly entered the Russian service, having received, upon Christian baptism, the name Andrei and the sobriquet Ukhov. For brevity's sake, Ab-Lai-Ukhov was later changed
to Ableukhov, plain and simple.
This was the great-great-grandfather who was the source of the stock.

. . . . . . . .

A lackey in gray with gold braid was flicking the dust off the writing table with a feather duster. A cook's cap peeped through the open door.
"Looks like himself's already up. . . ."
"He's rubbing himself down with eau de cologne, he'll be taking his coffee pretty soon. . . ."
"This morning the fellow who brings the mail was saying there was a letter for the master all the way from Spain, with a Spanish stamp on it."
"I'm going to tell you something: you shouldn't stick your nose in other people's letters. . . ."

The cook's head suddenly vanished. Apollon Apollonovich Ab- leukhov proceeded into the study.

. . . . . . . .

A pencil lying on the table struck the attention of Apollon Apol- lonovich. Apollon Apollonovich formed the intention: of imparting a sharpness of form to the pencil point. He quickly walked up to the writing table and snatched ... a paperweight, which he long turned this way and that, deep in thought.
His abstraction stemmed from the fact that at this instant a pro- found thought dawned on him, and straightaway, at this inopportune time, it unfolded into a fleeting thought train.
Apollon Apollonovich quickly began jotting down this unfolded thought train. Having jotted down the train, he thought: "Now it's time for the office." And he passed into the dining room to partake of his coffee. ...

Robert A. Maguire and John E. Malmstad translators

Mikhail Gorbachev – Biography

The man who brought the ideas of Glasnost and Perestroika to the Soviet Union and the only President of the USSR, Mikhail Gorbachev tried to beat widespread alcoholism in the country and breathe new life into the staggering Soviet economy. Some call him a legendary reformist, others say he’s enemy number one, responsible for the collapse of a Superpower… This is Mikhail Gorbachev.

Born into a peasant family in the Stavropol Region, it’s highly unlikely anyone expected Mikhail Gorbachev would become the last leader of the Soviet Union, when in his teens he operated combine harvesters on collective farms. But life changed dramatically when Mikhail managed to get into Moscow State University, graduating with a degree in law in 1955. It was during his student years that Gorbachev joined the Communist Party, taking on a political career. Within a few years he managed to quickly work his way up through the Party, becoming the Head of the Department of Party Organs in his home region in 1963. Seven years later came another achievement – Gorbachev was appointed the First Party Secretary of the region, becoming one of the youngest provincial Party chiefs in the country. After several new appointments, in 1980 Gorbachev became the youngest member of the Politburo – the highest authority in the Soviet Union.

During Yury Andropov’s leadership of the USSR (1982-1984) Mikhail Gorbachev became one of Politburo’s most visible and active members. Responsible for personnel, together with Andropov they managed to replace around 20 percent of government ministers, often with younger men. Gorbachev’s job gave him a unique opportunity to travel abroad, which was impossible for most. It’s thought that these trips, especially to Western countries, were responsible for the political views he developed and later put into reality as the leader of the country. After Andropov’s death in 1982, aged Konstantin Chernenko took power but soon died, making it clear – it was time for a younger leader. Mikhail Gorbachev became the General Secretary of the Politburo in 1985, only three hours after Chernenko’s death.

After coming to power, Mikhail Gorbachev announced his main goal was to revive the Soviet economy, which was stalled. He called for urgent reorganization and modernization, but soon realized that without reforming the political and social structure of the whole nation, reaching this goal would be impossible.

The anti-alcohol campaign in 1985 was among the first reforms Gorbachev introduced. It was designed to fight widespread alcoholism in the USSR by raising prices for vodka, wine and beer. However, the ambitious plan served as a huge blow to the economy, cutting both alcohol sales and government revenues.

The “Perestroika” policy was announced in 1986 and was another attempt to reorganize the economy. For the first time in Soviet history, the word “Glasnost” was spelled out to the nation. Gorbachev wanted to bring freedom to the people, ease the Party’s control over the media and release thousands of political prisoners. This was a radical change since control of speech and suppression of any government criticism had previously been the foundation of the Soviet regime.

In 1988 the Law on Cooperatives became among the most radical economic reforms Gorbachev started. For the first time since Vladimir Lenin’s “New Economic Policy” in the 1920s, the bill permitted private business in the country. As a result, private restaurants, shops and other businesses were introduced to the Soviet public, while several major “All-Union” companies fell into restructuring. Air giant Aeroflot was split up, eventually becoming several independent airlines that were encouraged to seek foreign investment.

In his strive to reduce the Party’s control over the government, Gorbachev proposed a change to a presidential system and created a new political body known as the Congress of People’s Deputies which was formed in the Soviet Union’s first free democratic election. On 15 March 1990, following another vote, Mikhail Gorbachev became President of the USSR. ...

See also The Nobel Peace Prize 1990
Mikhail Gorbachev

Olga Vladimirovna Rozanova - Biography


Rozanova: Pub

Olga Vladimirovna Rozanova was born in 1886 in Melenki, a small town near Vladimir. Unlike Liubov' Popova and many other avant-garde artists, she did not travel to Italy or France to get inspired by the most recent developments in Western painting. Therefore, her overall progress as an avant-garde artist is even more remarkable. She began her art education in 1904, attending art studios of K. Bol'shakov and K. Yuon in Moscow and studying for a short time at the Stroganov School of Applied Art. After moving to St. Petersburg, she went to private school of E.N. Zvantseva and in 1911 became one of the most active members of the Union of Youth, an organization that organized and sponsored art exhibitions, public lectures and discussions.
From 1911 to 1915, Rozanova experimented with Neo-Primitivism and Cubo-Futurism. Her early works show greater influence of the Italian Futurism than the French Cubism. Rozanova's paintings of this period consist of strong straight lines, frequently combined with triangular and circular shapes. The straight lines and triangles are pointing in various directions; their angles are often turned towards the center of the picture. This combination makes the composition strong and dramatic. The triangles are made of slashing lines that invade the picture from the sides, trying to reach the center....
OLGA ROZANOVA

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Mikhail Kutuzov - Biography

Mikhail Kutuzov at the Battle of Borodino by Anatoly Pavlovich Shepelyuk (1906-1972)
Mikhail Kutuzov (Golenishchev-Kutuzov) was a world-famous military commander and diplomat, most widely known for brilliantly repelling Napoleon’s invasion of Russia in 1812.

He was born into a family of the Novgorod nobility. His father was a military engineer, a general lieutenant, and a senator. Mikhail’s mother died early and he spent his childhood with his grandmother. From his early years, Kutuzov was very physically fit and had a bright and sharp mind, combined with innate kindness and open-heartedness.

After receiving formidable home tutelage, 12-year-old Kutuzov entered the St. Petersburg artillery and engineering school as a corporal. He graduated as one of the best students of the school in 1759 and then resumed his career there as a math teacher. In 1761, he received his first officer’s rank, the ensign. In 1762 he was promoted to captain and made a company commander in the Astrakhan infantry regiment under the world famous general Aleksandr Suvorov. His skyrocketing career, considering his young age, has been attributed both to his good education and his father’s position.

In 1764-1765 he volunteered to take part in fighting rebels in Poland and in 1767 he was assigned to the commission established by Empress Catherine II to create a new code of laws.

The Russo-Turkish war of 1768-1774 became a true school of military skill for Kutuzov. He occupied staff positions in General Pyotr Rumyantsev’s army, fighting in Moldova in the battles of Cahul and the River Larga and the siege of Bender.

In 1772 Kutuzov’s sense of humor played a bad joke on him. For mimicking his superiors, he was sent to fight as a line officer in the ranks of the Second Crimean Army. This taught him to watch his words and actions, developing the secretive, cautious and reserved personality that later became characteristic of his actions as a commander.

On 24 July 1774, while fighting Turkish landing troops near the Crimean town of Alushta, Kutuzov was severely injured – a bullet hit his temple, exiting near his right eye. He survived and was awarded a 4th Degree Order of St. George. He was sent to Europe for treatment. Up until 1776, he visited England, the Netherlands, Italy Germany and Austria, where he continued his military studies and was honored with an audience with King Friedrich II.

Upon returning to Russia, Kutuzov was again dispatched to the Crimea, to help Suvorov maintain order in the region. A year later, thanks to Suvorov’s good reference, Kutuzov acquired the rank of colonel.

On 27 April 1778, Kutuzov married 24-year-old Ekaterina Bibikova. She was the daughter of one of Empress Catherine’s close friends. The family had six children, among them only one boy, who died of illness in infancy.

Kutuzov was in command of various regiments and earned the rank of major general, until in 1784 he was assigned a diplomatic mission in the Crimea. He led talks with the Crimean khan and convinced him to step down from his throne and acknowledge the superiority of Russia in the Southern lands. For this feat of diplomatic prowess, Kutuzov was awarded the rank of general major, and tasked with the formation of a ranger corps at the Bug River in southern Ukraine.

While in command of the ranger corps, Kutuzov entered the Russo-Turkish war of 1787-1791. In that war, during the siege of the Ochakov Fortress (now a city in Ukraine’s Nikolaev region) in 1788, Kutuzov was again severely wounded. This time, a bullet passed through both of his temples and behind the eyeballs. The surgeon who treated him was astonished by the fact that Kutuzov “survived wounds that by all medical laws are mortal.” The medic believed that “destiny must yet have a great deed in store for him.”

Only a year later, Kutuzov was again fighting, this time in the sieges of the Akkerman (now Belgorod-Dnestrovsky city in southwestern Ukraine) and Bender Fortresses. Then, during the siege of the key fortress of Izmail (now the center of Ukraine’s Izmail region, a port on the Danube River), Suvorov appointed him commander of one of the columns, and, before the fortress was even captured, named him its first governor. That siege earned Kutuzov another promotion.

After the peace treaty of Jassy was signed in 1792, Kutuzov was unexpectedly appointed ambassador to Turkey. The Empress based this decision upon his quick wit, excellent education, social finesse, cunning and ability to find a common language with various peoples. In Istanbul, he succeeded in gaining the sultan’s trust and effectively managed a 650-member staff.

When Kutuzov returned to Russia in 1794, he was appointed commander of the Infantry Noble Cadet Corps. In 1795, he became commander and inspector of the Russian troops in Finland. From 1796 to 1801, Emperor Paul I ruled the Russian Empire. Unlike Suvorov, who crossed swords with the new Emperor over his willingness to impose the Prussian order in the Russian army, Kutuzov managed to remain on good terms with the capricious monarch, and spent those years as a diplomat in Prussia and a general governor in Lithuania, and even earned an Order of St. Andrew. ...

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

David Burliuk

David Burliuk Revolution, 1917

David Burliuk (July 21, 1882 – January 15, 1967 ) was a Ukrainian-Russian avant-garde artist (Futurist, Neo-Primitivist), book illustrator, publicist, and author. David Burliuk is considered to be father of Russian Futurism and one of the founders of the Cubo-Futurist movement in France and Germany (Der Blaue Reiter) in 1910. David Burliuk was born in Semirotovchina, Kharkov Gubernia of the Russian Empire, brother of Wladimir Burliuk. From 1898 to 1904 he studied at the Art School Kasan in Odessa, as well as at the art college there and at the Royal Academy in Munich. In 1908 was the exhibition with the group Zveno (The Link) in Kiev organized by David Burliuk together with Wladimir Baranoff-Rossine, Alexander Bogomazov, Wladimir Burliuk and Aleksandra Ekster. From 1910 he was member of the group Jack of Diamonds. From 1910 to 1911 he attended Art School in Odessa. From 1911 to 1913 he studied at the Moscow School for Painting, Sculpture and Architecture (MUZHZV). ...

Aleksandr Borodin – Biography


Aleksandr Porfiryevich Borodin was a Russian composer, chemist and public activist. His best-known work is the opera “Prince Igor” (“Knyaz Igor”).

Borodin was born in St. Petersburg from an affair between the 62-year-old Georgian prince Luka Gedianov (or Gedianishvili) and a St. Petersburg commoner, Avdotya Antonova. He was registered as a son of the prince’s serfs Porfiriy and Tatyana Borodins. He remained his father’s serf until 1840, when the prince, just before his death, freed the seven-year-old boy. His real mother was married off to a military medic.

Aleksandr Borodin was a weak, unhealthy child and received home education from experienced and knowledgeable tutors, which allowed him to study all of the subjects of a gymnasium course. He was largely under female-only influence until he was 13. Despite his weak constitution and poor health he was a very enthusiastic child, and took interest in chemistry, modeling, painting and music. Early in his life he discovered his extraordinary knack for sciences and languages and quickly mastered German, French and English. He also showed early interest in music: he started taking flute lessons when he was eight, and later learned to play the piano and violoncello.

His first musical composition, which he wrote when he was nine, was inspired by his first love, a grown woman named Elena. In her honor he wrote the polka “Helen.” As a child, Borodin was a friend of Mikhail Shchiglev, who later became a music teacher and a specialist in folk and church music. Together they studied sciences and music. At the age of 13, Borodin wrote a concert for flute and piano and a trio for two violins and violoncello and at 14, made his first attempts at writing music for a chamber band.

However, his main passion was not music but chemistry, which later became his profession. His “illegal” origins got in the way of his studies and ability to receive a higher education. Without a legal possibility to change his status, Borodin’s mother and her husband had to bribe officials of the Tver region in order to register him as a third guild merchant in the central Russian town of Novy Torg (name close in meaning to “New Market,” now Torzhok).

In 1850 the 17-year-old “merchant” entered the academy of medicine and surgery where, with a characteristic interest, he got carried away by the study of botany, zoology, crystallography and anatomy. In his second year, he narrowly escaped death from a poisonous infection he acquired during an autopsy. But his main efforts were in the study of chemistry. In his third year, he asked Zinin, a chemistry professor, to allow him to study under his command in a chemical lab.

While working hard on science, Borodin never left music and used every possibility to enrich his musical education. He took part, as a violoncellist, in concerts in the homes of his acquaintances. During his studies at the academy, Borodin also wrote songs, piano pieces and chamber music, which caused the discontent of his scientific adviser, who thought music interfered with serious scientific work.

In 1856, after graduating from the academy, Borodin was placed on detached service to a military hospital as an attending physician. Two years later, after presenting a report “On the Similarity of Arsenic and Phosphorous Acids” to the academy, he became a Doctor of Science. The following year later he went abroad in search of scientific perfection.

In the summer of 1861, in Heidelberg, Germany, Aleksandr Borodin met the talented amateur pianist Ekaterina Protopopova, who was under treatment there, and whom he later married. In autumn, her health seriously deteriorated and she had to continue treatment in Italy. Borodin found a way to follow her to Pisa without interrupting his chemical research, and it was in Pisa that he made the discoveries that brought him world-wide acclaim. That year he decided to marry Ekaterina, but upon their return to Russia financial difficulties made them postpone the marriage. Money trouble haunted them for the rest of their lives, and Borodin had to work hard to get by. Due to asthma, his wife couldn’t stay long in St. Petersburg’s climate and spent long periods of time with her relatives in Moscow.

In 1862, as soon as Borodin came back to Moscow, he was appointed a chemistry adjunct professor in the academy of medicine and surgery. He also met Miliy Balakirev, a composer, pianist and conductor, and the “Mighty Handful” (“Moguchaya Kuchka”), a circle of composers who promoted the creation of a specifically Russian kind of music, as opposed to the European standards promoted by contemporary conservatory training. Balakirev not only persuaded him to start serious composing, but also personally watched over him in his musical undertakings. In 1864, he became a professor of the academy of military, and in 1877 he finished his Symphony Number One in E-flat Major, which he started under the influence of his new friends from the “Mighty Handful.” Several romances followed, mainly to Borodin’s own lyrics. At the same time he started work on the opera “The Tsar’s Bride” (“Tsarskaya Nevesta”), but Vladimir Stasov, a respected music and art critic of the time, suggested that Borodin should write an opera to the plot of “The Tale of Igor’s Campaign” (“Slovo o Polku Igoreve”), a 12th century epic about the campaign of prince Igor of Novgorod-Seversk against the Polovtsy tribe. In an effort to recreate the spirit of the time accurately, he studied any literature related to the epoch and the plot. Borodin started active work on the opera, but soon grew cold to it, and abandoned it for a long time, despite his friends’ pleas. ...

Monday, 28 March 2011

Elena Glinskaya. Grand Princess consort of Moscow Regent of Moscow/Russia (1533-38)

Elena Glinskaya was the second wife of Grand Prince Vasili III and regent of Russia for 5 years 1533-38) and a mother of Ivan the Terrible.

The father of powerful Grand Prince of Moscow Ivan IV Vasilyevich (Ivan the Terrible) Vasili III was married twice. His first marriage to Solomonia Saburova did not result in children, so Vasili divorced her despite strong opposition from the Russian Orthodox Church, and forced her to the veil in the monastery.

Vasili's second marriage was to the young princess Elena Glinskaya in 1526. Elena was a daughter of Prince Vasili Lvovich Glinsky by Princess Anna of Serbia. It is to her powerful uncle, Prince Mikhail Glinsky, that the family owned its distinction. According to the chronicles, he chose Elena 'because of the beauty of her face and her young age. This marriage was not profitable for the prince, yet he was so much in love with the young Elena, that even dared to violate the ancient tradition and shaved the beard.

After 4 years of marriage Elena gave birth to Ivan (Ivan the Terrible), and 2 years later to Yuri (future prince of Uglich). In 1553 Vasili III fell sick and soon died. On his deathbed, Vasili III transferred his powers to Elena Glinskaya until his oldest son Ivan was mature enough to rule the country. The chronicles of those times do not provide any more or less precise information on Elena's legal status after Vasili's death. All that is known is that it could be defined as regency and that the boyars had to report to her. That is why the time between Vasili's death and her own demise in 1538 is called the reign of Elena.

Soon Elena became the sole ruler of Russia. Elena Glinskaya challenged the claims of her brothers-in-law, Yury of Dmitrov and Andrey of Staritsa. The struggle ended with their incarceration in 1534 and 1537, correspondingly Elena's reign is also known for conflicts inside the government. She managed to unearth several boyars plots that aimed at her deposition and held the throne for 5 years.

In 1535, Elena conducted a currency reform, which resulted in introduction of a unified monetary system in the state. The new kopek (Kopejka) with the knight holding spear (kop'je) was introduced as the Russian currency. In foreign affairs, Glinskaya succeeded in signing an armistice with Lithuania in 1536, simultaneously neutralizing Sweden. She is known for negotiating personally with other states leaders.

She had a new defence wall constructed around Moscow (the foundation of Kitay-gorod), invited settlers from Lithuania. Eelna made an attempt to change the system of home rule which anticipated the reforms of Ivan the Terrible. She is noted to have visited several convents.

Elena died in 1538 at a relatively young age (30). Some historians believe that she was poisoned by the Shuiskys, who usurped the power after her death. Recent investigations of the remains tend to support the thesis that Elena was poisoned.
Russian-women.net

Alexandra Kollontai: Red Love

Vassilissa was a working-girl twenty-eight years old, a knitter by trade. Thin, anemic, a typical child of the city. Her hair, cut short after typhus, grew in curls. From a distance she looked like a boy. She was flat-chested, and wore a shirtwaist and a wornout leather belt. She was not pretty. But her eyes were beautiful: brown, friendly, observant. Thoughtful eyes. Those eyes would never pass by another’s sorrow.

She was a Communist. At the beginning of the war she had become a Bolshevik. She hated the war from the first. Collections had been made in the shop for the front; people were ready to work overtime for the Russian victory. But Vassilissa objected. War was a bloody horror. What was the good of it? War brought hardships to the people. And you felt so sorry for the soldiers, the poor young fellows – like sheep being led to the slaughter. When Vassilissa met a detachment on the street, going to war in full military array, she always had to turn away. They were going to meet death, but they shouted and sang at the top of their lungs! And how lustily they sang, as if they were out for a holiday. What forced them? They should have refused: We won’t go to our death; we won’t kill other men! Then there would be no war.

Vassilissa was able to read and write well; she had learned from her father, a compositor. She read Tolstoy and liked his work.

In the shop she was the only one “for peace.” She would have been discharged, but all hands were needed. The manager looked askance at her, but did not let her go. Soon Vassilissa was known throughout the district: she is against the war, a follower of Tolstoy. The women stopped speaking to her: she doesn’t want to have anything to do with her country; she doesn’t love Russia. She is lost!

Reports of her reached the local organizer, a Bolshevik. He became acquainted with Vassilissa, and talked with her; soon his opinion was formed; “A girl of character; knows what she’s about. The party could use her.”

She was drawn into the organization. But Vassilissa did not become a Bolshevik immediately. She quarreled with the members of the Party. Asked them questions, and went away furious. After long deliberation she came back of her own accord, saying: “I want to work with you.”

During the Revolution she helped in the work of organization, and became a member of the Workers’ Council. She liked the Bolsheviki and admired Lenin because he opposed the war so uncompromisingly.

In her debates with the Mensheviki and the Social Revolutionists she spoke skilfully, heatedly, tempestuously, never at a loss for words. The other women, working-women, were timid, but Vassilissa always spoke up without hesitation whenever it was necessary. And what she said always was clear and to the point.

She won the respect of her comrades. Under Kerensky she was a candidate for the municipal Duma. The girls in the knitting-shop were proud of her. Now her every word was law. Vassilissa knew how to manage women, speaking amicably, upbraiding them, as the case required. She knew everyone’s troubles, for she had been in the factory herself since her girlhood. And she defended their interests. Her comrades sometimes rebuked her: “Can’t you forget your women? We have no time for them now – there are more important things.”

Vassilissa flared up, gave the Comrades a good berating, and quarreled with the district secretary. But she did not withdraw her demands. “Why are women’s affairs less important? This idea is a habit with all of you. That’s why women are ‘backward.’ But you can’t have a revolution without the women. Woman is everything. Man does what she thinks and suggests to him. If you win over the women, half your work is done.”

Vassilissa was very belligerent in ’18. She knew what she wanted; and she did not compromise. The others relaxed a bit in the last few years, lagged behind and stayed at home. But Vassilissa carried on. Always fighting, always organizing something, always insisting on a definite point.

She was tireless. Where did she get her energy? She was delicate, with not a drop of blood in her face – only eyes. Sympathetic eyes, intelligent and observant. ...

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Colonel Yuri Gagarin - Biography


Yuri A. Gagarin was born on a collective farm in a region west of Moscow, Russia on March 9, 1934. His father was a carpenter. Yuri attended the local school for six years and continued his education at vocational and technical schools.

Yuri Gagarin joined the Russian Air Force in 1955 and graduated with honors from the Soviet Air Force Academy in 1957. Soon afterward, he became a military fighter pilot. By 1959, he had been selected for cosmonaut training as part of the first group of USSR cosmonauts.

Yuri Gagarin flew only one space mission. On April 12, 1961 he became the first human to orbit Earth. Major Yuri Gagarin's spacecraft, Vostok 1, circled Earth at a speed of 27,400 kilometers per hour. The flight lasted 108 minutes. At the highest point, Yuri Gagarin was about 327 kilometers above Earth.

Once in orbit, Yuri Gagarin had no control over his spacecraft. Vostok's reentry was controlled by a computer program sending radio commands to the space capsule. Although the controls were locked, a key had been placed in a sealed envelope in case an emergency situation made it necessary for Yuri Gagarin to take control. As was planned, Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin ejected after reentry into Earth's atmosphere and landed by parachute.

Colonel Yuri Gagarin died on March 27, 1968 when the MiG-15 he was piloting crashed near Moscow. At the time of his death, Yuri Gagarin was in training for a second space mission. ...

Catherine II the Great - Biography


Recognized worldwide as a noteworthy historical figure, Catherine the Great was one of the most prominent rulers of Russia and a figure deserving of admiration. During her rule from 1762 to 1796 the Russian Empress Catherine II made such progress in political power that it is hard to find similar examples in world history. She expanded the territory of the Russian Empire and improved its administration, following the policy of Westernization. She was reputed to be an 'enlightened despot,' however she was also praised for her generosity and humanity. Many historians associate her with all the significant events and trends in Russia's expanding world role. Though she always rejected the appellation 'the Great,' it endured. She was often compared to Peter the Great. One of her contemporaries described the essence of her rule, saying that Peter the Great created people in Russia, and Catherine put her heart into them. She reformed Russia gradually and calmly finished what Peter had done forcibly. Prince Pyotr Vyazemsky described the different approaches of these two outstanding sovereigns as follows: the Russian man wanted Russians to become Germans, and the German lady tried to make them Russians again.

Sophia Frederica Augusta was born in Germany, in the city of Stettin in Prussian Pomerania, on 2 May 1729 into the family of Christian Augustus, Prince of Anhalt-Zerbst. She spent her youth, which she always remembered with pleasure, in an atmosphere of intelligence, passion for knowledge and good humor, but also austerity. Her father was very religious and strict. He enjoyed the title of prince, but was also a commanding officer of a regiment of the Prussian army. Catherine’s mother, Princess Johanna Elizabeth of Holstein-Gottorp, was very self-willed. She originated from the family of Holstein-Gottorp and was related to the monarchs of Prussia, Denmark and Sweden. She brought Catherine up in a most severe manner. Later Catherine herself recollected that she was always ready to get a slap in the face from her mother. Princess Sophia lived until her fifteenth birthday in Stettin. She occasionally visited Hamburg with her mother and spent her summers in Brunswick and Berlin.

In 1743 she was introduced into the Lutheran Church at the desire of her mother, though she easily changed her religion to the Russian Orthodox faith soon after her marriage to the Russian Prince Peter. Her parents were very concerned that their daughter marry and make a good match.

In 1744 Catherine’s mother received an invitation from Empress Elizabeth of Russia to visit the country with her daughter, which meant she was planning to marry the heir to the Russian throne, Peter, to Catherine. However, Catherine had already met her husband to-be, who was one of her cousins. He was only 11 when they were introduced, but he was already reputed to be addicted to alcohol. Catherine didn’t experience any affection for her cousin, but was ready to obey her parents’ decision. Moreover, she realized that marrying the heir to the Russian throne would open the door to a most brilliant life, so coveted by the young and ambitious princess. Sophia followed Peter to Russia in 1744, where she was converted to Orthodoxy and renamed Catherine. She was one year younger than Peter Fedorovich, the nephew of Elizabeth, the then reigning monarch of Russia. Their marriage was decided upon by their respective families.

The two were absolutely incompatible with each other. Still, Catherine tried to keep up appearances in front of the court and was patient with her silly and eccentric husband, as long as such pretence served her ambitious purposes. These two people unfortunately brought together by circumstances were destined to break up. Catherine, unlike her husband, was a woman of great talent, intelligence and ambition. Her strong and masculine mind, so eager to learn, had been trained and developed with all the learning and accomplishments of the age. She came to Russia with the intention of achieving a memorable career. Her husband, on the contrary, had an unstable personality, tempestuous, devoid of talent, and his education had been totally neglected. His disposition was good, but his mind was uncultivated. He constantly felt the superiority of his more gifted spouse. To add to this, Catherine had a graceful and beautifully proportioned figure. Peter’s inferiority was the first step to their mutual dislike, which led to fatal results for Peter.

Peter soon started cheating on Catherine, and she repaid in kind having her own favorites. Whether Peter was the father of Paul and Anna, the two children recorded as their offspring, remains a murky question, as five years of marriage brought no pregnancy and some said Peter could not have children.

One of Catherine’s ardent passions was Sergey Saltykov, the prince’s chamberlain. He had been a favorite among the ladies of the court, and he attempted to win Catherine’s affections. A handsome man with graceful manners, Saltykov won Catherine’s love. According to some historians, Catherine was advised to conceive an heir with Saltykov, and Paul, who after Catherine’s death became Emperor Paul I, was presumably fathered by him and raised by Empress Elizabeth. Two other favorites, Grigory Orlov and Stanislaw August Poniatowski, are said to have fathered two additional children - a boy and a girl that only lived sixteen months - who were never publicly acknowledged.

Although most of these men came from distinguished families and had outstanding political careers (Stanislaw Ponyatowski, for example, became the king of Poland in 1764), none used his status close to the Empress to affect state policy, with the exception of Grigory Potemkin, with whom Catherine was deeply in love in the mid-1770s and whom, a significant number of experts believe, she married secretly in 1774. Her last favorite was said to be the young and eccentric Platon Zubov. None of the men she had ever been devoted to was devoid of his title or his fortune after his relationship with Catherine ended. On the contrary, she scattered wealth and titles among them.

Although love was an important part of Catherine's life, it did not overshadow her everlasting learning process and political interests. A sharp-witted and educated young woman, she read widely, particularly in French, which was at that time the first language of educated Europeans. She liked novels, plays and verse but was particularly interested in the writings of the major figures of the French Enlightenment such as Diderot and Voltaire. She spoke German, French and Russian. Catherine worked hard to master the Russian language, though she never managed to totally lose her accent. Catherine spelled badly but read, wrote and spoke Russian well. She quickly absorbed Russian culture, mastering the customs and history of the empire. The most literate ruler in Russian history, Catherine constantly patronized cultural life; in particular a flurry of satirical journals and comedies were published anonymously with her significant participation. Extensive traveling demonstrated in Catherine a great thirst for exploring the empire. She also knew to demonstrate devotion to the Russian Orthodox faith and the Russian state.

An instinctive politician, she cultivated friendships among the court elite. But her road to the Russian throne was thorny. ...

Russiapedia The Romanov dynasty Prominent Russians

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Ilya Repin - Biography

Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin recites his poem before Gavrila Derzhavin during the Tsarskoye Selo Lyceum exam on January 8th, 1815. Oil on canvas. 123,7 × 195,5 cm. Tsarskoye Selo Lyceum (All-Russia A. S. Pushkin Museum), St. Petersburg.

Ilya Efimovich Repin was born in 1844 in the small Ukrainian town of Tchuguev into the family of a military settler. As a boy he was trained as an icon painter. At the age of 19 he entered the St. Petersburg Academy of Arts. His arrival in the capital coincided with an important event in artistic life of the 60s, the so-called ‘Rebellion of the Fourteen’, when 14 young artists left the Academy after refusing to use mythological subjects for their diploma works. They insisted that art should be close to real life and formed the Society of the Peredvizhniki to promote their own aesthetic ideals. Later, Repin would be become a close friend and associate with some of them.

For his diploma work Raising of Jairus' Daughter (1871) Repin was awarded the Major Gold Medal and received a scholarship for studies abroad. Barge Haulers on the Volga (1870-1873) was the first major work painted by Repin after graduation. It immediately won recognition.

In 1873, Repin went abroad. For some months he travelled through Italy and then settled and worked in Paris until 1876. It was in Paris that he witnessed the first exhibition of the Impressionists, but, judging by the works he painted during the period and by his letters home, he was not enthused for this new Paris school of painting, though he didn't share the opinion of some of his countrymen who saw a dangerous departure from “the truth of life” in Impressionism.

After returning to Russia, Repin settled in Moscow. He was a frequent visitor to Abramtsevo, the country estate of Savva Mamontov, one of the most famous Russian patrons of art of the late 19th Century. It was a very fruitful period in his creative career. Over the next 10-12 years Repin created the majority of his famous paintings. In 1877, he started to paint religious processions (krestny khod): Krestny Khod (Religious Procession) in Kursk Gubernia (1880-1883). The composition was based on the dramatic effect of the different social statuses and attitudes of the participants of the procession, all united by the miracle-working icon carried at the head. There were two different versions of the picture. The second one, completed in 1883, became the more popular. In a single glance, the spectator discovers an abundance of social types and human characters in the crowd .

A series of paintings devoted to the revolutionary theme deserves special attention. The artist was no doubt interested in exploring the character of a fighter for social justice. The range of social, spiritual and psychological problems that attracted Repin is revealed in his works Unexpected Return (1884), which depicts the father of a household returning from prison, and Refusal of the Confession (1879-1885), which shows a dying man refusing a deacon's offer of the last rites.

Repin is the author of many portraits, which are an essential part of his artistic legacy. Repin never painted just faces, as many portraitists of the period tended to; he painted people fully, managing to show his models in their natural state, to reveal their way of communicating with the world: Portrait of the Composer Modest Musorgsky (1881), Portrait of the Surgeon Nikolay Pirogov (1881), Portrait of the Author Alexey Pisemsky (1880), Portrait of the Poet Afanasy Fet (1882), Portrait of the Art Critic Vladimir Stasov (1883), and Portrait of Leo Tolstoy (1887) and many others are distinguished by the power of the visual characteristics and the economy and sharpness of execution.

Repin rarely painted historical paintings. The most popular in this genre is Ivan the Terrible and his son Ivan (1895). The expressive, intense composition and psychological insight in rendering the characters produced an unforgettable impression on the spectators. Another popular work of the genre is The Reply of the Zaporozhian Cossacks to Sultan Mahmoud IV (1880-1891). The faithfully rendered spirit of the Zaporozhian freemen, who, according to the artist, had a particularly strong sense of “liberty, equality and fraternity” undoubtedly gives the picture its power. The contemporaries saw it as a symbol of the Russian people throwing off their chains.

The last quarter of the 19th century is the most notable period in Repin’s work, though he continued to work well into the 20th century (the artist died in 1930). He did not paint any masterpieces in the latter years of his life. After the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, he lived and worked in his estate Penates in Finland, where there is a Repin museum today.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Nikolai Tsiskaridze, Ballet Dancer - Biography

The principal dancer of the Bolshoi Ballet, Nikolai Tsiskaridze is one of the most decorated Russian dancers.

Nikolai was born in Tbilisi, the capital of the then Soviet Republic of Georgia, on 31 December 1973. Although his father was a violin player and classical music was a regular part of his childhood, ballet was not a profession his parents would have liked him to pursue.

Tsiskaridze says he chose classical dance at the age of three when he first saw “Giselle” – much to the despair of his mother, a teacher of math and physics. For a time there was still hope that the boy would give up his crazy dream. But at the age of ten, he insisted he should enter the ballet school and his parents had to give in. “But you have to be the best,” his mother told him. “Otherwise, I will pull you out.”

There was no need for such warnings. After three years at the Tbilisi Ballet School, Nikolai was far ahead of his classmates. So in 1984 he entered the Moscow Ballet School, where he studied under the guidance of Pyotr Pestov, one of the leading and most experienced classical dance teachers. Pestov is known for his strict rules and perfectionism. If he is displeased with a student during class the pupil can find himself out the door in no time. That often happened to Nikolai. But oddly enough, he was told that this was a good sign and that he was going to be a star. Indeed, years later Pestov said of Tsiskaridze: “The boy grasped everything so quickly that by the middle of the class he started looking through the window, and that distracted the others.”

In 1992 Tsiskaridze joined the ballet company of the Bolshoi Theater . The then artistic director Yury Grigorovich saw Nikolai at the graduation exam and said: “This Georgian, we take him.” At the theater he had the good fortune to enter the class of prominent ballerina Marina Semyonova. The legendary Galina Ulanova also assisted him, and as Nikolai says, became his second mother. She taught him to give meaning to every single movement and gesture and to fill the dance with emotion. “Don’t shout with your hands when dancing a prince,” she used to say. “A noble man only needs to bow his head to make his wish fulfilled immediately.”

Several years later, when Tsiskaridze had already become a premier dancer, it was also Galina Ulanova who insisted he should take up teaching. She said a dancer should start preparing for retirement as early as possible – ballet is the art of the young after all (although she finished her dancing career at 52, 14 years after the official retirement age for classical dancers).

At the Bolshoi Theater it did not take long for Tsiskaridze to become the leading dancer. And just one look at him on stage leaves no doubt: at twenty he was not a rising star, but simply already a star. His vigorous dance and perfect technique have won him a number of prestigious awards: “The Soul of Dance” (1995), “Benois de la Danse,” “The Golden Mask” national theater prize, and the State Prize of the Russian Federation, to mention just a few. The dancer says all these awards are important to him – marking a new stage and a new bar in life and work. “Each award is a great responsibility. It is extremely difficult to appear on stage after you receive an award. Each and every time you have to prove you are worth it,” Tsiskaridze confessed in his book “Moments.” ...

Russiapedia Opera and ballet Prominent Russians

Kukryniksy, 1942 - War Poster

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Andrei Rublev – Biography

Russian icon of St.Andrey Rublyov with his work
Andrei Rublev, a famous medieval painter of orthodox icons and frescos, is considered the pride and glory of Russian culture. The name of Rublev is connected not only to the flourishing period of Russian art, but also to the revival of Byzantine art after its ruin under the Ottoman rule.

However, there is little information available on Andrei Rublev’s life. It is not known where he was born but he probably lived in the Trinity St. Sergey Monastery in the small town of Sergiev Posad near Moscow. He was a monk under Nikon of Radonezh, who succeeded Sergey of Radonezh, a famous saint and Father Superior of the monastery. Rublev’s contemporaries described him as “a kind and quiet person, filled with light.” They said he was “unusually focused” and that “everything he created was a result of his deep thoughts.”

In the early chronicles, the name of Rublev comes up in connection with the construction of different churches. In the 1380s he belonged to the Prince’s cartel of craftsmen and artists who moved from town to town building and decorating churches. After the Battle of Kulikovo between the Tatar-Mongols and the Russians near the Don River in 1380, many new churches were erected in Russia, and each was decorated by Russian iconographers. This served as a source of inspiration for Rublev.

The first mention of Rublev as a painter appears in 1405 when, together with Theophanes the Greek and Prokhor of Gorodets, he painted icons and frescos for the Cathedral of Annunciation of the Moscow Kremlin. His name was the last on the list of craftsmen as he was a junior both by rank and age.

Most of his frescos were destroyed during the Moscow Kremlin fire of 1547.

Russian art was highly influenced by the art of the Byzantine Empire. Many artistic traditions, particularly in regard to icon painting and church architecture, originated in Byzantine and were aken over by other Eastern European countries, including Russia. Rublev is often considered to have been a pupil of Theophanes the Greek, a famous Byzantine painter who worked in Russia for over thirty years. However, Theophanes the Greek’s personality, as well as his views of art and life, differed greatly from those of Rublev. The elder painter’s images were tense and tragic, perceiving the sinful earth as hell. It is not known how both artists got along, but there is evidence to suggest they often worked together, and the process did wonders to develop Rublev’s genius. Nevertheless, Rublev broke away from his Theophanes’s dramatic severity of form, color and expression and developed his own light and harmonious style incarnating the epoch of liberation.

Approximately during the same period, Rublev is believed to have painted at least one of the miniatures in the Khitrovo Gospels, an illustrated Book of Gospels from the early 15th century. The book contains eight full-page miniatures, portraits of four Evangelists and four pictures of their symbols. The miniature of the angel, a symbol of the evangelist Matthew, is usually attributed to Rublev. A young winged boy with curly hair is framed in a circle, which gives the image tranquility and completeness. The colors of azure blue and fresh green create a feeling of joy and easiness. According to art historians, the light and pureness display the uniqueness of the painter’s style.

It is not possible to chronologically trace Rublev’s work, as Russian icon painters never signed or dated their works. But one chronicle confirms that in 1408 Rublev painted the Assumption Cathedral in Vladimir with Danil Cherny and other painters. The Cathedral was widely known in Old Russia and Moscow’s Princes took great care in its decoration. In 1408, the son of Dmitry Donskoy, Prince Vladimir, ordered the restoration of the Cathedral, including the painting of new frescos to replace the one lost in the 12th century. The surviving Cathedral frescos represent a fragment of the famous composition Doomsday. Analyses of the style of the frescos helped determine their author: the artistic composition, musicality and gracefulness of the lines belonged to the hand of Andrey Rublev. The interpretation of the scene is rather unusual: there is no fear of severe punishment and the idea of forgiveness and enlightenment penetrates the composition, in line with Rublev’s worldview. ...

Russiapedia Art Prominent Russians

Friday, 18 March 2011

Ivan IV the Terrible - Biography


Ivan didn’t immediately become known as Terrible. Born near Moscow on August 25, 1530, Ivan was the long-awaited son of Vasily III. His father died when the boy was only three and Ivan was proclaimed the Grand Prince of Moscow. At first, his mother Yelena Glinskaya acted as a regent, but she died when Ivan was eight years old. Ivan saw her replaced by a group of noblemen fiercely fighting for power.

Treated with respect in public but neglected in private, he was growing up lonely and often humiliated by his mighty regents. Abuse, violence and murders were commonplace in the palace. It’s believed Ivan’s miserable childhood largely explains his hatred of the nobles and his later repressions against them.

Smart and a keen reader, early on Ivan started dreaming of unlimited power. In 1547, aged 16, he was finally crowned Czar of all Russia, the first ruler to officially assume the title. The young ruler started out as a reformer, modernising and centralising the country. He revised the law code, created an elite standing army and introduced local self-management in rural regions. The first printing press was introduced in Russia and new trade routes opened up.

Ivan also pressed to turn his country into a military heavyweight. Back then, the Tatar armies repeatedly devastated Russia’s northeast. In 1552 Ivan crushed the Tatar stronghold of Kazan and then another one – Astrakhan.

These campaigns began Russia’s expansion into Siberia, annexing a large Muslim population and turning Russia into a multi-ethnic and multi-religious state.

One of Moscow’s most famous landmarks is a reminder of this drive to expand Russia’s borders. St. Basil’s Cathedral on Red Square was built by Ivan’s order to commemorate Kazan’s invasion and other key victories in the Tatar campaign. A popular legend has it that the work was done by two architects – Postnik and Barma. When Ivan saw the finished cathedral he liked it so much that he had the architects blinded to prevent them from building anything like it elsewhere. ...

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov - Biography


Nikolai Andreyevich Rimsky-Korsakov (18 March 1844 – 21 June 1908) was a Russian composer, and a member of the group of composers known as The Five. He was a master of orchestration. His best-known orchestral compositions—Capriccio Espagnol, the Russian Easter Festival Overture, and the symphonic suite Scheherazade—are considered staples of the classical music repertoire, along with suites and excerpts from some of his 15 operas. Scheherazade is an example of his frequent use of fairy tale and folk subjects.

Rimsky-Korsakov believed, as did fellow composer Mily Balakirev and critic Vladimir Stasov, in developing a nationalistic style of classical music. This style employed Russian folk song and lore along with exotic harmonic, melodic and rhythmic elements in a practice known as musical orientalism, and eschewed traditional Western compositional methods. However, Rimsky-Korsakov appreciated Western musical techniques after he became a professor of musical composition, harmony and orchestration at the Saint Petersburg Conservatory in 1871. He undertook a rigorous three-year program of self-education and became a master of Western methods, incorporating them alongside the influences of Mikhail Glinka and fellow members of The Five. His techniques of composition and orchestration were further enriched by his exposure to the works of Richard Wagner.

For much of his life, Rimsky-Korsakov combined his composition and teaching with a career in the Russian military—at first as an officer in the Imperial Russian Navy, then as the civilian Inspector of Naval Bands. He wrote that he developed a passion for the ocean in childhood from reading books and hearing of his older brother's exploits in the navy. This love of the sea might have influenced him to write two of his best-known orchestral works, the musical tableau Sadko (not his later opera of the same name) and Scheherazade. Through his service as Inspector of Naval Bands, Rimsky-Korsakov expanded his knowledge of wind and brass playing, which enhanced his abilities in orchestration. He passed this knowledge to his students, and also posthumously through a textbook on orchestration that was completed by his son-in-law, Maximilian Steinberg.

Rimsky-Korsakov left a considerable body of original Russian nationalist compositions. He prepared works by The Five for performance, which brought them into the active classical repertoire (although there is controversy over his editing of the works of Modest Mussorgsky), and shaped a generation of younger composers and musicians during his decades as an educator. Rimsky-Korsakov is therefore considered "the main architect" of what the classical music public considers the Russian style of composition.[1] His influence on younger composers was especially important. While Rimsky-Korsakov's style was based on those of Glinka, Balakirev, Hector Berlioz and Franz Liszt, he "transmitted this style directly to two generations of Russian composers" and influenced non-Russian composers including Maurice Ravel, Claude Debussy, Paul Dukas and Ottorino Respighi.

Rimsky-Korsakov was born in Tikhvin, 200 kilometres (120 mi) east of Saint Petersburg, into an aristocratic family with a long line of military and naval service—his older brother Voin, 22 years his senior, became a well-known navigator and explorer.

Rimsky-Korsakov later recalled that his mother played the piano a little, and his father could play a few songs on the piano by ear.It is said that Rimsky-Korsakov inherited his mother's tendency to play too slowly. Beginning at six, he took piano lessons from various local teachers and showed a talent for aural skills,[6] but he showed a lack of interest, playing, as he later wrote, "badly, carelessly, ... poor at keeping time".

Although he started composing by age 10, Rimsky-Korsakov preferred literature over music. He later wrote that from his reading, and tales of his brother's exploits, he developed a poetic love for the sea "without ever having seen it". This love, and prompting from Voin, encouraged the 12-year-old to join the Imperial Russian Navy.[8] He studied at the School for Mathematical and Navigational Sciences in Saint Petersburg and, at 18, took his final examination in April 1862. ...

The muses and demons of Mikhail Vrubel

Mikhail Vrubel. Six winged Seraph (after Pushkin's poem Prophet
On March 17, Russia marks the 155th birthday of famous artist Mikhail Vrubel who was called both a madman and a genius. Vrubel is renowned for his unique style incorporating crystal drawings that twinkle with the hues of the “navy blue and purple twilight of the world.”

Visit Image galleries - RIA Novosti

Monday, 14 March 2011

Alexander Pushkin: The Snowstorm

TOWARDS the end of the year 1811, a memorable period for us, the good Gavril Gavrilovitch R---- was living on his domain of Nenaradova. He was celebrated throughout the district for his hospitality and kindheartedness. The neighbours were constantly visiting him: some to eat and drink; some to play at five copeck "Boston" with his wife, Praskovia Petrovna; and some to look at their daughter, Maria Gavrilovna, a pale, slender girl of seventeen. She was considered a wealthy match, and many desired her for themselves or for their sons.

Maria Gavrilovna had been brought up on French novels, and consequently was in love. The object of her choice was a poor sub-lieutenant in the army, who was then on leave of absence in his village. It need scarcely be mentioned that the young man returned her passion with equal ardour, and that the parents of his beloved one, observing their mutual inclination, forbade their daughter to think of him, and received him worse than a discharged assessor.

Our lovers corresponded with one another and daily saw each other alone in the little pine wood or near the old chapel. There they exchanged vows of eternal love, lamented their cruel fate, and formed various plans. Corresponding and conversing in this way, they arrived quite naturally at the following conclusion:

If we cannot exist without each other, and the will of hard-hearted parents stands in the way of our happiness, why cannot we do without them?

Needless to mention that this happy idea originated in the mind of the young man, and that it was very congenial to the romantic imagination of Maria Gavrilovna.

The winter came and put a stop to their meetings, but their correspondence became all the more active. Vladimir Nikolaievitch in every letter implored her to give herself up to him, to get married secretly, to hide for some time, and then throw themselves at the feet of their parents, who would, without any doubt, be touched at last by the heroic constancy and unhappiness of the lovers, and would infallibly say to them: "Children, come to our arms!"

Maria Gavrilovna hesitated for a long time, and several plans for a flight were rejected. At last she consented: on the appointed day she was not to take supper, but was to retire to her room under the pretext of a headache. Her maid was in the plot; they were both to go into the garden by the back stairs, and behind the garden they would find ready a sledge, into which they were to get, and then drive straight to the church of Jadrino, a village about five versts from Nenaradova, where Vladimir would be waiting for them.

On the eve of the decisive day, Maria Gavrilovna did not sleep the whole night; she packed and tied up her linen and other articles of apparel, wrote a long letter to a sentimental young lady, a friend of hers, and another to her parents. She took leave of them in the most touching terms, urged the invincible strength of passion as an excuse for the step she was taking, and wound up with the assurance that she should consider it the happiest moment of her life, when she should be allowed to throw herself at the feet of her dear parents.

After having sealed both letters with a Toula seal, upon which were engraved two flaming hearts with a suitable inscription, she threw herself upon her bed just before daybreak, and dozed off: but even then she was constantly being awakened by terrible dreams. First it seemed to her that at the very moment when she seated herself in the sledge, in order to go and get married, her father stopped her, dragged her over the snow with fearful rapidity, and threw her into a dark bottomless abyss, down which she fell headlong with an indescribable sinking of the heart. Then she saw Vladimir lying on the grass, pale and bloodstained. With his dying breath he implored her in a piercing voice to make haste and marry him.... Other fantastic and senseless visions floated before her one after another. At last she arose, paler than usual, and with an unfeigned headache. Her father and mother observed her uneasiness; their tender solicitude and incessant inquiries: "What is the matter with you, Masha? Are you ill, Masha?" cut her to the heart. She tried to reassure them and to appear cheerful, but in vain.

The evening came. The thought, that this was the last day she would pass in the bosom of her family, weighed upon her heart. She was more dead than alive. In secret she took leave of everybody, of all the objects that surrounded her.

Supper was served; her heart began to beat violently. In a trembling voice she declared that she did not want any supper, and then took leave of her father and mother. They kissed her and blessed her as usual, and she could hardly restrain herself from weeping.

On reaching her own room, she threw herself into a chair and burst into tears. Her maid urged her to be calm and to take courage. Everything was ready. In half an hour Masha would leave for ever her parents' house, her room, and her peaceful girlish life....

Out in the courtyard the snow was falling heavily; the wind howled, the shutters shook and rattled, and everything seemed to her to portend misfortune.

Soon all was quite in the house; everyone was asleep. Masha wrapped herself in a shawl, put on a warm cloak, took her small box in her hand, and went down the back staircase. Her maid followed her with two bundles. They descended into the garden. The snowstorm had not subsided; the wind blew in their faces, as if trying to stop the young criminal. With difficulty they reached the end of the garden. In the road a sledge awaited them. The horses, half-frozen with the cold, would not keep still; Vladimir's coachman was walking up and down in front of them, trying to restrain their impatience. He helped the young lady and her maid into the sledge, placed the box and the bundles in the vehicle, seized the reins, and the horses dashed off.

Having intrusted the young lady to the care of fate and to the skill of Tereshka the coachman, we will return to our young lover.

Vladimir had spent the whole of the day in driving about. In the morning he paid a visit to the priest of Jadrino, and having come to an agreement with him after a great deal of difficulty, he then set out to seek for witnesses among the neighbouring landowners. The first to whom he presented himself, a retired cornet of about forty years of age, and whose name was Dravin, consented with pleasure. The adventure, he declared, reminded him of his young days and his pranks in the Hussars. He persuaded Vladimir to stay to dinner with him, and assured him that he would have no difficulty in finding the other two witnesses. And, indeed, immediately after dinner, a ppeared the surveyor Schmidt, with moustache and spurs, and the son of the captain of police, a lad of sixteen years of age, who had recently entered the Uhlans. They not only accepted by Vladimir's proposal, but even vowed that they were ready to sacrifice their lives for him. Vladimir embraced them with rapture, and returned home to get everything ready.

It had been dark for some time. He dispatched his faithful Tereshka to Nenaradova with his sledge and with detailed instructions, and ordered for himself a small sledge with one horse, and set out alone, without any coachman, for Jadrino, where Maria Gavrilovna ought to arrive in about a couple of hours. He knew the road well, and the journey would only occupy about twenty minutes altogether.

But scarcely had Vladimir issued from the paddock into the open field, when the wind rose and such a snowstorm came on that he could see nothing. In one minute the road was completely hidden; all surrounding objects disappeared in a thick yellow fog, through which fell the white flakes of snow; earth and sky became confounded. Vladimir found himself in the middle of the field, and tried in vain to find the road again. His horse went on at random, and at every moment kept either stepping into a snowdrift or stumbling into a hole, so that the sledge was constantly being overturned. Vladimir endeavoured not to lose the right direction. But it seemed to him that more than half an hour had already passed, and he had not yet reached the Jadrino wood. Another ten minutes elapsed -- still no wood was to be seen. Vladimir drove across a field intersected by deep ditches. The snowstorm did not abate, the sky did not become any clearer. The horse began to grow tired, and the perspiration rolled from him in great drops, in spite of the fact that he was constantly being half-buried in the snow.

At last Vladimir perceived that he was going in the wrong direction. He stopped, began to think, to recollect, and compare, and he felt convinced that he ought to have turned to the right. He turned to the right now. His horse could move forward. He had now been on the road for more than an hour. Jadrino could not be far off. But on and on he went, and still no end to the field -- nothing but snowdrifts and ditches. The sledge was constantly being overturned, and as constantly being set right again. The time was passing: Vladimir began to grow seriously uneasy.

At last something dark appeared in the distance. Vladimir directed his course towards it. On drawing near, he perceived that it was a wood.

"Thank Heaven!" he thought, "I am not far off now."

He drove along by the edge of the wood, hoping by-and-by to fall upon the well-known road or to pass round the wood: Jadrino was situated just behind it. He soon found the road, and plunged into the darkness of the wood, now denuded of leaves by the winter. The wind could not rage here; the road was smooth; the horse recovered courage, and Vladimir felt reassured.
[from The Prose Tales of Alexander Poushkin, translated from the Russian by T. Keane, London: George Bell and Sons, 1895]

Maxim Gorky: Funeral, Rare Footage



Maxime Gorki, Staline, Molotov in Moscow, Documentary film archives of Jean Afanassieff


Sunday, 13 March 2011

Savva Mamontov - Biography

Mamontov Savva Ivanovich, born in 1841, was a big entrepreneur but considered theatre arts his true vocation. He collected paintings by Russian artists and was known as a patron of art. His estate Abramtsevo located under Moscow became a unique place where workshops of painting, wood engraving, pottery and sculpture were organized. Mamontov’s house appeared to be home for the Vasnetsov brothers, Antokolskiy the sculpture, Polenov, Golovin, Repin, Surikov, Korovin, Levitan, Serov, Rimsky-Korsakov and Vrubel, whose talent Savva Ivanovich evolved and supported. The artists loved that place; they used to live there for months, sometimes with their families. A great number of world-known masterpieces were brought into life here in Abramtsevo, a revival hearth for the best traditions of the national culture.

Apart from patronage extended to artists Mamontov turned out to be a true reformer of theatrical business: he was a founder and a stage director for the first Russian private opera house. Mamontov’s opera house underwent three stages: from 1885 to 1887, from 1896 to 1899, from 1899 to 1904. The second stage was the period of efflorescence, since Mamontov staked on Russian opera artists and conducted an intensive search for gifted young singers.

In autumn of 1896 F. Shalyapin came to the private opera house, and the same period next year S.V. Rakhmaninov joined him. It was Mamontov who supported Shalyapin and recognized him as an opera artist. After long searches Savva Ivanovitch managed to organize a strong opera group, which rose up numerous singers, who later successfully performed and were welcome at many theatres of the capital. Unfortunately, the second stage of the opera existence ended tragically: in 1899 Shalyapin left the Private opera house for the imperial stage of the Bolshoi theatre; stage director Mel’nikov followed him several months later. In autumn of the same year Mamontov was arrested on a charge of illegal use of the capitals of the joint stock railway company. In the last period (1899-1904) the theatre was renamed into the Russian private opera association and gradually faded.

Mamontov’s house in Sadovaya Street, the museum of Moscow artistic culture, remained sealed for almost two years with all masterpieces kept in the building. In 1903 some of them were sold out and nobody knows where they are now, but a great part of things, due to Mamontov’s friends, was sent to the Tretyakov Gallery. Savva Ivanovich spent about six months in prison; this horrible time served him bad as he fell ill. However, as soon as his condition became known, Mamontov’s punishment was replaced by the house imprisonment. The rest of his life, almost twenty years, Savva Ivanovich spent in Moscow in a small house. Later the investigation and the court found Savva Ivanivitch innocent, but the lawsuit ruined Mamontov. He died in Moscow on March 24 of 1918 and was buried in Abramtsevo. ...

Maxim Gorky: The Billionaire

The kings of steel, of petroleum, and all the other kings of the United States have always in a high degree excited my power of imagination. It seemed to me certain that these people who possess so much money could not be like other mortals.
Each of them (so I said to myself) must call his own, at least, three stomachs and a hundred and fifty teeth. I did not doubt that the millionaire ate without intermission, from six o'clock in the morning till midnight. It goes without saying, the most exquisite and sumptuous viands! Toward evening, then, he must be tired of the hard chewing, to such a degree that (so I pictured to myself) he gave orders to his servants to digest the meals that he had swallowed with satisfaction during the day. Completely limp, covered with sweat and almost suffocated, he had to be put to bed by his servants, in order that on the next morning at six o'clock he might be able to begin again his work of eating.
Nevertheless, it must be impossible for such a man -- whatever pains he might take -- to consume merely the half of the interest of his wealth.
To be sure, such a life is awful, but what is one to do? For what is one a millionaire -- what am I saying? -- a billionaire, if one cannot eat more than every other common mortal! I pictured to myself that this privileged being wore cloth-of-gold underclothing, shoes with gold nails, and instead of a hat a diadem of diamonds on his head. His clothes, made of the most expensive velvet, must be at least fifty feet long and fastened with three hundred gold buttons; and on holidays he must be compelled by dire necessity to put on over each other six pairs of costly trousers. Such a costume is certainly very uncomfortable. But, if one is rich like that, one can't after all dress like all the world.
The pocket of a billionaire, I pictured to myself so big that therein easily a church or the whole senate could find room. The paunch of such a gentleman I conceived to myself like the hull of an ocean steamer, the length and breadth of which I was not able to think out. Of the bulk, too, of a billionaire I could never give myself a clear idea; but I supposed that the coverlet under which he sleeps measures a dozen hundred square yards. If he chews tobacco, it was unquestionably only the best kind, of which he always sticks two pounds at a time into his mouth. And on taking snuff (I thought to myself) he must use up a pound at a pinch. Indeed, money will be spent!
His fingers must possess the magic power of lengthening at will. In spirit, I saw a New York billionaire as he stretched out his hand across Bering Strait and brought back a dollar that had rolled somewhere toward Siberia, without especially exerting himself thereby.
Curiously, I could form to myself no clear conception of the head of this monster. In this organism consisting of gigantic muscles and bones that is made for squeezing money out of all things, a head seemed to me really quite superfluous.
Who, now, can conceive my astonishment when, standing facing one of these fabulous beings, I arrived at the conviction that a billionaire is a human being like all the rest!
I saw there comfortably reclining in an armchair a long, wizened old man, who held his brown, sinewy hands folded across a body of quite ordinary dimensions. The flabby skin of his face was carefully shaved. The underlip, which hung loosely down, covered solidly built jaws, in which gilded teeth were stuck. The upper lip, smooth, narrow and pallid, scarcely moved when the old man spoke. Colorless eyes without brows, a perfectly bald skull. It might be thought that a little skin was wanting to this reddish face, to this countenance that was expressionless and puckered like that of one new-born. Was this being just beginning its life, or was it already nearing its end?
Nothing in his dress distinguished him from the ordinary mortal. A ring, a watch, and his teeth were all the gold he carried with him. Scarcely half a pound, all told! Taken altogether, the appearance of the man recalled that of an old servant of an aristocratic family in Europe.
The furnishing of the room in which he received me had nothing unusually luxurious about it. The furniture was solid; that is all that can be said. Oftentimes elephants probably come into this house, I involuntarily thought at the sight of the heavy, substantial pieces of furniture. ...

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Sviatoslav Richter - Documentary - The Enigma - vol. 1- 1/8



The first part of the acclaimed docu-biography of the Ukrainian/German pianist Sviatoslav Richter including archive footage and an interview with the 80 year old Richter.

Thank you

Friday, 11 March 2011

Peter I the Great - Biography


One of Russia’s greatest statesmen, Peter the Great – the Tsar and first Emperor of Russia - was a man of unwavering willpower, extraordinary energy and supreme vision. Having inherited a vast but backward state, he propelled Russia to the rank of a major European power, while his extraordinary personality and wide scale reforms have been an inspiration to generations of historians, writers and ordinary Russians.

Born in 1672 in Moscow, the future emperor was the son of Tsar Aleksey I. His mother was Natalya Naryshkina, the tsar’s second wife. Peter was his mother’s first son, but he was his father’s 14th child, so his birth was not much cause for celebration. But unlike his half-brothers, the offspring of his father’s first marriage, Peter was a healthy, inquisitive and energetic child.

When Peter was just four years old his father died and the throne was left to Peter’s elder half-brother, Fyodor III, a sickly youth. Yet, in reality, the royal power fell into the hands of the relatives of Fyodor’s mother who tried to push Peter and his closest circle aside. In 1682, Fyodor died without leaving an heir. This sparked a bitter power struggle among the nobility: some supported Peter’s half-brother, the sickly Ivan, while others declared their allegiance to the healthy and intelligent Peter. Ivan’s backers eventually managed to use a revolt by the Moscow streltsy, an elite army corps, to their advantage. As a result, Ivan and Peter were proclaimed joint tsars. But eventually it was Ivan’s 25-year-old sister Sophia who was made regent, while Peter, excluded from public affairs and often fearing for his safety, was forced to live with his mother in a village outside Moscow.

One result of this exile was that Peter grew up away from the stifling atmosphere of palace life. He enjoyed energetic outdoor games and took a special interest in military affairs. During his frequent visits to a nearby German colony, he took a liking to all things European. Another seemingly insignificant event in his life was the time he found an old sailboat in a shed; this discovery provided his initial passion for sailing. He also enjoyed mathematics, fortification and navigation. And as it turned out, the young Peter’s interest in military and nautical games provided a sound training for the challenges ahead.

Early in 1689, Peter’s mother arranged his marriage to Yevdokiya Lopukhina – a political match aimed at proving that the 17-year-old was a grown man who could rule on his own. But the forced union did not last. The young woman shared neither her husband’s passion for war games, nor his lofty ambitions. Although they did succeed in having a son together, the couple grew apart. Eventually, Peter had his wife confined to the walls of a convent, freeing himself from the bonds of marriage.

In August 1689, the political temperature in Russia increased yet again as the streltsy once more revolted. But this time things turned decisively in Peter’s favor and Sophia was removed from power. After Ivan’s death seven years later, Peter ascended to the throne.

But the country he inherited lagged far behind most European states. And it did not escape Peter’s attention that his country lacked an access route to the seas, which was so vital for trade at the time. So the determined Russian tsar embarked on an ambitious program to transform Russia into an advanced European country while winning a maritime outlet. Breaking the resistance of the old land-owning nobility, the boyars, and severely punishing all opposition to his projects, Peter launched a series of reforms that affected, in the course of 25 years, every area of his nation’s life - administration, industry, commerce, technology and culture.

The first steps he took were the campaigns of 1695-1696 against the Crimean Tatars, the vassals of Turkey, in the hope of carving a route to the Black Sea. Initially unsuccessful, the campaign eventually brought some land gains and prompted Peter to start building a navy. His next undertaking was an extensive European tour, the first time a Russian Tsar went abroad. Accompanied by a large delegation, Peter’s main objective was to strengthen the anti-Turkish coalition, but also to learn more about Europe’s economic and cultural life.

Traveling in disguise, Peter proved an avid learner - he studied shipbuilding, even working as a ship’s carpenter in Holland, and then went to Great Britain where he visited factories, arsenals, schools and museums. From there he moved on to Austria but was forced to cut his travels short as he got news of a fresh streltsy revolt in Moscow. In the summer of 1698, Peter returned to the capital to brutally suppress the uprising. Hundreds of rebels were executed with the rest of the rebels exiled to distant towns.

Meanwhile, having found no allies against the Turks among the Western powers, and realizing Russia couldn’t fight them alone, Peter gave up his dream of a Black Sea access, turning his attention to the Baltic Sea to the north instead. At this time, Russia’s route to the Baltic coast was blocked by the powerful Swedes. To dislodge them, Peter allied himself to several European powers and, in 1700, embarked on his biggest military undertaking, the so-called Northern War. Mobilizing all of Russia’s vast resources, the Russian tsar personally involved himself in key planning and operations, often seen aboard warships or on the battlefield.

Peter probably never imagined that the campaign would last for 21 years.

As it turned out, Russia proved ill-prepared to fight the Swedes, the most advanced army of the time. Thus, at the Battle of Narva, Russia’s first attempt at seizing the Baltic coast ended in disaster. But Peter later described the defeat as a blessing in disguise that compelled him to work even harder.

In 1704, Russian troops captured Tartu and Narva. This victory was followed by the Battle of Poltava (1709), which represents one of the key victories in Russian military history. The military plan of operations was of Peter’s own design. But despite the success of Russian forces, Peter had to wait until 1721 for the eastern shores of the Baltic to be at last ceded to Russia.

In November 1721, to celebrate the long-coveted conquest, Peter assumed the title of Emperor as Russia officially became the Russian Empire. The end of the Northern war left Peter free to resume a more active policy on the southeastern border. In 1722, he invaded Persian territory and a year later Persia ceded parts of the Caspian Sea to Russia.

Peter also waged a war of sorts at home. His first target became the traditional look of his courtiers: beards were out, Western fashions in. Peter went on to modernize Russia’s military and administrative structure, simplify the alphabet, and change the calendar to make it correspond to European standards, as well as myriad other sweeping changes. ...

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Nicolas Berdyaev: The Russian Revolution

The Russian Revolution has interested the whole world in Russia and the Russian people. The peoples of the West are uneasy about the Communist experiment, accompanied as it is by a forced implanting of atheism such as the world has never yet known-an experiment carried on in a vast country which is little known to, and little understood by, the West. What must be of great interest is the psychological problem : How was it possible for Holy Russia to be turned into an arsenal of militant atheism ? How is it that a people who are religious by their very structure and live exclusively by faith have proved to be such a fruitful field for anti-religious propaganda ? To explain that, to understand Russian anti-religious psychology, one must have an insight into the religious psychology of the Russian people.

The nineteenth century saw the advent of an original type of Russian, different in spiritual structure from that of mediaeval Muscovite Russia, and it is this type which gives us the key to the militant atheism of the Russian Revolution. In Russia it was a century of thought and word, in which the structure of the Russian soul was first realised and expressed ; in which creative art and thought have left memorials through which we can study the religious and anti-religious tendencies of Russian psychology. But the roots of this soul-structure we are to study lie embedded in the tragic history of our past, and above all in the religious schism (Raskol) within the Russian Church of the seventeenth century, the effects of which are still at work in our own day. The Raskol is a characteristic and decisive phenomenon of Russian history, and we have not deflected from its orbit. Russians are, by their very psychology, inclined to become raskolniki (schismatics). The historic religious schism is not to be explained merely by the fact that a considerable portion of the Russian people and clergy in the times before Peter the Great were grossly ignorant and identified ritual with dogma. The struggle was carried on not merely to preserve the ancient rites, the letter of the law, in all their purity. Deeper motives, to be found in the psychological history of the Russian people, were in action. They had long been moved by the feeling of a messianic mission.

It found expression in the fifteenth century, in the teaching of the monk Philothey concerning Moscow, " the Third Rome." Byzantium had fallen, and the only Orthodox Empire left in the world, according to Philothey, was the Russian ; the Russian nation, alone on the earth, was the depositary of true Orthodox faith; all the outer Christian world had tarnished its purity. The idea of an Orthodox Empire became the Russians' central idea-a messianic idea.

When Greek influence showed itself in the correction of the service-books and the alteration of the rites, this was taken as a betrayal of the Orthodox Empire, the civil power and the hierarchy of the Church. Religious and national sentiment were as closely wedded as in the consciousness of the ancient Jews. When the Patriarch Nikon fell under Greek influence, he seemed a traitor. Antichrist had penetrated into the Orthodox Empire, into State and Church. The hierarchy was corrupted. The true Church went out into the desert and hid beneath the earth. The Orthodox Empire, like the town of Kitesh *, became an invisible one. The raskolniki took refuge in the forests and hid

* According to legend, the " Shining Town " of Kitesh, rather than fall a prey to the Mongols, sank to the bottom of a lake. (Translator's note.) from persecution. The more fanatical and exalted among them burned themselves to death ; the sect of" self-burners " is a typically Russian phenomenon.

Another extreme form of the Raskol is bezpo-povstvo (" priestlessness "), which rejects every sort of hierarchy, has a strong apocalyptic and eschatological tendency, and is nihilistic in its attitude to the structure of the Church, to the State, and to culture.

Russian Nihilism and the apocalyptic strain in the Russian character are connected, and their connection shows itself in the extreme forms of the schismatic spirit. Nihilistic and apocalyptic tendencies, hankering after spiritual nakedness, refusal of the processes of history and of cultural values, expectancy of some final catastrophe, are deeply rooted in the psychology of the Raskol. Its extreme left wing brought forth a multitude of sects. The monarchism of the Old-Believers developed into anarchism. The psychology of the Raskol, a divorce between the Church's people and her rulers, between the common people and the cultured class, grew more and more strong and violent. The reform of Peter the Great greatly increased it. Popular feeling saw in Peter's reform, or, rather, in his revolution, an act of violence against the people's soul, and answered it by creating the legend that he was Antichrist. Henceforth the Orthodox Christian Empire is taken as having finally disappeared from the visible world, and the realm of Antichrist takes its place. Imperial Russia, soaked in Western civilisation, is no longer the Orthodox Empire in the strict sense of the word. An attitude of aloofness and suspicion towards the authorities grows up. The Russian religious messianic idea remains, but it settles into a profound divorce from its actual surroundings. Orthodoxy, bound up with the dominant Church but opposed to Protestant or " enlightening" influences, kept much in common with the Old-Believers and raskolniki. Apocalyptic feelings, connected with the awaiting of Antichrist, are very strong among the people, and they come to light also in currents of religious thought among the cultured classes, in Russian writers and thinkers. And these tendencies remain as psychological forces, but in a secularised form, in movements which are divorced from Christian religious consciousness. Thus a schismatic and eschatological disposition is the fundamental psychological fact of the Russian nineteenth century ; it will express itself both in a religious way and in an anti-religious (an inverted religious) way.

The Russian intelligentsia of the nineteenth century was a class of intellectual schismatics, an intellectual Raskol. It lived in disagreement with the present, with Imperial Russia; it looked either to an ideal past, idealising the Russia before Peter, or to an ideal future, an idealised West. It did not feel the successes of the Russian State to be its own successes. Lack of any foundation or root in real life was a characteristic feature of the Russian soul in the nineteenth century. And with it went a great independence and boldness of thought. All intellectuals, whether Slavophil or Occidentalist, refused their own time as a period in which the vocation of the Russian people was not fulfilled ; and such a negative attitude to contemporary life is a revolutionary element. The Slavophils looked to the past, to Russia as it was before Peter the Great, while the Occidentalists looked to the West ; but both former Russia and Western Europe were dreams, not realities.

When the Occidentalist, Herzen, found himself in the West and saw its commonness, he underwent a most painful disenchantment; he inveighed against the bourgeois spirit of the West, which has always revolted Russians. As for the Slavophils, they were convinced monarchists, but the monarchy of Nicholas I disgusted them. Russian thought in the nineteenth century, fed on German romanticism, adopted its themes and developed them in its own way. It was thought without roots; and this defect was a national feature ; it could only dream of some organised form of culture.

In the spiritual fabric of the cultured intellectual class of Russia in the nineteenth century a number of features typical of later developments appeared : divorce from contemporary life ; consciousness of the gulf that separated it as a class from the people and from the rulers ; eschatological feeling as a spiritual disposition independent of religious faith, sometimes religious and sometimes social ; expectancy of a catastrophic end ; maximalism ; little understanding of hierarchical degrees and of the gradual nature of historical developments ; a tendency to deny the value of the relative, and to turn it into something absolute ; an inclination towards opposite extremes ; a curious kind of asceticism; contempt of worldly goods and bourgeois virtues ; a crying demand for the actual attainment of justice in human life, above all in social life. One can recognise these features in the most contradictory tendencies.

The Russian soul of the nineteenth century was a suffering soul brought to the point of self-torture. Compassion for human suffering was the fundamental theme of its literature-a spiritual disposition that fed upon the painful aspects of serfdom. It was essentially a non-acceptance of suffering ; not a refusal to suffer, but a refusal to admit that there was any meaning in it. Now, this Russian suffering and compassion had two sources : in some it came from consciousness of guilt, contrition, an uneasy conscience ; in others from a feeling of offence, resentment, a revolt of the oppressed. And the basic phenomenon which we have to notice is that we have here a transposition of religious motives and religious psychology into a non-religious or anti-religious sphere, into the region of social problems, so that the spiritual energy of religion flows into social channels, which thereby take on a religious character, and become a breeding-ground for a peculiar form of social idolatry. Creative social energy was not free to find its realisation in the conditions of actual Russian life, it was not directed into actual social construction ; it entered into its own self, modified the texture of the soul, elicited a passionate visionary social idealism, and accumulated an explosive force in the depths of the subconscious mind. No one had a more profound insight than Dostoievsky into the fact that Russian Socialism was not a political but a religious question, the question of God, of immortality and the radical reconstruction of all human life. Socialism, broadly speaking, was the dominant religious faith of most of the nineteenth-century Russian intelligentsia. It determined all moral judgments. It was above all a matter of sentiment. The Russians' interpretation of Saint Simon, Proudhon and Karl Marx was a religious one ; they took to materialism also in the same religious spirit. Dostoievsky revealed the religious psychology and religious dialectics of Russian Nihilism and revolutionary Socialism. And once one has understood the basis of Russian Nihilism, and recognised it as an original product of the Russian spirit, one is able to grasp the source and basis of the militant atheistic element in Russian Communism.

Russian Nihilism was directed, at its origins, by religious motives which concealed a perverted religious psychology. Russians became Nihilists through a kind of love of truth and justice. It was Bielinsky, the Russian Orthodox literary critic and publicist of the 'forties, that came in the latter period of his life to hold the philosophy which laid the basis of Russian Nihilism and nihilistic Socialism. A typical intellectual raskolnik, Bielinsky searched for truth throughout his life and became a Nihilist and an atheist for love of justice and the welfare of the people and of humanity. In his person the idealism of the 'forties underwent a crisis, Russian derivatives from Schelling and Hegel came to an end, and the consciousness of the intelligentsia was brought into contact with social realities. ...

NICOLAS BERDYAEV - THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION - FULL TEXT - ATHENAEUM LIBRARY OF PHILOSOPHY