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Showing posts from April, 2011

Svetlana Zakharova - Biography

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Zakharova is the prima ballerina of the Bolshoi theater, La Scala and Grand Opera. She’s been given one of Russia’s top state cultural awards, being named the People’s artist of the Russian Federation. Zakharova is also enjoying international praise, with famous Milan’s La Scala theater claiming her a star in April 2008.

But in all her awards and achievements Svetlana appreciates the fact she’s been given then while she’s still young and is able to prove and “enjoy her merits on stage, rather than taking comfort in these awards when retired”, says the ballerina.

Her path to the international success was not an easy one, and there were a lot of child’s tears on the start. Born in 1979 in Lutsk, an ancient, but small Ukrainian town, Svetlanahad to leave her home at the age of ten. She studied at the Kiev choreography school away from her family and friends, working hard in dance classes. As she admits, she has trained her self-discipline hard as well as her dancing skills, and now thinks …

Vladimir Mayakovsky and Lili Brik

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Lilichka!
(Instead of a letter)

Tobacco smoke eats the air away.
The room,--
a chapter from Kruchenykh’s Inferno.
Recall,--
by the window,
that day,
I caressed you ecstatically, with fervor.
Here you sit now,
with your heart in iron armor.
In a day,
you’ll scold me perhaps
and tell me to leave.
Frenzied, the trembling arm in the gloomy parlor
will hardly be able to fit the sleeve.
I’ll rush out
and hurl my body into the street,--
distraught,
lashed by despair
and sadness.
There’s no need for this,
my darling,
my sweet.
Let’s part tonight and end this madness.
Either way,
my love is
an arduous weight,
hanging on you
wherever you flee.
Let me bellow out in the final complaint
all of my heartbroken misery.
A laboring bull, if he had enough,
will leave
and find cool water to lie in.
But for me,
there’s no sea
except for your love,--
from which even tears won’t earn me some quiet.
If an elephant wants to relax, he’ll lie,
pompous, outside in the sun-baked dune,
Except for your love,
there’…

Alexander Blok - Two Biographies

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Blok was born on November 28, 1880, in St. Petersburg. The son of a lawyer, musician and writer, he didn’t remember much of his father as his parents separated soon after his birth.

He grew up in his mother’s family, a richly intellectual milieu, where his talent and potential was generously indulged. His grandfather was the head of St. Petersburg University, while his grandmother, mum and aunts were writers and translators; the little boy was exposed to literature from the cradle.

In 1898 Blok entered the law faculty of St. Petersburg University, but three years later his predilection for literature overcame him, and he switched to Philology. By 1906 he was already a recognised poet.

Blok began writing verse at the age of five, but as he writes in his autobiography, his first serious work came at the age of 18.

His first efforts were inspired by the early 19th-century Romantic poetry of Vasily Zhukovsky and Aleksandr Pushkin. It wasn’t until he reached university that he learnt abou…

Andrei Bitov on "Russian Wealth"

1 Great Russian thinkers of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries (Alexander Herzen, Mikhail Bakunin, Fedor Dostoevsky, Lev Tolstoy, and others) mused about the dilemmas of late imperial Russia. Some of them penned specific proposals as to what should be done—Herzen's novel What Is to Be Done? ( Chto delat', 1863), Tolstoy's philosophical tract of nearly the same title, So What Are We to Do? ( Tak chto zhe nam delat', 1886), and Lenin's What Is to Be Done ( Chto delat') of 1902. In addition to listing the social ills that they desired to see eradicated, some social critics of the day identified as well what deserved to be protected—those aspects of Russian culture that characterized and enriched the nation. With the late-twentieth-century demise of the Soviet Union, these grand questions occupy the attention of great thinkers once again. Writers cum 'public intellectuals' such as Alexander Solzhenitsyn and Andrei Bitov speak and write extensively…

Anna and Amedeo - Amedeo Modigliani. Nude. (Anna Akhmatova). c.1911.

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In 1910 Russian poet Nikolai Gumilev brought his young wife, also a poet, Anna Akhmatova, to Paris. The couple came on their honeymoon.

She was tall, slender and very graceful, always and everywhere she attracted glances; Parisiens, a strange folk, openly expressed their admiration of her very uncommon beauty. Gumilev, who adored her but whose love was not reciprocal, was a little jealous, but he understood, that it was a local way and tried to be polite. Only one’s man admiration suddenly aroused open irritation. The man’s name was Amedeo Modigliani.

How did they get acquainted with Modigliani? When Anna recalled their first encounter years later for other people, she always told a different story, she was creating a myth, she liked myths, like her Italian friend. Most probably they were introduced to each other by one of their mutual Russian friends, the community of Russian artists, poets, and writers was rather big and Modigliani had many friends among them. Half a century later…

Nikolay Zabolotsky - Biography

Nikolay Alekseevich Zabolotsky, an outstanding Russian author of the Soviet era, was a poet, children’s writer and translator. He was a member of Leningrad’s last avant-garde group, OBERIU (the “Association of Real Art”). Today the books of this once forbidden and suppressed author are shelved among the literary classics.

Who were the Oberiuts? Born in the early years of the 20th century, they were practically children at the time of the 1917 October Revolution. They were the last representatives of Russian modernity; they transformed and completed the entire spectrum of that modernity from mystically disposed Symbolism to avant-garde leftist futurism.

Zabolotsky was born into a family that had only just risen above its peasant origins. His father was a local agricultural advisor and his mother had been a schoolteacher. He grew up in the village of Sernur (now in the Republic of Mari El) and the small town of Urzhum, in the rural province of Vyatka. By the age of seven, he had apparen…

Boris Pasternak: Easter

There’s still the twilight of the night.
The world’s so young in its proceeding,
That countless stars in the sky abide,
And each one, like the day, is bright
And if the Earth could so decide,
She’d sleep through Easter in delight,
Hearing the Psalter reading.

There’s still the twilight of the night.
It’s far too early. It appears,
That fields eternally subside,
Across the crossroad, to the side,
And till the sunrise and the light,
There is a thousand years.

The naked earth appeared deprived,
It had no clothes to wear
To strike the church bells in the night
Or echo choirs in the air.

And from the Maundy Thursday night
Right through the Easter Eve,
The water bored the coastal side
And whirlpools heaved.

The forest, naked and exposed,
To celebrate the holy times,
As though in prayer, humbly rose,
In congregated trunks of pines.

And in the city, in one place,
Their gathering commenced.
The naked trees sincerely gazed
Above the Church’s fence.

Their eyes were overflowed by rage,
And their…

Boris Pasternak: In Memory of Marina Tsvetaeva

Dismal day, with the weather inclement.
Inconsolably rivulets run
Down the porch in front of the doorway;
Through my wide-open windows they come.

But behind the old fence on the roadside,
See, the public gardens are flooded.
Like wild beasts in a den, the rainclouds
Sprawl about in shaggy disorder.

In such weather, I dream of a volume
On the beauties of Earth in our age,
And I draw an imp of the forest
Just for you on the title-page.

Oh, Marina, I'd find it no burden,
And the time has been long overdue:
Your sad clay should be brought from Yelabuga
By a requiem written for you.

All the triumph of your homecoming
I considered last year in a place
Near a snow-covered bend in the river
Where boats winter, locked in the ice.

What can I do to be of service?
Convey somehow your own request,
For in the silence of your going
There's a reproach left unexpressed.

A loss is always enigmatic.
I hunt for clues to no avail,
And rack my brains in fruitless torment:
Death has no lineaments at…

Maria Guleghina - Biography

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Maria Guleghina is one of the most celebrated and acclaimed sopranos of the world. Her performances are invariably rewarded with standing ovations throughout the world’s foremost opera houses. She has been described as the “Cinderella from Russia”, “Russian soprano with Verdi flowing through her veins” and “Vocal Miracle”. She is particularly noted for her interpretation of the title role in Tosca. Her repertoire also includes the title role in Aida, Manon Lescaut, Norma, Fedora, Turandot, Adriana Lecouvreur, as well as Lady Macbeth in Macbeth, Abigaille in Nabucco, Violetta in La Traviata, Leonora in Il Trovatore, Oberto and La Forza del Destino, Elvira in Ernani, Elisabetta in Don Carlo, Amelia in Simon Boccanegra, and Un Ballo in Maschera, Lucrezia in I due Foscari, Desdemona in Otello, Santuzza in Cavalleria Rusticana, Maddalena in Andrea Chenier, Lisa in Pique Dame, Odabella in Attila, etc.

Maria Guleghina began her professional career at the State Opera in Minsk, and a year lat…

Awesome Vintage Russian Advertising (Gallery)

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Vintage advertising prints are a pretty standard easy way to decorate a wall, and I’ve always liked the look myself. But it’s sort of like tattoos, to take it to the next level you need something incomprehensible and yet still graphically gorgeous. Russian fits the bill.


These Russian vintage ads range in time from 1890 – 1915, and mostly are advertising things like tobacco and alcohol, because that was mainly what people bought back when life was miserable and short. (At least that’s what movies have told me about the time period.) Here are 12 awesome vintage Russian ads. I’d hang any of them on my wall.


More here.

Marina Tsvetaeva - Biography

Marina Tsvetaeva was born in Moscow into the family of Ivan Vladimirovich Tsvetaev, a professor of art history who founded the world-famous Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts – the largest museum of European art in Moscow. The project took some 25 years of his life and much of his attention which otherwise could have been devoted to his children.

Marina Tsvetaeva’s mother, Maria Aleksandrovna, nee Mein, was a romantic woman, deeply rapt in music and books, whose maximalist perception of the world and personal unhappiness greatly affected the unfolding talent of her young daughter.

Marina’s childhood was traditional for her class. The family had servants – a cook, a gardener, housemaids and nannies for the children. The Tsvetaev family spent summers in a cottage in Tarusa – a picturesque little town on the bank of the Oka River, and the rest of time they lived in a one-storey house in Moscow’s Trekhprudny Pereulok – “a spacious house full of magic,” “the soul of my soul,” as Marina described …

Watching The Detectives: Popular Russian Crime Novelist Discusses His Craft

Boris Akunin is one of Russia's most popular crime fiction writers. His detective novels featuring investigator Erast Fandorin have won awards and critical acclaim at home and abroad. Bashir Ahmad Gwakh of RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal spoke to Akunin about his work and also discussed the changes that have occurred in Russian literature in recent decades.

RFE/RL: The Soviet Union was involved in Afghanistan for a long time. Did the Afghan war have an impact on Russian literature?

Boris Akunin: Yes, definitely. And not only on literature, but on the country in general. I think it was one of the decisive steps which ruined the USSR and of course it left a very deep scar on the Soviet national mentality. There have been a lot of works of fiction, non-fiction, and cinema dedicated to this painful issue.

RFE/RL: In what different ways was the war portrayed?

Akunin: We have both kinds of descriptions of the war in our literature and in our cinema. Cinema, of course, tends to be more mass…

The Lay of Igor’s Campaign and the Works It Has Inspired

In A.D. 1185, as the Kievan Rus Empire was starting to deteriorate, a little known prince on the eastern Russian borders led his outnumbered men into battle against Mongolian invaders, the Polovtsians (Kumans). This battle and its aftermath would become the topic of the Russian literary epic, “The Lay of Igor’s Campaign.” Its conclusion was not what one would expect; the hero was not a fearless Beowulf, a mighty Roland, nor even a betrayed Siegfried. Igor Sviatoshlavich's only claim to fame resulted from a bad military decision stemming perhaps from cockiness, pride or stupidity. Yet, its outcome remained true to the great epic form; the ending was not an overwhelmingly happy victory or love affair. Rather, it was subdued with a ray of hope that things would be better in the future.

As a frontier prince, it was Igor Sviatoshlavich’s job to protect his domains (Novgorod-Seversk) and consequently the rest of Russia from invasion. Igor’s defeat and capture in 1185 (he eventually esca…

Grigory Rasputin - Biography

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Grigory Rasputin, a wondering peasant who eventually exerted a powerful influence over Nicholas II and Aleksandra, the last Tsar and Tsarina of Imperial Russia, is one of the most mysterious and dark individuals of Russian history.

Grigory Rasputin was born 10 January 1869 in the small and remote Siberian village of Pokrovskoe. Even as a young man he astonished people; there was talk about him having visions and the ability to heal. According to one legend, one day Rasputin was lying in bed sick when a group of peasants walked in to find out who had stolen a horse. Grigory rose from his bed and pointed at the thief among them. The insulted peasant denied it, and Grigory was beaten. That night, two wary peasants followed the suspect and saw him leading the horse out of his shed and into the forest. Rasputin gained a reputation as a visionary, although some were scared of the boy and thought he was possessed by the devil. It was a time and place where all possible magic and heeling pow…

Chinghiz Aitmatov – Biography

Chinghiz Aitmatov was the most celebrated representative of Kyrgyzstan, a landlocked, mountainous nation of five million people in the heart of Central Asia and a Soviet republic until 1991. Aitmatov is revered for building a bridge between the world of traditional Kyrgyz folklore and modern Eurasian literature.

A bilingual and bicultural writer, Aitmatov wrote his prose and plays in both his native Kyrgyz and in Russian. His works have been translated into more than 150 languages. He brilliantly combined elements of Kyrgyz folktales and epics with formally traditional Russian realism. Aitmatov was deeply in love with his native land and lore, but he was also a Soviet patriot and a true internationalist. He urged the Kyrgyz Soviet authorities to treat the Kyrgyz language with dignity and to elevate its official position along side that of Russian, which was at the time described as 'the second mother tongue' of the Kyrgyz people. He endorsed the Kyrgyz language's status in…