Showing posts from November, 2012

Soviet Posters: Each absence is joy for the enemy...


Maximilian Voloshin: A Machine

As there is no inventor,
Who by drafting a machine,
Had not imagined his creation
To ennoble humans,
There is no machine
That did not bring the world
The most misery
And the new kinds of enslavement!

While human hand had pushed the lever,
And waters
Spined the wheels of mill --
Their strenghts combined
Had not disturbed
The ancient balances of nature
But man
Had picked the keys to her eternal puzzles
And «captured» monsters were released.

Like spirit, that embodies itself
Into the woman's womb and builds the body,
The steam, the electricity and the gun powder
By getting hold of the human mind and its desires
Have built themselves the bodies made of iron
According to their utmost nature:
Blast furnaces and caldrons,
Dynamo-stations, motors and turbines

Like poor student of magician
Who freed the elements by spell
But could not manage the calamities
They've caused and drowned
With his house and his village, --
The same way a man cannot contain
The fury of machine:
The levers bend t…

Leo Tolstoy: Documentary Footage from 1909 and 1910.


Osip Mandelstam: Tristia

It's so my own and so familiar. What should
I do with this God-given flesh and blood?

For joys so quiet as to live and breathe,
Who will receive my gratitude for these?

I'm both the gardener and flower one,
In this world's dungeons I am not alone.

On the glass of the eternal one can see
The traces of my breath and of the warmth of me.

Henceforth it bears a pattern which is mine
Even to me unknown from recent times.

Let it be drained, the turmoil of the day -
The lovely pattern won't be crossed away.


She has not taken her first sigh -
She is the word and music both -
And thus of all that lives and grows
A timeless and unbroken tie.

Placidly breathe the breasts of sea
The day is bright, as if gone mad,
The sea foam's pallid lilacs stand
In vase of lapis lazuli.

O, would my lips accept the lure
Of muteness prime, now so remote,
Reminding of a crystal notes
That are innately truly pure.

Be foam, O Venus, stay as mists,
And words to music do return
And heart, at heart's own shame do…

Is “Anna Karenina” A Love Story?

A few weeks ago, on an appropriately snowy Wednesday, my wife and I went to see the new film version of “Anna Karenina.” It was the movie’s New York première, and, before it started, Joe Wright, the director, a dark-haired Englishman in a gray suit, stood up to say a few words. He introduced Keira Knightley, who plays Anna, along with the actors who play Kitty and Levin, Alicia Vikander and Domhnall Gleeson. Wright spoke earnestly, like a proud older brother, of having worked with Knightley since “Pride and Prejudice,” when she was only “an ingenue.” Meanwhile, he said, his new movie, “Anna Karenina,” was about love, and about all the ways in which love makes us human. Wright and his actors slipped out a side door, and the movie began. Wright’s “Anna Karenina” isn’t a straight-forward adaptation of the novel, but a fanciful, expressionistic reinterpretation of it, with a knowing, self-conscious screenplay by Tom Stoppard. The sets are inventive and metafictional. Knightley plays Anna …

People of the Russian Empire

People of the Russian Empire: You are going to see a big collection of photo postcards featuring people and mode of life in the Russian Empire of the end of the nineteenth – beginning of the twentieth centuries. So what was the Russian type?   … Read more...

Russian literature without borders

The presentation of the Russkaya Premiya Award - a literary contest that supports Russian-speaking writers and poets living abroad – will take place at the International Book Fair in the Austrian capital Vienna on November 23rd . The presentation of the book of the laureate of the Russkaya Premiya Award 2011 Darya Vilke will also take place there. The new novel of the 36-year-old writer living in Austria is titled “Mezhsezoniye”. Commenting on the book in an interview with the Voice of Russia, the head of the Vienna contest Tatyana Voskovskaya said: "What we have here is the situation when one leaves his (her) historical land but is not closely linked with his (her) new homeland yet. That is why I think that the word chosen for the title is very good because in this case it means that the given person still feels off-season and unsettled. It is a very serious and interesting work." Darya Vilke has been living in emigration since 2000. She lives in Vienna and teaches Russian at …

Konstantin Korovin

Konstantin Alekseyevich Korovin is one of the most vivid representatives of Russian impressionism. Among the artists who made themselves known in the 1880s and marked a new stage in the development of Russian painting – such as Levitan, Nesterov, Serov and Vrubel – quite a special place belongs to Konstantin Korovin.

Konstantin Alekseyevich Korovin was born on November, 23rd, 1861 in Moscow. His parents were of the merchant class and the family was rather well-to-do. By the way, this family gave to the world and another artist - Sergey Korovin – Konstantin’s brother.

At the age of 14 years Konstantin entered the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpturing and Architecture to study at the faculty of architecture. But after two years of studies he chose painting instead and transferred to the corresponding faculty. Korovin went to Petersburg to continue his education in the Academy of Arts. However, quite soon the young artist got disappointed in the academy’s methods and after three months qu…

Moscow Before the Revolution

Moscow Before the Revolution: Streets of old pre-revolutionary Moscow were so much different from what its citizens and city guests can see today. A nice collection of old black and white photographs of the Russian capital can be seen below. This is a shoe … Read more...

Valentin Serov - Biography

Artist and art critic Alexandre Benois said that Valentin Serov had reflected entire Russian reality and its history in his creations. Valery Bryusov, one of the well-known Silver age poets perfectly described the brilliant gift of Serov: “The artist stepped into the realm of painting as his own kingdom. Very few of outstanding painters were awarded such steadfast and many-sided attention yet in their lifetime: lots of writers, artists, composers, actors and even members of the imperial family have become not only characters of his epochal works, but also authors of memoirs about the artist, where he is shown as the exemplar of honesty, simplicity and modest unselfishness in everything”.

Valentin Alexandrovich Serov was born in Saint Petersburg, into the family of the famous Russian composer and musical critic Alexander Serov. He studied in a grammar school for three years only and then in 1878 settled in Moscow, in the house of the outstanding artist Ilya Repin, who became his teacher…

Lomonosov: An Evening Reflection Upon God's Grandeur Prompted by the Great Northern Lights

The day conceals its brilliant face,
And dark night covers up the fields,
Black shadows creep upon the hills,
Light's rays recede from us.
Before us gapes a well of stars -
Stars infinite, well fathomless.

A grain of sand in ocean swells,
A tiny glint in endless ice,
Fine ash caught in a mighty gale,
A feather in a raging fire,
So I am lost in this abyss,
Oppressed by thoughts profound.

The mouths of wise men call to us:
"A multitude of worlds dwell there,
Among them burning suns untold,
And peoples, and the wheel of time:
There, all of nature's strength
Exists God's glory to proclaim"

But where, O nature, is your law?
Dawn breaks from out of northern lands!
Is this the home of our sun's throne?
Or are the icy oceans burning?
Behold, cold fire envelops us!
Behold, now day has entered night.

O thou, whose lively gaze can see
Into the book of law eternal,
For whom the smallest part of things
Reveals the code in all of nature,
Thou comprehendeth planets' course,
Now tell us what di…

Vasily Grossman: The Road: Short Fiction and Essays

In 1961 Vasily Grossman wrote to the Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev asking for "freedom for my book". The book in question was Life and Fate, Grossman's breathtaking epic – his Soviet War and Peace – and it had been "arrested" by the KGB. Grossman had fallen foul of a toxic combination of Stalin's postwar anti "cosmopolitan" (for cosmopolitan read Jewish) campaigns, power struggles within the writers' union (Sholokov called the novel "spittle in the face of the Russian people") and the hard fist of Stalinist censorship that, despite the Khrushchev thaw, lived on. Grossman's plea fell on deaf ears. Mikhail Suslov, the Communist party's chief ideologue, said that Life and Fate would not be let out for at least 200 years.

Suslov was wrong: although Grossman did not live to witness it, a smuggled copy of the novel was published in Switzerland in 1980. This magnificent exploration of the wartime struggle of freedom against tyrann…

Boris Strugatsky: Russia mourns death of sci-fi writer

Vladimir Putin and Russia's liberal opposition who accuse him of growing authoritarianism have came together to mourn the death of Boris Strugatsky, a science fiction author famous for novels critical of the totalitarian Soviet system.

Strugatsky died in St Petersburg on Monday, aged 79, his foundation said. Media reports said he had been hospitalised with an illness. Strugatsky, along with his brother Arkady, who died in 1991, wrote many novels and short stories critical of Soviet authoritarianism. When they began writing in the 1950s they were able to evade censors by placing subtle criticism in the context of distant planets and universes. That changed as time went on and they faced state censorship. Among their most celebrated works are Roadside Picnic – the basis for director Andrei Tarkovsky's film Stalker – and Hard to be a God – the story of a man who visits another planet and grows horrified with its government's cruel methods of stifling human development and freedo…

Aleksey Remizov

Aleksey Remizov was born into a family of Moscow merchants. As a student he was arrested by mistake for resistance to the police during a protest march and was exiled to the north of Russia. After his return from exile in 1905 he settled in St. Petersburg and started active literary activity. In the years of revolution and the following Military communism Remizov remained in Petrograd (Petersburg), though politically he was inclined against Bolsheviks, while tending to socialist revolutionary circles.

In summer 1921 Remizov left Russia, going to Germany for medical treatment; the writer believed it would be “temporary” and yet, he was not destined to come back. In November 1923 driven by economic crisis, Remizov moved from Berlin to Paris, where he spent the rest of his life.

In the end of his life the writer got Soviet citizenship yet never returned to Russia and was buried at Sainte Genevieve des Bois Cemetery in France.

Remizov is mainly famous for his intricate fairy tales (the colle…

Chebureki: Perfect Meat Pasties

Chebureki: Perfect Meat Pasties: Chebureki or meat pasties do not leave indifferent anyone. They are good in any weather and especially in cold days. The main ingredient you need to make chebureki is lamb, and the fatter it is the better. This is it, … Read more...

Fyodor Ivanovich Tyutchev : Silentium!

Be silent, hide yourself, conceal
Your feelings and your dreams.
And let them rise and set
In your soul's depths
As soundless as the stars at night.
Admire them - and yet stay silent.
How can a heart reveal itself?
How can another fathom you?
All that sustains you comprehend?
A thought once spoken is a lie.
Digging disturbs the spring.
Partake of it-and yet stay silent.
Learn how to live within yourself -
There is within your soul a world entire
Of enigmatic, magic thoughts.
Ambient noise will muffle them,
And daylight's rays will scatter them,-
Heed their melody - and yet stay silent!

Andrei Platonov: Russia's greatest 20th-century prose stylist?

An anti-Stalinist author who died in obscurity in 1951 may be the greatest Russian writer of the last century, his English translator Robert Chandler explains to Daniel Kalder

Stalin called him scum. Sholokhov, Gorky, Pasternak, and Bulgakov all thought he was the bee's knees. But when Andrei Platonov died in poverty, misery and obscurity in 1951, no one would have predicted that within half a century he would be a contender for the title as Russia's greatest 20th-century prose stylist. Indeed, his English translator Robert Chandler thinks Platonov's novel The Foundation Pit is so astonishingly good he translated it twice. Set against a backdrop of industrialisation and collectivisation, The Foundation Pit is fantastical yet realistic, funny yet tragic, profoundly moving and yet disturbing. Daniel Kalder caught up with Chandler to talk about why more people should be reading Platonov.

Why did you translate Platonov's Foundation Pit twice?

No other work of literature me…

Unknown Kazakhstan

Unknown Kazakhstan: You are about to see a collection of photos from the exhibition held in Almaty which is called “Unknown Kazakhstan”. Some photographers made a trip around the country to take unique photographs. Some of them are presented below. This is … Read more...

Anatoly Lunacharsky On Literature and Art 1932 - Alexander Blok

Every writer speaks for one class or another.

This does not mean that every writer is the spokesman for his own particular class, the adequate and unadulterated expression of the whole plentitude of its content – its traditions, culture and interests. The classes themselves have each, as one might say, their own social biography. They go through various stages and may be at any given moment at their conception, nearing their prime or on the decline. The biography of a class may even comprise several such peaks and declines. Class background is not always the same for corresponding classes from one country (society) to another. In one country a class may express itself more markedly than in another. However, if a class be taken at some specific epoch, it is possible to find among those who may be accounted its spokesmen (usually, of course, more than one, even many different people) some whose work is indeed more or less adequate to express its essence – who seem to have grown out of t…

N. A. Berdyaev: In Defense of A. Blok

The article about A. Blok, by a Petrograd priest, already since dead, cannot be called a crude theological judgement of the poet. It was written not in the seminary style. The author was a man cultured and refined. In this article there is a great religious truth not only about Blok, but perhaps also about all the Russian poetry of the beginning of the XXth Century. But in this judgement of Blok moreover there is a great injustice and lack of pity. A genuine poet has a different path of justification, than does the ascetic and the spiritually enraptured. The article about Blok essentially and from a religious point of view posits the question of the very existence of both the poet and poetry. It may seem, that almost all the poetry of the world, even the without doubt greatest, is situated in a condition of “prelest’-bewitchment”, that there was not granted it a clear and pure contemplation of God and the world of intelligible entities, their contemplation almost always having been mu…