Thursday, 31 May 2012

Yury Polyakov: A Goatling In Milk

Late in the morning, I woke up Vitka:
“Get up you pest!”
“Why a pest”
“Because it’s unhealthy to sleep for so long…We have to go!”
“Where to?”
“To go and get the loot.”
“What freaking loot?”
“You should have paid attention in school, instead of chasing after dogs!”
“If I paid attention in school would I really have met you?”
“Get up! And remember this: Stenka Razin went to Persia to get the loot, this is where he got the Persian princess, which he later drowned…”
“Just like Gerasim did with Mumu?” Vitek brightened up.
“Something like that,” I nodded in surprise. Such an analogy had never entered my mind.
“What’s for breakfast?”
“What do you mean nothing?”
“Nothing, we don’t have any money. That’s why we need to go to get the loot…”
Vitka got dressed. And once more I looked over his obnoxiously folk image with pleasure. I took one of the folders and shoved it under his arm, but on second thought took it away: there was something unnatural about it. Then I sat him down behind the table, and gave him a pen and paper:
“Write! ‘To the secretariat union of writers. Application. Requesting to provide financial assistance in connection to the work on a new novel.’ Put a cross.”
“Sign it!”
“Wait, how do you spell ‘secretariat’?”
“With an ‘e’.”
“Give it to me!”
I grabbed the paper from him: an author of a brilliant novel, who makes spelling mistakes, was not part of my plan.
I typed up the application on a machine and forced Vitka to sign it.
“Could it be possible that they will grant this?” he said doubtfully.
“If you ask nicely – they will for sure! What is socialism? A huge cash register of mutual aid. This is what we’ll burn on…”
I shoved three folders into the bag just in case, and we went to get the loot.

More about  Yury Polyakov

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Bella Akhmadulina: Music lessons

I like, Marina, that you were, like all,
that you – like me – I am, my larynx frozen,
not saying: You – like light! like evenfall! –
but as if choked on ice, my struggling bosom
is trying to exhale: You were, like all,
taught music lessons. (Oh, absurd of schooling!
As if, to God's amusement and appall,
a magnet were instilled with rules of pulling.)

Two darknesses would hardly get along:
You and the piano, two complete dimensions,
two aliens to one another's songs,
two rivals jointly serving their detention.

Two stubborn sullennesses are opposed
in an insoluble, unfriendly silence:
You and the grand – two powers of the pause,
Two fragile instruments of vocal science.

Your orphanhood is the head start that tips
the scales. For, what's a piano but a captive  
of voicelessness, until an ally dips
his fingertips into diminished Septimes.

And you are –  solo. You yourself suffice.
And music finds your recipe misleading:
Not conjuring an injuring device,
to let the cords reveal acoustic bleeding.

Marina - fore! Fore destiny, and sin,
fore youth, and voice, and poetry, and prose,
we both, together bowed our foreheads in
that childhood-wide before-a-piano pose,
like you, like you, hands clinging to the stool –
Oh, metronome, don't wag your angry finger! –
to circle right, and left, and upward too,
and on the very edge of falling linger...

Marina, this has been – don't misconstrue
my silly aim – designed in vain, in trying
for once to cry enough: like you, like you!
And I would love to, but instead, I'm crying.

Translated by Alexander Givental and Elysee Wilson-Egolf

Zheleznogorsk unfolds its wings

In the depths of the Siberian taiga, on the banks of the Yenisei River lies the city of Zheleznogorsk. Founded in 1950 as a center for plutonium production, it isn’t a place people move to. They can’t. Even local residents must have permission to leave and return.

Going through the fence that surrounds the city is like crossing a time warp into the Soviet Union of the 1950s. There are wide avenues flanked by five-story apartment blocks; in the center of town stands the Rodina [Motherland] movie theater and the main entrance to the factory that, before the days of perestroika, built the world-famous Kosmos and Molniya satellites, the most powerful of their time. At the beginning of the 21st century, the city gained a new lease on life, thanks largely to the program to develop the Glonass navigation system, the Russian answer to G.P.S.

“In the 1960s, the whole Soviet Union dreamed of space! It was prestigious to work in the industry,” said Vladimir Khalimanovich, now director of the Information Satellite Systems company (I.S.S.), which dominates the city’s economy. He moved to Zheleznogorsk 47 years ago from the central Russian city of Kazan. At that time, nearly every student dreamed of the opportunity to move to a place like Zheleznogorsk, because it was thought that only the best of the best were recruited to closed cities.

The prestige was one of the things that helped make the difficulties of living in a closed city worth the trouble. Living in a closed city meant that visiting friends and relatives had to be vetted by the security services. “That procedure applies today, too,” said Yelena Prosvirina, an I.S.S. engineer. “At first it’s inconvenient to have to ask permission every time, but you soon get used to it.” During the Soviet era, there were other benefits, too. For example, certain types of food that were unavailable in ordinary Soviet cities could be bought in the closed ones. But unlike the residency restrictions, this changed with fall of the Soviet state.

During the 1990s, the residents of Zheleznogorsk, like the rest of Russia, were plunged overnight into the harsh conditions of capitalism. Like the majority of Russian enterprises, I.S.S lost the lion’s share of its state financing. The factory continued quietly building satellites for military purposes, but there were few new projects and the factory’s workforce of more than 8,000 was cut almost in half.

In the 2000s, however, the government began to invest funds in the creation of the GLONASS satellite navigation. Today the state provides two-thirds of I.S.S.’s annual operating budget of 20 billion rubles ($625 million); the rest comes from commercial orders.

I.S.S. began getting international contracts in 2008. That year, Israeli satellite operator Space-Communication Ltd ordered the AMOS-5 satellite; then, in 2009, Indonesia’s PT Telekomunikasi Indonesia Tbk bought the Telcom-3 telecommunications system. Later, contracts were signed with Ukraine and Kazakhstan. “Every year we take part in four or five tenders, of which we win one. One international contract per year is enough for us. That’s all we can handle at the moment,” said Khalimanovich. Today about 40 satellites are in production at the same time, including secret military systems, Glonass satellites, and telecommunications and geodesy satellites for Russian operators.

More here.

Monday, 28 May 2012

Anatoly Aleksin: Crazy Evdokia

“Ex-best friends are the worst enemies, they say,” Olya told us once. “And I have the proof.” She stopped for a moment, then went on, “You want to know who it is? Lucie!”
She called Lusya Katunina Lucie, the French way. “Like in the house of the Rostovs,” she would explain. “Or the Bolkonskys.”
Lusya aggressively predicted for our daughter the life of Leonardo da Vinci. Ignoring Olya’s many fierce protests, Lusya carried her huge sketch folders - she even mixed colors and rinsed brushes for Olya. What woman would withstand such admiration? Olya befriended Lucie, though having very little time for this friendship.
Actually, Lusya didn’t have much time, either. Lusya’s mother had been bed-ridden for years. Lusya’s single aunt, her father’s sister, took care of the poor woman. But Lusya always called home – whether she was at school or at our house visiting.
Trying to make her mother happy, she would exclaim, “If only you could see the sleeping lion Olya made! I am whispering the entire evening, scared to wake him up!”
Very often she took Olya’s works home to show her mother. She made Olya promise that the moment her mother finally got up (and there was hope for that), Olya would paint her portrait.
Lusya made some attempts to take up drawing, too. The only of her masterpieces that we saw was her work in the school humor magazine, which per Olya’s suggestion, was entitled “Jibber-jabber.”
Suddenly everything changed.
The first cloud emerged when the art school arranged a conference with a renowned artist. Lusya highly appreciated the works of the aforementioned artist, but unfortunately, everyone else appreciated him no less, so the lecture hall was packed. Olya couldn’t get a pass for her friend, and Lusya didn’t get in.
“I couldn’t find a place for Lusya in the auditorium,” Olya shared with us the evening after the conference, “the watchdogs were blocking the doors. And she got mad… Why? This academician paints a lot better than he talks. I told her, ‘If you know his works, that means, you know him. The artist is his art.’”
“What did she say?” Nadya asked.
“She gave me back my folder: as they say, ‘Take your stuff back!’”
“And then?”
“Well, then – merci, ma chere Lucie!” Olya rhymed a bitter joke.
“Friends are a lot easier lost than found,” Nadya said.
“If she can be lost – that means she’s not much of a friend!”
“Didn’t find room for her at a conference?” Nadya said thoughtfully. “If you hadn’t found it in your heart… But it was in our family that she confined her darkest secret!”
At that time Lusya found out, that her father had long been in love with another woman.
“We have to be nicer to her now,” Nadya said. 
“A typical story,” Olya said bitterly.
“But each person suffers it like the first one to ever experience it.”
“I suggested talking to her father. She said no, ‘I don’t blame him’, she says. It’s logical… We don’t blame Anna Karenina, either. Well, of course, Karenin wasn’t handicapped. Everything is way too complicated. Go figure!”

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Russia’s Andrey Baranov wins Brussels music contest

Russian violinist Andrei Baranov has won the top prize of 25,000 euros at the Queen Elizabeth competition of young musicians in Brussels.
He was one of 12 international competitors to reach the finals.
These contests have been held since 1937. Queen Elizabeth of Belgium was herself a renowned violinist.

Andrey Baranov: Tchaikovsky - Valse-Scherzo, Queen Elisabeth Competition, 2012

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Glinka: A Life for the Tsar (Bolshoi 1984) - overture

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Marina Tsvetaeva: Rails

Marina Tsvetaeva came of age in Moscow during the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the Famine that followed. She published her first collection of poems, Vechemy Albom (Evening Album) in 1910, at the age of eighteen; her Selected Poems were translated into English, by Elaine Feinstein, in 1971, followed by translations of A Captive Spirit (1994), and Earthly Signs: The Moscow diaries, 1917–1922, which appeared last year. Throughout her career, Tsvetayeva drew on the work of Boris Pasternak, Rainer Maria Rilke and Anna Akhmatova, among others, but she bore more than her share of grief, too. During the Moscow famine in 1919, she attempted to save her younger daughter, Irina, from starvation by placing her in a state orphanage; the child died soon after. Her husband, Sergei Efron, who had worked for the Soviet secret police, was executed in 1939, while her surviving daughter, Ariadna, was sent to a labour camp. On August 31, 1941, not long after the German army invaded the Soviet Union, Tsveteva hanged herself.

Her poetry, verse plays and collected prose still speak for the voiceless of that time, particularly the young women and mothers driven to desperate measures. “Rails”, as translated by Feinstein, quietly captures the chaos of those “departing, deserting” a country they had once called home. In the first lines of the poem, Tsvetayeva compares the railroad tracks to a bed with “tidy sheets”, a place of comfort, before switching to a metaphor in which “parallel tracks ruled out / as neatly as staves” resemble sheets of music instead. One imagines how the musical qualities of verse often soothed the poet’s sorrows. Yet “Rails” asserts that that no amount of hope can muffle “the note of pain always rising / higher than love”; only acceptance of pain might help us to transcend our suffering. “Despair”, which she compares to an “arranged marriage”, may come, but may also lead to transformations. Even as the speaker becomes “Sappho with her voice gone” – perhaps contemplating the loss of her own muse – she seems to rejoice. She becomes “a simple seamstress”, then “a marsh heron”, able to rise above the scene, to contemplate it from a distance. She will see the train move along the tracks “and slice through them like scissors”. The last lines of the poem are cutting, too, with their allusions to both suicide and marriage at once. “Rails” shows us a poet at the height of her creative powers, yet powerless to halt the division and destruction that shaped her life and the lives of so many others.

The bed of a railway cutting
has tidy sheets. The steel-blue 
parallel tracks ruled out
as neatly as staves of music.
And over them people are driven
like possessed creatures from Pushkin 
whose piteous song has been silenced.
Look, they’re departing, deserting.
And yet lag behind and linger,
the note of pain always rising 
higher than love, as the poles freeze
to the bank, like Lot’s wife, forever.
Despair has appointed an hour for me
(as someone arranges a marriage): then 
Sappho with her voice gone
I shall weep like a simple seamstress,
with a cry of passive lament –
a marsh heron! The moving train
will hoot its way over the sleepers
and slice through them like scissors.
Colours blur in my eye,
their glow a meaningless red.
All young women at times
are tempted by such a bed!

Alexander Belyayev (1884 - 1942)

Alexander Romanovich Belyayev was born on March (4) 16, 1884 into the family of a priest in Smolensk. In 1901 he graduated from the Smolensk Theological Seminary. But he didn't want to become a priest and that is why entered the Demidov Lyceum in Yaroslavl. After the death of his father he had to make his living by drawing, playing the violin and teaching private classes.
Having graduated from the lyceum, he became quite a good lawyer and his clientele was gradually growing. He was quite a success, and often travelled abroad. However, in 1914 he decided to quit everything and dedicate himself to writing.
At the age of 35 he became seriously ill with backbone tuberculosis and was bedridden for six years. Fortunately, the writer managed to recover and return to high-grade life.
At first he lived in Yalta and worked as a tutor, and an inspector of criminal investigation department, and then moved to Moscow and again went in for law, but continued writing at the same time. In the 1920s he wrote such well-known novels as The Island of Crushed Ships and The Amphibian Man.
In 1928 he moved again, this time to Leningrad, and then totally plunged into literary activity. Interested in mental functioning problems, he wrote the novels Professor Dowell's Head, The Lord of the World, The Man Who Lost His Face.
Alexander Belyayev has written more than twenty stories and novels, several dozens of short stories, a number of essays, sketches, reviews, critiques, plays, and articles.
When World War Two started, the writer refused to be evacuated from the blockaded city of Leningrad. On January 6, 1942 Alexander Belyayev died. The location of his grave remains unknown.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Daniil Kharms (1905-1942)

Russian literature seems always able  to bring forth a crop of  new and
interesting  writers who are experimenting  somewhere at  the  frontiers  of
literary  style,  language or story.  Among our contemporaries,  we think of
Andrey  Sinyavsky (alias 'Abram Tertz'), Vasiliy Aksyonov, Sasha Sokolov and
Yevgeniy Popov, along with the women  writers who  emerged  under glasnost',
during the last Soviet years: Lyudmila Petrushevskaya,  Tatyana Tolstaya and
others.  But alongside the  new writers, we  continue to rediscover the old.
Mikhail Bulgakov and  Andrey Platonov, unexpected jewels from the  Stalinist
period, only came  to prominence  decades  after their own span. Discoveries
from the 'Silver Age' period (roughly the 1890s to 1917) are still coming or
returning to  light.  Neglected  figures  from  even  further back  are  now
achieving or recovering a belated but deserved readership (Vladimir Odoevsky
from the  Romantic  period,  Vsevolod Garshin from later  in the  nineteenth
century). Another  fascinating  figure,  the  contemporary  of Bulgakov  and
Platonov, but  with a  peculiar  resonance  for  the modern, or  indeed  the
post-modern, world is Daniil Kharms.
     'Daniil Kharms' was the  main,  and subsequently the sole,  pen-name of
Daniil Ivanovich Yuvachov. The  son of a St. Petersburg political, religious
and literary  figure,  Daniil  was  to  achieve limited local  renown  as  a
Leningrad  avant-garde eccentric and  a writer of children's stories  in the
1920s and 30s. Among other pseudonyms, he had employed 'Daniil  Dandan'  and
'Kharms-Shardam'. The  predilection for 'Kharms' is  thought to  derive from
appreciation  of the tension between the English words  'charms' and 'harms'
(plus the German Charme; indeed, there is an actual German surname 'Harms'),
but  may  also owe  something to  a similarity in  sound to  Sherlock Holmes
(pronounced 'Kholms' in Russian), a figure of fascination to Kharms.
     From  1925  Kharms  began  to  appear  at  poetry  readings  and  other
avant-garde activities,  gained membership  of the Leningrad  section of the
All-Russian Union of Poets (from 1926), one  of the many predecessors to the
eventual Union of Soviet Writers, and published two poems in anthologies  in
1926 and 1927. Almost unbelievably, these were the only 'adult' works Kharms
was able to  publish in his lifetime.  In 1927 Kharms joined together with a
number  of like-minded  experimental  writers, including his talented friend
and close  associate  Aleksandr  Vvedensky  (1900-1941) and  the  major poet
Nikolay Zabolotsky (1903-1958), to  form the  literary and artistic grouping
Oberiu (the acronym of the 'Association of Real Art').
     Representing something of  a  union  between  Futurist  aesthetics  and
Formalist approaches,  the Oberiut considered themselves  a 'left  flank' of
the literary  avant-garde.  Their publicity  antics,  including  a  roof-top
appearance  by  Kharms,  caused  minor  sensations  and  they  succeeded  in
presenting a highly  unconventional  theatrical evening entitled 'Three Left
Hours'  in 1928,  which  included  the  performance  of Kharms's  Kafkaesque
absurdist  drama 'Yelizaveta Bam'. Among the  Oberiu catch-phrases were 'Art
is a cupboard' (Kharms normally made his theatrical entrances inside or on a
wardrobe) and  'Poems  aren't  pies;  we  aren't herring'.  However,  in the
Stalinising years of the late  1920s, the time for propagating  experimental
modernist art had  passed.  The rising Soviet neo-bourgeoisie were not to be
shocked:  tolerance  of  any  such frivolities  was  plummeting  and hostile
journalistic attention ensured  the hurried disbandment of  the Oberiu group
after a number of further appearances.
     Kharms and Vvedensky evidently felt it wiser to  allow themselves to be
drawn into the realm  of children's literature,  writing for publications of
the children's  publishing  house  Detgiz,  known  fondly  as  the  'Marshak
Academy',  run by  the redoubtable  children's  writer  (and  bowdleriser of
Robbie  Burns),  Samuil  Marshak,  and  involving  the  playwright  Yevgeniy
Shvarts.  By  1940  Kharms  had  published  eleven  children's   books   and
contributed  regularly  to  the  magazines 'The Hedgehog' and  'The Siskin'.
However,  even in  this  field  of literary  activity,  anything out  of the
ordinary  was  not  safe. Kharms, in  his  'playful' approach to  children's
writing, utilised a number of Oberiu-type devices. The  Oberiu  approach had
been denounced in a Leningrad paper in 1930 as 'reactionary sleight-of-hand'
and, at the end  of  1931, Kharms  and Vvedensky  were arrested,  accused of
'distracting  the  people  from  the  building  of  socialism  by  means  of
trans-sense verses' and exiled to Kursk. However the exile was fairly brief,
the  times  being  what  Akhmatova  described  as  'relatively  vegetarian'.
Nevertheless, little work was to be had thereafter; Kharms was in and out of
favour  at  Detgiz and  periods  of near  starvation  followed.  Kharms  and
Vvedensky (the latter had moved  to the Ukraine in the mid-30s: see Kharms's
letter to him) survived the main purges  of the 1930s. However, the outbreak
of war brought new dangers: Kharms was arrested in Leningrad in August 1941,
while  Vvedensky's  arrest  took  place  the  following  month  in  Kharkov.
Vvedensky died in  December of that year and  Kharms (it seems of starvation
in prison hospital) in February 1942. Both were subsequently 'rehabilitated'
during the Khrushchev 'Thaw'. Most of their adult writings had  to await the
Gorbachev period for  publication in Russia. Both starvation and arrest were
anticipated in  a number  of Kharms's  writings.  Hunger  and  poverty  were
constant  companions;  indeed, Kharms can lay  claim to  being  the  poet of
hunger (not for nothing did he take strongly to Knut Hamsun's novel of  that
name),  as  the following  translation  of  an unrhyming but  rhythmic verse
fragment shows:

     This is how hunger begins:
     The morning you wake, feeling lively,
     Then begins the weakness,
     Then begins the boredom;
     Then comes the loss
     Of the power of quick reason,
     Then comes the calmness
     And then begins the horror.

     On his general situation in life, Kharms wrote the following quatram in

     We've had it now in life's realm,
     Of all hope we are now bereft.
     Gone are dreams of happiness,
     Destitution is all that's left.

     The arrest of Kharms came,  reportedly, when the caretaker of the block
of flats  in which he lived called him down, in his bedroom slippers, 'for a
few minutes'. He was apparently charged with spreading defeatist propaganda;
there  is evidence that, even in those times, he managed to clear himself of
this charge, possibly by feigning insanity.
     Kharms had been  a marked man since his first arrest in 1931 and he was
probably  lucky  to escape  disaster  when  he  landed  in  trouble  over  a
children's poem in  1937  (about  a  man who  went  out to  buy  tobacco and
disappeared). In addition, his first wife, Ester Rusakova, was a member of a
well-known  old  emigre  revolutionary  family, subsequently  purged;  it is
intriguing to recall that Kharms had been, for several years, Viktor Serge's
More here.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

“Ice Trilogy”: Metaphysical masterpiece or empty myth?

A huge, frozen meteorite crashes into Siberia. Our hero, young Snegirev, is mysteriously drawn towards it on a geological expedition and becomes the first of the 23,000 Children of Light to awaken and realize his destiny. He and the rest of the blue-eyed, fair-haired brotherhood are really “Light-bearing rays.” Endlessly reincarnated, they have become prisoners on Earth, the planet that was “Light’s great mistake”, violating the harmony of the cosmos. The mission for Bro (Snegirev’s new light-name) is to find and assemble the other 22,999 brothers and sisters in order to dissolve the Earth back into Primordial Light.

This is the premise of Vladimir Sorokin’s bizarre “Ice Trilogy,” now a three-novel tome in English. The author is a controversial figure: Soviet authorities banned his satirical books and state prosecutors (encouraged by a pro-Putin youth group) once tried to prosecute him for disseminating pornography; the pornographic material in question was the writer’s own work.  But Sorokin has gone on to win several awards and become a major cultural figure. “Ice Trilogy” is an ambitious and extravagant work but its metaphysical and mythological pretensions sometimes seem a little hollow.

Awakening the rest of the “Ice Trilogy” Light-gang involves smashing each of them very hard on the chest with an ice hammer. When the brotherhood loses the ability to recognize fellow children of light, they resort to whacking every blue-eyed, blond-haired person in the hope of finding “one of ours.” The resulting corpses are discarded as “empties.”

More here.

Monday, 21 May 2012

Osip Mandelstam: Yet to die. Unalone still

Yet to die. Unalone still.
For now your pauper-friend is with you.
Together you delight in the grandeur of the plains,
And the dark, the cold, the storms of snow.

Live quiet and consoled
In gaudy poverty, in powerful destitution. 
Blessed are those days and nights.  
The work of this sweet voice is without sin.   

Misery is he whom, like a shadow,   
A dog’s barking frightens, the wind cuts down.   
Poor is he who, half-alive himself   
Begs his shade for pittance.
January 15-16, 1937

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Russia’s Nikolai Khozyainov wins piano contest in Dublin

Russia’s Nikolai Khozyainov has been named the winner of an international piano competition, which is held once every three years in Dublin, Ireland.

The 19-year-old conservatory student in Moscow faced up to 50 older performers from around the world, bagging the top prize of 15,000 Euros.

Khozyainov was trailed by China’s Jayan San, followed by Andrei Osokins of Latvia.

With the hard-win victory under his belt, the Russian will now have a chance to showcase his pianistic skills at Wigmore Hall in London, Carnegie Hall in New York, the National Concert Hall in Dublin and other prestigious venues.

Nikolay Khozyainov - Chopin Piano Concerto n°1 - 3rd mov

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Restoring Wonderland

An array of once neglected and forgotten architectural gems from the former imperial estate of Tsarskoye Selo have been brought back to life and will be unveiled to the public this summer.
Local residents and city visitors alike will be able to set foot for the first time ever in the mystical White Tower, a spot once favored for outdoor activities by many members of Russian royalty, including the family of Russia’s last tsar, Nicholas II.
The restoration of the White Tower Pavilion, located in the estate’s Alexander Park, is in full swing. Looming over the romantic park from a hilltop, the tower, built between 1821 and 1827, was born out of Tsar Nicholas I’s admiration for Gothic architecture, medieval art and the culture associated with knighthood. The tsar intended the tower to be a treat for his sons — princes Alexander, Nikolai, Mikhail and Konstantin — who all came to adore it. The princes studied history there and practiced various athletic activities.
The pavilion, designed by architect Adam Menelas, was severely damaged during World War II and proper restoration did not begin on it until the 1980s. Funding for the project was low, however, and renovation work did not get very far. The project was resumed only in the fall of 2011. Renovation work is planned to restore not only the building’s magnificent façade, originally decorated by a series of cast-iron sculptures of knights from medieval history and literature, but also the tower’s interior, including its intricate stucco molding. One of the tower’s signature attractions, its viewing platform, which offers stunning panoramic views of the park and estate, also looks set to open for visitors.
At present, the park — including the tower itself — is closed to the public. However, Olga Taratynova, director of the Tsarskoye Selo museum-estate, has promised that the White Tower will be home to a children’s center specializing in culture, entertainment and education by the end of the summer. Some of the tower’s rooms will be turned into classrooms, where local children will be able to learn to draw, sing and dance. An engaging interactive display will also be mounted in the tower.
Taratynova compared the restoration of the Cameron Gallery Grottos and the Oval Staircase to successfully performed heart surgery.
The grottos were almost entirely destroyed during World War II and have since remained closed to the public. The grottos, which are almost 200 years old, needed urgent and large-scale renovation work, as their brick walls were rapidly losing their ability to hold up the structure and were at risk of collapsing.
According to Natalya Kudryavtseva, chief architect at Tsarskoye Selo, the gallery now looks exactly as it did back in the reign of Catherine the Great.
“Without dismantling any elements of the staircase, we created temporary support structures to allow us to waterproof the lower levels of the staircase,” she explained. “It was a risky enterprise.”The Oval Staircase renovation work, which is still underway, turned out to be particularly challenging for restorers, Kudryavtseva said.
In the future, the grottos will become home to a collection of period sculptures, which are expected to greet the first visitors by the end of this month.
One of Catherine the Great’s favorite architects, the Scottish architect Charles Cameron came to Russia in 1779, and spent more than fifteen years working on various projects in Tsarskoye Selo. The Cameron Gallery is regarded as the architect’s most successful project on the estate, and the one that brought him fame.
The empress wanted a serene colonnade for meditative strolls and intellectual talks, and the magnificent elegant masterpiece delivered to her has become an iconic image of St. Petersburg.
The Mirror Pond, situated in the Old Garden of the Catherine Park, also required renovation. After the pond was completely drained, its walls were reinforced with concrete platforms. The restorers are now working on making a new slime to line the bottom of it. It is expected that the Mirror Pond — which has not been renovated since the 1970s — will be filled with water again before the end of June.
More here.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Alexander Neverov: Tashkent, the Bread City

Mishka sank into thoughts. He just couldn’t get Tashkent – the city of bread – out of his mind. He would start calculating: two thousand miles is not that far after all. Well, it is far, if you walk, of course. The train would get you there in three days. And the ticket – can’t he live without the ticket? The conductor will see a little guy on the train and say, “Don’t hurt him people, it’s Mishka, the Starveling – he’s not a burden. How heavy is he? Forty pounds, at most.” If they kick him out of the carriage – the train roof works just as well for a couple days. He’d climbed up trees to pick up rooks’ nests – it’s a lot tougher, by the way – but still he didn’t fall.
Suddenly Mishka saw his buddy Seryozha, one year his junior, and it cheered him up a bit.
“Come with me!”
“Where to?”
“To Tashkent, to get bread. The more the merrier. You get in trouble – I cover your back, I get in trouble – I have yours covered. We are not gonna make it here anyway.”
Seryozha didn’t have much faith in this adventure at first.
“What if it rains?”
“It’s a summer rain, it’s warm.”
“What if the soldiers kick us out?”
“We’ll be quiet.”
Seryozha was not so daring. He picked his nose a couple times and said, “No, Mishka, we’re not gonna make it.”
Mishka swore, “Trust me, we will, just don’t chicken out. The Red Army are everywhere now, they won’t push us away. They’ll know we are starving and give us bread.”
“We are little, we’ll get scared.”
Mishka argued that they were not little at all. It’s no big deal that Seryozha is younger, Mishka will do all the hard stuff: look for a good place on the train, ask for help. They are not some girly girls! If something doesn’t work out they’ll just be patient. When there are two of them, things are easier to deal with. They’ll ride the train at nights and walk in the daytime. They’ll hop on the train again when the conductor is not looking.
“When are we coming back?” Seryozha asked.
“Before you know it. The way there takes four days at most, and the way back takes four. We’ll get about twenty pounds of bread, so it’s not heavy to carry.”
Seryozha’s eyes gleamed with happiness.
“I’ll take thirty!”
“No, you won’t. If you have too much, someone will steal it from you. We’ll better come back for more once we know the way.”
“Let’s keep it secret, Mishka.”
“It’s just going to be you and me. If Vanya or Kostya ask to come along – don’t let them: they’d be scared of a squirrel! How far would we get with them?”
“Aren’t you scared yourself?”
“Why should I be? I can go to the graveyard at night.”

Architecture of Soviet Kaliningrad

Architecture of Soviet Kaliningrad: Soviet Kaliningrad was pretty much different from Russian Kaliningrad. Let’s see some photos of the city how it used to look. This photo seems to show Kaliningrad of 1990 with all its spirit and mood. Cathedral before restoration, 1992 Inside … Read more...

Monday, 14 May 2012

Marina Tsvetaeva: Candlelight in Night

It's a home again 
                Where some never quit:
                Maybe, sip champagne,
                Maybe, simply – sit.
                Simpler yet – two hands
                Have each other found.
                Have you seen, my friends,
                Homes like this around?                 
                They of  parting nights
                And first meetings scream.
                Maybe, many lights, 
                Maybe, only three ...
                Will I get my mind 
                Rid of worries weird?
                Why has next to mine 
                Home like this appeared?
           Not from candlelight 
                        Fearful darkness dies - 
                 From those sleepless eyes.                                  
       Bless those homes, my friends,                         
             Where light never ends,                                
Homes that nights ignite.

English translation  by Alexander Givental

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Color Photographs Of Russian Cities 1968-84

Color Photographs Of Russian Cities 1968-84: These are some color photos of Leningrad, Odessa, Kiev, Sverdlovsk, Perm dated 1968-84. For the beginning some photographs of Vladislav Mikosha, the pioneer of the Soviet color photography. Leningrad through the camera of a foreign tourist, 1971. “Astoria” hotel Dvortsovaya … Read more...

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Kamchatka: Up To Avacha

Kamchatka: Up To Avacha: It’s not so hard to climb Avachinsky volcano. The path leads up only in some places sinking in snow… Hope nothing tragic has happened here… Neighbour of Avacha – Koryaka or Koryak hill Sulphur Is it a man or a … Read more...