Sunday, 30 December 2012

A Life of Integrity: Vladimir Bukovsky at 70



Vladimir Bukovsky does not like to be called a politician, preferring to be known as a neurophysiologist, writer or, at the very least, civic activist. In truth, he never engaged in politics: he merely realized, at an early age, that he could not reconcile himself to live quietly with a criminal and mendacious regime that sought to make millions of people its silent accomplices. Bukovsky’s protest was a moral one. “We did not play politics, we did not draft programs for the ‘people’s liberation,’” he recalls in his memoirs, To Build a Castle (a must-read for anyone interested in Russian history). “Our only weapon was glasnost (openness). Not propaganda, but glasnost, so that no one could say ‘I did not know.’ The rest is a matter for each person’s conscience.”

“I did not know” was a popular answer among members of the older generation when asked by the youngsters of the 1950s about Stalin’s times. The public condemnation of Stalinist crimes at the 1956 Communist Party congress and (almost immediately) the brutal suppression of the Hungarian revolution, which showed that the nature of the regime has not changed, were formative events for Bukovsky. His protest activity began literally during his school days: he joined a clandestine anti-Soviet group and published an underground satirical journal. In response, he was expelled from school, summoned to a dressing-down by the Moscow City Communist Party Committee, and barred from studying at university (he nevertheless won admission to Moscow State University, only to be discovered and expelled a year later.)

Vladimir Bukovsky is one of the founders of the Soviet dissident movement, which was born in the fall of 1960 on Moscow’s Mayakovsky Square. There, a group of yet-unknown young activists, poets, and actors (including Yuri Galanskov, Eduard Kuznetsov, Vladimir Osipov, Ilya Bokshtein, and Vsevolod Abdulov) held public readings of banned poetry – Akhmatova, Pasternak, Mandelshtam, Tsvetaeva. They also read from their own works and the works of their contemporaries, which would soon be disseminated as samizdat (literally “self-publications,” the clandestine reproduction and distribution of banned literature). Samizdat, too, was born on Mayakovsky Square. The authorities responded in their usual manner: with dispersals of the meetings by bulldozers and snow ploughs; provocations by Komsomol (Young Communist League) operatives; beatings and arrests. Yet the “seditious” meetings continued in the heart of the Soviet capital for almost two years. “That amazing community, which would later be called a ‘movement’, was being born. It had no leaders or followers…. Each of us, like a nerve cell, participated in this amazing orchestra without a conductor, compelled only by his or her sense of self-respect and personal responsibility for what was happening.” (Vladimir Bukovsky, To Build a Castle).

More here.

Saturday, 29 December 2012

Zinaida Gippius: I Seek for Rhythmic Whisperings

Zinaida Gippius
I SEEK for rhythmic whisperings
Where noises bandy—
For life I listen wistfully
In footless banter.

I cast wide nets and tentative
In lakes of sorrow.
I go toward final tenderness
By pathways sordid.

I look for dewdrops glistering
In falsehood’s gardens.
I save truth’s globules glistening,
From dust-heaps garnered.

I fain would fathom fortitude
Through years of wormwood—
And pierce the mortal fortalice,
Yet live, a worldling.

My cup, through ways impassable,
To bear, untainted;
By tenebrous bleak passages
To joy attaining.

Leo Tolstoy: Confession



I was baptized and brought up in the Orthodox Christian faith. I was taught it in childhood and throughout my boyhood and youth. But when I abandoned the second course of the university at the age of eighteen I no longer believed any of the things I had been taught.

Judging by certain memories, I never seriously believed them, but had merely relied on what I was taught and on what was professed by the grown-up people around me, and that reliance was very unstable.

I remember that before I was eleven a grammar school pupil, Vladimir Milyutin (long since dead), visited us one Sunday and announced as the latest novelty a discovery made at his school. This discovery was that there is no God and that all we are taught about Him is a mere invention (this was in 1838). I remember how interested my elder brothers were in this information. They called me to their council and we all, I remember, became very animated, and accepted it as something very interesting and quite possible.

I remember also that when my elder brother, Dmitriy, who was then at the university, suddenly, in the passionate way natural to him, devoted himself to religion and began to attend all the Church services, to fast and to lead a pure and moral life, we all - even our elders - unceasingly held him up to ridicule and for some unknown reason called him "Noah". I remember that Musin-Pushkin, the then Curator of Kazan University, when inviting us to dance at his home, ironically persuaded my brother (who was declining the invitation) by the argument that even David danced before the Ark. I sympathized with these jokes made by my elders, and drew from them the conclusion that though it is necessary to learn the catechism and go to church, one must not take such things too seriously. I remember also that I read Voltaire when I was very young, and that his raillery, far from shocking me, amused me very much.

My lapse from faith occurred as is usual among people on our level of education. In most cases, I think, it happens thus: a man lives like everybody else, on the basis of principles not merely having nothing in common with religious doctrine, but generally opposed to it; religious doctrine does not play a part in life, in intercourse with others it is never encountered, and in a man's own life he never has to reckon with it. Religious doctrine is professed far away from life and independently of it. If it is encountered, it is only as an external phenomenon disconnected from life.

Then as now, it was and is quite impossible to judge by a man's life and conduct whether he is a believer or not. If there be a difference between a man who publicly professes orthodoxy and one who denies it, the difference is not in favor of the former. Then as now, the public profession and confession of orthodoxy was chiefly met with among people who were dull and cruel and who considered themselves very important. Ability, honesty, reliability, good-nature and moral conduct, were often met with among unbelievers.

The schools teach the catechism and send the pupils to church, and government officials must produce certificates of having received communion. But a man of our circle who has finished his education and is not in the government service may even now (and formerly it was still easier for him to do so) live for ten or twenty years without once remembering that he is living among Christians and is himself reckoned a member of the orthodox Christian Church.

So that, now as formerly, religious doctrine, accepted on trust and supported by external pressure, thaws away gradually under the influence of knowledge and experience of life which conflict with it, and a man very often lives on, imagining that he still holds intact the religious doctrine imparted to him in childhood whereas in fact not a trace of it remains.

S., a clever and truthful man, once told me the story of how he ceased to believe. On a hunting expedition, when he was already twenty-six, he once, at the place where they put up for the night, knelt down in the evening to pray - a habit retained from childhood. His elder brother, who was at the hunt with him, was lying on some hay and watching him. When S. had finished and was settling down for the night, his brother said to him: "So you still do that?"

They said nothing more to one another. But from that day S. ceased to say his prayers or go to church. And now he has not prayed, received communion, or gone to church, for thirty years. And this not because he knows his brother's convictions and has joined him in them, nor because he has decided anything in his own soul, but simply because the word spoken by his brother was like the push of a finger on a wall that was ready to fall by its own weight. The word only showed that where he thought there was faith, in reality there had long been an empty space, and that therefore the utterance of words and the making of signs of the cross and genuflections while praying were quite senseless actions. Becoming conscious of their senselessness he could not continue them.

So it has been and is, I think, with the great majority of people. I am speaking of people of our educational level who are sincere with themselves, and not of those who make the profession of faith a means of attaining worldly aims. (Such people are the most fundamental infidels, for if faith is for them a means of attaining any worldly aims, then certainly it is not faith.) these people of our education are so placed that the light of knowledge and life has caused an artificial erection to melt away, and they have either already noticed this and swept its place clear, or they have not yet noticed it.

The religious doctrine taught me from childhood disappeared in me as in others, but with this difference, that as from the age of fifteen I began to read philosophical works, my rejection of the doctrine became a conscious one at a very early age. From the time I was sixteen I ceased to say my prayers and ceased to go to church or to fast of my own volition. I did not believe what had been taught me in childhood but I believed in something. What it was I believed in I could not at all have said. I believed in a God, or rather I did not deny God - but I could not have said what sort of God. Neither did I deny Christ and his teaching, but what his teaching consisted in I again could not have said.

Looking back on that time, I now see clearly that my faith - my only real faith - that which apart from my animal instincts gave impulse to my life - was a belief in perfecting myself. But in what this perfecting consisted and what its object was, I could not have said. I tried to perfect myself mentally - I studied everything I could, anything life threw in my way; I tried to perfect my will, I drew up rules I tried to follow; I perfected myself physically, cultivating my strength and agility by all sorts of exercises, and accustoming myself to endurance and patience by all kinds of privations. And all this I considered to be the pursuit of perfection. the beginning of it all was of course moral perfection, but that was soon replaced by perfection in general: by the desire to be better not in my own eyes or those of God but in the eyes of other people. And very soon this effort again changed into a desire to be stronger than others: to be more famous, more important and richer than others. ...

Distributed by the Tolstoy Library OnLine


Friday, 28 December 2012

G.V. Plekhanov: Belinsky and Rational Reality



Lucifer: Was not thy quest for knowledge?
Cain: Yes, as being the road to happiness.
– Byron, Cain, a Mystery.

Chapter I

“THE ROOT question of Hegel’s influence upon Belinski’s world outlook has been posed by most Russian critics, but it has been analyzed by none with the necessary thoroughness ‘through a comparison of Belinski’s well-known views with their original sources,” says Mr. Volynski: “No one has analyzed attentively enough Belinski’s esthetic ideas in their original content, nor subjected them to impartial judgment on the basis of a definite theoretical criterion.” (A. Volynski, Russian Critics, p.38.)

All of this is by no means surprising because prior to Mr. Volynski’s appearance among us, there existed no “real” philosophy, nor was there any “real criticism.” If some of us did happen to know something, we knew it merely in a confused, disorderly way. By way of compensation, as of now, thanks to Mr. Volynski, we shall all rapidly set ourselves in order and enrich our meager Stock of learning. As a guide Mr. Volynski is quite reliable. Observe, for instance, how neatly he solves “the root question of Hegel’s influence upon Belinski’s world outlook.”

“Maturing and developing, in part under the influence of Stankevich’s circle, in part independently by digesting his impressions of Nadezhdin’s articles, Belinski’s thought swiftly attained its peak, and its highest pitch of enthusiasm, For Belinski, the Schelling period had already concluded by 1837; and Hegel’s philosophy, as it reached him through talks with friends, through magazine articles and translations, occupied a central place in his literary and intellectual pursuits. And so it is precisely here, and most strikingly, that there emerges Belinski’s inability to draw independent logical conclusions concerning political and civil questions in which philosophic theorems are involved; systematic thought was beyond Belinski’s powers. He was astounded by Hegel’s doctrine, but he lacked the strength to think this doctrine through, in all its several parts and several conclusions.

“Hegel charmed his imagination, but provided no impetus to Belinski’s mental creativeness. For the complete analysis of the basic propositions of idealism, one had to arm oneself with patience. It was necessary to call a halt for a while to flights of fancy and of emotion, so as to give them new wings later on. But Belinski was incapable of calmly poking and prying into the truth – and his whole Hegelianism, together with his infatuation with Schelling, as expounded by Nadezhdin, was bound in the end to degenerate into thought that was inharmonious, shot through with logical mistakes, admixed with queer dreams of a conciliationist-conservative bent.” (ibid., p.90.)

Mr. Volynski was thus greatly shocked by Belinski’s temporary conciliation with reality; and he is able to explain it in one way only, namely, Belinski grasped Hegel poorly. To tell the truth, this explanation is not exactly new. It may be found in the memoirs (My Past and Thoughts) of A.I. Herzen, as well as in the recollections of I.S. Turgenev and even in a letter by N.V. Stankevich to Neverov, written almost immediately after the publication of Belinski’s famous articles on the Battle of Borodino and on Menzel, Critic of Goethe. What is Mr. Volynski’s own is composed of snide comments concerning the ignorance of Belinski coupled with subtle hints anent the unquestionable and incomparable superiority of his own (Mr. Volynski’s) Prometheus of Our Times.

At first glance the above explanation reproduced by Mr. Volynski – and it circulates in several versions – appears quite plausible. Hegel proclaimed: Was wirklich ist, das ist vernünftig (what is real is rational); and on this basis Belinski rushed to proclaim as rational, and by this token, sacred and untouchable, the whole rather unpretty Russian reality of his times; and he started passionately to attack everybody who was not satisfied with it. The articles in which Belinski expressed these conciliationist views were “nasty” articles, as the liberal Granovski said moderately and accurately at the time. But Hegel bears no responsibility for them; he put a special meaning into his doctrine of rational reality and this special meaning escaped Belinski who neither knew the German language nor had the capacity for “pure thought.”

Later on, and especially under the influence of his moving to Petersburg, he saw how cruelly wrong he had been; he perceived the true attributes of our reality and cursed his fatal straying into error. What can be more simple than all of this? Sad to say, however, this explanation simply explains nothing.

Without entering into an examination of all the different variants of the foregoing explanation, let us take note here that our present-day “advanced” patriae patres (honor-laden sociologists included) look upon Belinski’s articles on Borodino and on Menzel through the same eyes as the biblical patriarch must have regarded the “youthful errors” of his prodigal son. Magnanimously forgiving the critic-genius his “metaphysical” strayings, these “advanced” persons are loath to refer to them, in accordance with the folk-saying, “Whosoever recalls the past, stands to lose an eye.” But this does not deter them from hinting, relevantly or irrelevantly, that they, the “advanced” persons, who while still virtually in diapers grasped all the philosophic and sociological truths; they hint, I say, that they understand perfectly the whole profundity of those strayings into error and the whole horror of that “fall” into which Belinski was led by his misplaced and imprudent – but happily, only temporary – passion for “metaphysics.”

Betimes young writers are also reminded of this “fall,” particularly those who tend to be disrespectful toward the Crowned Ones of literature, those who dare doubt the correctness of our “advanced” catechism, and who turn to sources abroad in order better to clarify for themselves the problems which are agitating modern civilized humanity. These young writers are told: “Watch out! Here’s an example for you ...”

And in some instances, young writers do take fright at this example, and from being disrespectful turn into being respectful; and they mockingly pay their respects to “foreign philosopher caps” and prudently “make progress” in accordance with our home-developed “recipes of progress.” In this way, Belinski’s example serves to shore up the authority of our “honor-laden sociologists.”

According to one such sociologist, namely Mr. Mikhailovski, Belinski was nothing all his life but a martyr to the truth. As an art critic he was remarkably gifted. “Many years shall pass, many critics shall be replaced, and even methods of criticism, but certain esthetic verdicts of Belinski shall remain in full force. But in return only in the field of esthetics was Belinski able to find for himself a virtually uninterrupted sequence of delights. No sooner did an esthetic phenomenon become complicated by philosophic and politico-moral principles than his flair for truth betrayed him to a greater or lesser extent, while his thirst (for truth) remained unslaked as before, and it is just this which made of him a martyr to the truth, the martyr that emerges in his correspondence.” (See the article Proudhon and Belinski, with which Mr. Pavlenkov saw fit to adorn his edition of Belinski’s works.)

Since the flair for truth generally betrayed Belinski each time an esthetic phenomenon became complicated by philosophic and politico-moral principles, it goes without saying that the period of Belinski’s infatuation with Hegel’s philosophy falls under this same general law. This entire period in Belinski’s life obviously rouses nothing in Mr. Mikhailovski’s breast except a feeling of compassionate sympathy toward the “martyr to the truth,” coupled, perhaps, with a feeling of indignation toward “metaphysics.” Compassionate sympathy walks here arm in arm with great respect. But this respect pertains exclusively to Belinski’s truthfulness with regard to the philosophic and “politico-moral” ideas expressed by him at the time; Mr. Mikhailovski sees nothing in them except “rubbish.”

Substantially this view on Belinski’s period of temporary conciliation is identical with the view of Mr. Volynski cited previously. The difference is this, that in Mr. Mikhailovski’s opinion the conciliation “came from under the spell of Hegel,” whereas in Mr. Volynski’s opinion, borrowed by him from Stankevich, Herzen, Granovski, Turgenev and others, Hegel had nothing whatever to do with it. But both Mr. Volynski and Mr. Mikhailovski are firmly convinced that Belinski’s conciliationist views are erroneous from top to bottom.

However authoritative are the opinions of these two stout fellows – of whom the one is as potent in sociology as the other is in philosophy – I take the liberty of not agreeing with them. I think that precisely during this conciliationist period of his development, Belinski expressed many ideas which are not only fully worthy of a thinking being (as Byron once somewhere said), but which merit to this day the utmost attention of all who seek a correct standpoint in order to evaluate the reality around us. To prove this theoretical approach, I must begin from somewhat afar. ...

Anatoli Rybakov



More than one generation of readers became absorbed in books by Anatoli Rybakov (1911-1998). In Russian literature Rybakov stands out as one of the first courageous writers who dared to tread on forbidden ground and unfold the truth about this country’s hard times. His major books, Children of the Arbat and The Heavy Sand, are semi-autobiographical; guided by his own life experience the author created captivating and discerning works with a focus on most important things about human nature. Almost all his books have been screened.

Anatoli Naumovich Rybakov (real surname is Aronov) was born on January 1, 1911, in the city of Chernigov into a Jewish family. From 1919 he lived with his family in Moscow.

In November 1933, while a student of Transport Institute, Rybakov was arrested and condemned to three years of exile for “counterrevolutionary agitation and propaganda”. After the exile he was devoid of the right to live in big cities where special passport regime was established and had to roam around the country and take jobs that did not require filling in forms.

In 1941 Anatoli managed to get into the army and fought with Germans, from Moscow to Berlin, and was awarded with lots of honours and medals. A private soldier at the beginning he became a major by the end of the war. In 1946 he got demobilized and finally returned back home, to Moscow.

Anatoli Rybakov won acclaim with his very first works: his adventure stories for young readers enticed many generations of kids with their captivating plots, based on discovering a “mystery”, and elevated romantic spirit combined with true to life details, kind humour, and lyricism. In Kortik (The Dirk) the story is set during the Civil war and NEP (New Economic Policy) in Moscow, in the Arbat Street, the latter being Rybakov’s favorite setting. Its sequel is no less interesting story Bronzovaya Ptitsa (The Bronze Bird) (1956). Lively narration, psychological veracity, and wit inherent in the above mentioned works manifest themselves also in the Adventures of Krosh (1960) and Vacations of Krosh (1966) told as if by a teenager.

Rybakov’s first “adult” novel Voditeli (Drivers) (1950) is dedicated to people very well known to the author by his former profession of a motorist engineer. The book belongs to the paragons of “work” prose; it is remarkable for its subtle characterization and veritable depiction of the workaday life at a motor depot in a provincial town.

In the novel Leto in Sosniki (Summer in Sosniki) (1964) Rybakov featured life of a big plant through the prism of a psychological conflict between an honest poor wretch and a narrow-minded dogmatist, which reflected the true explosive contradiction of the Stagnation period. ...

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Anna Akhmatova (1889-1966) - Muse of Keening



A short film by Barry Lowe and Dino Mahoney introducing the great Soviet era modernist poet, Anna Akhmatova. The film, shot in winter in Saint Petersburg (Leningrad) contains rare interviews with people who knew her, academics, and dramatised readings of some of her poems.

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Maria Feodorovna, Empress Consort of Russia





Maria Feodorovna Romanova was born Princess Dagmar of Denmark, but through her marriage to Alexander III she became Empress Consort of Russia – and mother of the last Russian monarch, Nicholas II.

Her family provided royal consorts for the thrones of Russia, Great Britain, Romania and Spain, giving Christian IX of Denmark and his wife the title of “grandparents of Europe.”

Princess Dagmar first entered the world of Russian royalty through her engagement to the Russian heir, Grand Duke Nicholas Alexandrovich. But tragedy struck Dagmar when the Tsarevich suddenly fell sick and died in 1865.

Dagmar then got engaged to his younger brother, the Grand Duke Alexander – the future Tsar Alexander III of Russia who reigned from 1881 till 1894. In 1866 Princess Dagmar left Copenhagen for St. Petersburg where she converted to the Russian orthodox faith. The wedding ceremony took place in the Winter Palace and was packed with royalty from around Europe.On becoming Empress, Dagmar adopted the name Maria Feodorovna Romanova.

Her beauty, social skills and extensive charity work led to her becoming a popular and respected Czarina. But after the death of her husband, Maria had to experience the most tragic period of her life.

During the First World War, in her role as president of the Russian Red Cross, she was involved in the humanitarian effort to ease the plight of the conflict’s victims. Revolution came to Russia in March 1917. After meeting with her overthrown son, Nicholas II, Maria stayed in Kiev, continuing her work for the Red Cross.

When it became too dangerous for her to stay there, she set off for the Crimea with a group of other refugee Romanovs. At the Black Sea, she received the infamous reports that her two sons, her daughter-in-law and her grandchildren had been executed.

However, Maria Feodorovna rejected the shocking news. Despite the overthrow of the monarchy, the Empress Maria at first refused to leave Russia.


Princess Dagmar (Empress Maria Feodorovna of Russia) and Princess Alexandra of Denmark (Queen Alexandra of the United Kingdom)

It was only in 1919, after persuasion by her sister Alexandra, that she fled from Crimea on a British warship. Thereafter, for a short time, she lived at Sandringham in the U.K. However, rather than live in England, she preferred to return to Denmark, the country of her birth. She never accepted the fate of her sons and grandchildren, and in fact continued hoping that they had all managed to survive the revolution. The Dowager Empress of Russia, Maria died in 1928.

Following services in Copenhagen's Russian Orthodox Alexander Nevsky Church, she was buried at Roskilde Cathedral in Eastern Denmark.

In 2006, the Empress's remains were returned to St Petersburg, in accordance with her wish, and interred next to her husband in the Peter and Paul Cathedral – 140 years after she first arrived in Russia, and almost 78 years after her death.

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Russian Villagers In 1938-41

Russian Villagers In 1938-41: These are the photos of Russian old believers taken by a Japanese scientist Yamazoe Saburo in 1938-41. All the shots are being presented at the exhibition now, some of them are published below. This is Yamazoe Saburo himself. via mamm-mdf.ru

Svetlana Ivanova Dances Giselle Pas De Deux



This is a rare performance for Svetlana Ivanova and her upcoming full length Giselle will be even rarer and very special. Her partner is ex London Royal Ballet dancer, Xander Parish.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Mikhail Lermontov: Death Of the Poet (1837)



The Bard is killed! The honor's striver
Fell, slandered by a gossip's dread,
With lead in breast and vengeful fire,
Drooped with his ever-proud head.
The Poet's soul did not bear
The shameful hurts of low breed,
He fought against the worldly "faire,"
Alone as always, ... and is killed!
He's killed! What for are late orations
Of useless praise; and weeps and moans,
And gibberish of explanations? --
The fate had brought her verdict on!
Had not you first so hard maltreated
His free and brave poetic gift,
And, for your pleasure, fanned and fitted
The fire that in ashes drifts?
You may be happy ... Those tortures
Had broken his strength, at last:
Like light, had failed the genius gorgeous;
The sumptuous wreath had weathered fast.

His murderer, without mercy,
Betook his aim and bloody chance,
His empty heart is calm and healthy,
The pistol did not tremble once.
And what is wonder? ... From a distance,
By road of manifold exiles,
He came to us, by fatal instance,
To catch his fortune, rank and price.
Detested he the alien lands
Traditions, language and discussions;
He couldn't spare The Fame of Russians
And fathom -- till last instant rushes --
What a disaster grips his hand! ...

And he is killed, and leaves from here,
As that young Bard, mysterious but dear,
The prey of vengeance, deaf and bland,
Who sang he of, so lyric and sincere,
Who too was put to death by similar a hand.

And why, from peaceful times and simple-hearted fellows,
He entered this high life, so stiff and so jealous
Of freedom-loving heart and passions full of flame?
Why did he give his hand to slanders, mean and worthless
Why trusted their words and their oaths, godless,
He, who from youth had caught the mankind's frame?

And then his wreath, a crown of sloe,
Woven with bays, they put on Poet's head;
The thorns, that secretly were grown,
Were stinging famous brow, yet.
His life's fast end was poisoned with a gurgle
And faithless whisper of the mocking fops,
And died he with burning thrust for struggle,
With hid vexation for his cheated hopes.
The charming lyre is now silent,
It will be never heard by us:
The bard's abode is grim and tightened,
And seal is placed on his mouth.

And you, oh, vainglory decedents
Of famous fathers, so mean and base,
Who've trod with ushers' feet the remnants
Of clans, offended by the fortune's plays!
In greedy crowd standing by the throne,
The foes of Freedom, Genius, and Repute --
You're hid in shadow of a law-stone,
For you, and truth and justice must be mute! ...

But there is Court of God, you, evil manifold! --
The terrible court: it waits;
It's not reached by a ring of gold,
It knows, in advance, all thoughts' and actions' weights.
Then you, in vain, will try to bring your evil voice on:
It will not help you to be right,
And you will not wash of with all your bloody poison,
The Poet's righteous blood!



Natalia Nikolaevna Pushkina-Lanskaya (née Goncharova), wife of the Russian poet Alexander Pushkin

Natalia Nikolaevna Pushkina-Lanskaya (née Goncharova), wife of the Russian poet Alexander Pushkin  Painting by Alexander Brullov (1831).

Fyodor Dostoevsky: The Christmas Tree and the Wedding

The other day I saw a wedding... But no! I would rather tell you about a Christmas tree. The wedding was superb. I liked it immensely. But the other incident was still finer. I don't know why it is that the sight of the wedding reminded me of the Christmas tree. This is the way it happened:

Exactly five years ago, on New Year's Eve, I was invited to a children's ball by a man high up in the business world, who had his connections, his circle of acquaintances, and his intrigues. So it seemed as though the children's ball was merely a pretext for the parents to come together and discuss matters of interest to themselves, quite innocently and casually.

I was an outsider, and, as I had no special matters to air, I was able to spend the evening independently of the others. There was another gentleman present who like myself had just stumbled upon this affair of domestic bliss. He was the first to attract my attention. His appearance was not that of a man of birth or high family. He was tall, rather thin, very serious, and well dressed. Apparently he had no heart for the family festivities. The instant he went off into a corner by himself the smile disappeared from his face, and his thick dark brows knitted into a frown. He knew no one except the host and showed every sign of being bored to death, though bravely sustaining the role of thorough enjoyment to the end. Later I learned that he was a provincial, had come to the capital on some important, brain-racking business, had brought a letter of recommendation to our host, and our host had taken him under his protection, not at all _con amore_. It was merely out of politeness that he had invited him to the children's ball.

They did not play cards with him, they did not offer him cigars. No one entered into conversation with him. Possibly they recognised the bird by its feathers from a distance. Thus, my gentleman, not knowing what to do with his hands, was compelled to spend the evening stroking his whiskers. His whiskers were really fine, but he stroked them so assiduously that one got the feeling that the whiskers had come into the world first and afterwards the man in order to stroke them.

The Christmas Tree and the Wedding by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Anna Akhmatova: The Last Toast



I raise my glass 
To ravaged home, 
My bitter life,
And lonely days with you.
I drink to you,
To lying lips’ betrayal,
To deathly frigid eyes;
To that the world is cruel and crude, 
To that we weren’t saved by God.
1934

Igor Sakhnovsky: Vital Needs of the Dead



For a book dedicated to the narrator’s dead grandmother, “The Vital Needs of the Dead” is surprisingly sexy. Gosha Sidelnikov’s earliest memory of Rosa is “naked and nocturnal” and she remains an active figure in his life long after her death. Sidelnikov is often relatively passive in his later relationships, with mercurial Lora, seductive Nadia, or voluptuous Valentina; sex is often described in terms of being embraced, engulfed or “dragged in.”
He compares himself to “a sports apparatus that came in handy for a breathtaking gymnastic exercise.” Women interact with him, while he is “led along by apathetic curiosity.” During a naked swimming scene, towards the end of the novel, Sidelnikov’s wish to surrender to the river’s current symbolizes his lack of volition.
“Somehow you seem a bit Proustian,” says Nadia; it is precisely the narrator’s passivity that makes him an admirable chronicler of history, an observer of lost time. The introspection of childhood and adolescence is backlit by the upheavals taking place in late twentieth century Russia.
As a student, he carries a samizdat copy of Solzhenitsyn and laughs at the inverted Soviet value system, which tries to insist that Maxim Gorky’s clunky socialist realism is superior to the uncompromising prose of Ivan Bunin. There are flashes of Bunin’s sensory brilliance in Sakhnovsky’s observations, in his detailed and unswerving physicality or in his lyrical animation of the external world.
“The Vital Needs of the Dead” was first published at the end of the 1990s, but its picture of a dying regime and of post-Soviet materialism is still resonant. Sidelnikov’s provincial hometown in the Urals barely notices the change of political system, but some locals (known as “the bandeets”) have suddenly grown “fantastically, stunningly rich.”
More here.


Monday, 17 December 2012

A Tour to The Capital of Uzbekistan

A Tour to The Capital of Uzbekistan: Now you are going to travel to the city of Tashkent in the sunny Uzbekistan and see its architecture, some places of interest, local people, colorful markets and some more. Tashkent is 2200 years old, its population is about 2,5 … Read more...

Sunday, 16 December 2012

N. K. Krupskaya: Reminiscences of Lenin, St. Petersburg 1893-1898

N. K. Krupskaya

Vladimir Ilyich came to St. Petersburg in the autumn of 1893, but I did not get to know him until some time later. Comrades told me that a very erudite Marxist had arrived from the Volga. Afterwards I was given a pretty well-thumbed copy-book "On Markets" to read. The manuscript set forth the views of technologist Herman Krasin, our St. Petersburg Marxist, on the one hand, and those of the newcomer from the Volga on the other. The copy-book was folded down the middle, and on one side H. B. Krasin had set forth his views in a scrawly hand with many crossings out and insertions, while on the other side the newcomer had written his own remarks and objections in a neat hand without any alterations.

The question of markets interested all of us young Marxists very much at the time.

A definite trend had begun to crystallize among St. Petersburg Marxist study-circles at that time. The gist of it was this: the processes of social development appeared to the representatives of this trend as something mechanical and schematic. Such an interpretation of social development dismissed completely the role of the masses, the role of the proletariat. Marxism was stripped of its revolutionary dialectics, and only the bare "phases of development" remained. Today, of course, any Marxist would be able to refute that mechanistic conception, but at that time it was a cause of grave concern to our St. Petersburg Marxist circles. We were still poorly grounded theoretically and all that many of us knew of Marx was the first volume of Capital; as for The Communist Manifesto, we had never even set eyes on it. So it was more by instinct than anything else that we felt this mechanistic view to be the direct opposite of real Marxism.

The question of markets had a close bearing on the general question of the understanding of Marxism.

Exponents of the mechanistic view usually approached the question in a very abstract way.

Since then more than thirty years have passed. Unfortunately, the copy-book has not survived, and I can only speak about the impression which it made on us.

The question of markets was treated with ultra-concreteness by our new Marxist friend. He linked it up with the interests of the masses, and in his whole approach once sensed just that live Marxism which takes phenomena in their concrete surroundings and in their development.

One wanted to make the closer acquaintance of this newcomer, to learn his views at first hand.

I did not meet Vladimir Ilyich until Shrovetide. It was decided to arrange a conference between certain St. Petersburg Marxists and the man from the Volga at the flat of engineer Klasson, a prominent St. Petersburg Marxist with whom I had attended the same study-circle two years before. The conference was disguised as a pancake party. Besides Vladimir Ilyich, there were Klasson, Y. P. Korobko, Serebrovsky, S. I. Radchenko and others. Potresov and Struve were to have been there, too, but I don't think they turned up. I particularly remember one moment. The question came up as to what ways we should take. Somehow general agreement was lacking. Someone (I believe It was Shevlyagin) said that work on the Illiteracy Committee was of great importance Vladimir Ilyich laughed, and his laughter sounded rather harsh (I never heard him laugh that way again).

"Well, if anyone wants to save the country by working In the Illiteracy Committee," he said, "let him go ahead." It should be said that our generation had witnessed in its youth the fight between the Narodovoltsi and tsarism. We had seen how the liberals, at first "sympathetic" about everything, had been scared into sticking their tail between their legs after the suppression of the Narodnaya Volya Party, and had begun to preach the doing of "little things."

Lenin's sarcastic remark was quite understandable. He had come to discuss ways of fighting together, and had had to listen instead to an appeal for the distribution or the Illiteracy Committee's pamphlets.

Later, when we got to know each other better, Vladimir Ilyich told me one day how this liberal "society" had reacted to the arrest of his elder brother Alexander Ulyanov. All acquaintances had shunned the Ulyanov family, and even an old teacher, who until then had come almost every evening to play chess, had left off calling. Simbirsk had no railway at the time, and Vladimir Ilyich's mother had had to travel to Syzran by horse-drawn vehicle in order to catch the train to St. Petersburg, where her son was imprisoned. Vladimir Ilyich was sent to find a way companion for her, but no one wanted to be seen with the mother of an arrested man.

This general cowardice, Vladimir Ilyich told me, had shocked him profoundly at the time.

This youthful experience undoubtedly affected his attitude towards so-called liberal society. He true worth of all liberal rant at an early age.

No agreement was reached at the "pancake party," of course. Vladimir Ilyich spoke little, and was more occupied in studying the company. People who called themselves Marxists felt uncomfortable under his steady gaze.

I remember, as we were returning home from the Okhta District along the banks of the Neva, I first heard the story of Vladimir Ilyich's brother, a member of the Narodnaya Volya, who took part in the attempt on the life of Alexander III in 1887 and died at the hands of the tsarist executioners before he had even came of age.

Vladimir Ilyich had been very fond of his brother. They had had many tastes in common, and both liked to be left alone for long periods of time to be able to concentrate. They usually lived together and at one time shared a separate wing of the house, and when any of the young crowd dropped in (they had numerous cousins, boys and girls), the brothers would greet them with their pet phrase: "Honour us with your absence." They were both hard workers and revolutionary-minded. The difference in their age, though, made itself felt in various ways. There were certain things that Alexander did not tell Vladimir. This is what Vladimir Ilyich told me:

His brother was a naturalist. On his last summer vacation at home he was preparing a dissertation on the Annelida, and was busy all the time with his microscope. To get all the light he could he got up at daybreak and started work at once. "No, my brother won't make a revolutionary, I thought at the time," Vladimir Ilyich related. "A revolutionary can't give so much time to the study of worms. It was not long before he saw his mistake.

The fate of his brother undoubtedly influenced Vladimir Ilyich profoundly. Another important factor was that he had begun to think for himself on many questions and had decided in his own mind the necessity of revolutionary struggle.

Had this not been so, his brother's fate would probably have caused him deep sorrow only, or at most, aroused in him a resolve and striving to follow in his brother's footsteps. As it was, the fate of his brother gave his mind a keener edge, developed in him an extraordinary soberness of thought, an ability to face the truth without letting himself for a minute be carried away by a phrase or an illusion. It developed in him a scrupulously honest approach to all questions. ...

Ostromir Gospel



The Ostromir Gospel is the oldest dated Russian manuscript book to have survived. It was commissioned by Ostromir, the governor of Novgorod, who was a close confidant of Prince Iziaslav of Kiev, the son of Yaroslav the Wise.

In an lengthy codicil on the last page of the book the scribe, Deacon Grigory, records that he worked on it from 21 October 1056 to 12 May 1057. An inscription on the first page Evangelie sofeiskoe aprakos states that Ostromir donated the manuscript to St Sophia's Cathedral in Novgorod. The subsequent fate of the work can be traced in documents only from the beginning of the eighteenth century. The Ostromir Gospel is mentioned in an inventory of the property belonging to one of the churches in the Moscow Kremlin which was compiled in 1701. In 1720 a decree by Peter the Great required the gathering of information about ancient documents and manuscript books in churches and monasteries and in that same year the Ostromir Gospel was sent from Moscow to St Petersburg. Then we again lose track of the work for 85 years, until 1805 when it was found among the effects of Catherine II. Emperor Alexander I gave orders for the rediscovered book to be passed to the manuscript department of the Public Library where it has been kept to the present day.

The transfer of the Ostromir Gospel to the Public Library marked the beginning of a many-sided study of it, from the palaeographic and linguistic points of view and also as a historical source. Among the first to examine the work were Olenin, Nikolai Rumiantsev, Metropolitan Yevgeny (Bolkhovitinov), Karamzin, Yermolaev and Keppen. Alexander Vostokov devoted many years to a study of the manuscript. In 1820 he published the monumental work Deliberations on the Slavonic Language and in 1843 he produced the first (and still the only) carefully prepared scholarly publication of the Ostromir Gospel with a grammatical commentary and detailed index of words. Subsequently many major scholars (including Fiodor Buslaev, Izmail Sreznevsky, Alexander Fortunatov and Viacheslav Shchepkin) turned their attention to the Ostromir Gospel as a work of immense significance for Russian and Slavonic historical philology, and an understanding of Russian books, art and culture in the mid-eleventh century. In 1988, the 1000th Anniversary of the Baptism of Rus, a facsimile edition of this priceless manuscript was produced.

The Ostromir Gospel was written less than 70 years after the adoption of Christianity and the introduction of writing in Russia. The high standard of calligraphy and artistic design seen in this manuscript are evidence that the art of the book rapidly flourished in early Russia. The Gospel was copied onto splendidly prepared white parchment in a formal uncial script and richly decorated. The book contains three large depictions of the Evangelists John, Luke and Mark, attractive headpieces at the start of the text and the chapters, and historiated initials, all of which were worked in bright paints and pure gold leaf which is still undimmed by age. Especially interesting and original are the initials where human faces peer out from complex geometrical ornament interwoven with the claws and tails of fantastic birds and beasts. The technique used in the illumination distinctly reveals the influence of the applied art of the time. The manner in which outlines of the figures are drawn as if cut from sheets of gold and the spaces in between them filled with paints is highly reminiscent of cloisonne enamel and many of the historiated letters create the impression of being precious pieces of jewellery.

...

Friday, 14 December 2012

Weird Side of Soviet Architecture

Weird Side of Soviet Architecture: Soviet architects could dispel sadness indeed. They were trying to put meaning in life and death and display it in their works. Some of the Soviet structures are still standing and look very weird. This one is the Kiev crematorium … Read more...

Galina Vishnevskaya obituary



The soprano Galina Vishnevskaya, who has died aged 86, coloured her performances of opera, and especially of Russian song, so beautifully that full comprehension was not essential for enjoyment. Of course, once you did understand the words, you realised how much meaning she brought to them.
Possessed of a striking physical presence with lustrous dark hair, she was such a natural actor that she became the star of her generation at the Bolshoi opera company in Moscow, forging artistic relationships with the stage director Boris Pokrovsky and the conductor Alexander Melik-Pashaev. And – appropriately for a performer who sang with all the skill of an instrumentalist – for more than half a century she was married to Mstislav Rostropovich, not just a great cellist, but also a considerable conductor and pianist.
Their marriage – her third – came in 1955 after a whirlwind romance, with Rostropovich sweeping her off her feet, even though she was also being courted by the Soviet premier, Marshal Nikolai Bulganin. They became a stormy but potent combination on and off stage, and had two daughters, Olga and Elena.
At the opera, Tatiana in Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin was her talisman: she recorded it three times, in 1956, then in 1958 for a film – she should have been seen as well, but was too pregnant – and again in Paris in 1968 with Rostropovich conducting. A second key Tchaikovsky role was Lisa (The Queen of Spades); others included two from operas by Rimsky-Korsakov, Kupava (The Snow Maiden) and Marfa (The Tsar's Bride), Cherubino (Le Nozze di Figaro), Madama Butterfly, Natasha (Prokofiev's War and Peace), Aida and Tosca.
Through her husband she got to know Dmitri Shostakovich, who wrote two song cycles and an orchestration of Mussorgsky's Songs and Dances of Death for her, as well as the soprano part in his Fourteenth Symphony. In 1966 she filmed the title role of his opera Katerina Izmailova.
Her international career began in 1960 with the first of five visits to the US. But the Soviet authorities made life difficult for artists wanting to work abroad. After her first recital at Aldeburgh in 1961, Benjamin Britten wrote the soprano role in the War Requiem for her, but she was famously prevented from taking part in the 1962 premiere. She did, however, sing it in London the next year and recorded it under Britten's direction – misunderstanding the Decca engineers' arrangements, she threw alegendary fit at the sessions, but in the end all was well. In 1965 Britten wrote his Pushkin cycle The Poet's Echo for her and Rostropovich, as pianist.
Born Galina Ivanova in Leningrad, she received her vocal talent from her father and her fiery temperament from her mother. But that was about as much as she did get from them, as they had little to do with her upbringing and she was mainly cared for by her paternal grandmother in the naval port of Kronstadt.
Her voice was with her from the beginning; and for her 10th birthday her mother gave her a gramophone and a recording of Eugene Onegin. The music absolutely possessed her, and it was no coincidence that it provided her most famous early role.
More here.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Winter Begins From Yakutia!

Winter Begins From Yakutia!: It seems that the word “Yakutia” itself is chilly. It is so far and so cold, how can people live there? . However it’s the very place to see the real winter. It’s where the pole of Сold is located … Read more...

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn: The First Circle

Writer and Nobel Laureate Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Among the street phone booths there was a vacant one, but it looked like it had a window broken. Innokenty headed for the metro.

Down there, all four telephone booths were occupied. Further left, however, some simpleton, drunk and mellow, was finishing and about to hang up. He smiled at Innokenty and was even about to say something. Once in the booth, Innokenty pulled the thick glass door up tightly; the other hand, still in the suede glove, dropped a coin and dialed the number.

After a series of long ring tones someone picked up.
“Is this the secretariat?” he asked, trying to change his voice.
“Yes, it is.”
“Could you please put me through to the Ambassador? Right now?”
“You can’t call the ambassador,” the response came in very good Russian. “What is the matter?”
“Then – the deputy! Or a military attaché! And please, hurry!”
There was some thinking on the other side of the wire. Innokenty made a bet with himself: it’s a no.
So be it. There’ll be no other time.
“Okay, I am putting you through to the attaché.”
The clicking of the connecting lines.
Behind the glass door, steps away from the booths, people were running, rushing, overtaking each other. Then someone split off from the crowd and impatiently joined the line to Innokenty’s booth.

With a very strong accent, in a very well-fed and lazy voice, someone uttered into the receiver, “I an listening to you. What do you want?”
“Mister military attaché, sir?” Innokenty asked harshly.
“Yes, aviation…” the other side responded.
What was he to do? Covering his mouth, in a low voice but very resolutely, Innokenty tried to get through to him, “Mister attaché, sir! Please, write down and pass the information over to the ambassador immediately…”
“Wait for a moment!” another slow replay came. “I will call an interpreter.”
“I can’t wait!” Innokenty was raging. (He was no longer able to keep his voice disguised). “And I will not talk to any of the Soviet people! Don’t hang up! It’s about the future of your country! And not just that! Look: very soon in New York, a Soviet agent Georgy Koval will receive …
“I don’t understand you,” the attaché calmly objected. Of course, he was sitting in a comfortable chair, with no one behind his back. Women’s happy talk was heard in the background. – “Call the Canadian embassy – they know Russian.”

Innokenty could feel the booth’s floor burning under his feet, while the receiver was melting in his hand like a black steel chain. The only foreign word would definitely destroy him!

“Listen to me! Listen!” he reiterated desperately. “In a few days the Soviet agent Koval will receive important technical information on the atomic bomb at an electronics store…”

Translated by Ekaterina Shubnaya, RT

G. V. Plekhanov: Art and social life



The relation of art to social life is a question that has always figured largely in all literatures that have reached a definite stage of development. Most often, the question has been answered in one of two directly opposite senses.

Some say: man is not made for the sabbath, but the sabbath for man; society is not made for the artist, but the artist for society. The function of art is to assist the development of man’s consciousness, to improve the social system.

Others emphatically reject this view. In their opinion, art is an aim in itself; to, convert it into a means of achieving any extraneous aim, even the most noble, is to lower the dignity of a work of art.

The first of these two views was vividly reflected in our progressive literature of the sixties. To say nothing of Pisarev, whose extreme one-sidedness almost turned it into a caricature, [3] one might mention Chernyshevsky and Dobrolyubov as the most thorough-going advocates of this view in the critical literature of the time. Chernyshevsky wrote in one of his earliest critical articles:

“The idea of ‘art for art’s sake’ is as strange in our times as ‘wealth for wealth’s sake’, ‘science for science’s sake’, and so forth. All human activities must serve mankind if they are not to remain useless and idle occupations. Wealth exists in order that man may benefit by it; science exists in order to be man’s guide; art, too, must serve some useful purpose and not fruitless pleasure.” In Chernyshevsky’s opinion, the value of the arts, and especially of “the most serious of them,” poetry, is determined by the sum of knowledge they disseminate in society. He says: “Art, or it would be better to say poetry (only poetry, for the other arts do very little in this respect), spreads among the mass of the reading public an enormous amount of knowledge and, what is still more important, familiarises them with the concepts worked out by science – such is poetry’s great purpose in life.” [4] The same idea is expressed in his celebrated dissertation, The Aesthetic Relation of Art to Reality. According to its 17th thesis, art not only reproduces life but explains it: its productions very often “have the purpose of pronouncing judgement on the phenomena of life.”

In the opinion of Chernyshevsky and his disciple, Dobrolyubov, the function of art was, indeed, to reproduce life and to pass judgement on its phenomena. [5] And this was not only the opinion of literary critics and theoreticians of art. It was not fortuitous that Nekrasov called his muse the muse of “vengeance and grief.” In one of his poems the Citizen says to the Poet:

Thou poet by the heavens blessed,
Their chosen herald! It is wrong
That the deprived and dispossessed
Are deaf to your inspired song.

Believe, men have not fallen wholly,
God lives yet in the heart of each
And still, though painfully and slowly,
The voice of faith their souls may reach.

Be thou a citizen, serve art.
And for thy fellow-beings live,
To them, to them thy loving heart
And all thy inspiration give. [6]

In these words the Citizen Nekrasov sets forth his own understanding of the function of art. It was in exactly the same way that the function of art was understood at that time by the most outstanding representatives of the plastic arts – painting, for example. Perov and Kramskoi, like Nekrasov, strove to be “citizens” in serving art; their works, like his, passed “judgements on the phenomena of life.” [7]

The opposite view of the function of creative art had a powerful defender in Pushkin, the Pushkin of the time of Nicholas I. Everybody, of course, is familiar with such of his poems as The Rabble and To the Poet. The people plead with the poet to compose songs that would improve social morals, but meet with a contemptuous, one might say rude, rebuff:

Begone, ye pharisees! What cares
The peaceful poet for your fate?
Go, boldly steep yourselves in sin:
With you the lyre will bear no weight.

Upon your deeds I turn my back.
The whip, the dungeon and the rack
Till now you suffered as the price
For your stupidity and vice
And, servile madmen, ever shall!

Pushkin set forth his view of the mission of the poet in the much-quoted words:

No, not for worldly agitation,
Nor worldly greed, nor worldly strife,
But for sweet song, for inspiration,
For prayer the poet comes to life. [8]

Here the so-called theory of art for art’s sake is formulated in the most striking manner. It was not without reason that Pushkin was cited so readily and so often by the opponents of the literary movement of the sixties [9].

Which of these two directly opposite views of the function of art is to be considered correct?

In undertaking to answer this question, it must first be observed that it is badly formulated. Like all questions of a similar nature, it cannot be approached from the standpoint of “duty.” If the artists of a given country at one period shun “worldly agitation and strife,” and, at another, long for strife and the agitation that necessarily goes with it, this is not because somebody prescribes for them different “duties” at different periods, but because in certain social conditions they are dominated by one attitude of mind, and by another attitude of mind in other social conditions. Hence, if we are to approach the subject correctly, we must look at it not from the standpoint of what ought to be, but of what actually is and has been. We shall therefore formulate the question as follows:

What are the most important social conditions in which artists and people keenly interested in art conceive and become possessed by the belief in art for art’s sake?

As we approach the answer to this question, it will not be difficult to answer another, one closely connected with it and no less interesting, namely:

What are the most important social conditions in which artists and people keenly interested in art conceive and become possessed by the so-called utilitarian view of art, that is, the tendency to attach to artistic productions the significance of “judgements on the phenomena of life"? ...

Monday, 10 December 2012

Nikolai Nekrasov: My Poems!




MY poems! Witnesses of unavailing
Tears for the sad earth shed!
Born in the moment when the soul is failing,
And by the storm-winds bred;
Against men’s hearts you beat with wistful wailing
Like waves on cliffs as dead.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Soviet Reality On the Photos of Victor Vorobyev

Soviet Reality On the Photos of Victor Vorobyev: Vladimir Vorobyev (1941-2011) is a photographer who, unfortunately, became popular only recently. He was from Novokuznetsk, Russia, the city where was held the first exhibition of his works. Those images are often inside of us, but they remain so deep … Read more...

Friday, 7 December 2012

Happy Moscow by Andrey Platonov


At the time of the 1917 revolutions, Andrey Platonov was sixteen and had already worked as an office clerk, a pipe smelter, an assistant machinist, a factory worker, a warehouseman, and a railroad technician. During the next four years, he wrote extensively and conspicuously, publishing poems, stories, and hundreds of essays on every imaginable subject. But when drought and famine struck in 1922, Platonov abandoned his literary pursuits (which he deemed idle and ineffectual) to travel all over the country, working as an electrical engineer and administrator. It was only later, when he again took up writing—now with the belief that literature, like manual labor, could help build socialism—that he began to perceive the vocation as that of a “creative engineer,” tasked with “refashioning the inner soul.” Virtually all of this material remained unpublished for decades; the unfinished novel Happy Moscow would not appear in Russian until 1991, the year that the Communist Party of the Soviet Union ceased to exist.
Happy Moscow is an experimental novel. It has no calculated plot and develops rather like a dream wherein ideas, as characters, are repurposed and their functions regenerated as they are made to relate to other figurative elements. Three quarters of the way through the book, its heroine Moscow Chestnova disappears completely, and Sartorius the engineer, her one-time lover, emerges as a central character. Inexplicably, he then changes his identity, becoming “Grunyakin,” and goes to work in the kitchen of a small factory in Sokolniki.
Whole passages from Happy Moscow appear word-for-word in “The Moscow Violin,” a story included in this volume. The character of penitent mistress Katya Bissonet resurfaces in the screenplay “Mother/Father.” And the suicide of the boy longing for his absented father at the end of Happy Moscow is described in the short essay “On the First Socialist Tragedy.” It is this aesthetic dynamism that distinguishes Platonov’s writing: every expression of great beauty is basically functional. Experiment in language is experiment in thought and vice versa, as it is in language that thought suffers—and resists—its own structures.
More here.