Friday, 31 May 2013

Dmitry Rybolovlev

Dmitry Evgenevich Rybolovlev (born in 1966 in Perm) is a Russian businessman, investor, philanthropist and the owner of AS Monaco FC. Rybolovlev owned the potash producer Uralkali and recently started to invest into the French football club AS Monaco. His 24 year old daughter Ekaterina Rybolovleva is a well known socialite.

In 2010 he ranked #79 in Forbes' billionaire's list. In 2012, he was ranked #119 among Forbes billionaires, with a net worth of $9.1 billion.

Dmitry Rybolovlev in Monaco
Dmitry Rybolovlev was born in 1966 in Perm. Rybolovlevs parents were doctors and he himself graduated from the Perm Medical Institute as a cardiologist in 1990. He then started to work in the cardiology emergency service. During his student years, Rybolovlev married Elena, one of his fellow students, and in 1989 their first daughter Ekaterina was born. In the late 1980s Mikhail Gorbachev had started the perestroika that eventually led to the break-up of the Soviet Union and the great economic shocks that followed. During this time Rybolovlev entered the business world.

Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Monday, 27 May 2013

Moscow Hotel In the Soviet Years

“Moskva” hotel was one of the largest in the Russian capital. It was built in 1933-35. Here you can see how the hotel looked like in the period from the 1950s to 1980s. Does it seem to be cosy?
More photos here: Moscow Hotel In the Soviet Years 

Friday, 24 May 2013

Health Improving 100 Years Ago

Health Improving 100 Years Ago: This is how people used to improve their health 100 years ago under St. Petersburg. Quite different from how we do it today, right? Body wraps and rubdown. Children riding donkeys. Booths for washing. Seaside recreation and retreat centre. Playground. … Read more...

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Is Humbert Humbert Jewish? - Vladimir Nabokov

Vladimir Nabokov was eighteen when the Bolshevik Revolution of October 1917 made his wealthy family’s continued residence in Petrograd (as St. Petersburg was renamed at the start of World War I) impossible. They fled first to the Crimea and then, in 1919, to London. The following year they settled in Berlin, where in 1922 Nabokov’s father was assassinated, more by accident than design, by extreme right-wing Russian monarchists: they were attempting to kill another Russian émigré politician, Paul Milyukov. V.D. Nabokov bravely seized and disarmed one of the gunmen, and pinned him down, but was then shot three times by the second.

In a poem called “Easter” published just a few weeks after this disaster, the twenty-two-year-old Nabokov interprets the arrival of spring as portending some kind of resurrection of his father: “Rise again,” each “golden thaw-drop” seems to sing, “blossom”; “you are in this refrain,/you’re in this splendor, you’re alive!…” Some forty years later he would allude to the ghastly manner of his father’s demise in a more characteristically Nabokovian way: the day on which Pale Fire’s John Shade is killed by mistake in another botched assassination attempt is July 21, Nabokov senior’s birthday.

V.D. Nabokov was not the only member of the family to fall victim to the chaos of the times. Vladimir’s brother Sergey Nabokov was one year younger than him, but of a very different temperament; shy, stuttering, gay, musically gifted, a Catholic convert, Sergey spent much of his exile in Paris, where he got to know Diaghilev, Jean Cocteau, Gertrude Stein, and Pavel Tchelitchew, with whom he shared an apartment for a while. His long-term partner was a wealthy Austrian called Hermann Thieme. While the rise of the Nazis drove Vladimir, whose wife Véra was Jewish, to embark for America with their young son Dimitri in May 1940, shortly before the fall of Paris, Sergey and Hermann Thieme responded, somewhat bizarrely, by moving east to Berlin. There they were arrested for homosexual offenses; Hermann was freed but forced to join the German army in Africa, while Sergey spent five months in jail. On his release he moved to Prague, where he set about openly denouncing the Nazis and Hitler; he was soon informed upon, arrested again, and in the spring of 1944 dispatched to Neuengamme concentration camp, on the outskirts of Hamburg. He did well there, in that he lasted ten months, whereas the average life expectancy was twelve weeks. Sergey was forty-four when he died, the age of Pale Fire’s Charles Kinbote, another awkward homosexual exile, who is also hounded and harried, or so he’d have us believe, by a ruthless totalitarian regime that has come violently to power.

Why, Andrea Pitzer asks in her provocatively titled The Secret History of Vladimir Nabokov, did the great novelist allude only in such oblique, ludic terms both to his own personal losses and to the historical cataclysms that caused them? Cataclysms that also meant that he could never return to a country he missed acutely, and forced upon him a precarious émigré life in England, Germany, Czechoslovakia, France, and then America, where at last he struck gold with Lolita, so much gold indeed that he was able to spend the last fifteen years of his life in the luxurious Montreux Palace Hotel in Switzerland.

There are numerous ways of approaching this question. The most reassuring response might pivot around Nabokov’s famous definition of his art in his afterword to the all-conquering Lolita, which has steadily sold at the average rate of a million copies a year, and is surely the most indisputably canonical novel in English of the postwar era:
For me a work of fiction exists only insofar as it affords me what I shall bluntly call aesthetic bliss, that is a sense of being somehow, somewhere, connected with other states of being where art (curiosity, tenderness, kindness, ecstasy) is the norm. There are not many such books. All the rest is either topical trash or what some call the Literature of Ideas, which very often is topical trash….
Any attempt to write directly about political events or the “sweep of history,” to borrow a phrase from the jacket copy of any number of blockbuster epics, will be mired in the cliché and sentiment that Nabokov deplored in novels such as Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago (one of his many bêtes noires); the artist’s truest and most valuable way of resisting totalitarian modes of thought is to assert his or her independence as thoroughly and, in Nabokov’s case, as spectacularly as possible. He conceived of writing as a chess match with a razor-keen opponent always looking to predict his next move, and joy and triumph lay in outwitting that reader’s assumptions, and thereby stimulating “curiosity, tenderness, kindness, ecstasy.”

More here.

Monday, 20 May 2013

Russian Bohemia

A performance by some of Russia's most talented performers including the Moscow Mail Choir, Kremlin Capella. Beautiful pictures and beautiful performances. 

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Tolstoy’s Resurrection and Dostoevsky

Siberia, as a theme with both personal and literary significance, must have been very much in Tolstoy’s mind during the writing of Resurrection. At a personal level, he himself would have been aware, that as Russia’s foremost dissident, he ran the risk of some form of banishment.[1] His hero Nekhlyudov, taking up an idea of the American writer Thoreau, asserts that prison is the only place fitting for an honourable man in Russia (II, 29). The novel itself is a political bombshell with its attack on the very pillars of the state - the Church, the courts, the civil servants, those in authority, including a personal attack on the all-powerful Procurator of the Holy Synod, and an open reference to the political reaction introduced by the tsar Alexander III (I, 3) after the assassination of his father. Tolstoy knew that exile to the east was almost the set reaction to such dissidence by those in power. The Siberian exile of the so-called Decembrists after 1825[2] is in Nekhlyudov’s mind as he goes to see the important general in charge of prisons in St Petersburg (II, 19). The political prisoner Kryl’tsov, quoting Herzen, points to the impoverishment of Russian intellectual life brought about by their exile, and also by the exile of Herzen himself (III, 18)[3]. The 1860s saw the banishment to Siberia of another intellectual leader, N.G. Chernyshevsky, and however great Tolstoy’s own reputation and moral authority might be, he was not immune even from the punishment of Siberia.

But there is another aspect of Siberia which must also have been in Tolstoy’s mind as he wrote his novel – its strong literary associations. Nine years earlier Chekhov (a writer whom Tolstoy patronised) had made the hazardous journey across Siberia to conduct researches on the island of Sakhalin among the inmates of the penal colony there, and had described his outward journey in Out of Siberia (Iz Sibiri) (1890) and the product of his research in The Island of Sakhalin (Ostrov Sakhalin). Even the unlikely traveller Goncharov had been forced to return to European Russia from Japan by a gruelling trek across Siberia, which he described in the second part of The Frigate Pallas (Fregat Pallada).[4] The wives of the Decembrists had followed their husbands into Siberia, and impressed Dostoevsky with their care and solicitude, when he met them on his own way to Siberian servitude. Their example influenced his own later writing; in Crime and Punishment Sonya follows Raskolnikov into Siberia, and in The Brothers Karamazov it is a journey to accompany Dmitriy contemplated by Grushenka. Tolstoy adds a new twist of gender to the theme, when he has a male hero follow a heroine.

Above all it was the actual experience and writing of Tolstoy’s great literary rival Dostoevsky that appears to have had most influence.[5] Dostoevsky, for what seemed on the surface to be a minor act of political dissidence, had been arrested and condemned to penal servitude in the Siberian town of Omsk. These experiences were later given literary form in his Notes from the House of the Dead, a book which Tolstoy called ‘a wonderful thing’, and which he read for a third time before writing Resurrection.[6] In the novel his hero Nekhlyudov gives some (unspecified) work of Dostoevsky to Katyusha to read (I, 12). Like Katyusha herself the heroes of two of Dostoevsky’s novels, Raskolnikov in Crime and Punishment and Dmitriy in The Brothers Karamazov would be faced with the Siberian experience. Whether Dostoevsky’s writing on the subject consciously influenced certain aspects of Resurrection is not certain, but clearly there are parallels to be drawn.

In Notes from the House of the Dead Dostoevsky describes how a wounded steppe eagle was harboured by the convicts and then allowed to go free: ‘It was a strange thing. Everyone was somehow pleased, as though in part they themselves had received freedom’.[7] Tolstoy was impressed by the episode and in 1904 reprinted it in his Reading Circle (Krug chteniya) under the title ‘The Eagle’ (Orel) [8].

However, when Tolstoy uses a bird as a symbol of freedom, it is not the macho image of the eagle, but, appropriately (in the context) the feminine one of the dove. In the very first chapter the female prisoner Maslova is depicted as about to tread on a dove or pigeon (golub’): ‘The dove rose up, and with trembling wings, flew past the convict’s very ear, brushing her with the wind of its flight. The convict smiled and then sighed deeply, remembering her own situation.’ In this same opening chapter Tolstoy, as does Dostoevsky, stresses the spontaneity of the charity shown towards such convicts by the Russian common people: a peasant in from the country, crossing himself, gives the prisoner a kopeck.

A second section from Notes from the House of the Dead was also published in 1904 in Tolstoy’s Reading Circle under the title ‘Death in the Hospital’ (Smert’ v gospitale). It was reprinted from the opening of the second part of Dostoevsky’s work, which ends with the stark scene of the convict Mikhaylov lying dead in hospital and still in his chains.[9] In Part II, chapter 37 of Resurrection a convict also lies dead in chains. Nevertheless, Dostoevsky claims that in the prison hospitals there is a far more enlightened attitude towards the convicts: ‘It is well known to all convicts in the whole of Russia, that the people most compassionate towards them are the doctors’.[10] In Resurrection Nekhlyudov comes across such a person: ‘This doctor showed all kinds of indulgences to the convicts and was therefore constantly involved in unpleasant clashes with the prison authorities and even with the senior doctor’ (II, 13).

Like Dostoevsky, Tolstoy too points to the availability of alcohol in the prisons (I, 32),[11] and both authors mention the abuse of prisoners being able to exchange sentences through bullying or negotiating with one another. The fictional hero of Notes from the House of the Dead explains this in general terms:
To swap [smenit’sia] means to exchange names with somebody, and consequently also his fate. However weird this fact might seem, it is true, and in my time it still existed in full force among those under arrest who were being transported to Siberia. At first I could not at all believe it, although finally I did come to believe the evidence.[12]
Tolstoy gives his own concrete example:
The fact was that the convict Karmanov had put up a lad with a face like his, but sentenced to exile, to do a swap with him, so that the convict went into exile, and the lad, in his place, went to the penal colony (III, 10).
Both Dostoevsky and Tolstoy are concerned to divide the convicts into types. Typically, Dostoevsky goes no further than a dichotomy: ‘decisive people’ (reshitel’nye lyudi) as opposed to those ‘impoverished by nature’ (nishchie ot prirody). This is clearly a psychological division. Nekhlyudov, however, is unable to see ‘that criminal type about which the Italian School speaks, but only saw people antipathetic to himself personally, exactly the same as he saw at large in tail-coats, epaulettes, and lace (II, 30). His reading of the literature discourages him from ever hoping to find a psychological explanation for ‘criminal types’. Instead he divides the convicts into five categories, not based on psychology, but according to the nature of their crimes. The difference between the two writers is striking: Dostoevsky adopts a more intuitive psychological approach; Tolstoy seems more rational – he tests the authorities on the subject, then comes up with his own more sociologically based division, placing the convicts into neat pigeon holes. But there is something else: each author has his own polemical agenda in his presentation of the convicts.

More here.

Lyubov Sergeyevna Popova - Biography

Lyubov Sergeyevna Popova was born April 24, 1889 near Moscow. She grew up in an enlightened merchant family with a strong interest in art, especially Italian Renaissance painting. At eleven years old she began art lessons at home and in 1907 she studied art with S. Zhukovskiy. Then in 1908 - 1909 she attended the art school of Konstantin Yuon and Ivan Dudin.

File:Popova Philosopher.jpg
Portrait of a Philosopher
Popova traveled widely to investigate and learn from diverse styles of painting, but it was the ancient Russian Icons and 15th and 16th century Italian painters, Giotto and others which at first interested her the most.

Space Force Construction - Lyubov Popova
Space Force Construction
1909 Travels to Kiev.
1910 Then to Pskov and Novgorod.
1911 Other ancient Russian cities including St. Petersburg to study icons.
1912 Works in Moscow studio known as the Tower with Ivan Aksenov, Vladimir Tatlin. Visits Sergei Shchukin's collection of modern French paintings.
1912-13 Studied art in Paris with Nadezhda Udaltsova.
1913 Meets Alexander Archipenko and Ossip Zadkine. Returns to Russia and works with Tatlin, Udaltsova and Vesnin.
1914 Travels in France and Italy at the development of cubism and futurism.

Portrait of Artist's Sister

Through a synthesis if disparate tendencies Popova worked towards the culminating painterly arcitectonics. Exploring firstly an impressionist style, by 1913, in Composition with Figures, she is experimenting with the particularly Russian development of Cubo-Futurism; a fusion of two equal influences from France and Italy. In the painting The Violin of 1914 the development from cubism towards the painterly architectonics of 1917-18 is clearly visible. Before joining the Supremus group her paintings , the architectonic series have defined their own artistic trajectory, quite different to that of Malevich, Rozanova, Tatlin and Mondrian in abstract form. The canvas surface is an energy field of overlapping and intersecting angular planes in a constant state of potential release. At the same time the elements are held in a balanced and proportioned whole as if linking the compositions of the classical past to the future. By 1918 colour is used as an iconic focus; the bright colour at the centre drawing the outer shapes together.

More here.

Friday, 17 May 2013

Mayakovsky’s muse on the road

Alexander Rodchenko immortalized Lilya Brik in an iconic 1924 portrait for the cover of a Soviet art magazine. She is again Rodchenko’s subject in an exhibition of photographs on display at the Multimedia Art Museum, which show a never-completed 1929 journey Brik made in a Renault that the poet Vladimir Mayakovsky sent to her from France.
Brik was Mayakovsky’s muse, and the pair had a famous and passionate love affair, despite her marriage to Oleg Brik. Mayakovsky dedicated many of his most famous poems to her, such as “Lilechka! Instead of a Letter,” in which he wrote, “besides your love I have no sun.” A portrait of Brik, eyes staring intensely, is on the cover of his poem “Pro Eto” (About This).
The pair were no longer a couple in 1929, but remained on good terms. Brik had written to Mayakovsky with instructions of what kind of car she wanted: a Buick or a Renault, definitely not one that looked like a taxi. She also asked for motorist’s gloves and clothes.
“Her enthusiasm for the ‘Renoshka’ was unconditional and true to character,” said curator Alexander Lavrentiyev, using the diminutive term for the Renault. Rodchenko captures moments such as Brik taking advantage of a f lat tire to fix her makeup, and an impromptu picnic.
“I was in one dress, then I got changed and popped into the gas station on Zemlyanoi Val. He took a photo of me in the backseat,” Brik wrote of the trip she and Mayakovsky later nicknamed “the incomplete journey.” “We agreed that I would go 20 versts, he would take photos and then go home, and I would go on further. But I didn’t go any further, as I found out the road was terrible and the car started to sneeze and, well, going so far alone is boring and dangerous.”
This brief glimpse of Brik is on at the same time as a more substantial exhibit, “Mayakovsky’s Family,” dedicated to the 120th anniversary of the poet’s birthday.
More here.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

A collection of poems by Soviet dissident poet published in English

The novice reader who dives into Alexander Vvedensky’s flood of words will find strange, but not un-beautiful depths: Themes float and grow like seaweed, shoals of images flash past and submerged ideas lurk in the shadows.
The writer, who died on a prison train in 1941, has garnered a new English-language audience since Pussy Riot’s Nadezhda Tolokonnikova quoted Vvedensky at her trial in August 2012. The New York Review of Books published the first English-language collection of Vvedensky’s poetry in April 2013. “Invitation For Me to Think” challenges poetry lovers and politicians alike.
Alexander Vvedensky was born in St Petersburg in 1904 and as a young adult became part of Leningrad’s Futurist movement. Much of his work has been lost and destroyed and what remains, mostly published posthumously, is not easy to understand. “The only thing that is positive to the end is meaninglessness,” he wrote.
The hundred-odd lines of “The Meaning of the Sea,” written in 1930, begin: “to make everything clear/ live backwards.” The poem has no capital letters or punctuation and nouns congregate seemingly at random: “here’s a candle snow/ salt and mousetrap.” The poem’s structure – such as it is – relies on echoes and metaphorical patterns, like the repeated images of drowning: “sea time sleep are one/ we will mutter sinking down” and “glory to heaven washed away/ my oar memory and will.”
Several poems draw on theatrical conventions, with stanzas spoken by different characters and bizarre stage directions in italics (“The servants bring in a large sofa”). The longest poem in the book is one of these quasi-dramatic verse-dialogues, “God May Be Around” (1931), a manifesto of profound nonsense to suit an era of apocalyptic doom; it ends: “A star of meaninglessness shines,/ it alone is fathomless./ A dead gentleman runs in/ and silently removes time.”
More here.

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Friday, 10 May 2013

'Nothing Has Been Invented': The War Journalism of Boris Polevoy

By Don Heddesheimer
Krushinsky and I had been the first correspondents to visit Oswiecim, then still called by its German name, Auschwitz. We had flown in after our troops and seen this vast death camp virtually still in running order ... By the time Sergei Krushinsky and I reached Birkenau, all the buildings of this fake junction and the gas chambers had been blown up and only a maze of railway tracks remained. An ordinary railway time-table was jutting out of the heaps of smashed concrete: "Train departures to Vienna ... Belgrade ... Paris ... Milan ..." We met a Polish partisan in a railwayman's uniform and square cap who knew Russian. He told us about everything that had been going on here. He showed us the so-called bath house lying in ruins and gray mounds of something resembling charcoal mingled with white stony fragments. This was ash, human ash from the ovens, 'fireplaces," as they were called here. It crackled rather strangely as though it were moaning in pain and begging for retribution." See note: 1
These emotive words, written over twenty years after the war, are those of Soviet journalist Boris Polevoy. See note: 2 Once a celebrated literary figure in the USSR, today Polevoy is known to revisionists as the author of one of the first news reports on Auschwitz after its capture on January 27, 1945. Thanks to the work of Faurisson, Walendy, and others, that story, which appeared in Pravda, the leading newspaper of the Soviet Communist party, on February 2, 1945, is now widely known to differ drastically from the later orthodox account of the camp. Polevoy described how Auschwitz inmates were exterminated, not in gas chambers, but on an electric conveyor belt that electrocuted hundreds of them simultaneously, then dropped their bodies into a flaming blast furnace. He reported enormous mass graves, filled with at least four layers of bodies. Polevoy also described zinc-covered benches fitted with straps for restraining inmates, on which inmates were beaten to death with truncheons manufactured by the Krupp factory in Dresden. See note: 3
Revisionist researchers have concentrated chiefly on the factual discrepancies of Polevoy's report, consistent with their general approach to the extermination literature. Such work is of course vital, but Polevoy's activity as a journalist was not limited to writing on Auschwitz or the Holocaust. As a propagandist Polevoy had few equals in depicting German savagery or in glorifying Soviet heroism. His numerous writings on the war, published in the most influential newspaper of the USSR, not only epitomized Soviet propaganda but also influenced Soviet behavior. The purpose of this article is to acquaint readers with Boris Polevoy, his writings, and certain literary techniques which rendered them effective.
A Life for the Soviet
Few reporters of the Second World War were as accomplished, or as influential, as the Soviet writer Boris Nikolaevich Kampov (1908-1981), who wrote under the pseudonym Boris Polevoy. Polevoy, the son of a physician, although of Jewish heritage, was born "beyond the pale" in Moscow in 1908. As a young writer he showed enough promise to join a select group of Soviet writers under the patronage of Maxim Gorky. See note: 4
It was not until the Second World War that Polevoy became famous throughout the Soviet Union. From the 1939-40 "winter war" with Finland to the fall of Berlin, Polevoy covered the front as a reporter for Pravda, while holding the rank of lieutenant colonel in the Red Army. He served six months on assignment to Stalingrad, and was present when General von Paulus emerged to surrender from his headquarters in a department store basement. Polevoy reported on the Red Army's advance from Kharkov through Bessarabia, across Poland, and into the heart of Germany. When American and Soviet forces met on the Elbe, Polevoy was there, and he visited Hitler's underground bunker in Berlin while fighting still raged in the German capital. See note: 5 Following the Allied victory Polevoy, heading a team of Soviet journalists, reported on the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg as special correspondent for Pravda.
Polevoy's books, articles, and political commentaries gained him an international readership well before the end of the war. He remained influential until his death in 1981, at which time he was secretary of the all-powerful Union of Soviet Writers. During his lifetime, Polevoy was named a Hero of Socialist Labor and awarded the Stalin Prize for literature, three Orders of Lenin, two Red Banners, the Red Star, and the Gold Medal of the World Peace Council. To this day a commercial cargo ship bears his name; See note: 6 an opera has been written about him; See note: 7 and at least one of his admirers still leads a nation: Fidel Castro praised one of Polevoy's books in a meeting with Leonard Brezhnev. See note: 8
Gorky's Influence
Polevoy's mentor Maxim Gorky (Alexei Maximovich Peshkov, 1868-1936), whose pseudonymous last name means bitter, had been a close friend of Lenin. While his attitude toward the Soviet Union was sometimes ambivalent, in his last years he became a committed Communist. Gorky was the USSR's leading authority on the complex relationship between political and literary issues, so important in the history of Russian letters, and was the most important link between pre-revolutionary and Soviet literature. See note: 9
Gorky set out to create a literature that would express the ideals and further the goals of the Bolshevik revolution. He saw "the people," rather than religion, as the only inexhaustible spring of spiritual values. Indeed, Gorky's school of Soviet writers strove to produce a literature that would instill in the masses the kind of loyalty and dedication to the Soviet regime that they had once felt toward religion. "This concept of the people, and the new Communist Russia they belonged to, gave rise to a feeling for the mother country which could lead people to dedicate their lives to it." See note: 10 Gorky elaborated these goals in the 1920s and 1930s, and, put into practice by his many disciples, they exercised a profound influence on Soviet literature in the following decades.
Gorky urged his apprentices to study and learn from the great Russian writers of the past. In one recorded counsel to Polevoy, Gorky, commenting in 1928 on one of the younger writer's manuscripts (probably "The Forge Shop"), wrote that "just as a lathe worker shapes wood or metal, the literary man must know his material: language and words." See note: 11
Reportage in Red
During the war Polevoy wrote diary-like accounts of his activities as Pravda correspondent with the Red Army. His reports on his own experiences and on his interviews with soldiers and civilians reliably followed the Soviet line. Polevoy portrayed the German invaders as technologically advanced barbarians who had assaulted the peaceful USSR treacherously and without provocation, unleashing a struggle between good, personified by the Soviet peoples, and the evil of Nazi "fascism." What made Polevoy's writing stand out, however, was not rote propaganda abstractions, but the impact of particular, tangible, and often ordinary details that lent both credibility and emotion to his words.
Typical of this genre of Polevoy's reportage was "Regimental Colors," See note: 12 which was published in England in 1945, but had certainly appeared in the Soviet Union before that. It describes how eight survivors of a Red Army tank regiment that had been decimated in battle saved their unit's standard, then fought on behind the lines as partisans. Nazis from the Gestapo captured three of the Soviet tankers turned guerrillas, and interrogated them to no avail. After stripping the Soviet heroes to expose them to the full fury of the frigid Russian winter, the fiendish Nazis poured cold water over the Soviets until they were frozen into statues. The secret they went to their terrible deaths to conceal? Where they had hidden their regimental colors. The Nazis then went to work on the peasants. Polevoy assures his readers that the Germans "burned their bodies with soldering irons, drove nails into their arms and legs and lopped off their ears, sliced their noses and gouged out their eyes," but the peasants too went to their deaths rather than reveal the banner's whereabouts. And the regimental flag was never captured: a lovely young collective farm girl had wrapped it in clean linen and wound it around her body. She wore it day and night until the arrival of its rightful bearers, the Red Army.
"A Copy of Pravda" See note: 13 recapitulates that simple story of Red loyalty and heroism in defense of Soviet ideals, as objectified in the regimental banner, against Nazi savagery. But Polevoy tells his Pravda tale with a twist that reminds of his aim, as Gorky's disciple, to transform the religious fervor of the people into a burning dedication to the Communist regime. Writing of how fervently the leading party newspaper was esteemed by Soviet readers under German occupation, Polevoy writes, quoting one of them:
There are all kinds of legends current in our village about this paper. It is said that the Germans threw it in the fire but it didn't burn; then they tried to drown it in the river but it wouldn't drown. So they became furious, crumpled it, pushed it into a shell and fired the shell, but the paper wasn't lost and now there are thousands of them.
Thus, in Polevoy's telling, a solitary copy of Pravda proves indestructible, and even (metaphorically) capable of multiplying independently and indefinitely. The irony of the single most influential newspaper of the world's leading force for dialectical materialism behaving like a prop in a fairy tale was probably lost on a good many of Polevoy's readers.
Polevoy could conjure up the mawkish as well as supernatural in the service of Soviet propaganda. One of his dispatches from the battle of Berlin was entitled "Front Line at the Eisenstrasse" (which he described as an avenue lined with old beech trees that ran through no man's land). He reported that a curly haired German girl, no more than two or three years old, wandered out between the two front lines, lost and crying. She was rescued by a Soviet soldier -- but no sooner than he had performed that heroic act, he was cut down by an SS man's bullet (a statue commemorating this alleged incident still stands in eastern Berlin). The absence of an Eisenstrasse in Berlin was remedied some thirty years later when the Communist East German authorities decided that Polevoy meant "Elsenstrasse," and that the "l" on the street sign must have been hit by a bullet so that it looked like an "i." See note: 14 Whatever the truth of this suspicious story, it stands the actual conduct of Soviet troops toward German civilians on its head.
More here.

Nikolay Nekrasov: The Capitals Are Rocked with Thunder

A Portrait of the Poet Nikolai Nekrasov Writing “The Last Songs” (Ivan Kramskoi, 1877)

THE CAPITALS are rocked with thunder
Of orators in wordy feuds.
But in the depths of Russia, yonder,
An age-old awful silence broods.
Only the wind in wayside willows,
Coming and going, does not cease;
And corn-stalks touch in curving billows
The earth that cherishes and pillows,
Through endless fields of changeless peace.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Moscow takes 2nd place globally among in number of billionaires

London-based analytic agency WealthInsight has given Moscow 2nd place in its latest study of where billionaires reside globally. Russia’s capital is home to 64 billionaires (in U.S. dollars) and accounts for just under half of the country’s total (130), according to CEO magazine.
Moscow was beaten by New York (70) and followed by London (54), Hong Kong (40) and Beijing (29).
At the same time, when measured by the amount of multimillionaires (who own assets valued at or above $30 million), Moscow doesn’t make the top 20 cities in the world. That list is led by London (4224 multimillionaires), Tokyo (3525), Singapore (3154), New York (2929) and Rome (945).
During December of last year, WealthInsight published a report which counted 160 thousand multimillionaires in Russia. Among the BRICS, the country trailed China (1.3 million), India (250 thousand), Brazil (194 thousand), but was ahead of South Africa (45 thousand).

Moscow takes 2nd place globally among in number of billionaires 

Monday, 6 May 2013

Describing Russian intellectual life in fiction

Mikhail Bulgakov wrote his tight, absurdist masterpiece, “The Heart of a Dog” in 1925, but it would not see the light of day in the Soviet Union until 1987. Thus was the beginning of Bulgakov’s long and tortuous relationship with political power. 
The U.S.S.R. was not a good place, nor was it a good time, to write with a biting sense of humor.
When he settled in Moscow in 1921 and quit medicine to pursue journalism and literature, Bulgakov began to explore the contradictions of socialism, the problem of housing, and the absurdities of bureaucracy.  In short, Bulgakov reflected upon the preoccupations of Muscovites and the rules that governed life in the city.
The year after he arrived in Moscow, the OGPU (the secret police of the Soviet Union from 1922 to 1934) started keeping a secret file on the writer.
The apparent motive is trivial: Bulgakov published an article in a Berlin magazine announcing his intention to create a bibliographic dictionary of contemporary Russian authors without distinguishing between those who lived in the Soviet Union and those living in exile.
This news was received with suspicion by the government: Writers who lived abroad were considered enemies of the people.
In secret report number II0, an informer explained that Mikhail Bulgakov gave a reading of his new novel to the literary circle he moved in. The novel was titled “The Heart of a Dog.” 
“The entire work is written in hostile tones and breathes an infinite contempt upon the Soviet order…,” the writer of the report concluded.
Suspicions about the writer began to grow and the OGPU tracked his movements. It was right at that time when Bulgakov began to enjoy some success thanks to the publication of his first novel, “The White Guard,” and also “Diavoliada,” his collection of satirical stories about Soviet life.
More here.

Surveying the Surging Immensity of Life - Nikolai Gogol

One of the enduring mysteries of literary history is the appearance in 19th-century Russia, that vast and barbarous country, of the greatest writers of fiction in all of literature. Leo Tolstoy and Fyodor Dostoyevsky are supreme among the novelists of all nations, with Ivan Turgenev not far behind. Then there is Anton Chekhov, master of the short story, and Ivan Goncharov, author of "Oblomov" and "A Common Story." Among the Russians, the purest artist is Nikolai Gogol (1809-1852), author of the play "The Inspector General," some unforgettable stories, and a single novel, "Dead Souls," which, even though unfinished, is nonetheless a masterpiece.
Gogol is the comic genius among Russian writers, always playful but never shallow. He had a magnificent eye for the bizarre, for the madcap, above all for what was extraordinary in the ordinary. In his story "The Nose," he wrote about a barber who wakes one morning to discover a nose stuffed into his morning loaf of bread. The nose turns out to belong to one of his customers, Collegiate Assessor Kovalyov. How the nose got into the barber's bread and how one morning it reappeared on the face of its owner is never explained. Plots are not Gogol's strong point. Nor was he much interested in ideas, at least not directly.
"Dead Souls" is about Pavel Ivanovich Chichikov, who travels the provincial countryside buying up dead serfs from small landowners. These serfs remain on the landowners' books until the next census and, even though dead, are still taxable. Chichikov offers to relieve the landowners of their tax burden. His plan is to install these dead serfs on the tax rolls of a far-away estate, on which he will then be able to get a generous government mortgage and come away with a small fortune.
The great Russian poet Alexander Pushkin was Gogol's friend and supporter, and the man who gave him the idea for "Dead Souls." Gogol refers to the book not as a novel but as a poem. "Dead Souls" is a poem about Russia, its provincial backwaters, its secondary characters (clerks, minor officials, small landowners), its heartbreaking squalor. "Russia! Russia!" Gogol exclaims midway through the book, ". . . Everything in you is open, desolate and level; your squat towns barely protrude in the midst of the plains like dots, like counters; there is nothing to tempt or enchant the onlooker's gaze. But what is this inscrutable, mysterious force that draws me to you?"
What gives "Dead Souls" its poetic quality is its author's exuberant passion for the details—one might even say the irrelevant details—of provincial Russian life. In his brief, brilliant study "Nikolai Gogol," Vladimir Nabokov accounts for Gogol's artistry through this and what he calls Gogol's "four dimensional" prose, a sinuous style that captures characters in their inner being. Gogol's scenes light up their surroundings, his characters flame into life, his tragicomic vision touches the reader's heart.
I write "tragicomic," for Gogol was far from the mere humorist he is sometimes advertised as being. "I am fated to journey hand in hand with my strange heroes and to survey the surging immensity of life," he wrote in "Dead Souls," "to survey it through the laughter that all can see and through unknown invisible tears." The book's characters might be thought stock—the miser, the spendthrift, the bearish Russian and the rest—but for their creator's ability to bring them to life with a shimmering individuality.
Chichikov, the character at the heart of Gogol's masterpiece, is a lower-echelon civil servant with a corrupt past who specializes in what Gogol calls "blandiloquence," or elaborately empty compliments. Chichikov was brought up by a father whose last words of advice to his son were to please his superiors, not to be seduced by friendship, and to remember that nothing in life is so important as money—advice, notes Gogol, "that remained deeply engraved in his soul."
More here.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Nijinsky (Book by Lucy Moore)

Vaslav Nijinsky was almost immobile at the last moment of his real life. Only his expressive hands moved, turning magazine pages as he waited outside the office of a pioneer psychiatrist at a Zurich asylum. After a consultation the doctor privately announced to Nijinsky's wife, the incorrigible Romola de Pulszky, that her husband was incurably mad. Nijinsky already knew his condition; he had kept an inventory of his own disintegration in a journal. As De Pulszky came out of the office, he said – if she is to be believed, which she usually isn't – "You are bringing me my death sentence." Which she was – there followed 31 years of schizophrenia with rare lucid episodes. He was never himself again.

Fini. Just like that. Page 213, within days of Nijinsky's 30th birthday in 1919, and thebiography is almost all over but for a coda on a fading legend. Half his short life had been in training, first as the infant-phenomenon son of dancers scrabbling around the Russian provincial entertainment circuit – here the boy begged a tap lesson from a black American duo, there he fell into a circus animal act, or taught himself piano. Then his mother twanged every string to get him into the splendid Mariinsky theatre school in St Petersburg, a rigid classical grind, in the hope he might do well enough in ballet to retire on an imperial pension at 36. Nijinsky was a byproduct of pre‑revolutionary Russia, a culture wide open to influences western and eastern, high and low.

The energy from his lowly childhood elevated him. As a student, he was cast by the choreographer Mikhail Fokine, who thought ballet should be a revolutionary art rather than merely court cabaret and an academy for grand-ducal mistresses and princely rent-boys. He wanted a male dancer with attitude to redress the sexual balance on stage – not a safe pair of hands to loft a prima ballerina, but a power. Nijinsky was certainly that. Anna Pavlova soon refused to partner him because audiences wanted to see him as much as her, and when Fokine defected to Sergey Diaghilev's Ballets Russes in 1909, Nijinsky, aged 19, went too.

More here.

Olga Berggolts: My Home

In the home where I lived many years,
From where I left the winter of the blockade,
A light once again appears in the evening windows.
It is pinkish, festive, elegant. 

Glancing at the three windows that used to be mine,
I remember: the war happened here.
Oh how we darkened, without a ray of hope...
And everything darkened, everything darkened in this world...

Afterwards the owner did not knock on the door,
As though he had forgotten the way back to his own apartment.
Where is he now, absent-mindedly roaming?
What is the last place that gave him shelter? 

No, I do not know who lives there now,
In these rooms where you and I used to live,
Who, in the evenings, knocks on that very door,
Who left the blue wallpaper as it was,
The very same wallpaper that was chosen so long ago...
I recognized it from outside through the window.

The windows’ inviting comfort,
Awaken memories of such bright, forgotten light,
That I believe that kind people live there,
Good, welcoming people.

There are even little children there,
And someone young, who is perpetually in love,
And the postman only brings them happy news,
And only the truest friends come here for noisy holidays.

I want so dearly for someone to be happy,
There, where I suffered immeasurably.

Possess everything that was denied to me,
And all that I gave up for the war...

However, should such a day arrive,
When the tranquil snow and glimmering twilight,
Will light ablaze my blessed memories,
So vividly that I will not resist knocking on the door,
Coming into my home, standing in my threshold,
And asking...well asking, “What time is it?”
Or “Water,” like I did on those roads of war.
If that happens, do not judge me,
Answer me trustingly and compassionately,
After all, I have come here to my home,
And I remember it all and believe in our happiness.


Translated by Andrew Glikin-Gusinsky 

Varya Panina - Biography

Varvara Vasilievna Panina (Vasilieva) was born in 1872 in Moscow into a family of a petty trader, a gypsy by birth. As a 14-year old girl she was put to the Moscow “Strelna” restaurant’s choir, conducted by the Gypsy woman singer Aleksandra Ivanovna Panina. After marrying Panina’s nephew, who was a chorister, she started to perform in the restaurant “Yar” with her own gypsy choir. In “Yar” Varya Panina soon gained fame with her solo singing, and her glory spread around Moscow at once. In spite of profitable offers from impresarios for a long time she refused to leave “Yar”. In 1902 the impresario Semyonov induced her to perform in a solo concert in the Petersburg Nobility Assembly Hall (nowadays Big Hall of the Leningrad Philharmonic). The concert was a triumphant success, launching the singer’s breathtaking career. Varya Panina finally parted with “Yar” and started to tour around various Russian cities as a soloist performer of the gypsy romance. The concert activity was getting more and more successful. Panina came to be called the “Queen of Gypsy romance song”. “Celestial Varya Panina” – this is what the poet Alexander Blok called her. Writers Leo Tolstoy, Fyodor Shalyapin, Alexander Kuprin, Anton Chekhov, and artist Konstantin Korovin were among the admirers of her talent. Varya Panina was endowed with a great original talent and outstanding musicality. Her voice, immensely deep and of rare beauty, its range reminding of the violoncello, and her manner of singing, deeply dramatic and contagiously emotional, though outwardly reserved, were captivating for the listeners. Not once her contemporaries noted that the singer produced the greatest impression when singing in modest chamber surroundings rather than in large concert halls.

“Celestial Varya Panina” – Alexander Blok once wrote in his diary. The poet liked to listen to gramophone records of the famous singer: “I met Remizov, we had gramophone going, mainly with Varya Panina” – another page of the diary says. Alexander Kuprin also wrote about “the last of the Mohicans” of gypsy song with great respect: “I listened – alas, only on the gramophone - to Varya Panina. In absence I understand what enormous power and beauty harboured in this deep, nearly man’s voice”.

The artist Konstantin Korovin once took the liberty of opposing Varya Panina’s singing to the music art of his friend Fyodor Shalyapin.

Varvara Panina died of a heart disease, aged 38, on the 10th of June 1911. Thousands of Muscovites went to accompany the singer’s coffin to the Vagankovskoe Cemetery. Lots of remarkable figures of Russian art came to bid her farewell.

Нищая (A Beggar) - romance of A. Alyabjev on words of P. Beranzhe, russian text belongs to A. Lenin.

It is romance about fate of old actress. She was beautiful, famous and reach She had a lot of admirers and friends. But once she lost her voice and sight and became beggar. All, whom she knew forgot her and she had to stand near church and to ask for alms.