Crimea in Russian literature
|Bakhchisaray Svyato-Uspenskiy Cave Monastery|
Alexander Pushkin was among the first to discover Crimea, albeit unwillingly. He was exiled from St. Petersburg to the south for his poems about freedom. However, Pushkin was either too incorrigible or the Crimean air was too heady, because his exile turned into rehabilitation. “Resurrected feelings, clear mind,” he wrote in the poem “Tavrida” (the Greek name for Crimea).
Pushkin’s discoveries in Crimea included the poetry of Ovid. He learned that his Roman counterpart was also exiled to Crimea at the behest of a despotic emperor. In his Crimean poems, Pushkin compares his asceticism with the fate of the ancient poet.
Maximilian Voloshin, poet, artist, and organizer of the creative commune, was also inspired by this breathtakingly beautiful peninsula. Voloshin personified a certain simplicity and naturalness in Russian bohemia. He also owned a house in Koktebel, where he invited diverse guests regardless of their rank or political views. He challenged his friends (among whom were Marina Tsvetaeva, Osip Mandelstam, Andrew White, Maxim Gorky and Alexei Tolstoy) to abandon the conventions of the day and instead revel in creativity.
Crimea’s hot air and the warm welcome of Voloshin’s salon helped poets fight their creative crises. Voloshin became a literary guru for the poet Marina Tsvetaeva, for example, encouraging her to trust the reader and give her imagination free rein.
In Crimea, Tsvetaeva visited Pushkin’s favorite places, including Bakhchisarai and Yalta. In her poem “Meeting with Pushkin,” she imagines she is strolling with the “curly magician.” Tsvetaeva has a conversation with Pushkin in the poem, where she suggests they both recoil from the concept of “leader” and embrace the revelation of personal freedom.
In 1930, the writer Alexander Grin, another friend of Voloshin, moved to Crimea for health reasons. Green was a great escapist, yet he shunned the “commune” and lived in seclusion. His main source of inspiration was the sea. While living in Crimea, he wrote his most important work, “She Who Runs on the Waves,” a novel about a seriously ill dreamer who is healed by love and travel. Grin is buried in Old Crimea on a hill overlooking the sea.
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