"How big it is." Moscow in the memoirs of emigrant writers

September 3

The Marina Tsvetaeva House-Museum opened an exhibition "Miraculous city" dedicated to Moscow writers who were forced to leave Russia after the 1917 revolution. The ambience of the pre-revolutionary city is presented through photos, dishes, posters and other artifacts of the museum and private collections.

Special screens display extracts of the emigrant writers’ works depicting their time. Read in the mos.ru article about the vision of Moscow in the works of Ivan Bunin, Alexander Kuprin, Boris Zaitsev, Ivan Shmelev, Marina Tsvetaeva, Alexei Remizov, Mikhail Osorgin — it will help understand why they loved this city and what they remembered in emigration.

"Nonchalantly beautiful city" by Mikhail Osorgin

“And its streets, curved and cobbled, with lovely names: Plyushchikha, Ostozhenka, Povarskaya, Spiridonovka, Ordynka, and lanes: Skatertny, Zachatyevsky, Nikolopeskovsky, Chernyshevsky, Kiselny and its squares Trubnaya, Red, Lubyanskaya, Voskresenskaya, - in grief and downtroddenness, in need and fear despite everything, they were illuminated with the bright sun, blushing walls, radiating the roofs and domes, underlining the violet shadows with a golden border. As before, the streams of the Moskva River at the Kamenny Bridge were flowing, as before, the Yauza River was hiding its muddy waters with seven-colored rainbow." (from the novel "Sivtsev Vrazhek")

Such a Moscow was remembered by the nobleman of ancient standing Mikhail Osorgin, as he described it in 1928 in one of his most famous novels-chronicles "Sivtsev Vrazhek". He was living in Paris for five years by that time, leaving behind revolutionary activity and socialist-revolutionary friends; he worked in the Russian-language newspaper "Latest News" and was very homesick. He settled characters of his novel in the Sivtsev Vrazhek lane located between Gogolevsky boulevard and Denezhny lane. The writer seems to confess his love to Moscow with the abundant Moscow places’ descriptions.

Mikhail Osorgin

The central characters of the book are old professor of ornithology Ivan Alexandrovich and his granddaughter Tatiana. They face sufferings: World War I and the Civil War, hunger, uncertainty, devastation. But only one thing, like that of Osorgin himself, remains unchanged — warm feelings for Moscow.

Memories about the Emperor by Marina Tsvetaeva

The poet's father was Ivan Vladimirovich Tsvetaev, a philologist, art critic, professor at Moscow University, founder and first director of the Alexander III Museum of Fine Arts (now A. S. Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts). The museum, founded in 1898, opened its doors to visitors on May 31, 1912. This solemn event was attended by Emperor Nicholas II and members of his family — mother Maria Feodorovna and four daughters. 20-year-old Marina Tsvetaeva looked at the monarch family with curiosity.

“We are waiting. And something is approaching, something must be coming now, because there is excitement on the faces, like a wave, alarm in expressionless eyes as if candles were quickly carried <...> He entered in a vigorous, steady, fast pace with joyful expression of large blue eyes, just about ready to laugh, and suddenly — a glance - straight at me, into my eyes. At that moment I saw these eyes: not just blue, but completely transparent, clean, icy, completely childish." (from the essay "Opening of Museum")

Marina Tsvetaeva

This event was firmly entrenched in her memory, and in 1933, when Marina Ivanovna lived in exile in Paris, she wrote the essay "Opening of Museum". Her prose of emigration, by the way, was much more popular than poetry. However, Tsvetaeva recalled not only solemn events.

A house in Borisoglebsky Lane took a special place in her life; now this is the Marina Tsvetaeva House-Museum — it was from here that she went abroad with her daughter Ariadna in 1922. Not only the events in the country that saddened her, but also the news that her husband Sergei Efron, who fought in the White Volunteer Army, was alive and settled in Prague, helped her to take a decision to leave.

Marina Tsvetaeva received documents allowing her to leave Russia for family reunification. She lived in the Czech for three years and 14 years in France, but nowhere else did she feel at home. She yearned for Moscow all the years of emigration.

Boris Zaitsev's "foggy gold-domed" Kremlin

“<…>Along the Kamenny Bridge, my cab was driving at a pace. Permanent fishermen on the banks of shallow, muddy, fast-flowing Moskva River! And baths, children, women, pebbles on the slopes — to the right is the Kremlin, foggy gold-domed, in a light muslin dust, with toothed towers and flat-faced palaces. " (from the novel "Golden Pattern")

The Moscow landscape descriptions of Boris Zaitsev were never laconic — he loved this city very much. The novel "Golden Pattern", where the writer recalls the "foggy gold-domed" Kremlin, is the first work of fiction of the émigré time period. The story is told by young noblewoman Natalia, who speaks about her carefree childhood, crazy youth, suffered losses and spiritual development. In the last chapters of “Golden Pattern”, the author recalls, by Natalia words, the first period of emigration and sufferings of a person cut off from homeland.

Boris Zaitsev

The novel was publishing in separate chapters in the emigrant magazine "Sovremennye zapiski" from 1923 to 1925, and in 1926 it was published as a complete book. It reproduces many of the episodes of the author's life as fiction: death of father and stepson, sufferings and illnesses.

Boris Zaitsev wrote more than 30 books during the years of emigration. Living in Paris, he did not break his link with Russian culture. From 1947 until his death in 1972, he headed the Union of Russian Writers and Journalists in France.

"Strange City" by Ivan Bunin

Ivan Bunin, author of "Cursed Days" and “The Life of Arseniev", Nobel laureate in literature, began work on the story “Clean Monday" in 1937, 17 years after moving to France. The work was included in the collection of stories "Dark Alleys".

“<…>Outside one window there was a distant, huge picture of snow-gray Moscow of the other side of the river; in the other window, to the left, part of the Kremlin was visible, and opposite to it, somehow too close, the new great building of Christ the Savior gleamed, its golden dome reflecting bluish spots of jackdaws constantly flying around it... “(from the story "Clean Monday")

In "Clean Monday," the girl with whom the main character is in love, abandons worldly life and retires to a Covent, seeing her vocation in spiritual servicing. The title of the story refers to the first Monday in Lent, when believers must repent their sins. The author dreamed that his native country would once realize everything what happened to it in 1917. Many friends and colleagues considered "Clean Monday" as his best work.

L. Turzhansky. Portrait of Ivan Bunin. 1905

Bunin perceived the revolution as a dark spot in the history of the country, something hostile and terrible, so he left Russia in 1920. First he went to Istanbul, then through Sofia and Belgrade to Paris. In the same year, Bunin joined the Union of Russian Writers and Journalists and began working for the political and literary newspaper Vozrozhdenie. 

"Toy" Moscow by Ivan Shmelev

“The sky ends below, and there, deep below it, under its very edge, Moscow is scattered as vague patchwork, ... How big it is! .. Darkle in the distance, in the fog. But now, it's clearer... - I see bells, the golden dome of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior, completely toy, white boxes-houses, brown and green planks-roofs, green specks-gardens, dark pipes-sticks, glowing sparks-glass, green vegetable gardens-rugs, a white church under them... I see the whole toy Moscow, and above it there are little golden crosses. "(from the novel "Summer of the Lord")

Pre-revolutionary patriarchal Moscow is one of the favorite themes in the émigré work of Ivan Shmelev. Staying in a foreign country, he saw old Russia more clearly and vividly. In the novel "Summer of the Lord", the author nostalgically describes Moscow streets, the bends of the Moskva River and "ancient churches along its banks."

Ivan Shmelev

This is an autobiographical work: the writer, a representative of a merchant family, talks about the way of life in his family, about traditions and holidays. Three times the reader and the author is living through the church year — from Lent to the noisy festivities of the Shrovetide. The novel, surprising in its poetry, is considered to be one of Ivan Shmelev’s top works. It took him almost 15 years to write the book.

Shmelev left Russia in 1922, first went to Berlin, then to Paris. Two years earlier, the Bolsheviks arrested his son Sergei, who was an officer. Sergei was shot, and his grief-stricken father was no longer connected with his native country, except for the memories of its past.

"Empress Dowager" by Alexander Kuprin

Childhood and early adolescence of Alexander Kuprin were closely associated with Moscow. He warmly recalled the time he spent at the Alexandrovsky Military School. Kuprin dedicated his novel "The Junkers" to it — a sequel of the story "At the Turning Point".

The main character, Alexei Alexandrov, is a graduate of the Military School, his image is almost completely copied from the author himself. In addition, other characters were also created after cadets and teachers of the school. Kuprin spoke here about the first love, friendship, traditions and the way of life of the Military School, but most importantly, about the character of Moscow, which, as the writer believed, it surely had.

“Moscow in those distant times remained truly “empress dowager” who not only disobeyed the new capital of St. Petersburg, but majestically despised it from the height of countless churches, its innumerable wealth and glorious ancient history. <...>Bureaucratic Petersburg, with its dryness, narrowness and European pettiness, did not exist for Moscow. And it did not recognize the Petersburg aristocracy. " (from the novel "The Junckers")

Alexander Kuprin

In this passage, the writer calls Moscow “empress dowager”, hinting at the Moscow downgrading after the capital of Russia was transferred to St. Petersburg. From that moment on, the confrontation between the "new queen" and Moscow, the "empress dowager" began.

The idea of the novel appeared in 1911, the writer was thinking it over for a long time. And then the revolution broke out. In 1919, Kuprin left the country, selecting Paris as new residence. Soon after he found a job — he wrote articles and essays for Russian-language magazines and newspapers. The author returned to the idea of "The Junkers" only in 1927. Since January 1928, the novel was published in parts in the Parisian newspaper Vozrozhdenie, while the first chapters appeared in print, which later became the middle of the work — the writer was gradually forming the composition.

Kuprin missed Russia, especially Moscow, about which he repeatedly wrote to his friends. He was not pleased with the Parisian beauties and French culture, and even about flowers that adorned the streets, the writer said that they "smell like kerosene." He called his homesickness a hunger and assured that he was ready to repatriate even on foot.

Source: mos.ru

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