среда, 29 декабря 2010 г.

Gallery of the old russian new year tree toys

Women from Russian village (krest'yanki) in traditional winter dress.

Russian paratroopers, different tipes of them


Ded Moroz ded moroz. and Snegurochka snegurochka.

суббота, 25 декабря 2010 г.

Velikiy Ustyug Silver Patination

Velikiy Ustyug Silver Patination is the national Russian art and craft that developed in the 17th century in Velikiy Ustyug, nowadays a district centre in the Vologda Region. It is decoration with patina designs of various silver items, such as, for example, cigar cases, glass holders, and tableware sets.

The technology of patination is as follows:
1. Little cuts are engraved, chased or etched on the surface of a silver item.
2. Alloy of silver, copper, lead and sulfur is fused into the pattern.

There are different variations of preparing the alloy, imposing and fusing it. According to certain data, Ustyug masters use the most ancient technologies known today.

Ustyug silver patination always has had appreciable distinctions from that of Moscow and Petersburg masters: much emphasis is given to subject engraving; drawing is quite saturated, with much denser coloring. The background performed with strokes forms a kind of a grid. The image is often supplemented with carved or chased details. In most of the cases general contour of an object is depicted, without detailed elaboration.


The art and craft of silver patination appeared in Russia in the 10th century, but got widespread development only in the 17th century. Since the second half of the 17th century Velikiy Ustyug has taken the lead in this handicraft in Russia. The art of patination in Ustyug reached its blossom in the 18th century, and the mid of the century was the time of its first record in official papers: Ustyug dweller Michael Klimshin was summoned to the Russian capital “for training Muscovites from merchant class in this skill”.

Manufactories of Popov Brothers were opened in Velikiy Ustyug in 1762.

From the mid 18th century Ustyug works started to bear the impact of the baroque style popular in Europe at that time. Complicated subject compositions typical of Ustyug masters acquired lush setting. Hunting and pastoral plots gained popularity.

However, starting from the 1780s predominant were subjects, characteristic of strict classicism, according to the canons of which the setting also became much more austere. Masters often used practically documentary pictures of cities and even geographical maps as subjects. In the mid 19th century leading masters often applied floral ornament entirely covering the surface of an item, with use of sharp contrasts.

However, by the late 19th century private handicraftsmen of Velikiy Ustyug could not compete with large capital factories, the fact marking the decline of Ustyug silver patination.

In 1933 M.P.Chirkov established the artel “Northern Patina” in Velikiy Ustyug. Originally it manufactured some plain mass-produced items, such as glass holders, spoons, etc., decorated with simple flower ornaments. However, E. P.Shilnikovsky, who headed the artel from 1936, managed to restore forgotten traditions, and also introduced a number of innovations. One of the novelties was creation of “literary” silver collections based on works by Pushkin, Gogol, and Krylov.

Thus, Ustyug silver patination was revived and reached unknown success — in 1937 at the World's Fair in Paris it was awarded the Big Silver Medal and the diploma (for a series of items based on Pushkin’s works of literature). In 1961 the artel was transformed into a factory. For ornamentation of works large floral patterns with insertions of birds and fantastic and mythological creatures were used.

Thanks to its international glory the “Northern Patina” factory in Soviet period constantly got governmental orders, most of which were performed on the basis of Shilnikovsky’s drawings. The enterprise issued items dedicated to nearly all considerable events, such as Moscow anniversary, Soviet space exploration, etc.


воскресенье, 19 декабря 2010 г.

четверг, 16 декабря 2010 г.

Corruption - real reason for Moscow nationalist riots

Mass riots that started in the center of Moscow on Saturday must be blamed on corrupt police rather than nationalist sentiment in society, Russian observers and experts agreed.

Saturday’s rally was organized by members of the Fratria group – supporters of Spartak Moscow FC – who are true football fans, known for their passion for sport, not fights, and have no political agenda. One of their leaders, Egor Sviridov, was shot dead, allegedly by a man from the Southern Russian republic of Kabardino-Balkaria, just over one week ago. The suspected attacker and others believed to have been involved in the fight were detained, but police released them after numerous members of the North Caucasus diaspora arrived at the police station. The suspects immediately fled and had to be put on a wanted list.

The actions of the police outraged the friends and relatives of the victim. A peaceful mourning march was held on Moscow’s Leningradsky Prospect the day after the killing. Riot police were dispatched to the site after the demonstrators blocked traffic, but no clashes took place. The police commander persuaded the crowd to disperse.

Another meeting was called after Sviridov’s burial. The majority of Fratria members gathered for a peaceful meeting in the north of the city where the murder took place, but several thousand people rallied in the city center, heading to Manezhnaya Square, right near the Kremlin.

Many more people attended Saturday’s rally, because it was at the weekend, because the supporters’ community negotiated the gathering with the authorities and simply because lots of people knew about it. The message had been spreading on the internet for several days.

Saturday’s gathering was not only attended by football fans, but also by members of other communities – from bikers to radical nationalists, though few in number. However, even a few radicals were enough to provoke rage in the crowd – someone attacked some passers-by, whose appearance they deemed ‘not Slavic enough’, the police intervened to save the victims and soon demonstrators started throwing bottles, pieces of ice and burning flares. Officers responded with truncheons and tear gas, clearing the square. A few fights broke out in the subway, but they were also quickly suppressed. Police reported that only a few officers were injured in the clashes – all of them with light bruises to the hands. Law enforcers also showed relative tolerance toward those detained during the riots – all of them were released the same day after some words of warning.

nterior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev was quick to blame the outburst of violence on leftist extremists. However, this version was neither proved nor repeated later and was probably just said in a hurry. President Dmitry Medvedev said that those responsible for the rioting would be found and punished, but the president did not point the finger at any person or movement.

Nationalist organizations on Monday issued a news release offering condolences to all those who suffered at the hands of the rioters and also with a clear statement and a list of demands. The first of these demands was to bring to justice those police officers who released the three suspects in the death of Egor Sviridov. The statement also said that the authorities should pay attention to corruption in law enforcement and the ties between ethnic criminal groups and the police.

There was also a demand that the authorities should stop viewing Russian nationalists as extremists and their organizations should be given broader political powers.

nterestingly, most journalists and popular bloggers who commented on the event expressed very similar opinions. Everyone agreed that Russian society is tired not of newcomers, but of the arbitrariness of corrupt policemen. The widely quoted article by columnist Dmitry Sokolov-Mitrich called for a “zero tolerance” policy towards representatives of North Caucasus peoples, but it was clear that this was only to mend the current situation in which ethnic criminal clans have police on their payroll.

Even members of national diasporas, including people from the Caucasus, said that most of the blame for Saturday’s riots lies on corruption in police ranks. Tigran Tvadian, the chief editor of the Yerkramas newspaper that publishes news for the Armenian diaspora told the Russian news agency RIA Novosti that the responsibility for the events in Moscow must lie on the law enforcement system that still cannot ensure the citizens’ trust in itself. “The fact that the incident turned into an action with nationalist subtext should be blamed on law enforcement bodies that cannot show society that they can be trusted,” the journalist said.

At the same time, some political analysts noted that such development was still dangerous. Political adviser Marat Gelman told Vedomosti daily that Saturday’s events showed that the danger was in the very fact that street violence had become possible. “Organized groups of people appear who think that they have the right to enforce justice. In essence, after getting a license for this from a weak state,” Gelman said.

On Monday, more calls for rallies appeared on the internet, urging action on December 15. However, both football fans and Russian nationalists distanced from these calls, saying that Saturday’s rallies were enough and they hoped that the authorities would pay attention to their demands. In part at least, they were right – according to news reports, all three suspects in the killing of Egor Sviridov were back in custody on Sunday.


среда, 15 декабря 2010 г.


Once upon a time there was a tsar named Berendey, who had three sons. The tsar's palace was surrounded by a beautiful orchard, and among the trees in the orchard was a wonderful apple-tree which bore golden apples. One day the tsar discovered that someone was getting into the orchard and stealing his golden apples. He was furious, and sent his guards to catch the thief. But though they watched all night they were quite unsuccessful.
The tsar was so upset at the loss of his golden apples that he lost his appetite too. His sons tried to comfort him, and the eldest told him: "I will go and guard the orchard against the thief tonight, father."
And he went off to the orchard. But although he arrived there quite early in the evening and walked about for some time, he saw no one. So he lay down on a grassy bank and soon fell asleep. Next morning his father asked him:
"Well, have you good news for me? Did you see the thief?"
"No, father," his son answered. "I did not sleep a wink all night, I did not even close my eyes. But I saw no one."
The following night the tsar's second son went to guard the orchard. But he, too, slept all night, and next morning he told his father he, too, had seen no sign of a thief, although he had not closed his eyes.
Now it was the turn of the youngest brother, Prince Ivan, to guard the orchard. And he was so anxious not to miss the thief that he was afraid even to sit down, let alone to lie down. When he felt he was getting drowsy he washed his face with dew, and this made him wide-awake again. About halfway through the night he thought he saw a light in the orchard. It grew brighter and brighter, until all the trees were lit up. Then he saw that the light was coming from a Firebird, which was sitting on the apple-tree and pecking at the golden apples.
So he crept up very quietly to the tree and caught hold of the bird by the tail. But the Firebird spread its wings and flew away, leaving only one tail feather in Prince Ivan's hand.

A.Glazunov "Firebird"
Box. 1929 Palekh

Next morning, when he went to report to his father, the tsar asked him:
"Well, Ivan, did you see the thief?"
"Dear father," Ivan answered, "I cannot say I caught him, but I have found out who is eating our apples. And I have brought you a tail feather in proof. It is the Firebird."
The tsar took the feather and looked at it, and no longer felt sorrowful; but he thought a great deal about the Firebird, and one day he sent for his sons and told them:
"My dear children, I want you to saddle good horses and ride forth into the world to see whether you can find and bring back the Firebird."
The young men bowed to their father, saddled good horses, and set out on their travels: the eldest in one direction, the second son in another, and Prince Ivan in a third direction.
He rode near and far, high and low, along by-paths and by-ways - for speedily a tale is spun, but with less speed a deed is done - until he came to a wide, open field, a green meadow. And there in the field stood a pillar, and on the pillar these words were written: "Whosoever goes from this pillar on the road straight before him will be cold and hungry. "Whosoever goes to the right side will be safe and sound, but his horse will be killed. And whosoever goes to the left side will be killed himself, but his horse will be safe and sound." Prince Ivan read this inscription and went to the right, thinking that although his horse might be killed, he himself would remain alive and would in time get another horse.
He rode one day, then a second day, then a third. Suddenly an enormous gray wolf came toward him and said: "Ah, so it's you, young lad, Prince Ivan! You saw the inscription on the pillar that said that your horse would be killed if you came this way. Why then have you come hither?" When he had said these words, he tore Prince Ivan's horse in twain and ran off to one side.
Prince Ivan was sorely grieved for his horse; he shed bitter tears and then continued on foot. He walked a whole day and was utterly exhausted. He was about to sit down and rest for a while when all at once the gray wolf caught up with him and said: "I am sorry for you, Prince Ivan, because you are exhausted from walking; I am also sorry that I ate your good horse. Tell me why you have travelled so far, and where you are going"
"My father has sent me to ride through the world until I find the Firebird."
"Why, you could have ridden even on your good horse for three years and never found the Firebird for only I know where it lives. I ate your horse, so now I will serve you faithfully and well. Get on my back and hold on tight."

A.Lopatine "Prince Ivan and the Grey Wolf"
Box. 1999. Palekh

Prince Ivan seated himself astride the grey wolf, and it loped away, past the green forests, and the azure lakes. At last they came to a very high fortress. There the grey wolf told Ivan:
"Listen to me, and remember what I say. Climb over the wall and do not be afraid; all the guards are asleep. In the attic you will see a small window; in the window hangs a golden cage, and in that cage is the Firebird. Take the bird and hide it under your coat; but be sure not to touch the cage."
Prince Ivan climbed over the wall and saw the attic. And, just as the wolf had said, in the attic window a golden cage was hanging, and the Firebird was in the cage. He took out the bird and put it under his coat. But as he looked at the golden cage he could not help coveting it. It was made of precious gold; how could he leave it behind? He completely forgot what the wolf had told him. But as soon as he touched the cage the alarm was sounded all through the fortress; drums rolled and trumpets blared, the guards woke up, captured Prince Ivan and took him to Tsar Afron. The tsar was furious at this attempt to steal the Firebird and the cage, and asked the prince:
"Who are you, and where are you from?"
"I am Prince Ivan, the son of Tsar Berendey," Ivan replied.
"How shameful! The son of a tsar coming here to steal!" the tsar exclaimed.
"That is as may be," the prince retorted. "But your bird flew to our orchard and stole the golden apples."
In that case you should have come to me and asked me for the Firebird and I would have given it to you out of respect for your father. But now I shall see to it that all the world knows of your behavior! And in order to earn my forgiveness you will have to enter my service. A certain Tsar Kusman has a horse with a golden mane. Bring that horse to me, and I will give you the Firebird and the cage."
Prince Ivan was downcast at the thought of having to undertake such a task, and he went to tell the grey wolf what had happened. But the wolf said to him:
"I told you not to touch the cage. Why did you disobey me?"
"I know I did wrong; but forgive me, grey wolf."
"It is easy enough to ask forgiveness," the wolf answered. "All right, get on my back again. We will not turn back now."
Once more the grey wolf loped off with Prince Ivan on its back. And at last they came to the fortress where the horse with the golden mane was stabled. Then the wolf told Ivan:
"Climb over the wall; do not be afraid, the guards are asleep. Go to the stable and bring out the horse. But be sure not to touch the bridle you will see hanging there."
The prince climbed over the wall into the fortress, and saw that the guards were asleep. He went straight to the stable and found the horse with the golden mane. But his eyes fell on a bridle hanging up; it was of gold and studded with precious stones: the only bridle fit for a horse with a golden mane. And he put out his hand to take it. But at once the alarm was sounded all through the fortress; drums rolled and trumpets blared, the guards woke up, took the prince a prisoner and led him before Tsar Kusman.
"Who are you, and where are you from ?" the tsar asked Ivan.
"I am Prince Ivan."
"To attempt to steal a horse shows little wisdom! Even a peasant would not try to do that. But I will let you off, Prince Ivan, if you agree to enter my service. A certain tsar named Dalmat has a daughter, the beautiful Helen. Carry her off and bring her to me, and then I will give you the golden-maned horse and the golden bridle."
At this verdict Prince Ivan was even more downcast than before. Again he went to see the grey wolf. But the wolf said:
"I told you not to touch the bridle. You did not obey my orders."
"Nevertheless, forgive me, forgive me, grey wolf," the prince pleaded.
"It is all very well, saying “forgive”. All right, get on my back."
Once more the grey wolf raced off with Prince Ivan on his back, until they came to Tsar Dalmat's fortress. But this time the grey wolf said to the prince:
"I am not going to ser am going myself. You set of back to Tsar Afron; I will soon catch up."
Prince Ivan obediently started to go back, while the grey wolf sprang over the fortress wall and into the garden. In the garden the beautiful Helen was walking with her attendants. The wolf sat behind a bush and watched them, and the moment the princess fell a little way behind her attendants the wolf seized her, flung her over his back, and scampered away. Ivan had gone some distance when the grey wolf caught up with him, bringing the beautiful Helen sitting on its back. The prince was delighted, but the wolf said:
"Quick, get on my back, in case we are followed."
The prince sat on the wolf's back behind the princess, and the wolf rushed away with them, past the green forests and the azure rivers and lakes. At last they arrived at Tsar Kusman's fortress. But the prince seemed very sad, so the wolf asked:
"Why are you silent, Prince Ivan? Are you sad?"
"Have I not good reason to be, grey wolf? How can I part with this beautiful princess? How can I exchange her for a horse?"
"I will see to it that you are not parted from her," the wolf promised. "We will hide her somewhere, then I will turn myself into the beautiful Princess Helen, and you can lead me to the tsar."
So they hid the princess in a forest hut. Then the grey wolf uttered a magic spell and at once became her living image. Prince Ivan took her to Tsar Kusman. The tsar was delighted and said:
"Thank you, Prince Ivan, for getting me such a beautiful woman for my wife. Take the golden-maned horse and the bridle."
The prince bridled the horse, mounted it, and rode off to the hut where the true Helen was hidden. He seated her behind him on the horse, and they rode away.

S.Kamanin. "Russian Fairy Tales"
Casket. 1999. Palekh

Meanwhile, Tsar Kusman made arrangements for his wedding, feasted all day and half the night, and, when it was time for bed, he led the mock-princess into his bedroom. But when he lay down beside her on the bed he found he was lying not with a beautiful young wife, but with a grey wolf. He was terrified and fled, and the wolf slipped away and out of the fortress. When the wolf caught up with Prince Ivan it noticed that he was looking sad again, so it asked:
"Why are you so thoughtful, prince?"
"I have good reason to be. I am sad to think I have to give up the golden-maned horse in exchange for the Firebird."
"Do not be downhearted; I will help you," said the wolf. When they arrived at Tsar Afron's fortress the wolf said:
"You go and hide the horse and the princess. Then I will turn myself into the golden-maned horse and you can take me to Tsar Afron."
So they hid Helen and the horse in the forest. The grey wolf uttered a magic spell and became a golden-maned horse, and Ivan led the horse to the tsar. Tsar Afron was delighted, and gave him the Firebird and the golden cage as well. The prince carried the cage with the bird into the forest, seated the princess on the golden-maned horse, and rode off on his journey back to his native country.
Meanwhile, Tsar Kusman gave the order for the golden-maned horse to be brought to him. But when he tried to mount it the horse turned into a grey wolf. The tsar was so frightened that he fell to the ground, while the grey wolf made good its escape and soon overtook Prince Ivan.
"Now I must say goodbye; I cannot come any farther," it told the prince.
So Ivan dismounted from his horse and bowed very low three times, thanking the grey wolf respectfully. But the wolf said:
"Do not bid goodbye forever to me. I shall yet be of service to you."
"How can you be of any further service to me?" Ivan thought. "All my wishes have come true."
He mounted the golden-maned horse and rode away with beautiful Helen and the Firebird. He arrived in his own country, but as he still had some way to go to reach home he decided to have a rest at midday. So they ate some food, drank water from a spring, and lay down to rest. No sooner had the prince fallen asleep than his brothers happened to ride past, and saw him. They had travelled far and wide in search of the Firebird, but of course they had not found it. When thev saw their brother lying asleep and noticed that he had the Firebird, the horse with its bridle, and even a beautiful girl, they plotted to kill their brother and take everything for themselves.
So they killed Prince Ivan, seated themselves on the golden-maned horse, put beautiful Helen on another, and threatened her:
"You must not say a word to anyone when we get home."
Then they rode oft, with the horse, the princess, and the Firebird, to their father.
They left Prince Ivan lying dead, with the crows already gathering above him. But suddenly the grey wolf ran up and caught one crow with its young chick.
"Crow, you must fly away and bring back to me some sparkling water and some still water," the wolf told the crow. "If you bring back the two sorts of water I will let your young one go."
The crow agreed, and flew off, while the wolf watched over the chick. In due time the crow flew back with both the sparkling and the still water. Then the wolf sprinkled Ivan's wounds with the still water, and the wounds healed; it sprinkled him with the sparkling water, and the prince revived.
"I have had such a deep sleep," he yawned.
"Yes, you were sleeping very soundly," the grey wolf said. "But for me you would never have awakened. Your own brothers killed you and carried off all you had gained. Now get on my back, quick!"
The wolf raced off in pursuit of the two elder brothers, and soon caught up with them. It tore them to pieces and scattered them over the field. Prince Ivan bowed and thanked the grey wolf once more, and said goodbye to it forever. He mounted the golden-maned horse, and rode home with the princess. He had obtained the Firebird for his father, and beautiful Helen as a wife for himself.
Tsar Berendey was delighted to see him with the Firebird, and asked him to tell of all his adventures. Prince Ivan told his father how the grey wolf had helped him to win the Firebird, the horse, and the beautiful Helen, how his brothers had killed him while he was asleep, and how the wolf had restored him to life and then torn them to pieces.
The tsar mourned the loss of his two sons, but he was soon comforted, by the wedding of Prince Ivan and the beautiful Princess Helen, and they lived happily ever after.


The Firebird of Russian Folklore

Ivan Bilibin "The firebird"

In Russia, as in many countries, folklore is a part of the people’s tradition and culture. Tales of grandeur and fallen heroes, as well as stories to promote good morals, have been passed down through generations. These tales are often used to teach the younger generation valuable lessons, creating heartwarming family moments around the table as the older family members share the folklores of Russia with their appreciative younger listeners. One mythic character that is found in the country’s folklore, and various versions are found across the world, is the Firebird, or Zhar-Ptitsa.

The Firebird is known to many as the Phoenix. It is a mythical bird that lives in five hundred year cycles, which is able to regenerate from injury and is therefore, immortal. With plumage of red and gold that illuminates its flight, the Phoenix is as much a symbol of divinity as it is of fire and many legendary tales have evolved around its existence. Its most spoken about quality, that has inspired stories of encouragement or been compared to adversities that have been overcome, is that the Phoenix, nearing the end of its life cycle, builds a nest where he sets himself and the nest on fire. From the ashes left behind, a young Phoenix rises, to take the place of the older.

Victor Vasnetsov

In Russian folklore, the Firebird can symbolize many things. Some see the Firebird as a creature of blessing, while others believe that the Firebird will bring doom to anyone who captures it. In some tales the Firebird is a symbol of wealth and of power, and in many stories it is an object that the hero of the tale has been ordered to capture. One such a story tells of a tsar that sends his sons to capture the Firebird, as it would fly across his orchard and eat his golden apples. One son succeeds in grabbing hold of the Firebirds’ tail, but it escapes his grasp and leaves behind one of his feathers. The glow from the Firebird’s feather was powerful enough to light up an entire room. It is also believed to bring hope and relief to the suffering and in need, and one story in particular tells of pearls falling from the Firebird’s beak to the peasants below, for them to trade for food.

Over the ages, the Phoenix, or Firebird, has inspired many artists, such as Igor Stravinsky, who in 1910 immortalized the legend of the Firebird, in his ballet score of the same name. From being a symbol of doom to hope, the Firebird’s rise from its ashes has given many the inspirations to rebuild their lives and to believe that there is light in even their darkest moments. The Firebird holds a sacred place in the folklore of Russia, as a creature that is in itself as much of a mystery as the legendary tales.

Igor Stravinsky


вторник, 7 декабря 2010 г.

Dedicated to the memory of Bella Akhmadulina

Bella Akhmadulina is the Russian poet, short story writer and translator.

Known in Russia as "the voice of the epoch," Bella Akhmadulina is one of the century's foremost poets who came to prominence during the Soviet era.

She is a member of the Russian New Wave literary movement, a group of writers who embraced Western ideology during the 1960s.

During this period her colleagues Yevgeny Yevtushenko and Andrey Voznesensky experimented with innovative poetic styles focusing on current issues of the day. Akhmadulina relied on traditional language to capture the mood and sentiments of the time.

I went out to the garden - but in garden,
the word, lies lush luxuriance.
As gorgeous as a full blown rose,
it enriches sound and scent and glance.
The word is wider than what surrounds me:
inside it all is well and free;
its rich black soil makes sons and daughters
of orphaned and transplanted seeds.
Seeding of dark innovations,
O garden, word, you are gardener,
who to the clipper's gleam and clutter
increase and spread the fruits you bear…

The poet Joseph Brodsky considered Akhmadulina an heiress to the Lermontov-Pasternak line in Russian poetry and referred to her as the “treasure” of Russian poetry. Akhmadulina has been cited by him as the best living Russian language poet.

The main themes of Akhmadulina's works are friendship, love, and human relations.

Smiling nervously but brightly,
conscious of her youth and fame,
she set the way that she was asked to
indifferently - or playing games.
Under heaven's dome's eternal childhood
April nineteen hundred twelve
has promised her in Ospedaletti
only prosperity and sun
She looks out from a lacy nimbus,
her hands folded in her lap.
The shadow of her future torments
lies locked inside her photo's trap….


How do you make this, o my college-comrades?
Having waked up, while dark’s moving to light,
you take your pen and open your notes,
and write – and is this quite enough to write?

No, in my case, all’s worse and all’s another:
I’d spend a candle, look through a window’s pane
like a bad student, that hasn’t solved his puzzle…
and find that light’s moving to dark again.

First comes the night of vigilance and woe,
Then (will it come?) the undistinguished hum…
We’re to begin that when we’re born – not grown –
and today I have neither mood nor time.

Akhmadulina avoids writing poems on politics although she did take part in political events in her youth, supporting the movement of so-called ''dissidents''.

Image from www.gorod.tomsk.ru Image from www.gorod.tomsk.ru

She gained great popularity in the early 1960s in public recitals of poetry before vast audiences at the Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow State University, the Polytechnic Museum and other venues. Akhmadulina appeared alongside Andrey Voznesensky, Yevgeny Yevtushenko, Bulat Okudzhava and Robert Rozhdestvensky – all poets, worshipped by millions, who played an important role in the liberation of the collective consciousness after decades of repressions.

Bella Akhmadulina was a mild, peaceful and at times ingratiating figure in opposition to the Soviet establishment, of which these people were a necessary complement. She was thus among the “podpisanty” (“signers”), people who signed letters to the authorities in support of individuals who showed themselves to be more open and aggressive opponents of the communist regime, like Andrey Sakharov, Lev Kopelev, Georgy Vladimov, or Vladimir Voinovich. Her statements were published in The New York Times and broadcast on Radio Liberty and Voice of America.

Akhmadulina was sometimes compared with Anna Akhmatova for her sincere feminine style. But later, after Nikita Khrushchev was dismissed by Leonid Brezhnev, the "thaw" ended and her style was misjudged by Soviet critics as eroticism. Akhmadulina was barred from the Writer's Union and banned from publication at the same time as Aleksander Solzhenitsyn and other Soviet dissidents. Her book of poetry "Oznob" (“Fever,” 1968) was published in Frankfurt, Germany, and in the US under the title "Fever and Other Poems" (1969).

When she was banned from the Soviet press and media, Akhmadulina delivered her statements through the foreign press and radio. Her poetry has been translated into English, Japanese, Italian, Arabic, French, German, Polish, Czech, Danish, Armenian, Georgian, Latvian, Kurdish, Romanian and many other languages worldwide.

Akhmadulina also devoted herself to writing numerous essays about Russian poets and translated poetry from France, Italy, Chechnya, Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, Georgia, Armenia, among other countries, into Russian. In 1984 Bella was honored with the Order of "Friendship of Peoples".

Bella was born in Moscow. Her father, Akhat Valeevich Akhmadulin, and mother, Nadezhda Makarovna Lazareva, had a mixed Tatar, Russian, Georgian, and Italian heritage.

The family was well positioned in the Soviet hierarchy; her father was a highly placed customs official and her mother a major in the KGB.

Akhmadulina attended the A. M. Gorky Institute of World Literature in the mid-1950s. During her studies at the institute she published poems and articles in different newspapers, both official and handwritten. Her first poems were published in 1955 in the official Soviet magazine "October".

She married poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko in 1954. In 1960, she completed her education at the Gorky Institute, preceding an expulsion due to her overly apolitical verse. That same year, she divorced Yevtushenko and married short story writer Yury Navigin. In 1962 her first book of poems, “Struna” (“The String”) was published to resounding success. She divorced Navigin in 1968 and, in 1974, married artist Boris Messerer. She has served as secretary to the Soviet Union of Writers and is an honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Image from www.gallery.vavilon.ru Image from www.gallery.vavilon.ru

Akhmadulina currently lives in Moscow with her husband Boris Messerer and her two daughters, Elizaveta and Anna.

Her first two collections, “Struna” and “Uroki muzyki” (1969; translated as “Music Lessons”), contain what many critics regard as her finest poems. A selection of these early works was translated into English in “Fever and Other New Poems” (1969). Two of Akhmadulina's best-known poems are “Oznob” (“Fever”) and “Skazka o dozhde” (“Fairytale about the Rain”).

There is again a change in Nature,
the green is very rough in sight,
and rises – in a lofty fashion –
the figure of the mushroom, white.

And this old garden itself shows
all living woods and skies above,
and choices of my grace are posed
just on three faces that I love.

The body of the moth, so sightless,
dies in the lamp’s indifferent light,
marks fingers with its golden brightness,
and gives hand the non-pleasance, slight.

Oh, Lord, how in this best of summers,
my soul’s peace is long and great –
thus in a rainbow its colors
forbid one more to be inset.

Like this, a circle, fully ended,
inside it handles itself all,
and uselessness of each touch, added,
seem as unenvied and droll.
Image from www.bvi.rusf.ru Image from www.bvi.rusf.ru

“Struna” was criticized by the then-Soviet government for being too personal and emotional and caused Akhmadulina problems in publishing later poems. Critics have compared Akhmadulina's poetry to that of Acmeist poets Anna Akhmatova and Tsvetaeva, and have noted her acknowledged literary debt to her predecessors Pushkin and Mikhail Lermontov.

Although relatively little has been written in English or Russian about her work, critics are in general agreement in their high regard for Akhmadulina's stylistic and thematic variety. Scholars have praised Akhmadulina's distinctive poetic voice, lively style, and original use of themes.

They also commend her witty use of metaphor to comment on society and the natural world, and her ability to create and sustain her personal perspective in her poems.


(from "A cruel romance")


And I shall tell you at the end:
farewell, don’t pledge self to love, helpless.
I go mad, or just ascend
to the high echelon of madness.

How had you loved? – You’d put aside
even the Death. But ‘tis not matter.
How had you loved? You’d done that right,
but you had had to do that better.

Hell of a blunder! I shall not
Forgive you else. It lives – my body –
it roams, sees the real world,
but just with emptiness it’s loaded.

My mind yet makes its scanty work,
But arms had helplessly felled down,
and, likewise a small airy flock,
vanish aslant all smells and sounds.

Translated by Yevgeny Bonver, January 12, 2005