Monday, June 16, 2008

Russian Culture in the 20th Century

In the Moscow Times, George Loomis discusses Solomon Volkov's book The Magical Chorus: A History of Russian Culture from Tolstoy to Solzhenitsyn.

Volkov states in the first paragraph of the introduction that his book covers a period of "world wars, convulsive revolutions, and the most ruthless terror," but thereafter he dispenses with moral outrage in favor of cool analysis, often looking for rationales behind the state's hideous behavior. In any case, the accumulation of assembled facts is more than sufficient to drive home the pervading grimness. The suicides of some of the era's finest poets supply a telling example: Sergei Yesenin, the "New Peasant" poet, in 1925; Vladimir Mayakovsky, who as a good Soviet denounced Yesenin's suicide yet killed himself anyway, in 1930; and the tormented Marina Tsvetaeva, in 1941. Empress Maria Fyodorovna told Yesenin that his poetry was "beautiful but very sad," to which he replied that so was all of Russia.

1 comment:

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