June 04, 2020

Celebrate Life (#TBT)



Celebrate Life (#TBT)
Portrait of Apollon Maykov. By Vasily Perov

In these difficult times, let’s celebrate life. Specifically, five Russians who happen to share today, June 4, as their birthday.

Alexander Gorchakov (1798) was one of the most effective and influential Russian diplomats of the nineteenth century, notable for presiding over Russia’s sale of Alaska to the US, and for rebuilding Russian prestige in the aftermath of the Crimean War. Soon after becoming foreign minister, he announced that Russia would for a time be avoiding foreign entanglements, using the now famous line, “Russia is not sulking, she is composing herself.”

Appollon Maykov (1821, new style) was a poet and translator noted for verses praising the Russian countryside. He also translated the epic The Tale of Igor’s Campaign into modern Russian (a four-year job). Many of Maykov’s poems were set to music by Rimsky-Korsakov and Pyotr Tchaikovsky. He wavered his entire life between liberalism and conservatism, in the end choosing the latter. He was very close to Fyodor Dostoyevsky.

Yevgeny Mravinsky
Portrait of Yevgeny Mravinsky,
painting by Lev Russov (1926–1987)

Yevgeny Mravinsky (1903) was one of the most influential and exciting conductors of the Soviet era, leading the Leningrad Philharmonic from 1938-1988, where he premiered six of Shostakovich’s symphonies, one of which the composer dedicated to him.
 

Viktor Platonovich Nekrasov (1911) was a writer, journalist, editor, and a long-time dissident against Soviet power in the post-Stalinist era of de-Stalinization. During World War II, he served in the Red Army and fought in the Battle of Stalingrad. After the war, he became a journalist and based his first book In the Trenches of Stalingrad on his experiences there. The novel (excerpted in the May/June 2020 issue of Russian Life and soon to be published by Russian Life Books in its entirety) was awarded the USSR State Prize for literature in 1947. He emigrated to France in 1974 and died there about a decade later.

Alexei Navalny (1976) is a modern politician, lawyer, and activist about whom few are neutral. Over the past decade he has risen in prominence campaigning for the Moscow mayoralty and the Russian presidency, while being an outspoken and particularly articulate and creative critic of Kremlin corruption.

 

 

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Some of Our Books

Bears in the Caviar

Bears in the Caviar

Bears in the Caviar is a hilarious and insightful memoir by a diplomat who was “present at the creation” of US-Soviet relations. Charles Thayer headed off to Russia in 1933, calculating that if he could just learn Russian and be on the spot when the US and USSR established relations, he could make himself indispensable and start a career in the foreign service. Remarkably, he pulled it of.
Marooned in Moscow

Marooned in Moscow

This gripping autobiography plays out against the backdrop of Russia's bloody Civil War, and was one of the first Western eyewitness accounts of life in post-revolutionary Russia. Marooned in Moscow provides a fascinating account of one woman's entry into war-torn Russia in early 1920, first-person impressions of many in the top Soviet leadership, and accounts of the author's increasingly dangerous work as a journalist and spy, to say nothing of her work on behalf of prisoners, her two arrests, and her eventual ten-month-long imprisonment, including in the infamous Lubyanka prison. It is a veritable encyclopedia of life in Russia in the early 1920s.
Moscow and Muscovites

Moscow and Muscovites

Vladimir Gilyarovsky's classic portrait of the Russian capital is one of Russians’ most beloved books. Yet it has never before been translated into English. Until now! It is a spectactular verbal pastiche: conversation, from gutter gibberish to the drawing room; oratory, from illiterates to aristocrats; prose, from boilerplate to Tolstoy; poetry, from earthy humor to Pushkin. 
The Spine of Russia

The Spine of Russia

This coffee table book is the photographic journal of an epic 6000-kilometer road trip. The book includes over 200 compelling images of Russians and Russian places met along the way, plus a dozen texts (in both English and Russian) on everything from business to education, from roads to fools.
Woe From Wit (bilingual)

Woe From Wit (bilingual)

One of the most famous works of Russian literature, the four-act comedy in verse Woe from Wit skewers staid, nineteenth century Russian society, and it positively teems with “winged phrases” that are essential colloquialisms for students of Russian and Russian culture.
Jews in Service to the Tsar

Jews in Service to the Tsar

Benjamin Disraeli advised, “Read no history: nothing but biography, for that is life without theory.” With Jews in Service to the Tsar, Lev Berdnikov offers us 28 biographies spanning five centuries of Russian Jewish history, and each portrait opens a new window onto the history of Eastern Europe’s Jews, illuminating dark corners and challenging widely-held conceptions about the role of Jews in Russian history.
The Latchkey Murders

The Latchkey Murders

Senior Lieutenant Pavel Matyushkin is back on the case in this prequel to the popular mystery Murder at the Dacha, in which a serial killer is on the loose in Khrushchev’s Moscow...
Murder at the Dacha

Murder at the Dacha

Senior Lieutenant Pavel Matyushkin has a problem. Several, actually. Not the least of them is the fact that a powerful Soviet boss has been murdered, and Matyushkin's surly commander has given him an unreasonably short time frame to close the case.
Russia Rules

Russia Rules

From the shores of the White Sea to Moscow and the Northern Caucasus, Russian Rules is a high-speed thriller based on actual events, terrifying possibilities, and some really stupid decisions.
The Frogs Who Begged for a Tsar

The Frogs Who Begged for a Tsar

The fables of Ivan Krylov are rich fonts of Russian cultural wisdom and experience – reading and understanding them is vital to grasping the Russian worldview. This new edition of 62 of Krylov’s tales presents them side-by-side in English and Russian. The wonderfully lyrical translations by Lydia Razran Stone are accompanied by original, whimsical color illustrations by Katya Korobkina.
The Pet Hawk of the House of Abbas

The Pet Hawk of the House of Abbas

This exciting new trilogy by a Russian author – who has been compared to Orhan Pamuk and Umberto Eco – vividly recreates a lost world, yet its passions and characters are entirely relevant to the present day. Full of mystery, memorable characters, and non-stop adventure, The Pet Hawk of the House of Abbas is a must read for lovers of historical fiction and international thrillers.  

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