January 23, 2020

#TBT: Two Vladimirs, One Country



#TBT: Two Vladimirs, One Country
Two Volodyas: Lenin and Vysotsky. Pavel Zhukhov and Unknown.

Ninety-six years ago this week, Russian history was indelibly altered by the death (at 53), on January 21, 1924, of Vladimir Lenin. The leader and political mastermind of the Bolshevik Revolution, he had had his first stroke almost two years before, in May 1922. He recovered for a time, and was well enough to dictate a testament that, among other things, called for Josef Stalin's ouster as General Secretary. But his absence from the center of power at such a crucial time, and his continually declining health, allowed Stalin to instead consolidate his power.

Fourteen years and four days after Lenin's death, on January 25, 1938, a very different Vladimir was born, Vladimir Vysotsky, the son of an army colonel and a German translator.

While he became most famous as a bard, writing and singing songs laced with social and political commentary, and often full of criminal slang and street jargon, his training and official profession was as an actor. Over his 25-year career, he acted in over 25 films, in addition to numerous plays during his tenure the Taganka, MKhAT, and Pushkin Theaters. But of course, his songwriting was prolific, resulting in over 600 works in a wide variety of themes and styles. Unfortunately, however, this creative genius's life was cut short (he was 42) due to alcoholism, drug abuse, and coronary disease. He died in July 1980.

Russian Hamlet with a Guitar
  • February 01, 1998

Russian Hamlet with a Guitar

The poems, voice and lyrics of Vladimir Vysotsky are cherished parts of Russian culture, because they resonate with uncommon truth and depth of feeling.
Bolshevik Doodles
  • November 01, 1997

Bolshevik Doodles

They are certainly not great works of art, but they are intriguing pieces of history -- cartoons and caricatures drawn by early Soviet leaders while sitting in droning meetings. Publisher here for the first time outside Russia.
The Taganka's Master
  • March 01, 2007

The Taganka's Master

Thirty years ago, a daring and amazing interpretation of The Master and Margarita was staged at Moscow's Taganka Theater.
The Body Politic
  • May 01, 1997

The Body Politic

A revealing retrospective on Russian leaders' health, from Lenin to Yeltsin -- what they have sought to cover up, and why.
In Search of Bards
  • January 01, 2009

In Search of Bards

To paraphrase Pushkin, "In Russia, a bard is much more than a bard." We look back at the bardic tradition (singer-songwriters) in Russian culture and find that not all is what it seems. Or, to paraphrase Pushkin again, "In Russia, a bard is often less than a bard."
Like this post? Get a weekly email digest + member-only deals

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.
Faith & Humor: Notes from Muscovy

Faith & Humor: Notes from Muscovy

A book that dares to explore the humanity of priests and pilgrims, saints and sinners, Faith & Humor has been both a runaway bestseller in Russia and the focus of heated controversy – as often happens when a thoughtful writer takes on sacred cows. The stories, aphorisms, anecdotes, dialogues and adventures in this volume comprise an encyclopedia of modern Russian Orthodoxy, and thereby of Russian life.
Life Stories: Original Fiction By Russian Authors

Life Stories: Original Fiction By Russian Authors

The Life Stories collection is a nice introduction to contemporary Russian fiction: many of the 19 authors featured here have won major Russian literary prizes and/or become bestsellers. These are life-affirming stories of love, family, hope, rebirth, mystery and imagination, masterfully translated by some of the best Russian-English translators working today. The selections reassert the power of Russian literature to affect readers of all cultures in profound and lasting ways. Best of all, 100% of the profits from the sale of this book are going to benefit Russian hospice—not-for-profit care for fellow human beings who are nearing the end of their own life stories.
The Moscow Eccentric

The Moscow Eccentric

Advance reviewers are calling this new translation "a coup" and "a remarkable achievement." This rediscovered gem of a novel by one of Russia's finest writers explores some of the thorniest issues of the early twentieth century.
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.
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.
The Best of Russian Life

The Best of Russian Life

We culled through 15 years of Russian Life to select readers’ and editors’ favorite stories and biographies for inclusion in a special two-volume collection. Totalling over 1100 pages, these two volumes encompass some of the best writing we have published over the last two decades, and include the most timeless stories and biographies – those that can be read again and again.
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 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...
At the Circus

At the Circus

This wonderful novella by Alexander Kuprin tells the story of the wrestler Arbuzov and his battle against a renowned American wrestler. Rich in detail and characterization, At the Circus brims with excitement and life. You can smell the sawdust in the big top, see the vivid and colorful characters, sense the tension build as Arbuzov readies to face off against the American.
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.

About Us

Russian Life is a publication of a 30-year-young, award-winning publishing house that creates a bimonthly magazine, books, maps, and other products for Russophiles the world over.

Latest Posts


Our Contacts

Russian Life
PO Box 567
Montpelier VT 05601-0567

800-639-4301
802-223-4955