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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