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.

You Might Also Like

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

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.
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...
Fish: A History of One Migration

Fish: A History of One Migration

This mesmerizing novel from one of Russia’s most important modern authors traces the life journey of a selfless Russian everywoman. In the wake of the Soviet breakup, inexorable forces drag Vera across the breadth of the Russian empire. Facing a relentless onslaught of human and social trials, she swims against the current of life, countering adversity and pain with compassion and hope, in many ways personifying Mother Russia’s torment and resilience amid the Soviet disintegration.
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.
Steppe / Степь

Steppe / Степь

This is the work that made Chekhov, launching his career as a writer and playwright of national and international renown. Retranslated and updated, this new bilingual edition is a super way to improve your Russian.
White Magic

White Magic

The thirteen tales in this volume – all written by Russian émigrés, writers who fled their native country in the early twentieth century – contain a fair dose of magic and mysticism, of terror and the supernatural. There are Petersburg revenants, grief-stricken avengers, Lithuanian vampires, flying skeletons, murders and duels, and even a ghostly Edgar Allen Poe.
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.
Stargorod: A Novel in Many Voices

Stargorod: A Novel in Many Voices

Stargorod is a mid-sized provincial city that exists only in Russian metaphorical space. It has its roots in Gogol, and Ilf and Petrov, and is a place far from Moscow, but close to Russian hearts. It is a place of mystery and normality, of provincial innocence and Black Earth wisdom. Strange, inexplicable things happen in Stargorod. So do good things. And bad things. A lot like life everywhere, one might say. Only with a heavy dose of vodka, longing and mystery.
93 Untranslatable Russian Words

93 Untranslatable Russian Words

Every language has concepts, ideas, words and idioms that are nearly impossible to translate into another language. This book looks at nearly 100 such Russian words and offers paths to their understanding and translation by way of examples from literature and everyday life. Difficult to translate words and concepts are introduced with dictionary definitions, then elucidated with citations from literature, speech and prose, helping the student of Russian comprehend the word/concept in context.
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.
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.

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

802-223-4955