Alexandr Pushkin: Father of Modern Russian Literature
December 1, 2012 — 13:06

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A C Pushkin

Commemorating 100 years from the 1837 death of A C Pushkin



Scenes from the Tales of A C Pushkin

This commemorative poster honoring Alexandr Pushkin shows scenes from some of the  tales he told. Even though he lived nearly 200 years ago, his tales are still among the most loved of all Russian stories. Translated videos of many of his works are posted,   and even today, new translations are being released; translators still vying to produce the finest Pushkin translations. Even 1950’s adaptations of Pushkin’s stories for Soviet television hold viewers in rapt attention.


A 1950s production of Pushkin’s The Tale of the Fisherman and the Fish


According to Wikipedia writers:

Alexander Pushkin is seen as having originated the highly nuanced level of language which characterizes Russian literature after him, but he is also credited with substantially augmenting the Russian lexicon. Where he found gaps in the Russian vocabulary, he devised calques. His rich vocabulary and highly sensitive style are the foundation for modern Russian literature. His talent set up new records for development of the Russian language and culture.

He became the father of Russian literature in 19th century, marking the highest achievements of 18th century and the beginning of literary process of 19th century. Alexander Pushkin introduced Russia to all the European literary genres as well as a great number of West European writers. He brought natural speech and foreign influences to create modern poetic Russian. Though his life was brief, he left examples of nearly every literary genre of his day: lyric poetry, narrative poetry, the novel, the short story, the drama, the critical essay, and even the personal letter.

From him derive the folk tales and genre pieces of other authors: Esenin, Leskov and Gorky. His use of Russian language formed the basis of the style of novelists Ivan Turgenev, Ivan Goncharov, and Leo Tolstoy.

Alexander Pushkin became an inseparable part of the literary world of the Russian people. Translated into all the major languages, his works are regarded both as expressing most completely Russian national consciousness and as transcending national barriers. Pushkin’s intelligence, sharpness of his opinion, his devotion to poetry, realistic thinking and incredible historical and political intuition make him one of the greatest Russian national genii.

Tsar Dadon meets Shemakha

Tsar Dadon meets Shemakha. This is an illustration from “Tale of the Golden Cockerel”

Tsar Dadon meets the Shemakhan queen (illustration to The Tale of the Golden Cockerel, 1906) Artist: Ivan Bilibin The soldiers in Bilibin’s painting are like those pictured on the commemorative poster. The other drawings on the poster depict scenes from some of Pushkin’s  other tales.

Fairy tales, however, were only part of  Pushkin’s contribution.  It is said that Pushkin created the language of modern Russian poetry. His personal life was became difficult because he had numerous conflicts with authorities who disapproved of his liberal views. He, like Lermontov,  was killed in a duel.

Translated sample of Pushkin’s poetry, written in 1829:

To the Bust of the Conqueror

In vain, you’re seeking errors here:
The hand of art has camouflaged
The marble of lips with a smile, smeared,
Ice of a brow – with a rage…
In fact, this image is two-faced.
The same was and that mighty king:
Used to his soul’s controversies,
A face and life – of Harlequin.

Translated by Yevgeny Bonver, July 10, 2004

A Pushkin residence

Pushkin’s short time home on the Arbat, today it is a Pushkin museum

The blue Empire-style house on the Arbat was home to Pushkin for a short time in the spring of 1831. Ulitsa Arbat is a walking street favored by Russians and tourists alike.

The museum houses various pieces of original furniture from the Pushkins’ apartment and exhibits an array of original manuscripts and first editions of the writer’s works.

Suggested retail price: $1000USD

Address: Ulitsa Arbat 53, Moscow
Tel: (095) 241-9295
(095) 241-4212
Metro: Smolenskaya
“Moscow, Moscow,” Lermontov wrote, “I love you like a son.”
December 1, 2012 — 10:13

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Mikhail  Yurevich Lermontov

Mikhail Yurevich Lermontov commemorated in this 1941 lithograph


Mikhail Lermontov, Poet, Writer, Artist, Military Officer and Hero

1941 marked the centennial of the death of Mikhail  Yurevich Lermontov. He was an officer and military hero, but Lermontov’s  greatest contributions to the history of Russia were his poetry and paintings.  The writer’s house-museum (see the bottom of this post) was home to the young poet during his years as a student at Moscow University, when he became so absorbed with his writing that he failed to sit his exams. The house contains much of the original furniture, many sketches and watercolors by Lermontov himself, and an extensive library full of works by his favorite authors; from Lomonosov, Krillov and Pushkin to Rousseau, Goethe, Shakespeare and the English Romantic poet Lord Byron.

The Lermontov commemorative poster depicts scenes from the poet’s stories and his life.  An example of his poetry is included below.


An angel was crossing the pale vault of night,

and his song was as soft as his flight,

and the moon and the stars and the clouds in a throng

stood enthralled by this holy song.

He sang of the bliss of the innocent shades

in the depths of celestial glades;

he sang of the Sovereign Being, and free

of guile was his eulogy.

He carried a soul in his arms,

a young life to the world of sorrow and strife,

and the young soul retained the throb of that song

-without words, but vivid and strong.

And tied to this planet long did it pine

full of yearnings dimly divine,

and our dull little ditties could never replace

songs belonging to infinite space.

-Translated from the Russian by VLADIMIR NABOKOV

Title:  Four Poems by Lermontov
Author(s):  Lermontov; Vladimir Nabokov
Source:  Russian Review, Vol. 5, No. 2  (Spring, 1946), pp. 50-51
Publisher(s): Blackwell Publishing on behalf of The Editors and Board of Trustees of the Russian Review

A 1941 article, also by Vladamir Nabakov, printed in  Russian Review outlines many details of Lermontov’s short life. Please also visit the links on my List of Relevant Sites and learn more about Mikhail Lermontov.

Lermontov’s “The Angel” put to music by Oleg Pogudin


Tiflis is one of Lermontov’s paintings of much-loved Russian landscapes



Dagestan is one of Lermontov’s paintings of much-loved Russian landscapes












Examples of Lemontov’s paintings. The two scenes pictured are among those depicted in the poster.





Lermontov museum

Lermontov’s home near the Arbat during his University years

Address: Ulitsa Malaya Molchanovka 2, Moscow 121069
Tel: (095) 291-5298
(095) 291-5996
Metro stop: Arbatskaya
Women’s Rights in the 1936 USSR
December 1, 2012 — 7:27

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Women's Right to Work

International Communist Women’s Day commemorates women’s right and duty to work on March 8 of every year

“Working women of all countries, get into the front lines with the fighters against fascism and capitalist exploitation!”

So says the woman in this poster. Women in the workplace was so important to the Soviets that this poster was reprinted as late as 1950. It commemorates International Communist Women’s Day, celebrated on March 8 of every year.

Woman factory worker. From "Stalinism as a Way of Life" yale/edu

Factory worker collection from 1939 World’s Fair “Stalinism as a Way of Life”

Women ‘s right and duty  to work was established by the rules of the Great October Socialist Revolution of 1917. Then, when war developed with Germany, the USSR needed workers to replace the men gone off to war. Women were needed in the work force in many countries during the war years, but in the newly formed USSR so many men had been arrested or starved during the previous decade,  that the USSR was in even greater need of workers  than most other countries during the 1930s.  Women were called, in posters like this one, to fill many of the jobs that had formerly been given exclusively to men.

According to M Pichugina, In the 1936 book, Women in the USSR:

Women are accorded public honor for good work or the attainment of greater proficiency or skill.

A number of professions which were regarded for centuries as being strictly “mens'” jobs” are now being “captured” by women. Before the Revolution, women were forbidden to hold positions of any importance on the railroads. Now there are over half a million women working on the railroads in the U.S.S.R., many of them occupying key positions. Among these women railroad workers there are 400 station masters, 1,400 assistant station masters, and about 10,000 railroad engineers and technicists.

Any Soviet working woman or collective farmer who has the desire and who shows the necessary organizational abilities has the opportunity of becoming the manager of any Soviet enterprise.

The U.S.S.R. has its women engineers, physicians, fliers, scientists and executives. There is no branch of industry, agriculture, science or art, and no phase of executive or government work in which women are not employed. There are more than 100,000 women engineers and technicists employed in large-scale industry or in the building trades in the Soviet Union, whereas in all the other countries of the world combined there are less than 10,000 women engineers.



 woman driving tractor. From "Women in the USSR" 1936 by M. Pichugina.

Woman driving tractor. From “Women in the USSR” 1936 by M. Pichugina

The employment of women had much to do with the establishment of “Kindergartens”. Women were given a two month leave for child-bearing, after which time, childcare was provided by the Kindergarten.

Do Not Ever  be Late for Work

The catch was, showing up for work late more than three time, absenteeism, or a refusal to work, resulted in imprisonment. Any babies born in the women’s prison were permanently removed to “Kindergartens.”  Most of the women were never reunited with their children or other loved ones.


gulag  women living in  barracks

Gulag women living in overcrowded, poorly heated barracks.Courtesy of the International Memorial Society.


Suggested retail price: $1200USD