Moscow Textile Art

There is a big group of textile artists in Moscow, associated in a special section at the Moscow Artists Union. This collective started its creative activities in the sixties and since then textile art has been constantly developing; young artists, graduating from Moscow Textile Institute, join the older generation. Numerous tapestries and curtains by Moscow artists beautifully decorate public interiors — they are displayed in clubs, hotel and theatre halls, and state institutions. The chief aim of these works is not
only additional decorativeness — they establish harmonious links with the archi tectural forms and enrich living environment artistically.

Moscow textiles look especially impressing when exhibited — they take a prominent place at All-Union art exhibitions as well as at special shows devoted to applied arts. Among the most memorable shows we can mention Tapestry and Sculpture Exhibition (1986) and Moscow Art Tapestry (1989) which was a great success. Our collection for foreign public contains the major part of it. Moscow textile is very varied — as many individual human characters as many styles and images. The stylistics of Moscow textile art goes through evolution, absorbing the influences of time, but preserving its basic principles.

A leading genre of Moscow artists is tapestry woven traditionally on a hand-operated loom, with woollen and linen threads, and sometimes sizal and lurex.

All stages of the weaving process – preliminating drawing, cartoon, yarn dying and weaving itself are executed personally by the author (sometimes with the help of assistants).

Special attention is paid to the accuracy, high professionalism, selection of colours and textures. A major part of tapestries has a figurative or decorative plot, they show landscape or floral motifs, space ideas, contemporary life problems. How ever, the realization of these themes is far from picturesqueness or imitation of painting. They are absolutely original, symbolic decorative compositions filled with inner sense and artistic expressiveness.

Such specific features of Moscow tapestry are deeply rooted in Russian national traditions in which artists were brought up, in national heritage — for example, church frescoes, ecclesiastical embroidery on shrouds and gonfalons. These early Russian pieces show solemn spirit, rhythmical composition, harmonious combination of soft colours, generalized forms and silhouettes. Besides silks, early Russian embroidery was worked in golden and silver threads. These sublime ancient images lie in the subconscious of Moscow artists and engender in modern tapestry their inner significance and solemnity. Soviet textile artists pay also great respect to the traditions of medieval European tapestry, its generalized composition and smooth technique with elaborate combinations of colours. Certain influence comes from contemporary French tapestry as well, from such known masters, as Lurcat, Ledoux and Sam-Saens. Imbibing great traditions of the past, mastering their skills, Soviet artists have gradually worked out their own artistic language and are speaking it now to tell people about our times, thoughts and outlooks of a modern man.

On the whole, Russian artists turn to philosophical meditation and metaphorical thinking. Their plastic language can be called allegorical, their images carry inner sense; forms and colours are filled with strong emotions.

European applied art specialists might consider Moscow tapestry too traditional, deprived of experiment with plastic means and different materials. Soviet artists make such experiments, too, but, as a rule, they have only temporary character, close to a study, a provisional test of material, its structure and plastic qualities. Such pieces usually remain at artists’ studios as their private experience. At the exhibitions fully completed works of art are displayed — the result of the quest for the realization of a preconceived concept. Deliberately limiting themselves in plastic and three-dimensional experiments, artists direct all their creative efforts to formulate the internal idea of their work and find means to express it through tapestry technique.

Several years ago a totally new genre in textile has appeared — a unique artistic costume. Its makers don’t pursue the idea of making stylish clothes or something filled for everyday wear. The unique costume is the same work of free imagination, as in any other genres of decorative art. It’s a fantastic costume, very romantic, full of play and histrionity. It is also hand-made — often the artists paint fabrics themselves, using handmade embroidery and lace and adding details of their own design — hats, jewelry, fans. The artist is not just making clothes, but each time produces a new and original image of a woman: she becomes either a beautiful girl in early Russian clothes or a lady in black lace in ‘retro’ style, or a jolly girl at a picturesque fair, or a mischievous Colombine, or a woman from the future, ready for space travel…. These are not stylizations of old samples, the pieces speak modern language of forms and colours. The dress shape is independent, being more an alive sculpture, freely arranged in space. Certainly, artictic costumes look most appealing on models, in movement, when dressed up woman play a small performance on the stage.

It is important, that in such a local, utilitarian genre as costume, there find realization different art styles, including Russian avant-garde and contemporary trends.

The appearance of girls in picturesque costumes, accompanied by music, their rhythmic gestures and staged situations make an original performance — a popular art of younger generation.

Ludmila Kramarenko

Pushkin’s Ambiguous Relationships (Part 5)

Leaving on one side the implications for d’Anthes’ relationship with Hekkeren that his use of the second person singular must involve, not to mention the fact that a worldly man aged twenty-three does not normally feel the need to write to his father about his feelings for a married woman at all, let alone at such length and in such terms, these two letters prove that, at any rate at the date on which the first letter was written, d’Anthds’ ‘new passion’ had swept him off his feet. The way in which he describes his loved one and her ‘revoltingly jealous’ husband, however guarded, leaves the present-day reader, as it must have been intended to leave Hekkeren, in no doubt which was the married couple in question. In particular, the combination of the words ‘the most delicious creature in St.’ Petersburg’ and ‘the husband is a man of revolting jealousy’ point unmistakably to Natalya Pushkina and her husband. What cannot automatically be accepted at its face value is d’Anthes’ conviction, expressed in both his letters, that Natalya returned his love in equal measure. Not that d’Anthds deceived Hekkeren about Natalya’s feelings, but the possibility cannot be excluded that, like many another man in a similar position, d’Anth6s deceived himself.

The second letter, in which d’Anthes reports that during the ‘explanation’ between himself and Natalya, she refused ‘to violate her duties for a man whom she loves’, raises a further problem. By mid-February Natalya was six months pregnant. She gave birth to her fourth child, a daughter, on 19 May and she did not go out again in society until the very end of July 1836. Clearly much depends on the significance attached to the epithet ‘new’ which d’Anthds adds to the word ‘passion’ at the end of his first letter. At first sight, this does not square with Pushkin’s use of the phrase ‘two years’ perseverance’. It has been argued that, on the contrary, whereas Natalya may well have continued to harbour the same feelings for d’Anth?s at the end of 1836 as she did at the beginning, d’Anthes’ love for Natalya was something of a flash in the pan; and that by the fatal autumn of 1836, it was in reality all over, so far as he was concerned, however much he continued to flirt with her in public.

It is easy to make the word ‘new’ bear too much weight; d’Anthes’ use of it is susceptible to more than one explanation. Moreover, there is no evidence of the effect that d’Anthds’ letters had on Hekkeren in January and February, nor of what passed between them after Hekkeren’s return to St. Petersburg in May 1836, following a long absence abroad. For example, did Hekkeren regard Natalya as a rival in his affection for d’Anthes? Was he perhaps, in his own way, as jealous a man as Pushkin undoubtedly was ? We simply do not know. Russian Pushkinists take it as read that Pushkin could not fail to see ‘what was thrown in the eyes of everyone’31 at the beginning of 1836. They may well be right, but there is no hard evidence of the extent to which he was aware of the extreme point then reached by d’Anthes’ infatuation with Natalya; nor of what exactly Pushkin believed about the nature of her feelings for d’Anthds at that time. Husband and wife certainly had a frank exchange nine months later, but in quite different circumstances that were deeply humiliating for both of them.

Confronted with this mishmash of conflicting evidence, a British biographer of Pushkin might hope to find some enlightenment from the pen of a shrewd English observer of the St. Petersburg scene at the time: John Lambton, first Earl of Durham, who served as ambassador there from 1835 to 1837. A man of wider vision than most of his British political contemporaries on questions both of domestic and of external policy, Durham was no ordinary ambassador; the value of his judgement on Russian society and the Russian government of the time has since been recognized in Russia.32 ‘Radical Jack’ was the leader of the left wing of the Whig Party; and part of the reason for his appointment to St. Petersburg was that when Lord Melbourne (an easy-going, right-wing Whig) was invited by the king to form a government in June 1834 – remarking, before he agreed to do so, ‘I think it’s a damned bore’33 – decided to exclude from his cabinet the two leading radical members of the previous Whig administration, one of whom was Durham.34

Apart from his intelligence, Durham had other qualifications for this important post. He was immensely rich; it was said of him that he spent nearly a million pounds on doing up his house in Britain. On an earlier visit to St. Petersburg he had got on well with Nicholas I; as Princess Lieven, for twenty years the Russian ambassadress in London, put it, ‘we drowned him in courtesies’.35 Pushkin must have known Durham, as he did other members of the diplomatic corps in St. Petersburg.36 And the similarities between the characters of the two men are striking. Many adjectives – impatient, hot-tempered, hypersensitive to criticism, vain and prone to take offence at fancied slights, but also generous and never vindictive – could equally well be applied either to Durham or to Pushkin. Some empathy between the two men might perhaps have been expected. Moreover, the British Embassy’s report on Pushkin’s death was signed by a man who had himself grown up in the fast Regency set – Durham’s first marriage had been at Gretna Green – and it was addressed to a foreign secretary, Palmerston, known in the British press as ‘Lord Cupid’, who was no stranger either to love affairs or to the ins and outs of Russian society. Although he never went to Russia – indeed he never travelled further than Berlin – he was at one time rumoured to have been Princess Lieven’s lover.

In the light of this, there is disappointingly little to be gleaned from Durham’s despatch of 3 May 1837. A routine document, probably drafted by a junior member of the Embassy staff, it consists of little more than a covering document to its principal enclosure, the French version of the ukase which published the findings of the governmental enquiry held in St. Petersburg after Pushkin’s death. In fairness to Durham (with one important exception), his diplomatic colleagues’ reports to their governments did little better;37 and his despatch does at least leave little doubt that he did not have a high opinion of Hekkeren.

Today, the historian has more material to base his conclusions on than observers in St. Petersburg did in 1837, whether they were Russians or foreigners. In spite of the documents that have gradually come to light since then, however, the evidence remains contradictory and partial; and the lacunae are still large. Yet Pushkin’s biographer cannot afford to overlook these complex and ambiguous relationships, because it is only against the background that he can seek to explain the turgid drama that unfolded in St. Petersburg during 1836 and the first month of 1837.

(Robin Edmonds)

Pushkin’s Ambiguous Relationships (Part 4)

The third question, about Natalya and d’Anthes, is the one that is critical to any assessment of the circumstances of Pushkin’s death. Was she, as Pushkin publicly maintained, as pure as driven snow? Did she, as d’Anthes claimed privately, return his love? Or was the Russian poetess Marina Tsvetaeva right when she wrote over half a century ago:

Just as Helen of Troy was the occasion, but not the cause, of the Trojan war (which itself was nothing else but the occasion of the death of Achilles), so also Goncharova was not the cause, but the occasion, of the death of Pushkin, predestined from the cradle. Destiny chose the simplest, the most futile, the most guiltless weapon: a beautiful woman . . ,

Once again there can be no simple answer to this question. But no attempt to answer it can afford to overlook two letters from d’Anthes to Hekkeren. These were published only in 1946, after they had been discovered among the d’Anthes family papers at Soultz.26 (Even the Goncharovian revisionists have felt obliged to devote several pages to these letters, whose authenticity they have made a lonely and unconvincing attempt to demolish.27) The flavour of these crucially important letters is as significant as their content. In attempting to form a judgement, it is important to bear in mind the effect of his use of the French second person singular, which cannot be rendered in English at all.

St. Petersburg, 20th January 1836

Mon tres cher ami

I am truly guilty of not having replied straight away to the two good and amusing letters that you have written to me, but, you see, the night spent dancing, the morning at riding school and the afternoon asleep, this has been my existence for the past fortnight, and I have just as much of this ahead of me, and what is worse than all this, is the fact that I am madly in love! Yes, madly, because I do not know where to turn my head, I shall not give you her name, because a letter can get lost, but recall to yourself the most delicious creature in St. Petersburg and you will know her name. And what is most horrible in my position is the fact that she also loves me and that we cannot see each other, something that has been impossible so far, for the husband is a man of revolting jealousy: I confide all this in you, mon bien cher, as to my best friend, and because I know that you will take part in my grief, but, in God’s name not a word to anybody nor any information to find out to whom I am paying court, you would destroy her without wishing it and I myself would be inconsolable. For, you see, I would do everything in the world for her, only in order to please her, for the life that I have led for some time is a torture at every moment. To love one another and not to be able to say so to each other except between two ritomellos of a counterdance is an awful thing: I am perhaps wrong in confiding all this to you and you will treat it as nonsense, but I have a heart so heavy and so full that I need to pour it out a little. I am certain that you will excuse me this folly, I agree that it is a folly, but it is impossible for me to use my reason, although I need to do so badly, because this love is poisoning my existence: but rest assured, I am being prudent and I have been so much up to the present moment, that the secret belongs only to her and to me (she bears the same name as the lady who was writing to you about me and who was in despair [for] the plague and the famine had ruined her villages); you must understand now that it is possible to lose one’s reason for such a creature, above all when she loves you! I repeat to you again, not a single word to Broge [or Brage?] because he is in correspondence with Petersburg and it would be enough for him to give some indication on his part to his wife to destroy both of us! For God alone knows what might happen: so, my very dear friend, the four months that you and I still have to spend far from each other will appear to me centuries, because in my position one has an absolute need of someone whom one loves in order to be able to open one’s heart and to ask for courage. This is the reason why I do not look well, because that apart I have never been in better health physically than I am at the moment, but my head is so excited that I no longer have a moment of rest either by night or by day, it is this that gives me an appearance of illness and sadness and not my health .. . Goodbye, mon cher, be indulgent towards my new passion, for I love you too from the bottom of my heart.

In the three and a half weeks that passed between d’Anthes’ two

letters a significant change appears to have taken place.

St. Petersburg, 14th February 1836 Mon cher ami, here the carnival is over and with that a part of my torments : really I believe that I am a bit calmer now that I do not see her every day and then, everyone cannot any longer come and take her hand, her waist and dance and converse with her as I do myself; and that is even better than it is for me, because their conscience is clearer than mine. It is stupid to say this, but it is something that I would never have believed, namely that it is from jealousy that I found myself in a continual state of irritation which made me sound happy. And then, we have had an explanation, the last time that I saw her, which was terrible, but which did me good. This woman, of whom most people suppose that she has little intelligence, I do not know whether it is love that has given it to her, but it is impossible to show more tact, more grace or more intelligence than she did in this conversation, and it was difficult to conduct, for it was a question of nothing less than refusing to violate her duties for a man whom she loves and who adores her; she described her position to me with so much renunciation and asked my understanding with so much naivete that I was really defeated, and I could not find a word to say in reply to her. If you knew how she consoled me, for she saw clearly that I was choking and that my position was awful and when she said to me : I love you as I have never loved, but do not ask me for more than my heart, for all the rest does not belong to me and I cannot be happy except by respecting all my duties, have pity on me and love me always as you do now, my love will be your only reward; but, you see, I believe that I would have fallen at her feet in order to kiss them if I had been alone and I assure you that since that day my love for her has increased still more, but it is not the same thing now : I venerate her, I respect her, as one respects and venerates a being to whom all your existence is attached. But forgive me, my very dear friend, I am beginning my letter by talking of her : but she and I constitute only one person, for to talk about her is also to talk to you about myself, and in all your letters you reproach me for not expatiating enough about myself. I, as I was saying, am better, much better and am beginning to breathe, thank God, because my torture was intolerable : to be merry, laughing in front of the world, in front of the people who used to see me every day, while I had death in my heart, that is an awful position which I would not wish upon my most cruel enemy . . .

(Robin Edmonds)

Pushkin’s Ambiguous Relationships (Part 3)

It is possible that d’Anthds first met the Pushkins soon after the entry in Pushkin’s diary, although the date of Natalya’s miscarriage (March 1834), after which she spent over five months in the country, fixes a terminus ante quern. A more probable dating is sometime in the autumn of 1834, by which time d’Anthes was a member of la bande joyeuse and Natalya had brought both her sisters, Alexandra and Ekaterina, to live with her in St. Petersburg. The consequences of Natalya’s insistence on importing her sisters to St. Petersburg, against her husband’s wishes, were much as Pushkin had feared, although he turned out to be wrong in his forecast that neither of them would receive a court appointment, because the elder of the two, Ekaterina, became a maid of honour at the age of twenty-five, two months after arriving in the capital. The gushing letters written home by these two provincial ladies in October-November 1834 report a swift plunge into the social round, equipped with ball gowns paid for by their rich aunt, Ekaterina Zagryazhkaya. Well before the end of year holiday season had begun an attack of fever (presumably influenza) cost Alexandra – the middle sister, one year younger than Natalya – ‘only one ball and two spectacles’. By early December Ekaterina was waxing enthusiastic about the number of balls she had attended. And by the end of 1835 both of them were never at home for a single evening, thanks to ‘Tasha and her husband’.

Even before the age of the telephone, the amount of noise that all this must have added to a flat which already housed four children and numerous servants, must have been considerable. By day Pushkin, who always ate his main meal late, was able to escape to the privacy of his study, where he would remain well into the afternoon, after which he always went for a walk, whatever the weather. But in the evening there were some invitations which obliged him to accompany all three sisters. Although the jokes to which the sight in public of such an unusual ‘harem’ gave rise were bad enough, the financial implications were worse. Alexandra (Azya in the family) and Ekaterina (Koko) both had annual allowances of 4500 roubles paid to them from the Goncharov estate, but Pushkin’s bills soared, not only because he was obliged to rent a much larger flat – from the Vyazemskys – but also because of what he described in a bitter sentence in a letter written to his wife as ‘l’interet de Monsieur Durier et Madame Sichler’.16 (These were the names of two leading St. Petersburg couturiers.) Natalya herself was obliged to admit in a letter written to her brother: ‘We are in such an impoverished condition that there are days when I do not know how to run the house, my head goes round and round in circles.’

It is a moot point at what stage and to what extent financial and domestic confusion in Pushkin’s household was worse confounded by the sexual behaviour of its members, perhaps including Pushkin himself. Three interrelated questions are involved. The simplest way to address them is separately : the first question concerning d’Anthes, the second Pushkin himself and the third d’Anthes and Natalya jointly. Taking these questions in that order – the fact that d’Anthes flirted with Ekaterina as well as with Natalya is well attested. In the St. Petersburg society of the mid-1830s there is nothing surprising about this. D’Anthes had the good looks, the ready wit and – as a foreigner – the lack of inhibitions which guaranteed him success in this field. However, given the dramatic turn of later events which culminated first in d’Anthes marrying Ekaterina and then in his fighting a duel with Pushkin in January 1837, this first question cannot be left hanging in the air so far as Ekaterina is concerned. Tall, short-sighted and three years older than d’Anthes, she was not only flattered by his attentions, but fell in love with him. The letter that she wrote to her brother on 9 November 1836 – that is to say, five days after Pushkin had issued his first challenge to d’Anthes – includes the sentence: ‘Happiness for all my family and death for myself -that is what I need and that is what I continually pray for to the Almighty .. ,’

What long remained a matter of controversy is whether Ekaterina’s first child by d’Anthes was conceived as early as mid-1836. In order to reach the opposite conclusion, namely that she was not already several months pregnant at the time of her marriage to d’Anthes, it is necessary to suppose that a letter written to her by her mother, bearing the date 15 May 1837 (first published by Shchegolev) was in reality written one year later, on 15 May 1838. This letter includes the following sentence: ‘In your last letter you speak about your journey to Paris; to whom will you entrust the looking after of your little girl during the time of your absence? Will she remain in safe hands? Your separation from her must be distressing for you.’ To accept the supposition of a twelve-months’ error in the dating of this letter requires a considerable effort, but recent research in the Goncharov family archives indicates that Natalya Ivanovna’s letter was indeed written in 1838, in which case the official date of the birth of the d’Anthes’ first child – October 1837 – may be accepted.19

Of the first two questions, the more important is whether Pushkin slept with Alexandra, in addition to flirting with her at parties, which he certainly did. Predictably, Arapova was the principal prosecutor and Akhmatova a passionate advocate in Pushkin’s defence. If it could be proved, which it cannot, Arapova’s story about a ring belonging to Alexandra which Pushkin’s servants were obliged to search for high and low, and which was eventually discovered in Pushkin’s bed, might be regarded as a clear pointer.20 This story was related seventy-one years afterwards, by a heavily biased narrator, but there were those who were close to Pushkin at the time, such as Zhukovsky, who might not have found it impossible to believe -witness, for example, the entry in Zhukovsky’s notes, where he recorded in November 1836: ‘What I said [to Pushkin] about his relationships (otnosheniya)’ and ‘Les revelations d’Alexandrine’.21 (Soviet readers sometimes had to be reminded by editors of such documents that otnosheniya was the term used for sexual relationships as well as for relationships in general.) As against this, it seems well established that, to the end of her days, Alexandra kept a portrait of d’Anthes hanging in her dining room, where it remained until 1940.22 The case remains open. What is certain is that Alexandra was unattractive (she had a pronounced squint); she married sixteen years later, when she was over forty. She was genuinely devoted to Pushkin and, according to earlier accounts, she alone of the three sisters played the role of Martha in his household, which Natalya neglected. These accounts have since been challenged ; and it is now accepted that, at any rate towards the end of Pushkin’s life, his wife played her full part at home. In all probability, however, Alexandra was the only member of his family to whom Pushkin revealed the fact that he had written the fatal letter that finally led to his duel with d’Anthes.

There remains Arapova’s statement, made at the beginning of our own century, that Pushkin frequented brothels after his marriage. Pushkin’s views about grisettes are a matter of record and they have already been quoted in this book. But if he did visit them in 1836-7 he would have been running a considerable risk at the hands of his ‘empress’, as he now referred to Natalya.23 For almost all the time from the end of 1835 onwards he and Natalya were together in St. Petersburg. Arapova’s allegation remains pure speculation.

(Robin Edmonds)

Pushkin’s Ambiguous Relationships (Part 2)

In the euphemistic language of the early twentieth century, Hekkeren might have been described as ‘a confirmed bachelor’. In the nineteenth century the idea that a government could not safely entrust its representation abroad to a man of homosexual leanings -provided that he was reasonably discreet – was not one to which much attention was paid. And up to 1834 Hekkeren was discreet with one exception: he grossly abused the privilege of the diplomatic bag. He used this to import – duty-free – goods of all kinds in quantities far exceeding the requirements of personal use and therefore intended for the market. Hekkeren was by no means the first head of mission to err in this way, either in his century or in our own. In avoiding trouble with the officials both of the Russian customs and of the ministry of foreign affairs, he doubtless relied on his friendship with Nesselrode and on the value set in St. Petersburg on his own ultramonarchist convictions. Once the future of Belgium had been internationally agreed, at the London Conference in 1831 (under the Vienna settlement, Belgium had formed part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands), Hekkeren cannot have had much of importance to do in St. Petersburg; his leaves of absence were of extreme length even by the standards of those days. But for what happened in 1836-7, he might have been remembered only as a malicious, though harmless, busybody, a familiar type in the diplomatic services of all ages.

From the turn of the year 1833-4 an extraordinary change, triggered by Hekkeren’s meeting with d’Anthes in Prussia, came about. Hekkeren had given d’Anthes a lift in his carriage, so that the two men left the inn together and arrived in Russia together on 8 September 1833. In the course of the following year Hekkeren travelled to Alsace in order to meet Georges d’Anthes’ family. By February 1836 Georges’ father, who was not well off, wrote to Hekkeren authorizing him to adopt his son; and on 22 May the Russian foreign minister received from the Netherlands minister formal notification of the fact that, by decision of the King of the Netherlands, Georges d’Anthes was entitled to bear his name, his title and his coat of arms. Hekkeren had had some legal difficulty in his own country in bringing this remarkable operation to a successful conclusion. He was obliged to overcome the fact that the French code civil, which was still in force in the Netherlands, did not allow an adoption of this kind. This obstacle was circumvented by means of a royal decree which did not mention the word adoption, but did lay down that both d’Anthes and his descendants were authorized to bear the name of Hekkeren.10 From then on Russian documents tend to refer to the elder Hekkeren and the younger Hekkeren, but since this is confusing to a present-day reader, the use of the name d’Anthes is retained throughout the rest of this book, except in quotations.

Was Hekkeren’s affection for – not to say, obsession with – this handsome blond man, half his age, platonic and was d’Anthes actively bisexual? Both are questions to which no definitive answers can be given. At the time, the general reaction in St. Petersburg was one of astonishment, but the candid expression of this astonishment seldom went outside the privacy of confidential correspondence. Long afterwards, however, two pieces of evidence came to light, both of which point in the same direction. In his account of the events of 1836-7, one of d’Anthes’ brother officers in St. Petersburg, Prince Alexander Trubetskoi, wrote that there was one exception to d’Anthes’ :

youthful mischief. . . about which we learned much later. I do not know whether to say that he lived with Hekkeren or that Hekkeren lived with him. At that time buggery was widespread in high society…

It must be assumed that, in his relations with Hekkeren, he [d’Anthes] played only the passive role.

Like all memoirs, this account, which was written fifty years after d’Anthes had left Russia, cannot be relied upon. On the other hand, there is only one reasonable explanation of the fact that when writing (in French) to Hekkeren from St. Petersburg, d’Anthes used the second person singular throughout. No Frenchman who was born a member of the noblesse – or, for that matter, the upper bourgeoisie -would have addressed his father as anything but ‘vous’ in the nineteenth century – and indeed well into the twentieth.

Pushkin’s first reference to d’Anthes is an entry in his diary of 26 January 1834, where he remarks that the guards are not happy with the decision to accept two French emigres, one of them Baron d’Anthes, ‘as officers straight away’. In February of that year d’Anthes, without knowing a word of Russian (a language that he never troubled to learn during his three and a half years in St. Petersburg), was indeed gazetted cornet in the household cavalry; and two years later he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant. He retained his French citizenship, however. He seems to have got on well enough with his brother officers. He also enjoyed the financially important patronage of the Empress Alexandra (Nicholas I’s Prussian wife), who was his regiment’s colonel-in-chief; and it was not long before he became a familiar figure in St. Petersburg society.

(Robin Edmonds)

Pushkin’s Ambiguous Relationships (Part 1)

Seal up the mouth of outrage for a while, Till we can clear these ambiguities»

—Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet, Act V, Scene iii.
The ‘mouth of outrage’ has been wide open ever since Pushkin’s death – with justice – but most of the efforts made to explain the circumstances of his death have either been overtaken by later archival discoveries or created more heat than light – or both. Recent Russian scholarship has brought about the beginning of a change: in particular the assembling of the bulk of the documentary evidence, some of which is comparatively new, in chronological order. The modern biographer no longer needs to detain the reader with detailed discussion of earlier studies of what happened in St. Petersburg between the beginning of January 1836 and the end of January 1837, such as that written by Pavel Shchegolev nearly eighty years ago ; and certainly not with two accounts that have since appeared in English, one of which reflected what Robert Hughes has called, in another context, the ‘priggishness of the Puritan school-marm’, while the other resorted to use of the technique of the unsupported assertion, clad in embarrassingly purple prose.

This said, much of what happened during Pushkin’s final year is still shrouded in ambiguity and it seems likely to remain so. In part this is because of the difficulty of reconstructing Pushkin’s state of mind with a measure of certainty at any point during his last, critical months. Uncertainty becomes outright ambiguity when account is taken of the nature of the multiple network of personal relationships, whether proven or unproven, at the centre of which Pushkin lived during – roughly – the last two years of his life. Even the timespan of these relationships is still a matter of opinion. The two years just mentioned are measured from the autumn of 1834 to the autumn of 1836. This timespan is supported by a phrase in one of Pushkin’s letters : ‘une persévérance de deux années. — his own description of the attentions paid to his wife (and, he might have added, to his sister-in-law) by Baron Georges-Charles d’Anthès – although it has been argued that in reality ‘the whole romance’ between Natalya and d’Anthès lasted only one year. However that may be, there is a consensus that it was sometime during 1834 that the Pushkins first met d’Anthès : whose place in French history – such as it is – is that of a man who did well both in business and in politics under the Second Empire, living almost to the end of the nineteenth century, whereas in Russian works of reference he is simply described as Pushkin’s murderer.

D’Anthès arrived in St. Petersburg in the autumn of 1833, having left France after the bloodless revolution of 1830. Born at Soultz in 1812 (as it happened, in the same year as Natalya Goncharova) he was a member of a family that had been established in Alsace since the late seventeenth century and was ennobled in 1731. At the age of seventeen he entered the French military academy of St. Cyr, where his studies were cut short by the overthrow of Charles X, whose cause he espoused – in vain. There being no future in the France of the new bourgeois monarchy for a youth of his legitimist political opinions, d’Anthès decided to try his luck as a soldier of fortune in Prussia. On arrival in Berlin, he soon discovered that the professional standards of the Prussian Army were beyond or, as he might have seen them, beneath him, because he would have been obliged to begin his military service in Prussia as a non-commissioned officer. However, the close family links between the royal houses of Prussia and Russia ensured that, armed with a valuable letter of introduction, he was able to leave Berlin for St. Petersburg in 1833 hoping for acceptance by the Russian army instead. Travelling by road, d’Anthès met in a German inn a Dutch diplomat, who was returning to his post in St. Petersburg. This complete stranger, who would soon exercise a lasting effect on his own future and, as it turned out, a profound influence on the fate of Pushkin, was Baron Louis Borchard van Hekkeren. Hekkeren was forty-one at the time of this encounter. His family was one of the oldest in Holland ; in his youth he had served in the French navy; and after Napoleon’s final defeat in 1815 he joined the Netherlands diplomatic service. In St. Petersburg, where he served for ten years from 1823, first as chargé d’affaires and then as minister, he aroused mixed feelings in the diplomatic world, although he was an intimate of the Nesselrode circle. Although Nesselrode was known ironically in St. Petersburg as ‘the Austrian Minister for Russian foreign affairs’, it was the Austrian Ambassadress who described Hekkeren in her diary as ‘cunning, false and peu sympathique’.

(Robin Edmonds)

Pushkin’s Exile at Mikhailovskoe (Part 6)

Neither with Anna nor with Zizi did Pushkin’s love affair last for long. Zizi’s biographical importance lies in the fact that, during the last critical days of Pushkin’s life, she visited St. Petersburg (by then married, Baroness Vrevskaya) in order to stay with her sister. She thus became one of the few friends to whom Pushkin then unburdened himself. Unlike most of the others, she was aware of his impending duel. She will therefore recur in the last part of this book.

During 1825 Pushkin saw three of his school-friends: Gorchakov, Delvig and Pushchin. The first of these he visited at the home of Gorchakov’s uncle, sixty-nine versts from Mikhailovskoe. The other two came to Mikhailovskoe. Pushkin and Gorchakov had drifted apart since Tsarskoe Selo and their short meeting in 1825 did nothing to bring them closer to each other. Pushkin read a part of Boris Godunov to Gorchakov, who criticized the everyday language (a reference to ‘spit’) that Pushkin used in the dialogue. Pushkin thought that Gorchakov was ‘terribly dried up’.34 He played no further part in Pushkin’s life.

Delvig spent at least a week at Mikhailovskoe in April, but little has been recorded about his visit, to which Pushkin had been eagerly looking forward for a long time. On the other hand, Pushchin, who spent less than twenty-four hours in Mikhailovskoe at the beginning of the year, described his visit in detail in his memoirs.35 As a present for the poet Pushchin brought a copy of Griboedov’s Woe from Wit; he also bought three bottles of Veuve Clicquot on the way. He arrived at Mikhailovskoe in deep snow at about eight o’clock on the morning of 11 January. Bare-footed and in his shirt, Pushkin greeted him on the steps of the house. After embracing each other there, they went inside, as Pushchin put it, ‘the one almost naked and the other covered in snow’: a scene which even after thirty years Pushchin found it impossible to write about without tears blurring his spectacles. Pushchin found Pushkin’s appearance little changed, except for the sideburns that he had grown since he had last seen him in St. Petersburg. He also seemed a little more serious, although he had lost none of his gaiety and liveliness. Toasts were drunk. They discussed everything under the sun: the reasons for Pushkin’s dismissal from the imperial service; what people in St. Petersburg, particularly the tsar, thought about Pushkin; the chances of his exile coming to an end; and finally, the secret society. Of this Pushchin wrote:

When I said to him that I was not the only one to have entered into this new service of the fatherland, he leapt from his chair and exclaimed: ‘Probably all this is connected with Major Raevsky, who has been held for five years in the Tiraspol prison and they can get nothing out of him.’ Afterwards he quietened down and continued: ‘By the way, I am not compelling you, my dear Pushchin, to talk. Perhaps you were right not to trust me. Probably I do not deserve that trust – because of my many foolishnesses.’ In silence, I kissed him warmly; we embraced and went for a walk; we both of us needed some air.

Introduced to Arina, Pushchin noticed one of the seamstresses in her room (presumably Olga), but said nothing about her to Pushkin, who ‘smiled significantly’. While Pushkin was reading Woe from Wit aloud, they were interrupted by a visit from the monk who was Pushkin’s spiritual supervisor; he drank some glasses of rum as well as the coffee that was offered to him. After he had left Pushkin simply continued reading where he had left off and he went on to read part of his Gypsies. It was long after midnight when Pushchin finally left on his sleigh. They never met again. Pushkin’s poem, ‘My first friend, my priceless friend’, drafted soon afterwards and finished in 1826, was later handed to Pushchin across the palisade at Chita (the Decembrists’ place of imprisonment in Siberia) by the wife of a fellow-prisoner, on the day of his arrival there.

Pushkin’s plans for getting away from Mikhailovskoe took several different forms as time went on. At the very beginning, in December 1824, he was to go abroad disguised as Aleksei Vul’f’s servant.37 This project never got off the ground; and almost simultaneously he wrote an imaginary conversation with Alexander I in which Pushkin sought to explain his atheistic letter as ‘a schoolboy joke’, two empty phrases of which should not be judged as though they were ‘an address to the whole nation’. The final paragraph, however, reads: ‘But here Pushkin would have got angry and said much more to me [to Alexander] that was superfluous, I [Alexander] would have lost my temper and sent him off to Siberia, where he would have written a poem . . .’

In the following spring the idea of treatment for his aneurism was resurrected. Pushkin drafted a letter himself to the tsar in April asking for permission to travel abroad. In June his mother wrote to the tsar on his behalf, asking for permission for him to travel to Riga to consult a specialist there. The outcome was official permission for Pushkin to travel to Pskov, which he at first refused. In the autumn, however, he finally did visit Pskov, where he saw a doctor, whom he consulted again in the following year.

These manoeuvrings were brought to an end by a piece of news that did not reach St Petersburg until 27 November 1825 and Mikhailovskoe at the very end of that month. On 19 November Alexander I died suddenly at Taganrog, on the Sea of Azov. There is no first-hand evidence of Pushkin’s immediate reaction to this wholly unexpected event (the reason for the tsar’s journey was his wife’s ailing health, not his own). The account that we have of what Pushkin then did is based on the recollection of a letter written by him at the time to his brother, which has not survived. Nevertheless there is no reason to doubt that, in the heat of the moment, on 1 or 2 December, Pushkin set out for St. Petersburg under the name of one of Praskov’ya Osipova’s servants. Nor, given his superstitious nature, is it improbable that the sight of a brace of hares and a priest soon after he left home were enough to convince him that the journey would not have a happy outcome. He returned to Mikhailovskoe. He was still there when, a little over a fortnight later, he learnt the news of something even more dramatic: the Decembrist Revolt in St. Petersburg.

(Robin Edmonds)

Pushkin’s Exile at Mikhailovskoe (Part 5)

I remember the wonderful moment: you appeared before me like a transient vision of the spirit of pure beauty.

To me, languishing in hopeless sadness, among the cares of the noisy, restive world, a tender voice sounded and beloved features formed my dreams.

The years passed. The storms’ wild gust scattered my earlier dreams, and I forgot your tender voice, your heavenly features. I dragged out my days slowly, in distant, dark confinement, cut off from God, uninspired, without tears, without life, without love.

My soul’s awakening began: and behold! you appeared again, like a transient vision of the spirit of pure beauty.

And my heart is beating, enraptured, and in my heart all that is godlike, inspiration, life, tears and love, has risen once again.31

‘I remember’ and the even shorter, more poignant, poem ‘I loved you’, written in 1829, are perhaps the best known among Pushkin’s many love lyrics. Of the two, it is the second which tells us – more frankly, even if still ambiguously – how les grands sentiments seemed to Pushkin, in reflective mood, at the age of thirty:

Я вас любил: любовь ещё, быть может,

В душе моей угасла не совсем;

Но пусть она вас больше не тревожит;

Я не хочу печалить вас ничем.

Я вас любил безмолвно, безнадежно,

То робостью, то ревностью томим;

Я вас любил так искренно, так нежно,

Как, дай вам Бог любимой бытв другим.

I loved you; perhaps my love is not yet quite extinguished in my soul. But let it not trouble you any more; I do not want to sadden you in any way. I loved you without words, without hope, torn now by timidity and now by jealousy; I loved you as truly and as tenderly as may God grant you to be loved by another.32

The identity of the woman to whom the second of these poems was addressed has not been established, although more than one candidate has been advanced: Olenina and Vorontsova are both possibilities. For the biographer, what is striking both about ‘I loved you’ and about ‘I remember’ is the contrast that they form with the way in which Pushkin casually mentioned his conquest of Anna in 1828, in the course of a letter written to a friend primarily about gambling debts.33 His casualness and the four-letter word that he used (replaced by asterisks in the Russian Academy edition), set side by side with these two poems, illustrate two aspects of his character in relation to women, of which he was himself well aware.

(Robin Edmonds)

Pushkin’s Exile at Mikhailovskoe (Part 4)

Yet Pushkin is a writer who anticipated Flaubert’s principle : ‘Il ne faut pas s’ecrire.’19 As his style grew more mature, so the distance between himself and his heroes and heroines increased. And in Evgenii Onegin he even introduced himself as one of the characters of the novel, a friend of Evgenii, so much so that he drew a sketch of the two of them deep in conversation by the side of the river Neva, opposite the Petropavlovsk Fortress (complete with detailed instructions), which he inserted in the first chapter of the poem.20 Unlike Pushkin, Onegin is a man who never takes a risk if he can avoid it. It is only at the very end of the poem that he realizes that Tatyana, the girl whom he turned down at the beginning, would indeed have proved to be not only, as she modestly put it in her letter to him, a ‘true wife and a good mother’,21 but the love of his life. Again, unlike Pushkin, he also took care to fire the first shot in his duel. Arguably, Pushkin was a gambler not only in the literal sense of the word. He was certainly not Onegin.

It was while Pushkin was working at Mikhailovskoe that he became a fully professional writer, entirely dependent upon his writing for the next eight years as his only source of income. It would not be long before each line of his verse would command a price of ten roubles. That he wanted every rouble he could lay hands on is evident from a recurring refrain in his correspondence: ‘Some money, for God’s sake, some money!’22 Nevertheless, as a writer he was a perfectionist. Although his power of concentration was such that he could and sometimes did write at an almost unbelievable speed his drafts are a mass of corrections. He even drafted his letters to his friends, let alone his official correspondence. For once in his life Pushkin was able at Mikhailovskoe to spend what he earned on what he needed, because while he was living there, he was seldom exposed to the temptations of the green table. His needs during these two years consisted first and foremost of books. His correspondence is full of requests for books of every kind (including the Bible in French) to be sent to him from St. Petersburg. His brother Lev also had to send him during the first few months things as diverse as writing paper, plain paper, wine, cheese, a corkscrew, boots and braces.23

In order to reduce the cost of heating at Mikhailovskoe, Pushkin lived in a single room, which served as his study, dining room and bedroom. Arina’s room was nearby, on the opposite side of the corridor; he used to call her ‘mama’; and their long talks took place in the evening. An early riser and a late luncher, his first act on waking up was to swim in the river in summer and take an ice-cold bath in winter. He usually read or wrote either after his first cup of coffee in the morning or at night, or both. Walking or riding around the estate, he wore a red shirt belted with a sash, broad trousers and a white straw hat; and he always carried an iron stick weighing nine pounds (a habit that he had acquired in the south). This he sometimes threw in the air, catching it as it fell; while sometimes he just threw it in front of him. He maintained that his object was to strengthen his pistol hand (he practised pistol shooting as well). In the evening, if he had nothing better to do, he would play billiards against himself.24

Such was Pushkin’s normal pattern. Not surprisingly, it was not enough for a man of his restless energy. Off and on throughout his Mikhailovskoe years, he devoted time to plans to get away, with or without official permission. He soon took Olga Kalashnikov, the (serf) daughter of the estate steward, to bed. Their son, Pavel, was born in June 1826 at Boldino, where Olga and her father had moved after Pushkin had sent her, pregnant, to St. Petersburg with a letter to Vyazemsky, seeking his help.25

Although Pushkin described Olga to Vyazemsky as a ‘very sweet and good girl’,26 the chief pole of emotional attraction for him during these two years was not at Mikhailovskoe, but at the neighbouring estate of Trigorskoe, the property of a distant relation, Praskov’ya Osipova. (She was also a cousin of the Decembrist, Sergei Murav’ev-Apostol.) A competent and intelligent lady in her early forties, twice widowed, she knew how to run her estates (there was another one at Malinniki, in the province of Tver (Tver’), where Pushkin stayed later on. She was devoted to Pushkin and she was present at his burial in 1837. Whether she was ever in love with him or whether – in the words of Alexander Turgenev – she ‘loved him like a mother’,27 is a matter of speculation. What is certain is that Pushkin was a frequent and welcome visitor at Trigorskoe, where there was a good library and a bevy of girls of all ages, with whom he flirted right, left and centre. His principal targets during 1825-7 and later in the 1820s, sometimes simultaneously, were Anna (Annette) Vul’f (Praskov’ya’s daughter by her first marriage), Evpraksiya Vul’f (Zizi, Anna’s younger sister) and Aleksandra (Aline) Osipova (Praskov’ya’s stepdaughter). Praskov’ya, moreover, was the aunt of Anna Kern, whom Pushkin had met fleetingly in St. Petersburg and who in 1825 came to Trigorskoe. This time Pushkin fell in love with her.

Although there is enough evidence, in the form both of correspondence and of poetry, to enable a fairly clear picture to be formed of the criss-cross of relationships that developed from 1825 onwards (complicated by the fact that Praskov’ya’s son, Aleksei Vul’f, was both Pushkin’s rival and his confidant), it is now nearly seventy years since it was first observed that Pushkin’s biographers had ‘acquired the habit of regarding it as their duty to explain every one’ of Pushkin’s lyrics ‘biographically and using them as direct historical evidence. This is silly.’ – wise advice that has not been heeded by all subsequent biographers.28 Neither the voyeurism of some nor the censoriousness of others has added much to our understanding of Pushkin’s sexuality in relation to his Mikhailovskoe years.

This aspect of Pushkin’s character seems to have changed remarkably little during the first thirty years of his life. As late as 1828 les femmes comme il faut et les grands sentiments were, according to Pushkin himself, what he feared most in the world. Later, Anna Kern described him as ‘charmed by brilliance and outward beauty’ rather than by ‘dignity and simplicity in a woman’s character’, which she attributed to ‘his low opinion of women, entirely in keeping with the spirit of the age’. Generalizations in this field are dangerous But until his marriage Pushkin seems to have related to women -prostitutes apart – either as mature and intelligent interlocutors but physically unattractive, or as silly but attractive, although he was usually not attracted by them for long. (Elizaveta Vorontsova may have been an exception.)

This said, the biographer who declines to pursue Pushkin from one embrace to another during this period must make an exception of two of his Trigorskoe loves, Zizi Vul’f and Anna Kern – each for a different reason. Anna met Pushkin for the first time for six years when she came to stay at Trigorskoe. On the last day of her visit, the party drove over to Mikhailovskoe, where Pushkin walked with her down the avenue of trees alone. Before she left Trigorskoe next day, Pushkin gave her a copy of the opening chapter of Evgenii Onegin, the pages uncut, but enclosing a poem, ‘I remember the wonderful moment’. These twenty-four lines, unquestionably addressed to Anna, did not melt her heart. She seems to have preferred the advances of Aleksei Vul’f – ‘Lovelace’ in Pushkin’s correspondence with him – at the time. It was not until they met again in St. Petersburg three years later that she yielded to Pushkin’s insistence.

Я помню чудное мгновенье:

Передо мной явилась ты,

Как мимолётное виденье,

Как гений чистой красоты.

В томленьях грусти безнадежной,

В тревогах шумной суеты,

Звучал мне долго голос нежный И снились милые черты.

Шли годы. Бурь порыв мятежный Рассеял прежние мечты,

И я забыл твой голос нежный,

Твои небесные черты.

В глуши, во мраке заточенья

Тянулись тихо дни мои

Без божества, без вдохновенья,

Без слёз без жизни, без любви.

Душе настало пробужденье:

И вот опять явилась ты,

Как мимолётное виденье,

Как гений чистой красоты.

И сердце бьется в упоенье,

И для него воскресли вновь И божество, и вдохновенье,

И жизнь, и слёзы, и любовь.

К * * *

(Robin Edmonds)

Pushkin’s Exile at Mikhailovskoe (Part 3)

Pushkin’s reading at Mikhailovskoe was eclectic, ranging across frontiers and centuries. Thus, having already read the earlier volumes of Karamzin’s History of the Russian State (there were twelve in all), he now read the remainder – required reading for a writer on the ‘Time of the Troubles’; and Boris Godunov was dedicated to Karamzin. He read Tacitus’s Histories and Annals in French: an interesting choice of historian by Pushkin, not only because of the economy of Tacitus’s unique prose style – an economy that Pushkin’s prose would emulate – but also because of Tacitus’s attitude to history, which was essentially that of a man looking back on the age that had preceded the one in which he himself lived. Of Shakespeare Pushkin wrote in 1825 : ‘What a man this Shakespeare is! I cannot get over him. Compared with him, how poor a tragedian Byron is! This Byron who only ever conceived one single character … he divided among his characters such and such an aspect of his own personality.. .’

Shakespeare’s influence on Pushkin should not be assessed only in metrical terms: Shakespeare’s blank verse and sonnet metres.12 It would be hard to improve on Pushkin’s much later comparison of Shakespeare and Moliere:

Characters created by Shakespeare, unlike Moliere’s, are not models of a particular kind of passion or of a particular kind of vice; on the contrary, they are living beings complete with many passions, many vices. Circumstances unfold to the spectator their varied and many-sided personalities. Moliere’s miser is miserly – and that is all; Shakespeare’s Shylock is not only miserly, but resourceful, vindictive, child-loving and witty. Moliire’s hypocrite courts his benefactor’s wife in a hypocritical fashion, takes on the custody of an estate as a hypocrite, and asks for a glass of water hypocritically, Shakespeare’s hypocrite pronounces judgement with arrogant sever-ity, but justly; he justifies his cruelty by the profound arguments of a statesman; and he seduces innocence, not with a ridiculous mixture of piety and philandering, but with powerful, fascinating sophistry.

Pushkin wrote Boris Godunov with Shakespeare very much in mind. When he had finished it, he read it out aloud to himself from beginning to end; he clapped his hands and congratulated himself -‘Bravo! You son of a bitch!’14 As it turned out, this work proved to be, in a sense, his Waterloo.15 Planned as the first part of a dramatic trilogy, it was one of Pushkin’s first works to fall foul of the censorship after his political rehabilitation. For that reason it was not printed until 1831; it was first staged as a play nearly forty years later; and even today it is generally thought of in the form of Musorgsky’s fine opera.16

By contrast, Evgenii Onegin survived the censorship, thanks to some judicious omissions and to Pushkin’s physical destruction of his politically incriminating Chapter 10. So effectively did he burn the manuscript of this chapter in 1830 that today all that remains is a collection of fragments, later reconstructed mainly from memory, which prove that it dealt with the Decembrists, but not much more than that.17 Of all Pushkin’s works, Evgenii Onegin is the best known in the west; and it has become better understood since a path was cut through its forest of allusions, literary and topical, by Nabokov’s three volumes of commentary. Yet even in Russia it has been subject to virtually every conceivable interpretation, some of them diametrically opposed to each other.18 In this welter of conflicting opinion it is easy to overlook the fact that Pushkin himself described Evgenii Onegin on the title page as a ‘novel in verse’. And as a novel it would affect the great evolution of the Russian prose novel for the rest of the nineteenth century.

The bare essentials of the story of Evgenii Onegin are deceptively simple. Tatyana, the elder daughter of one of Onegin’s neighbours in the country, falls in love with him at first sight; she declares her love, which he does not return. He later leaves the district, having killed a friend in a duel. After a long time spent travelling, Onegin returns to St. Petersburg, where he again meets Tatyana, now married. He falls in love with her; she rejects him, although she still loves him. The plot of Evgenii Onegin appears romantic in Tchaikovsky’s operatic version (written half a century later), but as Pushkin originally wrote it, its form is severely classical: a double chiasmus. Its framework depends on two balls – one rural and the other grandiose, in the capital – and two letters, the first, early on, from Tatyana to Onegin, and the second, at the very end, from Onegin to Tatyana. (Onegin’s letter – not drafted by Pushkin until 1831 – disappears in the sentimentality of the last act of the opera.) Moreover, it took Pushkin eight years to complete this poem. Its characters developed as the novel went forward. Tatyana’s marriage seems to have taken Pushkin himself by surprise ; and Pushkin’s own character developed over the same period. Evgenii Onegin provides many autobiographical nuggets : Chapter 1 relating to his first years in St. Petersburg, Chapter 2 to his exile at Mikhailovskoe and Chapter 8 to his time in Odessa, while Chapter 10 was presumably an attempt to do homage to the Decembrists.

(Robin Edmonds)