Russian Women's Studies: Essays on Sexism in Soviet Culture

By Tatyana Mamonova; Margaret Maxwell | Go to book overview
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12
Inspiration: Musya
Bashkirtseva and Nadya
Rusheva

I first learned the name Musya Bashkirtseva in the 1960s not in school of course, since Women's Studies do not exist in the Soviet Union, but later. A wave of liberalization brought me to the Public Library in Leningrad.At that time part of the section containing "forbidden books" was opened to readers, making possible a partial recovery of our history which had been buried during the Stalinist era.

Not long after this I had the good fortune to find in a store dealing in rare books the Diaries of Musya Bashkirtseva, a once famous painter and writer, in a Russian edition published before the Revolution. * My personal library, containing many rare books on women's history, which I had collected over the years, were unfortunately left behind in Leningrad after my exile, and almost entirely confiscated.This, except for the loss of my friends and family, was one of the vital losses of my life. In the West I have not been able to restore my collection of books even partially.

In the 1960s we became aware of the name of a contemporary which deserves to be placed along side that of Musya Bashkirtseva: Nadya Rusheva, also an artist.Nadya did not leave behind any writings, but she was uniquely talented, and like Musya she died young.In 1884, at the age of twenty four, Musya died of tuberculosis in Paris.In the late 1960s Nadya Rusheva succumbed to a cerebral hemorrhage in Moscow at the age of nineteen.Both of these young women were inspiration personified, both worked under unbelievable pressure ten hours a day.

The analytically severe oil paintings of Musya are distinct from the bright

____________________
*
Bashkirtseva was born in Russia, but lived much of her life in Paris and preferred to write in French.
Bashkirtseva died so young young that it seems fitting here to refer to her as Musya, the name her family called her at home.

-103-

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