Russian Calendar

Russian Life, November-December 2001 | Go to article overview

Russian Calendar


NOVEMBER

6 Today is the 90th birthday of Pavel Lisitsian (1911). From 1940 through the 1960s, Lisitsian was one of the stars of the Bolshoi Theater. Listeners were mesmerized not only by his beautiful baritone voice, but also by his talented acting. His most famous parts included Robert in Jolanta, Mazepa in Tchaikovsky's opera of the same name, Escamilio in Carmen, Amonasro in Aida and many others. Yet it was his portrayal of Yevgeny Onegin in the famous Tchaikovsky opera which was considered his finest work, so much so that he was called "the inimitable Onegin." Not surprisingly, Lisitsian was the first Soviet singer invited to sing on the stage of New York's Metropolitan Opera.

7 Day of National Accord and Reconciliation. For nearly 80 years this day was a celebration of the Anniversary of the Great October Revolution. After the breakup of the USSR, rather than cancel the familiar November holiday, it was changed into this present form.

11 This is the centenary of Yevgeny Charushin (1901-1965). A student of the Petrograd Academy of Arts (graduated 1926) Charushin had a multifaceted, bright talent: he was an artist, a children's writer, a theater decorator and sculptor. However, the illustrations for his own books and those of other writers soon became his chief life work His illustrations for Vitaly Bianki's book Murzuk were purchased by the Tretyakov Gallery upon the book's publication in 1927. Many generations of Russian children were brought up on Charushin's books, e.g. Chur (1930), Baby Birds and Little Wolf (1932-1936), Nikita and his Friends. In 1965, Charushin was awarded a Gold Medal for Lifetime Achievement in Children's Book Illustrations at the international Children's Book Show in Leipzig.

12 Today is the 180th anniversary of the birth 1 of Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1821-1881), one of the greatest writers in the Russian pantheon. In 1843 he graduated from St. Petersburg's Military Engineering School (where he enrolled at the behest of his father) and was employed at the Design Service of the Engineer Department. He resigned a year later, convinced that literature was his true vocation. His first novel, Poor Folk was published in 1845 and was hailed by critic Vissarion Belinsky as "the advent of a new unparalleled talent." In his later novels, White Nights (1848) and Netochka Nezvanova (1849), his literary realism laced with psychological analysis is fully apparent, as he places extraordinary characters in extraordinary situations. "They all say that reality is dull and boring, so to distract oneself they turn over to art, for fantasy they read novels," the author wrote. "To me it is the other way round: what can be more fantastic and unexpected than reality?"

This quote proved all to true about Dostoyevsky's own life. His literary career came to an abrupt halt in 1849 when lie was arrested as a member of the Petrashevsky Circle (which touted utopian socialism). He was on the gallows when pardoned and sent to Siberian labor camps for four years. After the death of Nicholas I, the more liberal Tsar Alexander II returned to Dostoevsky his rights of nobility, and eventually permission to resettle in St. Petersburg. In those years he created his next major work: The Humiliated and Insulted (1861). The ten years of physical and moral hardship in exile had sharpened Dostoevsky's receptiveness to human sufferings. They also marked his disenchantment with socialist illusions. Dostoevsky came to advocate Russia's special path "to an earthly paradise," facing off against the writers Chernyshevsky and Dobrolyubov.

In 1865, in Wiesbaden, Dostoevsky began working on his seminal novel, Crime and Punishment (finished in 1866), which reflects upon the complex path of his own internal torments: a path to redemption via humility and self-abnegation.

After marrying his secretary-stenograph Anna Snitkina in 1867, Dostoevsky spent several years abroad (in Germany, Switzerland and Italy). …

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