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.

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."
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Some of Our Books

Murder at the Dacha

Murder at the Dacha

Senior Lieutenant Pavel Matyushkin has a problem. Several, actually. Not the least of them is the fact that a powerful Soviet boss has been murdered, and Matyushkin's surly commander has given him an unreasonably short time frame to close the case.
The Little Golden Calf

The Little Golden Calf

Our edition of The Little Golden Calf, one of the greatest Russian satires ever, is the first new translation of this classic novel in nearly fifty years. It is also the first unabridged, uncensored English translation ever, and is 100% true to the original 1931 serial publication in the Russian journal 30 Dnei. Anne O. Fisher’s translation is copiously annotated, and includes an introduction by Alexandra Ilf, the daughter of one of the book’s two co-authors.
Maria's War: A Soldier's Autobiography

Maria's War: A Soldier's Autobiography

This astonishingly gripping autobiography by the founder of the Russian Women’s Death Battallion in World War I is an eye-opening documentary of life before, during and after the Bolshevik Revolution.
Murder and the Muse

Murder and the Muse

KGB Chief Andropov has tapped Matyushkin to solve a brazen jewel heist from Picasso’s wife at the posh Metropole Hotel. But when the case bleeds over into murder, machinations, and international intrigue, not everyone is eager to see where the clues might lead.
Davai! The Russians and Their Vodka

Davai! The Russians and Their Vodka

In this comprehensive, quixotic and addictive book, Edwin Trommelen explores all facets of the Russian obsession with vodka. Peering chiefly through the lenses of history and literature, Trommelen offers up an appropriately complex, rich and bittersweet portrait, based on great respect for Russian culture.
Jews in Service to the Tsar

Jews in Service to the Tsar

Benjamin Disraeli advised, “Read no history: nothing but biography, for that is life without theory.” With Jews in Service to the Tsar, Lev Berdnikov offers us 28 biographies spanning five centuries of Russian Jewish history, and each portrait opens a new window onto the history of Eastern Europe’s Jews, illuminating dark corners and challenging widely-held conceptions about the role of Jews in Russian history.
Life Stories: Original Fiction By Russian Authors

Life Stories: Original Fiction By Russian Authors

The Life Stories collection is a nice introduction to contemporary Russian fiction: many of the 19 authors featured here have won major Russian literary prizes and/or become bestsellers. These are life-affirming stories of love, family, hope, rebirth, mystery and imagination, masterfully translated by some of the best Russian-English translators working today. The selections reassert the power of Russian literature to affect readers of all cultures in profound and lasting ways. Best of all, 100% of the profits from the sale of this book are going to benefit Russian hospice—not-for-profit care for fellow human beings who are nearing the end of their own life stories.
Survival Russian

Survival Russian

Survival Russian is an intensely practical guide to conversational, colloquial and culture-rich Russian. It uses humor, current events and thematically-driven essays to deepen readers’ understanding of Russian language and culture. This enlarged Second Edition of Survival Russian includes over 90 essays and illuminates over 2000 invaluable Russian phrases and words.
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.
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.
Woe From Wit (bilingual)

Woe From Wit (bilingual)

One of the most famous works of Russian literature, the four-act comedy in verse Woe from Wit skewers staid, nineteenth century Russian society, and it positively teems with “winged phrases” that are essential colloquialisms for students of Russian and Russian culture.
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.

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