Золотой век России (1880-1940)

After Joseph Stalin was acclaimed as leader of the CPSU in 1929, Pasternak became further disillusioned with the Party’s tightening censorship of literature. Still unwilling to conform, Pasternak remained a close friend of Anna Akhmatova and Osip Mandelstam. Mandelstam recited his searing indictment of Stalin, the Stalin Epigram, to Pasternak soon after its composition in late April 1934. After listening, Pasternak told Mandelstam, “I didn’t hear this, you didn’t recite it to me, because, you know, very strange and terrible things are happening now: they’ve begun to pick people up. I’m afraid the walls have ears and perhaps even these benches on the boulevard here may be able to listen and tell tales. So let’s make out that I heard nothing.”

On the night of 14 May 1934, Mandelstam was arrested at his home based on a warrant signed by NKVD boss Genrikh Yagoda. Devastated, Pasternak went immediately to the offices of Izvestia and begged Nikolai Bukharin to intercede on Mandelstam’s behalf.

According to Olga Ivinskaya, Pasternak was deeply upset by Mandelstam’s arrest. He was concerned for his friend but he also worried that he might be blamed for fingering Mandelstam to the secret police. Ivinskaya writes that Pasternak “raced frantically all over town, telling everybody that he was not to blame and denying responsibility for Mandelstam’s disappearance, which for some reason he thought might be laid at his door.

Soon after his meeting with Bukharin, the telephone rang in Pasternak’s Moscow apartment. A voice from The Kremlin said, “Comrade Stalin wishes to speak with you.” According to Ivinskaya, Pasternak was struck dumb. “He was totally unprepared for such a conversation. But then he heard his voice, the voice of Stalin, coming over the line. The Leader addressed him in a rather bluff uncouth fashion, using the familiar thou form: ‘Tell me, what are they saying in your literary circles about the arrest of Mandelstam?’” Flustered, Pasternak denied that there was any discussion or that there were any literary circles left in Soviet Russia. Stalin went on to ask him for his own opinion of Mandelstam. In an “eager fumbling manner” Pasternak explained that himself and Mandelstam each had a completely different philosophy about poetry. Ivinskaya writes that he “went on for quite a time in this vein. Stalin gave him no encouragement whatsoever, not interjecting, or uttering a sound of any kind. At last B[oris] L[eonidovich] came to a halt. Stalin then said, in a mocking tone of voice: “I see, you just aren’t able to stick up for a comrade,” and put down the receiver.


Wikipedia article on Boris Pasternak.

The poets Spiridon Drozhzhin and Rainer Maria Rilke, 1899-1900.
Yukhym Mykhailiv, The Bronze Age, 1935
Ivan Kulikov - A Daydreaming Woman, 1905

No Russian side had ever visited Britain before and, despite the two countries technically still being allies with the Cold War yet to begin, the communist party were initially wary of allowing a football team to visit the West. But after much persuasion they came to see the political value of a successful tour.

The British press had, for the most part, written Dinamo off. “They are not nearly good enough to play our class of professional teams,” said the Sunday Express. “Do not expect much from this bunch of factory workers”. Despite this, for Dinamo’s inaugural fixture against Chelsea on 13 November some estimates put the crowd at Stamford Bridge past the 100,000 mark. These exotic visitors wowed them with an organised warm-up in tracksuits beforehand, both of which were unheard of in Britain at the time. Quite what the Chelsea squad thought when presented with bouquets of flowers at kick-off is another matter.
Dinamo had proved they were equal to their western European counterparts and, while it perhaps didn’™t do any favours for diplomatic relations, the tour proved to be a bit of a coup for the communists;“ just as they had desired. And off the back it, one year later the USSR would join FIFA, beginning a new chapter in Soviet football.

Members of the USSR’s football team ‘Dinamo’ in London, November 1945. Photo by Ivan Shagin.
The People’s Assembly of Western Ukraine during a vote for the reunification with the Ukrainian SSR, October 1939. Photo by Mikhail Ozersky.
Nikolai Zhukov and Sergei Sakharov, Crimea, 1935
Nikolai Zhukov and Sergei Sakharov, Country of 189 Peoples, 1934
Stop! Soviet anti-nightlife propaganda poster with a poem by Demyan Bedny, 1929.
Bricklayers on Konnogvardeisky Lane, St. Petersburg, 1900’s. Photo by Karl Bulla.
Anna Ostroumova-Lebedeva, View from Petrovsky Park, 1900’s
Leon Bakst, Portrait of a Girl, 1905
The cremation of Leon Trotsky, Mexico, 1940.
Russian policeman, 1905.
Children sitting in a car, Uzbekistan, 1930’s. Photo by Max Penson.