Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Ten 'names of Russia' which didn't make the list

Just for fun I’ve compiled a list of ‘Names of Russia’ which did not make it into the final twelve. It is, I appreciate, rather heavy on literary figures. I’d be interested in readers’ comments or suggestions.

1. Leo Tolstoy – Literary giant, whose realist novels, in tandem with Dostoevsky’s works, defined Russian literature’s golden age. His political and religious convictions both reflected and shaped many of the prevailing political and reformist trends in late nineteenth century Russia.

2. Mikhail Gorbachev – Communist General Secretary whose project of evolutionary reform for the USSR sadly was unable to prevail when faced with centrifugal forces and nationalism unleashed by Boris Yeltsin and others.

3. Ilya Repin – Ukrainian born artist whose realist paintings informed Socialist Realism, but far exceeded the merits of that genre. Produced startling and varied canvasses often said to reflect the latent political power of the Russian people.

4. Nikolai Gogol – The father of Russian prose. Dostoevsky believed his generation of novelists had emerged from beneath ‘Gogol’s Overcoat’. His satirical style and almost surreal, slightly grotesque characters informed Dostoevsky’s own novels as well as those of later novelists such as Bulgakov.

5. Rurik – Varangian Prince whose dynasty would rule Kievan Rus and the Russian proto state.

6. Marshall Zhukov – The military commander, born in Belarus, who led the liberation of the Soviet Union from Nazi occupation during the Great Patriotic War. His troops would eventually reach Berlin.

7. Mikhail Lomonsov – scientist, writer, poet, Lomonsov’s peasant background did not prevent him making a huge contribution to the standardising of the Russian literary language. His experiments in heat and light played a role in shaping modern science.

8. Ivan Turgenev – With Tolstoy and Dostoevsky formed the great triumvirate of ‘golden age’ Russian novelists. A westerniser by sensibility, his finest work was ‘Fathers and Sons’.

9. Yuri Gagarin – The first man in space deserves a mention.

10. Anton Chekhov – Master of the short story, his clear eyed narrative style has been hugely influential in modern literature. Pioneered the ‘stream of consciousness’ device before Joyce.


O'Neill said...

Solzenitzen and Trotsky.

The former for the obvious reasons but also for his period post the collapse of the USSR where his confused rantings was a metaphor for the absolute mess his country was in culturally and politically.

Trotsky is arguably a more important figure than Lenin in the world picture, in that his dream was the export of communism as opposed to consolidating it at home. And after taking that pick-axe in his nut, he achieved his target… for 50 years or so anyway.

Aidan said...

I am reading a book called "Portraits de Pechkoff" about this man http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zinovi_Pechkoff who was a very famous Russian in France and a protégé of Gorky.
Another Russian who had a great impact on the world was Nuryev. The biographical novel "Dancer" by Colum McCann is highly recommended.

Chekov said...

Sounds like an interesting character Aidan. Speaking of émigrés I did consider Nabakov for the 10th spot.

Good points from O'Neill also.

I'm also aware that music is underrepresented, given Russia's extraordinary contribution. I'm not terribly au fait with classical music though.

Anonymous said...

From a movie-lover's point of view, I will add the name Aleksandr Sokurov whose work I have recently become aware of. His films often caused problems with the Communist authorities but in recent years he has earned international acclaim. I look forward to seeing his latest release "Aleksandra" on DVD - "a powerful critique of the war in Chechnya" - maybe not for you chekov! Sokurov is also responsible for the longest single shot in movie history, his film "Russian Ark" lasts 96 mins with no cuts. He's no Werner Herzog but arguably Russia's greatest film-maker, maybe worth a mention on your list?


Chekov said...

I love Russian Ark. Visiting the Hermitage it felt like we'd been there before.

Anonymous said...

Haven't see it but I hear it's a cheap way of getting a tour of the Hermitage!