The Future Will Understand

Text by Helen Borodina, Photos by Anastasia Standke

Special thanks to Elizaveta Miroshnikova and Denis Golubev

1917 – 2017, Centenary of the Great October Revolutuion and the Civil War.

One of Moscow’s central theatrical centres, Vishnevy Sad, held an event titled ‘Red Laugh: a mysterium’, to pay tribute to the victims of the October Revolution and the War of 1917.

‘Stop the war this instant—or else . . .’

But what ‘else’ is there? Are there any words that can make them come to their senses? Words, in answer to which one cannot find just such other loud and lying words? Or must I fall upon my knees before them and burst into tears? But then, hundreds of thousands are making the earth resound with their weeping, but does that change anything? Or, perhaps, kill myself before them all? Kill myself! Thousands are dying every day, but does that change anything?

(Leonid Andreyev, The Red Laugh)

The lights went down; the man at the microphone and the music ensemble in the spotlight on the stage began the mysterium, taking the audience on a journey in the screeching, cold carriages of the war train. And outside of the theater hall, in the foyer, stood Christmas trees, blinking with colourful lights.

Yuri Belyaev

The mysterium is based on Leonid Andreev’s anti-war novella, ‘Red Laugh’ (originally about Russia’s defeat in the Russian-Japanese war, published in 1904), directed by Andrey Kotov and performed by actor Yuri Belyaev and the ensemble of ancient Russian music, ‘Sirin’, was completed by Arvo Part’s ‘Adam’s Lament’ (preceded by a lecture by Elizaveta Miroshnikova, director of the music festival ‘Spiegel im Spiegel’), performed by Moscow’s well-known Collegium Musicum and Eidos. It was definitely powerful.

‘But this was a brave thing to do,’ – I told Elizaveta afterwards, ‘To stir people’s emotions like this in the season of holiday preparations…’

‘It’s also the Advent season,’ – she remarked.

After the event, I was introduced to its organizer, Tamara Tretyakova, a brunette in a blue evening dress, with a radiant smile; director of scientific-methodic department at the Moscow Management of Educational Programs. We arrange to meet at her office in Prospect Mira, near Aptekarsky.

Tamara Tretyakov

“Remember, remember me, dear girl; I am going mad. Thirty thousand dead, thirty thousand dead! . . .”

“Now I feel I have the right to go Christmas-shopping, I feel that I’ve done my duty,” – Tamara tells me when we meet. “We take it so much for granted these days that we can celebrate New Year’s day and Christmas, that we can be with our children, our families, live in our cities… People just miss the point when they talk about war, about revolution. I’ve been asked if I found Andreyev’s novella horrifying… I’m sure it’s not as horrifying as what really was there. This is still art, you see,” – Tamara explains. “When I hear people talk about WWII, even today’s younger generation, and they say, soldiers fought with the name of Stalin on their lips, they were heroes – yes, but how many died? Today, we talk about 50 million, but we will never know the exact number… How did those people feel, going to war, not knowing if they will survive, if those they loved would live? And the Revolution, the Civil War of 1917… all filled with human pain and despair, millions of lives lost.”

The ensemble of ancient Russian music, ‘Sirin.’

“Before the war I was on the staff of a journal reviewing foreign literature, and now, disposed within my reach, lay a heap of those dear; sweet books in yellow, blue and brown covers. My joy was so great, my delight so profound, that I could not make up my mind to begin reading them, and I merely fingered the books, passing my hand caressingly over them…”

“I had the idea for a year and a half, worked at its details, and then, we had three months to prepare,” – Tamara tells me. “And we managed to make it by early December, the time that, back in 1917, was turbulent and dark.”

Helen Borodina: How did you manage to bring everything together?

Tamara Tretyakova: I needed a voice, a mature voice to read the text, and, as a musician, I felt there had to be music. When I was introduced to Yuri Belyaev and heard his voice, and when ‘Sirin’ came along, I knew they were capable of working a miracle. I attended the rehearsals and saw its making. At the event itself, everyone present in the spotlight on the stage was a powerful dramatic element.

Helen Borodina: The text…

Tamara Tretyakova: Yes… I asked forgiveness from the writer – the forgiveness that’s only possible when you have the unconditional love I have for him – and shortened it, taking out the most naturalistic, the most terrible parts. I had to brighten it up, to put an emphasis on what focused on the message.

Helen Borodina: What determined your choice of Arvo Part’s ‘Adam’s Lament’?

Tamara Tretyakova:: To begin with, Arvo Part is the most widely played composer of today. For this event, I needed a concept, and had that in mind, looking for a music piece to be played after the intermission. When I came across Adam’s Lament, I knew it was the right choice.

Adam’s Lament is the story of Adam who, already grieved at having been banished from the Garden of Eden, sees his younger son Abel killed by Cain, his firstborn. He cries in his despair, realizing that from then on brothers will kill each other forever, and there will be no peace in this world.

Helen Borodina: How did everything work?

Tamara Tretyakova: It was an experiment. If it touched some people, I feel rewarded.

“And now I must set to work,’ said I, seriously, full of respect for work…

. . . And inspiration, sacred inspiration, came to me. The, sun burst forth in my head, and its burning creative rays darted over the whole world, dropping flowers and songs—flowers and songs. And I wrote on through the whole night, feeling no exhaustion, but soaring freely on the wings of mighty, sacred inspiration. I was writing something great—something immortal—flowers and songs—flowers and songs . . .

“Of course I do not count upon being recognized by my contemporaries,’ he would say proudly and unassumingly at the same time, putting his trembling hand on the heap of empty sheets, “but the future—the future—will understand my idea.”


Leonid Andreyev was a symbolist and realist Russian writer of the Silver Age (b.Aug 21 1871 – d. Sep 12 1919). His works ‘The Seven Who Were Hanged’ , ‘Red Laugh’ , ‘Lazarus’, ‘The Marseillaise’, ‘A Story Which Never Be Finished’, ‘A Serpent’s Story’, ‘A Crushed Flower’, ‘The Life of a Man’, ‘King Hunger’, ‘To the Stars’ and many others have been translated to English, French and other languages.

Arvo Pärt is a Soviet and Estonian composer and most widely performed composer of today in the world today. He currently resides in Tallin and Berlin. He calls his style that he invented in 1970s ‘tintinnabuli’. His notable works are, ‘Te Deum’, ‘Adam’s Lament’, ‘Salve Regina’, ‘Spigel im Spigel’, ‘Fratres’ ,’Für Alina’, and many others.

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