Anastasia Koshkina

The life of Ivan Turgenev (1818 – 1883), the renowned Russian writer whose 200th jubilee was widely celebrated in Russia, France and Germany in late 2018, was marked with vexing paradoxes. Of giant stature, he had a strikingly high voice, a loving and devoted character and never married. He lived his life on the margins of another family’s nest, and was a prolific writer whose oevre acutely reflected major socio-political movements of the time. He fell out with many friends who inspired and led important social movements of the time. His literary legacy faded against the output of his ‘rivals’ — Tolstoy and Dostoevsky..

A heir to a huge estate Spasskoye-Lutovinovo near Oryol, he was appalled by his mother’s cruel treatment of serfs, his sympathy pouring into the pages of ‘Notes of a Hunter’ and ‘Mumu’ which became world famous. His ‘Notes of a Hunter’ (1847-1852) shrewdly depicted lives of common people and their plight: it is believed that reading this novel became a decisive argument for the Tsar Alexander II to eventually abolish serfdom in 1861. Nonetheless, Turgenev had to spend almost 2 years in exile at his estate for violating the censors’ prohibition of publishing his obituary of Nikolai Gogol, and his contribution to the Emancipation Act of 1861 was celebrated not so much in Russia but in the U.K. where he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Civil Law by the University of Oxford in 1879.

His love for the famous French singer Pauline Viardot, who he met during her first tour to Russia in 1843, was not requited, but this did not stop him from slavishly following his love for the next 40 years, often staying with Pauline’s family. Turgenev’s only child, a daughter born out of wedlock by his mother’s seamstress – Turgenev had a fleeting romance with her in his young years – was recognized by her father upon learning of her existence at the age of 8. She was renamed from Pelageya to Paulinette, sent to Viardot’s family in France, brought up there and thoroughly westernized. She did get a chance of living a happy and prosperous life, however she did not. And her two children did not bear children: Turgenev’s direct lineage died out.

Considering himself truly Russian – and being a quintessence of the best of Russian-ness – perhaps, Turgenev was happier abroad where he had spent most of his life and where he eventually died in 1883.

His first foray abroad was at the age of 20 when he went to study in Berlin: he enjoyed it. Later he lived abroad for years – exercising destiny’s caprices, avoiding wars and following Pauline Viardot’s intricate tour schedule: Germany, U.K., France…

To delve deeper into whimsical zigzags of Ivan Turgenev’s life, you are invited to an exhibition ‘Arabesque: Ivan Turgenev’s Life Pages’ at the State Museum of the History of Russian Literature.

TURGENIANA: A Few Words on Ivan Turgenev. Act I.

This will be the first in the series of events organised to introduce the expat community to the life and work of the renowned Russian writer Ivan Turgenev, whose 200th anniversary was widely celebrated in Russia late in 2018. Among hundreds of commemorative events in Russian there was no single event in English, or any other language, to bring one of Russia’s greatest writers closer to non-Russian speaking public!

To rectify these deficiencies, on January 31 you are warmly welcome to join us on a tour of the exhibition ‘Arabesque. Ivan Turgenev’s Life Pages’ at the State museum of the History of Russian Literature.

The exhibition is an unique amalgam of documents, artworks and memorabilia from the museum’s own archives and items on loan. The museum is located in a cosy former private mansion of Ilya Ostroukhov, a prominent XIXth century collector who turned his collection into a ‘home museum’ open to the public. It is located in the heart of Moscow, near Arbat.

An impeccably educated ‘Gentilhomme’, he was extremely well read, and spent almost as much time in Europe as in his homeland. He spoke 3 European languages fluently and  translated the best writers of his time into Russian and vice versa. He made a significant contribution to the introduction of the European public to Russian literature, and equally the Russians to the crème de la crème of European culture. Unfortunately for his reputation he was later eclipsed by such giants as Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, and his enormous contribution as what we would today call ‘a public diplomat’ was downplayed. However, the trailblazer, paving the Europe-to-Russia / Russia-to-Europe literary way was none other than Ivan Turgenev.

The tour will expand not only on the intricacies of Turgenev’s personal life – his 40-year long love triangle with the French singer Pauline Viardot and her husband is well recounted – but provide an overview of Russia’s socio-political and cultural context of the time, as well as delving into Turgenev’s explorations of Europe, its treasures and people.

This will be the only chance to experience this noteworthy exhibition – on a guided tour in English – before the exhibition closes later that evening (January 31, 2019)!

The exhibition reflects Ivan Turgenev’s multi faceted personality: a poet, novelist, playwright, arts and music connoisseur and critic, founder and patron of arts institutions, and a relentless promoter of Russian culture abroad. He witnessed and participated in many of the most significant events and turmoils of his century.

The tour will be in Russian with consecutive translation into English. The cost is 1.800 RU to be paid in cash at the door.

For all enquiries please contact directly the administrator of this page, Anastasia Koshkina.