LIFE AND CREATIVE WORK OF NINA SLOBODINSKAYA
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3. LIFE AND CREATIVE WORK OF NINA SLOBODINSKAYA
3.1 Biography and worldview of Slobodinskaya reflected through her social circle
Photo of Sofia Alexandrovna Usova (Slobodinskaya), mother of Nina Slobodinskaya, 1920s, unknown author.
Photo of Sofia Usova with her children,( N. Slobodinskaya is in the center) 1890s, unknown author.
Nobles by origin, family Slobodinskiy in the early XX century belonged to the circle of
Russian intelligentsia (cultural and intellectual elite of the society).
Originally, in the pre-revolutionary epoch the family was socially well-positioned and
remained wealthy as Nina Konradovna‘s father - Konrad Vladimirovich Slobodinsky
worked as a chief director of the Kievo-Warsavien Rail Way for the period of 35
years. Once he was even honoured to meet Velikii Kniaz - The Great Prince of the
Russian Royal Family on his way to Turkey with a special Mission. Konrad Slobodinsky
was awarded with an honourable medal, titled the Shining Lion. There was a photo
made together with The Royal Prince as the dear recalling. During many years
Konrad Slobodinskiy kept this photo as a treasure at his home.
Photo with N. Slobosinskaya on the right and her cousin Nina Grinevskaya, 1910s, unknown author. Photo of
Alexander Usov (first on the left), Lunocharsky’s son Anatolii (second from the right side) with his girlfriend Irina Goffe,
Vladimir Gnezdilov, 1930s, unknown author.
After the October Revolution big social changes took place in 1917 together with his
wife Konrad Slobodinskiy moved to The Middle Asia where continued working near
the town Ashkhabad. In 1927 Sofia Slobodinskaya died. By somebody’s report
against him his house was inspected by the KGB and that mentioned photo made
together with the member of Royal Family was found. The testimony of his
connection with the old regime became a sufficient reason to be arrested. In a short
while (in 1932) he was killed and his family for a long period did not get any news on
him. Finally Slobodinskaya’s family had received the report, informing on his death.
Slobodinskiy’s children asked the KGB a permission to bury him in a traditional way.
Finally at the official burial ceremony where inspectors of the KGB observed the
process, the body in the thumb was left in the ground. Previously the family was
strictly requested not to open the thumb (although the open thumb is the part of
Russian traditional burial ceremony in order to say a last goodbye to beloved).
Afterwards returning to the cemetery without any testimonies, his family ventured to
open the thumb and discovered his cadaver quartered, the family was terrified, just
thinking on what tortures suffered their father, who was almost seventy at that time.
Nina Slobodinskaya´s mother - Sofia Alexandrina Usova (Slobodinskaya after the
marriage) was born in Kiev and all lifelong often changed places of residence (she
stayed in different parts of Russia and in Poland near Lublin). Her family Usov was a
famous one, its roots were from Lithuania (Stanislav and Lavrentii Us) and some of her
familiars served in the Yard of Tsar Ivan Grozny (Ivan the Terrible). The mentioning of
Usov’s family can be found in The Blue Book of The Russian nobles. Alexander
Slobodinsky - Sofia Slobodinskaya’s father, for instance, was famous by his wide
charity work. He was a chief of The Nobles in Russian town of Trubchevsk. The citizens
even installed a monument in his honour in 1850 -1870
, commemorating his charity
deeds and his kind heart. All his financial possessions Alexander Slobodinskiy spent
for the needs and health necessities of Trubchevsk citizens. His charity’s work was
carried out to such an extent that his own children were obliged to ask the state
authorities’ financial support in order to get an education, corresponded to their
Photos of Alexander Usov, unknown author. A. Usov, Zebra, 1915, illustrated stories, printed copy.
Alexander Usov, In Australia, illustrated book. Alexander Usov, BelleTavrida, illustrated book.
Alexander Usov, Animals of Central and South Africa, illustrated book.
Alexander Usov - Sofia’s brother (uncle of Nina Slobodinskaya) was a famous
animalist writer, naturalist and traveller. Usov Alexander Alexandrovich (his writer’s
pseudonym was Cheglok) was born in town Trubchevsk, in administration of Orlov’s
region. He studied Technical applied Science in The Academy of Eltse town and till
1894 lived in Odessa. There he studied violin in the Musical Academy, in summer
used to work at The Railway station in order to earn money. Finally Usov had to leave
The Musical Academy as he had suffered from a serious ear illness and changed the
profile of his studies to the specialist of The Railway Academy, from where
successfully graduated and taught students. Later he taught In the Samara Railway
Academy, and further directed The Craftsmen School in St. Petersburg.
From 1892 Usov started to publish books, among which four were on natural science
subject. Due to his serious health problems he had to leave for the town Host. There
he actively participated in the organization of the revolutionary movement. In 1905
he even headed the local military revolt of the workers and peasants. He was
appointed as the first People’s judger by the revolutionists. When the strike was
suppressed he fearlessly escaped in the last moment with the document’s archive,
risking being caught. In autumn of 1906 Usov immigrated to Italy, living on Capri,
where met Lenin, Gorky, Plehanov, Semashko
The figure of Alexander Usov awoke interest among writers, scientists and historians in the actuality.
Thus, his biography, literary and scientistic activities are widely analysed and described. However, his
relationship with Revolutionary leaders and activists . V. Lenin, A. Lounocharsky are kept as narative
memòries, which his family transpasses throughthout generations and has ever been officially
A special attention deserves the fact that Alexander Usov was a friend and fellow of
Anatoly Vasilyevich Lunocharsky. The relationship of friendship existed between
Lounocharsky’s family and the whole family of Slobodinskiy: in the post-revolutionary
epoch Lounocharsky’s family often visited Usov and Slobodinskiy in Lazarevskaya
(small town at the Black sea, south of Russia), where the family had second
residence and used to pass there the whole summers. Their friendship and
collaboration longed all their mature years, their life path constantly crossed and
were interlinked; the researcher of Usov’s biography even affirmed that Lunocharsky
was influenced by Usov in his spiritual beliefs and searches. The fact that
Lunacharskiy’s son Anatoly from 1926-1929 often visited Usov’s family in Lazarevskaya
(see a photo p. 69.) testifies a close friendly relationship existed between Usov’s and
Lunocharsky’s families. In Nina Slobodinskaya’s family archive there is a photo of
Lunocharsky’s son, Vladimir Gnezdilov (Nina Slobodinskaya’s husband) and
Alexander Usov together. Moreover, Lunocharsky always supported Usov in the post-
revolutionary epoch, giving a social public way to his outstanding original ideas and
defending him from The KGB attacks (A. Usov was arrested by The KGB only after
Lunocharsky - the future Commissar of Culture in the post-revolutionary Russia,
appointed as such by Lenin's first Soviet government. He was jailed by Kerensky in
July 1917. He mysteriously died in 1933, just before taking the position of Ambassador
in Spain. Anatoly Lunacharsky was originally from Poltava (Ukraine), which at that
epoch was a part of the Russian Empire. Already in the gymnasium of Kiev,
Lunocharsky first felt curiosity for Marxism’s theory. Later Lunocharsky continued his
studying in the University of Zurich, where he chooses philosophy and natural science
as his specialization. The lecturer Richard Avenarius introduced a young student his
idealistic ideas of Empiriocriticism, therefore Lunocharsky started to deeply study
works of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, a part of other materialists. It was grace to its
theoretical thoughts, that Lunocharsky found the reference point to the further
development of his vision and philosophical ideas – a viewpoint which affirmed that
only direct experience could be used as a basis for knowledge
published. More on the subject of A. Usov’s activities we may find in the following works: Рубакин, Н.А.
Над рекою времени. М.:
Искусство, 1966; and in the work of Зорин, В.Н. Чеглок: Повесть о рус.
писателе, революционере, путешественнике, изобретателе. Кубань: Высш. шк., 1971.
Витман, А.М., Оськина, Л.Г. Советские детские писатели. (1917—1957). М.: Библиогр. слов, 1961,
Бугаенко, П.А. Луначарский, А В. Cоветская литературная критика. M.:Саратов, 1972, C.27.
Being already the Zurich University’s student, Anatoly Lunacharsky subscribed to the
Russian Social Democratic Labour Party (RSDLP). As to the revolutionary activities,
Lunocharsky started them after returning to Russia in 1898, already one year later he
was accused, was arrested and deported from Russia. In 1903 the RSDLP was
divided into Mensheviks (which signified minority), headed by Julius Martov and
Bolsheviks (which meant majority), directed by Vladimir Lenin. Lunacharsky followed
Bolsheviks. Gradually in 6 years of collaboration over the next six years the
philosophical discrepancy and political disagreement consolidated between Lenin
and Lunocharsky. Due to Anatoly Lunacharsky developed ideas, socialism was
considered as a way of achieving the promised land on earth and was a part of
God-building process; the Marxism meanwhile regarded the day when humankind
would be freed from dependence on nature and the supernatural as a culminate
Vladimir Lenin was in opposition to Lunacharsky’s ideas and Lunacharsky didn’t
approve Lenin’s extremism and believed in parliamentary means of achieving
power. In 1909 Anatoly Lunacharsky with Maxim Gorky and Aleksandr Bogdanov
created the left-wing party Vperyod (Forward), which stood against Lenin. Gorky,
Bogdanov and Lunacharsky formed an educational centre for Russian socialist
workers on the island of Capri. Finally in 1910 Lunocharsky with his fellows relocated
the school to Bologna and taught there up until 1911
the World War I in 1914. In a year time Lunacharsky, together with Pavel Lebedev-
Polyansky, started editing and publishing Vperyod - the social democratic
newspaper, focused on proletarian culture. Lounocharsky never accepted the
Menshevik’s strategy and tactics in the revolutionary battle. Returning to the
historical turning point, Lounocharsky was chocked with the news on the Revolution
in 1917, which finished with the downfall of the Russian Empire and republic’s
declaration. Anatoly Lunacharsky moved from Switzerland to Russia. He took part of
the Bolsheviks’ group and in October 1917 was appointed as a Commissar of
Education’s Enlightenment (The Narkompros), which, indeed, signified to be the
Education’s and the Art’s Minister. Lunacharsky kept this position until 1929.
Lonacharsky was actively involved in his work. As the main task he considered to
Борев, Ю.Б. Луначарский. Жизнь замечательных людей. М.: Молодая гвардия, C.211-253.
Ёлкин, А.С. Луначарский. Жизнь замечательных людей. М.: Издательство ЦК ВЛКСМ Молодая
гвардия, 1967, C.38-42.
preserve the historical and cultural monuments and heritage; therefore he was
terrified when Bolsheviks started bombing old historical and artistic monuments of
Old Russian Empire. He even was going to resign, in protest to this event, when the
Kremlin was under the attack during the October Revolution. It seems strange but
some facts reveal his participation in other monuments ruining of historical meaning,
regardless to their replacement with new, ideologically-oriented works. Eventually
Anatoly Lunacharsky served as intermediary between Old Russian intelligentsia and
a new Soviet government, trying to persuade them to collaborate. Besides he made
all possible to protect scientists from persecution in the post-revolutionary epoch,
however approving the mass deportation of some significant scientists and expelling
a number of university teachers for political reasons
. Anyway these controversial
facts should be deeper researched and better illustrated.
The role of Lunacharsky in formation of a new socialist culture and educational
system in the post-revolutionary space is primary. He developed such fields as
cinema, literature, art and theatre. Lunocharsky believed that the Proletariat must
control and possess the cultural and artistic heritage of the country. Particularly to
him belonged the idea to approach working class to Arts and widely educate the
average population. Moreover, being a literary critic and historian, Anatoly
Lunacharsky edited works of the most significant Russian and foreign writers, having
as the reference point, the development of proletarian literature. The main purpose
of literature in Lunocharsky’s opinion was analysis and criticism of the class system.
Thereby, he personally took part in preparation of groups of writers, thinking that
soon there would become great authors with an approach of the working people.
Anatoly Lunacharsky is an author of various writings and plays, besides he made a
translation of the poem Faust by Nicolaus Lenau
. Lunacharsky was not in the
direct opposition with west and generally foreign culture, instead, he attempted to
find points of collaboration. He stayed in touch with such prominent writers as Stefan
Zweig, Romaine Rolland, Bernard Shaw, Herbert Wells and Berthold Brecht. Another
idea of Lunacharsky was to convert the Russian language into the international Latin
alphabet (instead of the traditional Cyrillic)
which was not realized.
Ёлкин, А.С. Луначарский. Жизнь замечательных людей. М.: Издательство ЦК ВЛКСМ Молодая гвардия, 1967,
Ibid, p. 59.
As in In 1929 Josef Stalin took power, Lunacharsky, was fired from the post of the
Commissar of Education and Enlightenment. Instead he was designated as the
head of the Learned Council of the USSR Central Executive Committee. There he
remained as an editor of the Literature’s Encyclopaedia, which was edited from
1929 till1939. From 1930 to1932 Lunacharsky was a representative of the Soviet Union
at the League of Nations and participated in a conference on disarmament. In 1933
he had to leave as Soviet Ambassador to Spain, but suddenly died during his travel.
Lounacharsky was buried in the Kremlin Wall’s Necropolis, which was considered as
a great privilege at the time.
Soon after his death the figure of Lounacharsky was
left in the oblivion and only grace to his daughter’s (Irina’s) efforts, the former
popularity returned to him; from that point he was newly reconsidered as a
prominent figure and a symbol of the Bolshevik’s Revolution. A number of streets
and institutions were named in his honour, as well as the asteroid 2446, in 1971.
Returning to Alexander Usov, who from 1908 till 1914 travelled around the world,
visiting Egypt, Sahara, Congo, and India’s jungles. In addition he travelled to the
South Asia, Australia, New Zeeland, North America and left for Europe. As a result he
wrote several interesting books, using the literary pseudonym Cheglok (which means
a small falcon with moustache - black spots under its eyes). The literature critics
would describe him as: “Cheglok – the unique author in children’s zoological
literature who so vividly and brightly describes the animal’s life”
century, a Russian academician of painting, sculptor - animalist, famous as illustrator
of Kipling’s fairy tales Maugli), accompanied him in his travels. Both personalities
shared beliefs in theosophical ideas. Vatagin illustrated some Usov’s books: Our
Lazarevskaya, in 1936 Vasiliy Vatagin bought a house, where he stayed during The II
World War and returned to Moscow only in 1944. N. Slobodinskaya and her son
Andrey Gnezdilov remember visitiong his studio, they always felt overwhelmed by
the scale and the variety of his ideas always centered on the animalistic genre. The
grandiosity of his ideas was based on enormous feeling of animals’ world admiration.
The long-term friendship, Vatagin’s stories on his exotic trips, his careful, attentive
Зорин, В.Н. Чеглок: Повесть о рус. писателе, революционере, путешественнике, изобретателе. Кубань:
Искусство, 1971, C.32-38.
attitude towards nature and model certainly made an important impact at young
sculptor Slobodinskaya’s artistic formation. In 1917 Usov returned to Russia, where in
Moscow he worked as a publisher under A.V. Lunocharsky’s direction. Then he left
for the Caucasus where lived in the village of Djubga, there he directed schools of
the first and the second level and also the department of National Education. In
1922 Usov left for Lazarevskaya (small town in the south of Russia at the Black sea).
There together with his wife Nadejda Artemieva and his son Alexander planted the
garden which got an award at the National Agriculture’s exhibition. Curiously, he
even wrote some notices on agronomy matter
Grigoriev, V.A. Vatagin, 1970s, bronze, life-size. V. Vatagin with his sculpture of rhinoceros, photo, unknown author.
Besides, he invented a stringed musical instrument, with which 6 times performed in
Moscow, invented a new method of meal boiling which was officially approved.
After all he presented engineer’s projects of new airplane engine and a high-speed
ship. In the village of Guarek together with his fellows Alexander Usov created a
small theosophical ashram - place of meditation and thinking. He also built a kind of
a sun chapel in form of a star, where through the system of mirrors the sun light
remained all the day long. In evenings local and travelling theosophists – fellows and
close friends, used to gather near the sea-side at the bonfire, reading poems,
meditating, discussing philosophical issues. Amidst the participants was a famous
Russian poet Maximilian Voloshin
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