Freda Bedi, by Wikipedia

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Re: Freda Bedi, by Wikipedia

Postby admin » Tue Jul 16, 2019 3:23 am

'Tibet In Darkness'
by Acharya Rajneesh (Osho)
Friends of Tibet (INDIA)




Acharya Rajneesh

"If there were something civilised in man, every nation would have stood against the invasion of Tibet by China. It is the invasion of matter against consciousness. It is invasion of materialism against spiritual heights"

-- Acharya Rajneesh

Unfortunately, Tibet has fallen into a darkness. Its monasteries have been closed, its seekers of truth have been forced to work in labour camps. The only country in the world which was working -- a one-pointed genius, all its intelligence in the search of one's own interior and its treasures has been stopped by the communist invasion of Tibet.

And it is such an ugly world that nobody has objected to it. On the contrary, because China is big and powerful, even countries which are more powerful than China can ever be, like America, have accepted that Tibet belongs to China. That is sheer nonsense -- just because China is powerful and everybody wants China to be on its side. Neither have the Soviets denied the claim of China aside -- even India has not objected. It was such a beautiful experiment, and Tibet had no weapons to fight, they had no army to fight; they had never thought about it. Their whole thing was an introvert pilgrimage.

Nowhere has such concentrated effort been made to discover man's being. Every family in Tibet used to give their eldest son to some monastery where he was to meditate and grow closer to awakening. It was a joy to every family that at least one of them was wholeheartedly, twenty-four hours a day, working on the inner being. They were also working but they could not give all their time; they had to create food and clothes and shelter, and in Tibet it is a difficult matter. The climate is not very helpful; to live in Tibet is a tremendous trouble. But still every family used to give their first-born child to the monastery.

There were hundreds of monasteries… and these monasteries should not be compared with any Catholic monasteries. These monasteries have no comparison in the whole world. These monasteries were concerned only with one thing -- to make you aware of yourself.

Thousands of devices have been created down the centuries so that your lotus can blossom and you can find your ultimate treasure, the diamond. These are just symbolic words, but the destruction of Tibet should be known in history, particularly man becomes a little more aware and humanity a little more humane… This is the greatest calamity of the twentieth century that Tibet has fallen into the hands of materialists who don't believe that you have anything inside you. They believe that you are only matter and your consciousness is only a by-product of matter. And all this is simply without any experience of the inner -- just logical, rational philosophising.

Not a single communist in the world has meditated, but it is strange -- they all deny the inner. Nobody thinks about how the outer can exist if there is no inner. They exist together, they are inseparable. And the outer is only a protection for the inner, because the inner is very delicate and soft. But the outer is accepted and the inner is denied. And even if sometimes it is accepted, the world is dominated by such dirty politicians that they use even the inner experiences for ugly ends.

Just the other day, I came to know that America is now training its soldiers in meditation so that they can fight without any nervous breakdown, without going mad, without feeling any fear so they can lie down in their ditches silently, calm and cool and collected. No meditator may have ever thought that meditation can also be used for fighting wars, but in the hands of politicians everything becomes ugly -- even meditation. Now the army camps in America are teaching meditation so that their soldiers can be more calm and quiet while killing people. But I want to warn America: you are playing with fire. You don't understand exactly what meditation will do. Your soldiers will become so calm and quiet that they will throw away their weapons and they will simply refuse to kill. A meditator cannot kill; a meditator cannot be destructive. So they are going to be surprised one day that their soldiers are no longer interested in fighting. War, violence, murder, massacre of millions of people -- this is not possible if a man knows something of meditation. Then he knows the other whom he is killing. He is his brother. They all belong to the same oceanic existence.

If humanity were a little more aware, Tibet should be made free because it is the only country which has devoted almost two thousand years to doing nothing but going deeper into meditation. And it can teach the whole world something which is immensely needed.

But communist China is trying to destroy everything that has been created in two thousand years. All their devices, all their whole spiritual climate is being polluted, poisoned. But they are simple people; they cannot defend themselves. They don't have anything to defend themselves with -- no tanks, no bombs, no airplanes, no army. An innocent race which lived without any war for two thousand years… It disturbs everybody -- even to reach there is a difficult task. They live on the very roof of the world. The highest mountains, eternal snow, is their home. Leave them alone! China will not lose anything, but the whole world will be benefited by their experience.

Tibet should be left as an experimental lab for man's inner search. But not a single nation in the world has raised its voice against this ugly attack on Tibet. And China has not only attacked it, they have amalgamated it into their map. Now, on the modern Chinese map, Tibet is their territory.

And we think the world is civilised, where innocent people who are not doing any harm to anybody are simply destroyed. And with them, something of great importance to all humanity is also destroyed. If there were something civilised in man, every nation would have stood against the invasion of Tibet by China. It is the invasion of matter against consciousness. It is invasion of materialism against spiritual heights.

"Osho is an enlightened master who is working with all possibilities to help humanity overcome a difficult phase in developing consciousness."

-- HH the XIV Dalai Lama
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Re: Freda Bedi, by Wikipedia

Postby admin » Tue Jul 16, 2019 5:55 am

Bernard de Give
by Wikipedia
Accessed: 7/15/19



Rinpoche Enters Dialogue

After escaping from Tibet in 1959, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche arrived tattered and penniless in India with a small party of lay students and monks. A young tulku still in robes, he had his first encounters with Christians in Kalimpong in 1960. A missionary organization gave Tibetan refugees cartons of milk powder and Spam along with a Bible and missionary literature translated into Tibetan. Rinpoche later humorously observed that the literature reported that “Tibetan Buddhists practice by themselves and try to attain enlightenment in their own way, while the Christians, on the other hand, go out and produce milk powder and Spam and try to save others.”21

A few years later, when Rinpoche attended Oxford University as a Spalding Visiting Fellow in Comparative Religion, he was assigned a Belgian Jesuit priest as a tutor. Father DeGives [then Jesuit, now Trappist Fr. Bernard De Give], who had spent seven years in Sri Lanka, guided Rinpoche‘s study in Bible and Western religion for two and one-half years. Rinpoche especially enjoyed studying Christian contemplative practices, but was surprised to discover that “when people receive blessing, or when they receive the presence of Christ – or Jehovah, for that matter – no preparation has been made, at all. There is no shinjang [taming of the mind], there is no mindfulness, there is no awareness. The only possibility of shinjang at all is that people are terrozied: they believe that if they don’t do things properly, they will be punished.”22

Through Father DeGives’s connections, Rinpoche was regularly invited to interreligious conferences in Britain, where he presented in broken English the fundamentals of his tradition. Though he encountered a pervasive Christian chauvinism, he enjoyed his contacts with the many priests, rabbis, imams, and pundits he met in those years. He was especially attracted to the Franciscans he met at an old monastery in Midlands. He fondly remembered the abbot, whom he called “extremely saintly, reminding me of one of my Tibetan teachers, but speaking in a broad Irish accent. He was a wonderful person, with neat but dirty robes, with a real monastic flavor about him.”23

During his Oxford days, Rinpoche was also attracted to the Eastern Orthodox tradition, “because its followers understand the notion of meditation, and they understand that meditation is not just doing nothing but also involves radiating one’s openness. The contemplative traditions within both Judaism and Christianity, particularly the Jewish Hasidic tradition – and also the Orthodox Christian Prayer of the heart, which I’ve studied a little bit – seem to be the ground for Eastern and Western philosophy to join together. It is not so much a question of dogma, but it is a question of heart; that is where the common ground lies. One of these days I am going to take my students to Mount Athos to see how the Orthodox monks conduct themselves.”24 His dialogues with Metropolitan Anthony Bloom, the London patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church, left a lasting impression on him.

Adaptations of Nonsectarian Perspectives

In 1968 Rinpoche returned to Asia to do an extended retreat in Bhutan, at a Guru Rinpoche cave called Tagtsang. In Calcutta, he auspiciously met Thomas Mertin, and they joyously shared gin and tonics over lunch, then roared off in a Jeep to shop the markets for Divali (festival of lights) treats. “Rinpoche bought a firecracker from a small, very black, bright-eyed crouching little boy,” wrote Merton in his journal entry that evening. Rinpoche later commented, “Father Merton himself was an open, unguarded and deep person. During these few days, we spent much time together and grew to like one another immensely.”25 The two men shared their poetry, their dreams for dialogue, their spiritual aspirations, and even plans for collaborative publishing projects. Most significantly, they shared their mutual concerns about the increasing materialism that affected monastic life, and the “progressive” monks who give up contemplation to become more productive and academic.26 Recalling this conversation, Rinpoche simply said that they had discussed “spiritual materialism.”27… In his conversations with Merton, Rinpoche reflected how spiritual materialism could be reversed in a Western setting as well….

Rinpoche and Merton each lamented the decline of genuine spirituality in the West, because of the prevalence of greed and materialism and the loss of authentic contemplative practices and lineages. Merton was going through struggles of his own, including the administrative and authoritarian demands of his home monastery, pressure from his publishers, and his yearning for more retreat and instruction in meditation from Asian masters. As Rinpoche reflected on Merton’s impending conference in Bangkok,

The Christian Conference of Asia began as the East Asia Christian Conference, which was constituted by a decision of churches, national councils of churches and Christian councils, whose representatives met at Prapat, Indonesia, in 1957. It was inaugurated at an assembly in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in 1959, under the theme Witnessing Together. In the light of changing circumstances, the 1973 assembly, meeting in Singapore, agreed to change the name to Christian Conference of Asia (CCA). The purpose statement of the CCA says that CCA exists as an organ and a forum of continuing cooperation among the churches and national Christian bodies in Asia, within the framework of the wider ecumenical movement, believing that the purpose of God for the church in Asia is life together in a common obedience of witness to the mission of God in the world. In order to be a member of the CCA, churches must "confess the Lord Jesus Christ as God and Saviour according to the scriptures and therefore seek to fulfill their common calling to the one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit". National councils or similar bodies joining the CCA must also approve this basis. The CCA strives for the unity of the church in Asia, joint action in mission, Asian contribution to Christian thought and worship, sharing and fellowship among the churches in Asia and beyond, effective Christian response to the challenges of the changing societies of Asia, relationships with people of other faiths in Asia, human dignity and care for the creation.

Since the founding event, the churches and councils that form the CCA have journeyed through ten more assemblies....

Bangkok / 1968 / In Christ All Things Hold Together

-- East Asia Christian Conference [later Christian Conference of Asia], by World Council of Churches

Bangkok Conference. Lecture Titled "Marxism and Monastic Perspectives" (Merton's Last Lecture) delivered December 10, 1968

-- by The Thomas Merton Center at Bellarmine University

"The moment of takeoff was We left the ground―I with Christian mantras and a great sense of destiny, of being at last on my true way after years of waiting and wondering..." With these words, dated October 15. 1968, the late Father Thomas Merton recorded the beginning of his fateful journey to the Orient. His travels led him from Bangkok, through India to Ceylon, and back again to Bangkok for his scheduled talk at a conference of Asian monastic orders. There he unequivocally reaffirmed his Christian vocation. His last journal entry was made on December 8, 1968, two days before his untimely, accidental death.

-- The Asian Journal of Thomas Merton, by

he later commented that Father Merton “was in Calcutta attending some kind of collective religious conference, and he was appalled at the cheapness of the spiritual values that various of the conference participants were advocation.”31…

Conference on Prayer for Conference of Religious of India, Feast of Christ the King, 1968, (Calcutta).

-- Merton Center Manuscripts, by

There's a book that contains the papers given at a 1968 Spiritual Summit Conference in Calcutta, including papers by Merton: The world religions speak on the relevance of religion in the modern world. Finley P Dunne, 1970. Spiritual Summit Conference (1st: 1968: Calcutta)

-- Thomas Merton in Calcutta, by Google Answers

it is clear that the content of their conversations set the tone for Merton’s Indian pilgrimage.33 Years later, at Naropa Unviersity, Rinpoche created a series of dialogues in Merton’s memory that sought to revitalize contemplative practice and life in North America and Europe

-- Heart to Heart: Interreligious Dialogue, by Judith Simmer-Brown, from “Recalling Chogyam Trungpa,” Compiled and edited by Fabrice Midal

At Oxford Rinpoche was befriended by the Jesuits, who thought that his tremendous enthusiasm for learning about the Christian religion made him a good candidate for conversion. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth, but Rinpoche enjoyed their company and felt that here at least he had found Westerners who had some understanding of a wisdom tradition, even though it was not his own.

-- -- Dragon Thunder: My Life with Chogyam Trungpa, by Diana J. Mukpo, Carolyn Rose Gimian

Dom Bernard of Give
Key facts
Birth name Michel de Give
Birth May 8 , 1913
Liege Belgium Flag of Belgium
Nationality Belgian
country of residence Belgium
Trappist monk
Core business
Divine Office, Writer
Other activities
Intermonastic dialogue
Oriental languages, philosophy and theology

Dom de Give was very involved in the dialogue with the Tibetan monks

Michel de Give, in religion Father Bernard de Give, born in Liège (Belgium) on May 8, 1913, is a Cistercian - Trappist monk from the Scourmont abbey, very involved in the intermonastic dialogue.

Education and Training

At the end of his secondary studies at the College Saint-Servais de Liège of Give enters the Society of Jesus (September 23, 1931).

FASCISM in Spain was bought and paid for by numerous elements who would profit by the destruction of the democratic Republican Loyalist government. There were generals who wanted glory and others who wanted the easy graft money some of their predecessors had made. There was the established Church, and more especially the powerful Society of Jesus, which had suffered loss of property when King Alfonso was thrown out. There was the aristocracy, and there were other elements as there are in all fascist regimes, but more important than all these forces combined was the force of Money.

-- Facts and Fascism, by George Seldes, assisted by Helen Seldes

Simultaneously with the calling of the Congress of Vienna in 1814, Pope Pius VIIth restored the Society of Jesus (Jesuit Order) which had been abolished by Pope Clement XIVth, July 21, 1773, on the grounds that it was immoral, dangerous and was a menace to the very life of the papacy. Clement was promptly poisoned for his act.

With the restoration of this order, the execution of the Secret Treaty of Verona was placed in their keeping.

The Congress of Vienna was a black conspiracy against Popular Governments at which the high contracting parties announced at its close that they had formed a Holy alliance. This was a cloak under which they masked to deceive the people. The particular business of the Congress of Verona, it developed, was the RATIFICATION of Article Six of the Congress of Vienna, which was in short, a promise to prevent or destroy Popular Governments wherever found, and to re-establish monarchy where it had been set aside.

-- The Suppressed Truth About the Assassination of Abraham Lincoln, by Burke McCarty

[Jorge Mario] Bergoglio, who at the time was “Provincial” for the Society of Jesus, had ordered the two “Leftist” Jesuit priests and opponents of military rule “to leave their pastoral work” (i.e. they were fired) following divisions within the Society of Jesus regarding the role of the Catholic Church and its relations to the military Junta.

While the two priests Francisco Jalics y Orlando Yorio, kidnapped by the death squads in May 1976 were released five months later, after having been tortured, six other people associated with their parish kidnapped as part of the same operation were “disappeared” (desaparecidos). These included four teachers associated with the parish and two of their husbands.

Upon his release, Priest Orlando Yorio “accused Bergoglio of effectively handing them over [including six other people] to the death squads.

-- “Washington’s Pope”? Who is Pope Francis?: Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio and Argentina's "Dirty War", by Prof Michel Chossudovsky

He obtained his BA in Philosophy at the Faculty of Philosophy SJ at Eegenhoven-Louvain (1936-1939) and his BA in Philosophy and Letters in Classical Philology at the Catholic University of Louvain (1940). He graduated in Theology at the Faculty of Theology SJ Leuven (1945). At university, he also studied Sanskrit and Eastern religions under the direction of Étienne Lamotte. He was ordained a priest in Leuven on July 27, 1944.

Missionary in India

Michel de Give leaves for India on January 26, 1947. For six years he is a professor at the Pontifical Seminary of Kandy (Ceylon) where he teaches History of Ancient Philosophy, Ecclesiology and Classical Languages ​​(Greek and Latin) from 1947 to 1952. In early 1953, he was, for a year and a half, a professor of classical languages at juniorate Jesuit of Ranchi, then Sitagarha (near Hazaribag in Jharkhand), then again a professor of philosophy at Shembaganur near from Kodaikanal (Tamil Nadu) and Poona (Maharashtra).

Back to Belgium

Returned to his homeland in May 1955, he resumed classical language courses at the Juvénat de La Pairelle in Wépion (University Faculties of Namur). He publishes textbooks of Greek exercises (1956-1957) and a Latin grammar (1960) which is in its sixteenth edition. That year, he taught again Philosophy (ancient and medieval history) at the SJ Faculty of Eegenhoven-Louvain [Jesuit Theological College at Eegenhoven-Louvain (Belgium(] (1960-1968), then at the University Faculty of Namur until 1972.

The University of Namur or Université de Namur,[1] in Namur (Belgium), is a Jesuit, Catholic private university in the French Community of Belgium. Both teaching and research are carried out in six Faculties or university level schools in the fields of:

• Philosophy and Lettres
• Law
• Economic, Social, and Management Sciences
• Computer Sciences
• Sciences
• Medicine

-- Universite de Namur, by Wikipedia

During the academic year 1963-1964 he attended Oxford University under Professor RC Zaehner. At Oxford University he also meets Chögyam Trungpa. From 1968 to 1972, he was secretary of the journal Les Études classiques.

Cistercian monk

Michel de Give joined the Trappists [OCSO] of Scourmont Abbey on June 2, 1972, where he made his solemn profession on January 12, 1975.

Since 1977 he has been a founding member of the Monastic Interfaith Dialogue Commission. He took part in the interreligious meetings of Praglia Abbey in 1977 and 1979.

For ten years he spends the summer months studying the Tibetan language at the Tibetan center of Kagyu-Ling, Castle of Plaige, in Saone-et-Loire. He helps to organize the Christian-Buddhist Symposiums at the Karma Ling [Karme Ling] Institute, formerly the Chartreuse of Saint Hugon, in Arvillard (Savoie).

Located in the hamlet of Saint-Higon, the Chartreuse de Saint-Hugon was led by the Pères Chartreux until 1792. The sale and manufacture of iron and steel used to be a principal source of income for this former monastery, which is now the seat of the Institut Karma Ling.

The history of this site begins in 1173, on the banks of the River Bens. This Carthusian monastery is famous for its forges and blast furnaces, with iron ore being particularly abundant in the region. The ore was smelted in ovens before being deposited, over several years, on a spacious esplanade called a 'regraine'. Once cast, the iron ore was now pure iron or steel. Trip hammers manufactured wide iron strips, circles and hardware (camping stoves, pots and spades). Until the French Revolution, the monks managed this steel industry, which was a rich source of profits for the monastery. In 1792, the monks were persecuted, the Chartreuse pillaged and abandoned and their possessions sold as national treasures.

Since 1979, the Institut Karma Ling, one of the biggest Buddhist centres in Europe, has occupied the former Chartreuse de Saint-Hugon.

-- La Chartreuse de Saint-Hugon, by Savoie Mont Blanc

He visits a number of Tibetan centers in most Western European countries. He made several extended stays in the Tibetan monasteries of India (especially Dharamsala and Himāchal Pradesh) and Nepal (Kopan, Pokhara). In July 1994, he began a trip to Tibet.

He published his doctoral dissertation on the reports of India and the West of Origins to the reign of Aśoka at Les Indes Savantes, Paris, 2005.

On the occasion of its centenary, May 8, 2013, the abbey of Scourmont published a collection of his poems entitled Quand l'âme chante ... in the Scourmontois Cahiers Collection , 6, Forges, 2013.

Main works

• Latin Grammar, Brussels, De Boeck, 2011 (15th ed.)
• The Imitation of Jesus Christ translated and paraphrased in verse by Pierre Corneille , preface by Fr. Bernard de Give, OCSO, notes by Fr. Ducaud-Bourget, Paris, Albin Michel, 1998, Coll. Living Spiritualities, 161.
• Chronicon Alnense. Chronicle of Alder Dom Norbert Herset, ed. criticism, trad. and notes by Bernard de Give, Thuin, GH Conreur, 1977-1978, coll. Cathula.
• Register of things that happened at the abbey of Aulne, trad. of the Latin text by B. de Give, Thuin, GH Conreur, 1980
The reports of India and the West of Origins to the reign of Asoka, Paris, Les Indes Savantes, 2005
• A trappist meets the monks of Tibet, preface by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, The Savant Indes, 2009
• A Trappist Meeting Monks from Tibet, Preface by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Gracewing Publishing, 2010

• When the soul sings ... , collection of poems, preface by Jean Leclercq ( UCLouvain , Cahiers Scourmontois, 2013
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Re: Freda Bedi, by Wikipedia

Postby admin » Wed Jul 17, 2019 1:36 am

by Wikipedia
Accessed: 7/16/19



This article is about continuity of spiritual presence in Islam. For other uses, see Baraka (disambiguation).

In Islam, Barakah or Baraka (Arabic: بركة‎ "blessing") is a kind of continuity of spiritual presence and revelation that begins with God and flows through that and those closest to God.[1][2]

Baraka can be found within physical objects, places, and people, as chosen by God. This force begins by flowing directly from God into creation that is worthy of baraka.[1] These creations endowed with baraka can then transmit the flow of baraka to the other creations of God through physical proximity or through the adherence to the spiritual practices of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. God is the sole source of baraka and has the power to grant and withhold baraka.

Islamic mysticism

Baraka is a prominent concept in Islamic mysticism, particularly Sufism. It pervades Sufi texts, beliefs, practices, and spirituality. Sufism emphasizes the importance of esoteric knowledge and the spiritual union with God through the heart. Baraka symbolizes this connection between the divine and the worldly through God's direct and intentional blessing of those that are most reflective of Him and his teachings.

Baraka is not a state, it is a flow of blessings and grace. It flows from God to those that are closest to God, such as saints and prophets. Those that have received baraka are thought to have the abilities to perform miracles (karamat), such as thought-reading, healing the sick, flying, and reviving the dead.[3] However, according to Abd al-Karīm ibn Hawāzin Qushayri, a prominent Sufi mystic, the use of these miracles and the actual possession of these abilities are not indicative of a saint's status, however, the performance of these miracles by prophets is important to establish credentials.[3]

Sources, transmission, and traditional importance


The Qur'an, hadith, saints, prophets, Muhammad and his descendants are all powerful sources of baraka.[1]

Transmission through saints

Saints as the source of baraka, can transmit baraka to ordinary men simply through their presence. As this hadith explains, "By means of the righteous Muslim, God repulses affliction from one hundred neighbors".[4][page needed] In this way, the saints provide a means for ordinary men to connect with the blessings of God through baraka. The physical closeness to a saint's shrine is said to emit baraka, which is why many followers of Islam choose to visit shrines. The ritualistic act of visiting tombs and other holy places, such as shrines, to receive baraka is known as ziyara.[5]

Transmission through khirqa

Sufis pass esoteric knowledge and baraka from the master sheikh to the aspirant through the passing of the khirqa. The khirqa is the initiatory cloak of the Sufi chain of spirituality. This cloak initiates an aspirant into the silsilah, which is the chain of sheikhs that goes back to Muhammad. This chain serves as the channel through which baraka flows from the source of spiritual revelation to the being of the initiate.[4][page needed] There are two kinds of this kind of transmission (tanakkul) of baraka through the khirqa: khirqa-yi irada and khirqa-yi tabarruk. Khirqa-yi irada is characterized by the passing of baraka to the aspirant from the singular sheikh to which he has sworn. Khirqa-yi tabarruk, also known as the "frock of blessing", is characterized by the passing of baraka to the worthy aspirant from any sheikh that he has encountered.[6]

The silsilah chain created from the passing of the khirqa that confirms authenticity of many hadiths is known as the isnad. It was not until the late eleventh and twelfth centuries that the Sufi tradition began accepting this form of isnad as a means to transmit mystical knowledge and blessings.[7]

Transmission through Sunnah

By following the practices and teachings of Muhammad, one can achieve baraka through the emulation of Sunnah. Because Muhammad is the source of Muhammadan baraka, by living in constant remembrance of the names of God and in accordance to Muhammad's Sunnah. Those that live the inner Sunnah within the heart, are those that reflect the Light of Muhammad (al-nur al-muhammadi) and the Muhammadan baraka.[7][page needed] Those that live according to the Sunnah, live in constant remembrance of God, and live authentically from the heart are those to whom God opens the channel through which baraka can flow. By living in accordance to Muhammad, one can become worthy of God's direct blessing of baraka. If granted baraka, the saintly person is able to feel God's force from within and is nourished by the hadith while being guided by the baraka.[2]

Controversy of seeking baraka

Seeking baraka has been a source of controversy throughout the Islamic world. Through the act of ziyara, saints and the shrines of saints are seen as a means to access the baraka sent from God. Because of this, many within Islam see ziyara as a form of idolatry in the way devotees may look towards the saints instead of towards God, Himself, for baraka.[8][page needed] Although ziyara has been a source of great controversy, it remains one of the most typical ritual practices of Islamic spirituality.[8]

See also

• Basirah
• Spiritual gift
• Glossary of Islam


1. "Home - Brill Reference". Retrieved 2016-12-30.
2. Nasr, Seyyed Hossein (1972). Sufi Essays. Albany: State University of New York Press. ISBN 0873952332.
3. Ernst, Carl W. (1997). The Shambhala Guide to Sufism (1st ed.). Boston, Massachusetts: Shambhala. ISBN 9781570621802.
4. Hoffman, Valerie J. (2009). Sufism, Mystics, and Saints in Modern Egypt. Columbia, South Carolina: University of South Carolina Press. ISBN 157003849X.
5. Karamustafa, Ahmet T. (2007). Sufism: The Formative Period. Berkeley, California: University of California Press. ISBN 0520252691.
6. Schimmel, Annemarie; Ernst, Carl W. (2013). Mystical Dimensions of Islam(Reprint ed.). Jakarta Selatan: Mizan. ISBN 9794337978.
7. Brown, Jonathan A.C. (2009). Hadith: Muhammad's Legacy in the Medieval and Modern World (Reprint ed.). Oxford: Oneworld Publications. ISBN 1851686630.
8. Seels, Michael A.; Ernst, Carl W. (1996). Early Islamic Mysticism: Sufi, Qur'an, Mi'raj, Poetic and Theological Writings. New York: Paulist Press. ISBN 0809136198.

Further reading

• C. Coulon, et al. Charisma and Brotherhood in African Islam. Oxford Univ. Press, 1988. ISBN 0-19-822723-X.
• J.W. Meri. Aspects of Baraka (Blessings) and Ritual Devotion among Medieval Muslims and Jews. Medieval Encounters. 5 (1999), pp. 46–69.
• Schimmel, Annemarie (1994). Deciphering the Signs of God: A Phenomenological Approach to Islam. State University of New York Press. ISBN 978-0791419823.
• L. N. Takim. The Heirs of the Prophet: Charisma And Religious A
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Re: Freda Bedi, by Wikipedia

Postby admin » Wed Jul 17, 2019 4:49 am

League of Nations Union
by Wikipedia
Accessed: 7/16/19



The conflict increased his desire to do everything he could to promote world peace. During and after the war he was a keen supporter of the League of Nations Union, serving on the League's Executive Committee in London.

-- The Spalding Trust and the Union for the Study of the Great Religions: H.N. Spalding's Pioneering Vision, by Edward Hulmes

The League of Nations Union (LNU) was an organization formed in October 1918 in the United Kingdom to promote international justice, collective security and a permanent peace between nations based upon the ideals of the League of Nations. The League of Nations was established by the Great Powers as part of the Paris Peace Treaties, the international settlement that followed the First World War. The creation of a general association of nations was the final one of President Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points. The LNU became the largest and most influential organisation in the British peace movement.[1][2] By the mid-1920s, it had over a quarter of a million registered subscribers[3] and its membership eventually peaked at around 407,775 in 1931. By the 1940s, after the disappointments of the international crises of the 1930s and the descent into World War II, membership fell to about 100,000.[4]


The LNU was formed on 13 October 1918[2] by the merger of the League of Free Nations Association and the League of Nations Society, two older organisations already working for the establishment of a new and transparent system of international relations, human rights (as then understood) and for world peace through disarmament and universal collective security, rather than traditional approaches such as the balance of power and the creation of power blocs through secret treaties.[5]

Chapters of the LNU were set up in the dominions and in allied nations, including in the capital cities of all of the states of Australia.[6]

Internal structure

The headquarters of the LNU were located variously at Buckingham Gate[7] and Grosvenor Crescent, Belgravia. In the 1940s, it moved to smaller premises in St Martin's Lane, WC2, for reasons of economy.[8]

Its top organ of administration was the General Council, which met twice a year and was responsible for LNU policy under its 1925 Royal Charter of Incorporation. Beneath the General Council sat the Executive Committee, which met every two weeks and co-ordinated all activities, such as the LNU's campaigns and educational programmes; received reports from branches; monitored the output of specialist sub-groups and had responsibility for the LNU's staff.

LNU branches had their own independent management structures.[5]


The LNU played an important role in inter-war politics. According to one source it had been successful in converting the mainstream of British society, including labour, the churches and the principal newspapers, to the cause of the League of Nations.[9] It also carried great influence in traditional political circles and particularly in the Liberal Party. One historian has gone so far as to describe the LNU as "a key Liberal pressure group on foreign policy" and to call Liberal Party members the "true believers" of the LNU.[10] Its first president was Edward Grey the Liberal foreign secretary during the First World War.

After the split in the Liberal Party in 1886, it was the members of the Cecil Bloc who became Unionists — that is, the Lytteltons, the Wyndhams, the Cavendishes. As a result, the Cecil Bloc became increasingly a political force. Gladstone remained socially a member of it, and so did his protege, John Morley, but almost all the other members of the Bloc were Unionists or Conservatives. The chief exceptions were the four leaders of the Liberal Party after Gladstone, who were strong imperialists: Rosebery, Asquith, Edward Grey, and Haldane. These four supported the Boer War, grew increasingly anti-German, supported the World War in 1914, and were close to the Milner Group politically, intellectually, and socially.

-- The Anglo-American Establishment: From Rhodes to Cliveden, by Carroll Quigley

Other leading Liberal lights in the LNU included Geoffrey Mander[8] Liberal MP for Wolverhampton East from 1929 to 1945 and Professor Gilbert Murray, who was this Vice-President of the League of Nations Society from 1916 and Chairman of the LNU after 1923.[11] The recruitment of Conservative politicians to support the LNU and the League of Nations itself was more problematic for the LNU, but they pursued it to demonstrate the cross-party nature of the Union, which was important for the credibility of an organisation active politically in pursuit of international goals.[12] High-profile Conservatives then came into the LNU, notably Lord Robert Cecil and Austen Chamberlain who were both members of the LNU Executive Committee.[13] However, most Conservatives were deeply suspicious of the LNU's support for pacifism and disarmament,[14] an analogous position being the opinions held by Conservatives in the 1980s in respect of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. Even Austen Chamberlain remarked that the Executive Committee contained "some of the worst cranks I have ever known".[15] Winston Churchill said of the Union: "What impresses me most about them is their long suffering and inexhaustible gullibility".[16]

Peace Ballot

One example of the significance of the political impact the LNU could have was its organisation of the Peace Ballot of 1935, when voters were asked to decide on questions relating to international disarmament and collective security. The Peace Ballot was not an official referendum, but more than eleven million people participated in it, representing strong support for the aims and objectives of the League of Nations, influencing policy makers and politicians. The results of the Peace Ballot were publicised worldwide. It has been suggested that one outcome was the interpretation of the result by the Axis powers as an indication of Britain's unwillingness to go to war on behalf of other nations[17] although the vote for military action against international aggressors, as a matter of last resort, was almost three-to-one.

Educational programmes

The LNU's other main activities were education and awareness raising. It provided publications, speakers and organised courses.[18] Some of its programmes had a lasting impact on British schools.[19]

Replacement by United Nations Association

It was plain a new international settlement would be needed after the Second World War and in 1948, the United Nations Association (UNA) was founded to promote the work of the United Nations Organisation, which was established in 1945 after the previous year's Dumbarton Oaks Conference. As a result, the LNU arranged for the transfer of its complete organisation and membership to the UNA. However, under the provisions of its Royal Charter, the LNU was able to continue until the mid-1970s in a limited capacity to handle bequests and administer the payment of pensions to former employees.

Papers and records

The papers, records, minute books, pamphlets, reports and leaflets of the LNU are deposited at the British Library of Political and Economic Science at the London School of Economics in Westminster.[5]

See also

• Goldsworthy Lowes Dickinson
• Henry Wilson Harris
• Joseph H. Hertz
• Charles Herbert Levermore
• Almeric Paget, 1st Baron Queenborough
• Weetman Pearson, 1st Viscount Cowdray
• Gerald Sharp
• Jessie Street


1. Douglas, R. M. (2004). The Labour Party, Nationalism and Internationalism, 1939-1951: A New World Order. Routledge. p. 27. ISBN 9780203505786.
2. "League of Nations Union Collected Records, 1915-1945". Swarthmore College Peace Collection.
3. Callaghan, John T. (2007). The Labour Party and Foreign Policy: A History. Routledge. p. 69. ISBN 9781134540150.
4. Baratta, Joseph Preston (2004). Politics of World Federation: From world federalism to global governance. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 74. ISBN 9780275980689.
5. "LNU - League of Nations Union Collection". LSE Library Services.
6. Summy, Hilary (2007). From hope ... to hope : story of the Australian League of Nations union, featuring the Victorian Branch, 1921-1945 (PhD thesis). The University of Queensland.
7. Phelps, Edith M. (1919). Selected Articles on a League of Nations. New York: H. W. Wilson & Company. pp. xxvi & xxxvii.
8. Archives of League Of Nations Union, 1918-1971. Archived 2012-07-15 at
9. McKercher, B. J. C., ed. (1990). Anglo-American Relations in the 1920s: The Struggle for Supremacy. University of Alberta. p. 23. ISBN 9781349119196.
10. McDonough, Frank (1998). Neville Chamberlain, Appeasement, and the British Road to War. Manchester University Press. p. 111. ISBN 9780719048326.
11. Morewood, Steven (2004). The British Defence of Egypt, 1935-1940: Conflict and Crisis in the Eastern Mediterranean. Routledge. p. 73. ISBN 9781135776664.
12. West, Francis (1984). Cecil Murray: A Life. Croom Helm. pp. 200–201.
13. Dutton, David (1985). Austen Chamberlain: Gentleman in Politics. New Brunswick: Transaction. p. 307. ISBN 9781412817639.
14. Thompson, J. A. (December 1977). "Lord Cecil and the Pacifists in the League of Nations Union". The Historical Journal. Cambridge University Press. 20 (4): 949–59. JSTOR 2638416.
15. Thompson, Neville (1971). The Anti-Appeasers: Conservative Opposition to Appeasement in the 1930s. Oxford: Clarendon Press. p. 37. ISBN 9780198214878.
16. HC Deb 23 November 1932 vol 272 cc73-211
17. Thane, Pat (2001). Cassell's Companion to Twentieth-Century Britain. Cassell. p. 311. ISBN 9780304347940.
18. Cook, Chris (1975). Sources in British Political History, 1900-1950 Volume 1. London: MacMillan. p. 144. ISBN 978-0-333-15036-8.
19. British Library of Political and Economic Science, League of Nations Union, 1918-1971. Archived 2012-07-14 at

Further reading

• Donald S. Birn, The League of Nations Union, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1981.
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Re: Freda Bedi, by Wikipedia

Postby admin » Wed Jul 17, 2019 8:04 am

by Wikipedia
Accessed: 7/17/19



Over the years many refugees were to visit Shotover Cleve. HN was involved in what was called Russian Eurasianism, the purpose of which was to enable aristocrats still in the Soviet Union to escape to the West. Colonel Malevsky-Malevitch was also involved, staying at the house for several months. Another Russian, who returned to the USSR to help in the planned escapes, disappeared. It was never established whether he had been captured or whether he had been planted by the Soviets as an agent. From the intelligence sources now becoming accessible since the collapse of the USSR, it appears that the man was an agent and that the efforts of the would-be helpers in the West were well known to the Soviet authorities. Spalding himself felt a little betrayed by the episode, so much so that his feelings for Shotover Cleve were never quite the same. Despite this, increasing contact with Russian refugees stimulated Spalding's interest in Russian culture and religion. His interest in Eastern Orthodoxy led him to wonder about other religions in the East, of which he then had little knowledge.

There is a long drive to Shotover Cleve, off which the Spaldings built a smaller but still substantial family house for the Narishkins that was at first known as 'Domic'. There was speculation about the choice of the name. The Russian diminutive domik means 'cabin'. The Narishkins were grateful to have been granted asylum in Britain but they had been accustomed to a grander lifestyle in pre-revolutionary St Petersburg. A Narishkin ancestor was the mother of Peter the Great. The muzei-domik Petra I ('the Cabin of Peter the Great', now a museum) stands on the Petrovskaya embankment in the northern part of the Russian city. Built in three days for Peter by his soldier-carpenters in 1703, the two-roomed cabin is a reminder of his simple life-style during the six years he lived there whilst supervising construction work in St Petersburg. The Narishkins may have had this in mind when they called their new dwelling 'Domic'. They had two sons. The elder was called Vadim. He was of the same age as John Spalding. Their daughter, Moira, was a little younger. The second son was Theodore, known in the family as 'B' (for Baby). These children were among the young Spaldings' playmates. With the help of HN and his wife, the Narishkins then moved from the house built for them at Shotover to a house in Old Headington, Oxford. The 'Cabin' was eventually re-named The Orchard. Captain Narishkin used his knowledge of art-almost universal among Russian aristocratic emigres-to make or put together objets d'art for sale in Oxford. He dealt in small pictures and decorative boxes, selling them on to local shops. This brought in a modest income. Profitable deals were few and far between. His wife was an enthusiastic hostess but not a provident housekeeper. Their guests included Prince and Princess Galitzine (who had a shop on Hay Hill, Berkeley Square in London, a venture supported by the Spaldings), the Arapoffs, the harmonica virtuoso Larry Adler, and others, some of whom stayed or visited the Spaldings at Shotover Cleve next door.

-- The Spalding Trust and the Union for the Study of the Great Religions: H.N. Spalding's Pioneering Vision, by Edward Hulmes

Orthographic projection of Greater Russia/Eurasia and near abroad
[Brown] The Soviet Union in 1945
[Red Brown/Maroon] (Soviet territories that were never part of the Russian Empire: Tuvan ASSR, Kaliningrad Oblast and Zakarpattia, Lviv, Stanislav and Ternopil regions in west Ukraine)
[Chinese Red] Additional annexed/occupied territory from the Russian Empire (Grand Duchy of Finland and Congress Poland)
[Bright Red] Maximum extent of the Soviet near abroad, 1955 (Warsaw Pact, Mongolian People's Republic and North Korea)
[Pink/Red] Maximum extent of the Soviet Union's sphere of influence, 1945–1946 (Northern Iran, Xinjiang, Manchuria)

Eurasianism (Russian: евразийство, yevraziystvo) is a political movement in Russia, formerly within the primarily Russian émigré community, that posits that Russian civilisation does not belong in the "European" or "Asian" categories but instead to the geopolitical concept of Eurasia. Originally developing in the 1920s, the movement was supportive of the Bolshevik Revolution but not its stated goals of enacting communism, seeing the Soviet Union as a stepping stone on the path to creating a new national identity that would reflect the unique character of Russia's geopolitical position. The movement saw a minor resurgence after the collapse of the Soviet Union at the end of the 20th century, and is mirrored by Turanism in Turkic and Uralic nations.

The greatest extension of the Russian Empire (dark green) and its spheres of influence (light green)

Early 20th century

Eurasianism is a political movement that has its origins in the Russian émigré community in the 1920s. The movement posited that Russian civilization does not belong in the "European" category (somewhat borrowing from Slavophile ideas of Konstantin Leontyev), and that the October Revolution of the Bolsheviks was a necessary reaction to the rapid modernization of Russian society. The Eurasianists believed that the Soviet regime was capable of evolving into a new national, non-European Orthodox Christian government, shedding the initial mask of proletarian internationalism and militant atheism (to which the Eurasianists were strongly opposed).

The Eurasianists criticized the anti-Bolshevik activities of organizations such as ROVS, believing that the émigré community's energies would be better focused on preparing for this hoped for process of evolution. In turn, their opponents among the emigres argued that the Eurasianists were calling for a compromise with and even support of the Soviet regime, while justifying its ruthless policies (such as the persecution of the Russian Orthodox Church) as mere "transitory problems" that were inevitable results of the revolutionary process.

The key leaders of the Eurasianists were Prince Nikolai Trubetzkoy, P.N. Savitsky, P.P. Suvchinskiy, D. S. Mirsky, K. Čcheidze, P. Arapov, and S. Efron. Philosopher Georges Florovsky was initially a supporter, but backed out of the organization claiming it "raises the right questions", but "poses the wrong answers". A significant influence of the doctrine of the Eurasianists can be found in Nikolai Berdyaev's essay "The Sources and Meaning of Russian Communism".

Several organizations similar in spirit to the Eurasianists sprung up in the emigre community at around the same time, such as the pro-Monarchist Mladorossi and the Smenovekhovtsi.

Several members of the Eurasianists were affected by the Soviet provocational TREST operation, which had set up a fake meeting of Eurasianists in Russia that was attended by the Eurasianist leader P.N. Savitsky in 1926 (an earlier series of trips were also made two years earlier by Eurasianist member P. Arapov). The uncovering of the TREST as a Soviet provocation caused a serious morale blow to the Eurasianists and discredited their public image. By 1929, the Eurasianists had ceased publishing their periodical and had faded quickly from the Russian émigré community.

Late 20th century

Eurasian world for eurasianist political movement

The ideology of the movement was partially incorporated into a new movement of the same name after the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union, when the Eurasia Party was founded by Aleksandr Dugin.


See also: Foundations of Geopolitics

Former Warsaw Pact countries

Neo-Eurasianism (Russian: неоевразийство) is a Russian school of thought, popularized in Russia during the years leading up to and following the collapse of the Soviet Union, that considers Russia to be culturally closer to Asia than to Western Europe.

The school of thought takes its inspiration from the Eurasianists of the 1920s, notably Prince Nikolai Trubetzkoy while P.N. Savitsky. Lev Gumilev is often cited as the founder of the Neo-Eurasianist movement, and he was quoted as saying that "I am the last of the Eurasianists."[1]

At the same time, major differences have been noted between Gumilev's work and those of the original Eurasianists.[1] Gumilev's work is controversial for its scientific methodology (the use of his own conception of ethnogenesis and the notion of "passionarity" of ethnoses). At any rate, Gumilev's work has been a source of inspiration for the Neo-Eurasianist authors, the most prolific of whom is Aleksandr Dugin.

Gumilev's contribution to Neo-Eurasianism lies in the conclusions he reaches from applying his theory of ethnogenesis: that the Mongol occupation of 1240–1480 AD (known as the "Mongol yoke") had shielded the emergent Russian ethnos from the aggressive neighbor to the West, allowing it to gain time to achieve maturity. The idea of Eurasianism contrasts with Konstantin Leontyev's Byzantism, which is similar in its rejection of the West, but identifies with the Byzantine Empire rather than with Central Asian tribal culture.

Eurasian Economic Union

Main articles: Eurasian Economic Union and Enlargement of the Eurasian Economic Union

The Eurasian Economic Union

The Eurasian Economic Union was founded in January 2015, consisting of Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and observer member Moldova, all of them being previous members of the Soviet Union. Members include states from both Europe and Asia; the union promotes political and economic cooperation among members.

"Greater" Russia

Not to be confused with Great Russia.

Russia growth 1613–1914

The political-cultural concept espoused by some in Russia is sometimes called the Greater Russia and is described as a political aspiration of pan-Russian nationalists and irredentists to retake some or all of the territories of the other republics of the former Soviet Union and territory of the former Russian Empire and amalgamate them into a single Russian state. Alexander Rutskoy, the Vice President of Russia from 1991–1993, asserted irredentist claims to Narva in Estonia, Crimea in Ukraine, and Ust-Kamenogorsk in Kazakhstan, among other territories.[2]

Before war broke out between Russia and Georgia in 2008, Aleksandr Dugin visited South Ossetia and predicted, "Our troops will occupy the Georgian capital Tbilisi, the entire country, and perhaps even Ukraine and the Crimean Peninsula, which is historically part of Russia, anyway."[3] Former South Ossetian president Eduard Kokoity is a Eurasianist and argues that South Ossetia never left the Russian Empire and should be part of Russia.[4]


See also: Hellenoturkism

The Greek poet, Turkologist and Sinologist, Professor of International Relations and Geopolitics Dimitri Kitsikis, was involved in promotion of Turkish–Greek friendship and eurasianist historiosophy and geopolitical concepts.[5]


See also: Hungarian Turanism

The Hungarian far-right party and movement, Jobbik, espouses a form of Hungarian nationalism that fosters kinship with other "Turanian" peoples, including the Turkic peoples of Asia.[6]


The political activist Silviu Brucan, was involved in shaping eurasianism as a geopolitical concept, with articles focused on Russian politics that were published in a monthly magazine called Sfera Politicii.[7]


See also: Turanism

Distribution of the Turkic peoples in Eurasia.

Since the late 1990s, Eurasianism has gained some following in Turkey among nationalist (ulusalcı (tr)) circles. The most prominent figure who is associated with Dugin is Doğu Perinçek, the leader of the Patriotic Party (Vatan Partisi).[8] Some analysts of modern Turkish politics have suggested that the ultra-nationalist and secular elite that are also affiliated with the members of the Turkish military, who have come under close scrutiny with the Ergenekon coup case, have close ideological and political ties to the Eurasianists.[9]

In literature

In the future time depicted in George Orwell's novel "Nineteen Eighty Four", the Soviet Union has mutated into Eurasia, one of the three superstates dominating the world.

Similarly, Robert Heinlein's story "Solution Unsatisfactory" depicts a future in which the Soviet Union would be transformed into "The Eurasian Union".

See also

• All-Russian nation
• Annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation
• Donetsk
• Eurasian Economic Union
• Eurasian Observatory for Democracy and Elections
• Intermediate Region
• Manifest destiny
• Turkey-Azerbaijan relations
• National Bolshevism
• Neo-Sovietism
• Nostalgia for the Soviet Union
• Novorossiya (confederation)
• Russophilia
• Russian irredentism
• Slavophilia
• Soviet Empire
• Territorial evolution of Russia
• Nikolay Vasilyevich Ustryalov

• Geography portal
• Asia portal
• Europe portal
• Politics portal


1. Laruelle, Marlène "Histoire d'une usurpation intellectuelle: Gumilev, 'le dernier des eurasistes'? (analyse des oppositions entre L.N. Gumilev et P.N. Savickij" in Sergei Panarin (ed.) Eurasia: People & Myths, Moscow, Natalis Press, 1993 (Russian lang.)
2. Chapman, Thomas; Roeder, Philip G. (November 2007). "Partition as a Solution to Wars of Nationalism: The Importance of Institutions". American Political Science Review. 101(4): 680. doi:10.1017/s0003055407070438.
3. "Road to War in Georgia: The Chronicle of a Caucasian Tragedy", Spiegel, August 25, 2008.
4. Neo-Eurasianist Aleksandr Dugin on the Russia-Georgia Conflict, CACI Analyst, September 3, 2008.
5. Giorgios K. Filis – Russia and Turkey in the Geopolitics of Eurasia & Theory of Median Space
6. Evelyne Pieiller, "Hungary Looks to the Past for Its Future," Le Monde Diplomatique, English ed. November, 2016.
7. Brucan, Silviu. "Geopolitics and Strategy" (PDF). Sfera Politicii. Retrieved 2 May 2017.
8. Mehmet Ulusoy: "Rusya, Dugin ve‚ Türkiye’nin Avrasyacılık stratejisi" Aydınlık Dec. 5 2004, pp. 10-16
9. [1] Emre Uslu: Turkish military: a source of anti-Americanism in Turkey. Today's Zaman, July 31, 2011.


• The Mission of Russian Emigration, M.V. Nazarov. Moscow: Rodnik, 1994. ISBN 5-86231-172-6
• Russia Abroad: A comprehensive guide to Russian Emigration after 1917 also some Ustrialov's papers in the Library
• The criticism towards the West and the future of Russia-Eurasia
• Laruelle, Marlene, ed. (2015). Eurasianism and the European Far Right: Reshaping the Europe–Russia Relationship. Lexington Books. ISBN 978-1-4985-1068-4.
• Stefan Wiederkehr, Die eurasische Bewegung. Wissenschaft und Politik in der russischen Emigration der Zwischenkriegszeit und im postsowjetischen Russland(Köln u.a., Böhlau 2007) (Beiträge zur Geschichte Osteuropas, 39).

External links

• The Fourth Political Theory - Eurasianism
• Evrazia
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Re: Freda Bedi, by Wikipedia

Postby admin » Wed Jul 17, 2019 8:11 am

Part 1 of 6

D.S. Mirsky: A Russian-English Life, 1890-1939 [EXCERPT]
by Gerald Stanton Smith, Professor of Russian, Oxford University and Fellow G.S. Smith



Chapter 5: Writing Russian

In Foma Gordeiev, which I consider to be Gorky's masterpiece, there is an unforgettable scene where Foma's father Ignat watches the loss of his ship laden with goods. He knows that his entire fortune will go down with it, but his only feeling is admiration for the beauty of the spectacle. He will have his moment of exultation over his own splendid disaster, for he knows that he has it in him to begin again and build himself up an even greater fortune. (D. S. Mirsky, 1922)


A good number of the front-rank Russian writers and critics active in 1917 emigrated rather than stay on in the Soviet state. 1 There was something of a generational and genre split; on the whole, the older prose writers left, while the younger poets and critics stayed. Among Mirsky's contemporaries who had made a reputation before 1917, Akhmatova, Mandelshtam, and Mayakovsky remained in Russia, for very different reasons. Tsvetaeva left Russia to join her husband in Czechoslovakia in 1922. Pasternak, Viktor Shklovsky, and Count A. N. Tolstoy -- the last-named an aristocrat of fairly similar background to Mirsky -- went back to Russia in 1923 after spending some time in Berlin.

In August 1922, about 120 key intellectuals and administrators were expelled from Russia after Lenin decided that he could not put up with the potential strength of opposition that they represented.2 From among these men (all the prime targets were men, but their families were sent out with them), Mirsky soon came into personal contact with Nikolay Berdyaev, Sergey. Bulgakov, V. N. Ilin, and Lev Karsavin. The reaction of Mirsky's soon-to-be friend Suvchinsky to the expulsion expresses an irreverent view of these men as sanctimonious failures that was common among his and Mirsky's generation:

When the first group arrived (Frank, Berdyaev; [U. A.] Ilin) it felt as if some sort of individual selection of people was going on. All they've done now is simply to transplant from Russia to Berlin -- like a piece of turf from one cemetery to another, or like a piece of dead skin -- a cultural layer that has completely outlived its time, and for what? So that these people should stand at the head of the emigration, of course, so they should speak for it, and by doing so prevent anything being born that is new and alive, and consequently dangerous for the Bolsheviks.3

In 1922-3, after the returns and the expulsions, emigre culture began to crystallize as a consciously separate formation. Mirsky played an active part in it for several years. At the same time as he was writing on Russian literature for the English readership, he was steadily publishing in Russian for his fellow emigres. As with his critical writing in English, at no time did Mirsky promote Russian literature outside Russia at the expense of the literature on the inside. But at the same time, he did not hesitate to point out the difficulties faced by writers under the new regime, and he could still refer to himself late in 1925 as an 'anti-Communist'. 4

During the first two or three years of the post-revolutionary emigration, there was no insuperable barrier to communication between the literary intellectuals in emigration and those who had remained behind in Soviet Russia, and each side kept a keen eye on the other. Books could be published simultaneously inside and outside Russia; for a couple of years, 'Berlin-Petrograd', for example, was a common item on title-pages. It was always much easier, though, for those on the outside to, get hold of what was published on the inside. Maksim Gorky, who was expelled by Lenin in 1921 but remained fundamentally pro-Soviet, at first thought that the journal he edited from Berlin in 1923-5, to which he gave the hopeful title Dialogue, would be admitted into Russia and put on open sale; he was disabused of this idea by 1924.5 The idea of a permanent rupture was generally accepted only about 1925. The most poignant discussion of it is the lament that Vladislav Khodasevich published in the Paris newspaper Days, 'Over There or Over Here?', in which literature on both sides of the divide is said to be seriously infirm.6

Evidently, copies of the London Mercury carrying Mirsky's 'Russian Letters' reached the most famous literary Anglophile left in the country, Korney Chukovsky, and he wrote an appreciation to Mirsky, whose reply, written on 12 May 1922, has survived. Even allowing for the positive emphasis that would have been inevitable under these circumstances, Mirsky's letter shows that from the very beginning of his time outside Russia he believed that the emigre segment of Russian literature was not and could not be sufficient unto itself, much less set out on an independent and autonomous existence. Rather, it was and would remain a subordinate fragment of the literature as -a whole, whose centre remained inside Russia. And Mirsky wanted to take part in the work of the centre, not the periphery:

We on this side are dreading that an unbridgeable abyss will open up between us and you. Your letter is a sign that this is not so. Those who have stayed behind in Russia are for us like saints and martyrs for the faith [podvizhniki], and consequently, if Russian Culture survives, it will be due to you and your heroic efforts. We are no better than rats who have saved themselves from the ship, while you still might be destined to save the ship itself ... [The] Russians here are not up to much economically, and the English are nowhere near as interested in Russian culture as it might seem .... However, something will be done .... We will find the opportunity to move the English along in a literary sense.

In general, books from Russia are our daily bread: I enclose my article about the first two volumes of Blok from the 'Times Literary Supplement'.7 Please give my most sincere greeting to Anna Andreevna [Akhmatova].8

And may God grant you strength and success.

D.S. -Mirsky9

This would seem to be the contact that led to the most surprising item in Mirsky's bibliography, an essay on contemporary English poetry that was published in Soviet Russia in 1923 in the journal The Contemporary West, which was edited by Chukovsky and Evgeny Zamyatin. This was the only piece Mirsky published in Russia between 1911, when his collection of poems came out, and 1932, when he returned from emigration. In his letter to Mirsky, Chukovsky had evidently asked Mirsky to set about the task of publicizing and translating the literature currently being published in Russia. The most immediate result was Mirsky's translation of Zamyatin's story 'The Cave', which soon became a classic of the revolutionary period.10

It was in London, rather than on the Continent, that Mirsky made personal contact with the young Soviet prose whose rise he saluted several times shortly after he began his teaching career, as he undertook to do in his letter to Chukovsky. The novelist Boris Pilnyak (1894-1937), who was rapidly making a name for himself as one of the most significant post-revolutionary literary figures after the publication of The Bare Year in 1922, left Russia for a four-month trip to England on 1 May 1923. Pilnyak had wangled an official visit to. the London trade delegation of the newly recognized state, and off his own bat he attempted to set up a Russian chapter of the PEN Club; the organizers wanted Gorky, but he considered the project too politically sensitive. While Pilnyak was in London, he met Mirsky. Pilnyak reported to Chukovsky from England that in his view Mirsky 'was born a hundred years too late'.11 In May 1924 Mirsky wrote an introduction to a collection by Pilnyak that was called in English Tales of the Wilderness; at this time and also later, he was in general uncomplimentary, arguing that Pilnyak was too undisciplined mentally to be a great writer of prose. It is clear, though, that Mirsky and Pilnyak, however much they might have disagreed with each other, shared a fondness for extended discussion over a bottle, the favoured location being the back room of Mrs Makarova's Russian bookshop near the British Museum.12

Apart from this chance contact with a prominent literary Russian, Mirsky tried to keep up with his schoolmate Viktor Zhirmunsky, who had remained in Petrograd, now renamed Leningrad. In a letter to Suvchinsky of 19 December 1924 Mirsky says that he is in correspondence with Zhirmunsky and has been receiving books from him, but that the copy of 'my English Avvakum' (by which Mirsky means the translation by Harrison and Mirrlees with his preface) has been returned stamped 'Non-admis'. No letters from Mirsky have turned up in Zhirmunsky's archive; it may well be that he destroyed anything he had relating to Mirsky after the latter was arrested. But this, and the much more important letter to Chukovsky, constitute the only evidence that has surfaced so far that Mirsky was in touch with literary people in Russia before he managed to write to Pasternak in 1927.


Throughout the 1920S the principal site of Mirsky's emigre activities was Paris. The first surviving letter written from France back to England is to Sir Bernard Pares, dated 20 August 1924, and addressed from 214 rue de Becon, Courbevoie. This is the house that Mirsky's mother and sisters had settled into when they moved from Athens at a date unknown, and it was to serve as Mirsky's Paris base until it was put up for sale after the death of his mother.

The addresses of Mirsky's letters and the announcements in them of his travel plans show that he would make his way to Paris as soon as possible after the end of the university term, and that he would only return to London at the last minute to start his teaching. From Paris, Mirsky ventured far and wide in France; during his first years he was in Quimper in Brittany, Nantes, Cannes, and Normandy. In January 1926 he spent some time in Pau.13 In August 1927 he stayed with the Bassianos at their villa near the then exclusive Atlantic resort of La Baule-les-Pins, Loire Inferieure. On 23 September 1927, Mirsky wrote to Salomeya Halpern from perhaps the most spectacular hostelry of all those whose stationery he used, the Grand Hotel du Raisin de Bourgogne in the town of Niort. Vera Traill, who was no stranger to the kitchen, and who once published a Russian cookbook with her friend Moura Budberg, said:

When he came [to France] with money in his pocket, he was a terrible glutton, terribly interested in food, and he would make expeditions. He had the gastronomic guide . . . and he was perfectly capable of taking a trip for just one night, let's say to Lyon, just to taste a special chicken dish .... In Paris we went to terribly expensive, spectacular restaurants .... I remember one of them where we had something I wouldn't know how to cook myself-boiled lettuce. It's the same as spinach but made with lettuce. Anyway, he knew where to go, where the thing to eat was this lettuce.

Marina Tsvetaeva saw all this from a different perspective in a letter to Yury Ivask in June 1934, by which time Mirsky's diet had become rather more austere:

What's my favourite food, you ask. Does it really matter? I hate kasha, every sort except the black, and even in Moscow in 1920, the most savage year, I didn't eat millet. That aside, I'm very unassuming and simple -- I eat everything, and I don't pay much attention to it, which during our friendship made Mirsky heartily disappointed (he was a passionate eater and expert, as very isolated people often are). He took me -- in secret conspiratorially-connoisseurily -- round the best restaurants of Paris and London. 'All you do is talk! he once exclaimed, grief-stricken, 'and you don't care what you're eating -- they might as well be servmg you hay!' Hay maybe, but not millet, though. 14


The general evolution of Mirsky's involvement with Russian emigre culture is clear-cut: to borrow once more one of his own favourite images it traced a rising line until 1926, then a plateau until 1929, and after that it fell away steeply. From the time Mirsky arrived on the emigre scene in 1922 until the summer of 1926 he was regarded on the whole as a talented but untried younger colleague by the leading lights in the literary emigration. He compelled them to take him seriously, but he then managed to alienate them completely. After 1?26 he withdrew further and further from literature, and by the end of 1929 this process was practically complete. He returned to writing literary criticism in Russian only after he arrived back in Moscow in 1932, and then, it would seem, primarily because he was directed to do so rather than by choice. In the interim, during his last three years in emigration, he was writing mainly in English on historical and political subjects.

Mirsky's earliest piece of critical writing in Russian for the emigre readership after he came to London turned out to be a non-starter. It was a survey art1cle on the current state of Russian poetry, submitted to Russian Thought (Russkaya mysl'), the journal edited by P. B. Struve, in June 1922. Soon after this, the journal encountered insuperable financial and organizational problems, and this became the earliest of several articles by Mirsky that were first published only long after his death. 15 In this case, though, there may well have been another reason: a good deal of the factual material in the article especially its account of which poets were in which places, was rapidly over~ taken by events as the division between emigre and Soviet literature coalesced . Struve may well have decided that, despite the brilliance of Mirsky's literary Judgements, there was too much in the article that events had rendered inaccurate.

The most significant aspect of this article is its bravura tone, which is set by the first sentence: 'For about a quarter of a century now Russian poetry has been experiencing a period of flowering which has taken it from the· debased and insignificant situation of the 1890s to its dominant situation of today.' This v1ew contrasts strongly with Mirsky's attitude about five years later when he saw not just th.e poetry of his youth, but all Russian literature of that period, as obsessed w1th death. The article culminates with a discussion of three women poets who lapsed into obscurity soon after the date of Mirsky's article: Anna Radlova, Mariya Shkapskaya, and Irina Odoevtseva. He had probably known Radlova before 1917, and met her again after he went back to Russia; he came to know Shkapskaya in the 193os; but he never seems to have met Odoevtseva (1895-1991), who emigrated with her husband Georgy Ivanov (1894-1958), and survived long enough to be able in 1987 to go back and die in the city she left seventy years previously, soon before 1t was renamed once more and became St Petersburg again.

The article's final paragraph presents a conception of poetry that Mirsky was to restate many times in his later writings; he was always on the s1de of 'will and reason':

Mandelshtam declared that 'Classicism is the poetry of Revolution'. And if by Revolution is understood that which Peter the Great began, there is a certain amount of truth in this. Classicism is active poetry, the poetry of Will and Reason -- teleological art, antithetical to Romanticism, which is passive, determinist art. 16


On 8 August 1923, at Quimper in Brittany, Mirsky finished the introduction to his Russian-language The Russian Lyric: A Little Anthology from Lomonosov to Pasternak the first book he published after his youthful collection of poems in 1911. The crisp Notes that Mirsky included at the back of his anthology make a highly instructive contrast with those he supplied m the same year as his own anthology was published, 1924, for Maurice Baring's Oxford Book of Russian Verse. Writing in English for Baring, Mirsky can take nothmg for granted:

Konstantin Konstantinovich Sluchevsky, b. 1837 in St. Petersburg. Served in the Foot Guards and later on in the Civil Service; he was for a long time editor of the official Pravitel'stvennyi Vestnik (Government Gazette). His first poems appeared in 1860, but he was hissed off the literary stage by the Anti-Verse critics and did not appear m book form until 1876. He died in 1904. He is the most remarkable and original poet of an unpoetical period. He had real genius and a wonderfully alert and receptive mind. Much of his best poetry is metaphysical, but he is probably at his best in his 'geographical' poems (especially in his poems of the North of Russia). He was heavily handicapped, for never in any Christian country (except perhaps in America at the same time) was the level of poetical craftsmanship so low as it was in Russia m the last lap of the nineteenth century. His verse is more often than not uncouth and clumsy, but his ideas are always original and stimulating.17

Easily recognizable here are some permanent features of Mirsky's evaluative thinking: the evolution of poetry describing a 'falling line', the deleteruous effect of 'social' criticism, the importance of work and craftsmanship, , the supreme importance of thought in poetry. There is even evidence of his peculiar staff officer's fascination with terrain. By contrast, here is Musky's note on the same poet from his own anthology; the translation is deliberately literal:

Konstantin Konstantinovich Sluchevsky, b. 1837 in Spb t 1904. Sluchevsky was a tongue-tied genius. An insatiable love for the concrete multiplicity of physical existence; a sharp eye, directed all around him; the vigilant work of powerful thought to which the 'light yoke' of ideas is absolutely alien -- these could have made of him a poet of the first magnitude. His decadent times denied him the armament he needed. This is Demosthenes with his tongue cut out. Sluchevsky's lofty tongue-tiedness is perhaps his principal attraction but it is indisputably annoying. He liberates himself from it rarely and not always appropriately, and in doing so he lapses (especially in the early poems) into cheap prettiness. His first poems began to appear in the second half of the 1850s, but were hissed at by the critics; from 186o until 1876 he was silent. In our age when formal tasks are dominant, Sluchevsky has little chance of attracting attention. 18

This incisive verve, spiked with the occasional bold metaphor, is entirely characteristic of Mirsky's Russian-language criticism. The two notes cover the same ground and are consistent with each other, but the English note primarily imparts information, while the Russian one is above all impressionistically evaluative. Equally instructive is the contrast between Mirsky's notes on those (very few) individual poems that happen to appear in both books. For Blok's 'The Unknown Woman' Mirsky supplies Baring with two short dry sentences: 'The most widely popular of Blok's poems. The scene is a summer resort in the environs of St. Petersburg.'19 For his Russian readers, Mirsky can display the inwardness of his understanding:

The Unknown Woman, dated 24 March 1906 Ozerki, from An Unexpected Joy. An extremely well-known poem. It is central for an entire period; in it some lyric themes intersect that are repeated in different combinations. Here Blok for the first time achieves a synthesis of his dissonances, combining sharp, grotesque naturalism with a romantic melody (the second half); remarkable here is the 'magical', 'forced' disposition of vowels. 20

The second name in the subtitle of Mirsky's anthology, 'From Lomonosov to Pasternak', was a shocking provocation in a Russian emigre publication even before the battle-lines had hardened, because -- apart from the obscurity of the little poetry he had published by then -- Pasternak had declared allegiance to the Soviets by returning to Russia. Mirsky's subtitle is one of the earliest unambiguous proclamations in Russian literary history of Pasternak's major status.

Mirsky is at his most incisive in discussing what he calls his 'Salon des Refuses'. The poets of the modernist period for whom he finds no place in his anthology seem in part like a deliberate provocation to the emigration, because although he finds room for one poem each by Balmont and Gippius, he does not include Bunin and Khodasevich. Mirsky shows off his insider's knowledge by apologizing for not including some of the cult poets of his generation: Konevskoy, Dobrolyubov, Komarovsky, and -- another pointer towards some sort of personal connection -- Elena Guro. But the poet whose absence was most remarked upon, and her omission persistently used as a stick to beat Mirsky with in view of what happened soon aftenhe appearance of the anthology was MarinaTsvetaeva; it is in this preface that Mirsky used the phrase 'a talented, but hopelessly undisciplined woman from Moscow'.21

Tucked away in his note on the second-rate poet Apollon Maikov (1821-97) is a passage in which Mirsky came nearer than anywhere else to defining what he detested most in Russian poetry, an attitude that lies behind all his negative assessments: 'The self-satisfied pomposity of his "concern with ideas" (ideinost'), the eclecticism of his taste, the neutrality of his verbal texture make him almost into a blank space for the modern reader. Maikov made entirely real the ideal poet "according to Belinsky" with his "artistry", "thinking in images", and concern for public opinion. '22 Instead of these qualities, Mirsky admired poets who wrestle with their own thought instead of received ideas, expose 'the resistance of the material' in the linguistic surface of their texts so that the poem is manifestly a thing made, and whose concerns are aristocratically elitist rather than populist.


Mirsky made his debut in January 1924 in a periodical based in Paris, The Link (Zveno). This journal was founded as a literary supplement to the leading Russian newspaper in Paris, The Latest News, the nominal editor being that of the main paper, P. N. Milyukov, who was joined by the almost equally nominal M. M. Vinaver;23 the actual work was done by Solomon Vladimirovich Pozner (1876-1946). The Link appeared from 1923 to 1928.24 It carried a wide variety of articles on· current literary history. The chief literary critic was Georgy Adamovich, but an increasingly prominent part was played by the highly gifted but wayward Nikolay Bakhtin (1894-1950), who had served a stint in the Foreign Legion. He has remained in relative obscurity, overshadowed by his vaunted younger brother Mikhail. 25 Mirsky gave The Link several substantial pieces about current English literature in 1924 and 1925, including what appears to have remained the only serious essay ever written in Russian on the work of Maurice Baring.26

In 1925 Mirsky began contributing to the most important Russian 'thick journal' of the inter-war period, Contemporary Notes (Sovremennye zapiski), which came out regularly from 1921 to the fall of Paris in 1940, edited by a notoriously philistine group of former SRs. Three of his reviews are particularly important. One of them concerns the earliest collected edition of Babel's stories; the others deal with the debuts in prose that had recently been made by the poets Mandelshtam and Pasternak. Mirsky was among the very first critics to argue for the significance of these now long-canonical texts. 27 Besides these, in 1926 he published the first ever article-length assessment in Russian of a long poem by Tsvetaeva. 28 And, as we have seen, he also gave to Contemporary Notes a composite review of nine of the classic texts of Russian Formalist criticism that had come out in its final years of glory, 1923-4.29

Mirsky's most substantial contribution to Contemporary Notes was in fact his first, an obituary of the poet who had been one of the models for his own youthful efforts, Valery Bryusov, who died in October 1924 after spending his last years as a member of the Bolshevik party. Mirsky's obituary culminates with some acid remarks about Bryusov's political opportunism, which in a sense foreshadowed his own ten years later, anticipating some of the charges that would later be made against himself when he declared for the Soviets.

In late 1925 and early 1926 Mirsky also contributed some incisive pieces on current English literature, including articles on Belloc, George Saints bury, and living poets, to Days, the newspaper edited by the former head of the Provisional Government, Aleksandr Kerensky. In 1926 Mirsky also contributed important articles on Tsvetaeva and Esenin to the most explicitly left-wing 'thick journal' of the emigration, The Will of Russia (Volya Rossii), which was published in Prague for a decade starting in 1922. The Esenin obituary contains one particularly noteworthy passage where Mirsky makes some ominous remarks about the doomed nature of his own generation:

Esenin simply was a poet, while Nadson was not. But their functions within the social organism were similar. Both of them concentrated within themselves, with special power for the average contemporary reader, all the weakness and anguish of their generation. The manner of death of each is significant -- Nadson's tuberculosis and Esenin's noose. The first symbolizes the limpness, powerlessness, and sterility of the 'men of the 188os'. The second symbolizes the emptiness, the restlessness, the violated state [ograblennost'] of our generation. Nadson's was a sickness of power. Esenin's was a sickness of faith. Nadson could not act. Esenin could not believe. Unbelief is the root of Esenin's tragedy.30

The most celebrated elegy on Esenin was written by another member of his generation, Mayakovsky. The poem has a closing couplet that became a byword for Communist commitment: 'In this life, to die is nothing hard, / Making life is harder, and by far.' Mirsky's next obituary for a major poet with whom he identified himself was to be about Mayakovsky, with whose own suicide these words took on a ghastly new resonance.


Mirsky's final involvement as a contributor to an emigre publication edited by someone else came about in 1925-6 in connection with a short-lived and essentially amateur project by another emzgre prince, Dmitry Alekseevich ' Shakhovskoy. He published two almanacs whose title uses the adjectival noun· often found in the diary of Mirsky's mother, The Well-Intentioned. The first of these almanacs brought together in uniquely broad church fashion a number of eminent writers in the emigration who were soon to become irreconcilable enemies and would no longer be seen between the same two covers. In his dealings with Shakhovskoy, Mirsky speaks condescendingly, and as a definite advocate of 'the left' in literature. When he is writing in Russian, as opposed to English, he resists style-editing: 'Do not change particular words, and retain my punctuation as far as possible. I'm afraid that in general the article has come out too political, and what's worse is that it's completely disconnected. Malheureusement on n'ecrit pas ce qu'on veut mais ce qu'on peut.'

The article concerned was 'On the Current State of Russian Literature' , in which Mirsky makes a trenchant statement of general principle and some concise literary assessments. As living classics he cites Akhmatova, Zamyatin, Khodasevich, and A. N. Tolstoy (with some reservation about the last-named). The remaining living writers are then mustered into' groups. 'Genuine, fully formed masters' who are continuing to develop include Mandelshtam, Tsvetaeva, Pasternak, and Babel. Those who have stopped developing include Mayakovsky, Aseev, and perhaps Tikhonov. Promising beginners include Artyom Vesyoly and Selvinsky. Worth mentioning in other categories are Leonov, Zoshchenko, Esenin, Pilnyak, Nikitin, perhaps Lidin. The tail-enders in this list are dealt some stinging remarks:

Genuinely talented and clever, but lacking any 'inner content', a journalist and also 'a slave to authority' and, what's worse, to the consumer: Erenburg.

Almost a 'man of genius', but a completely undisciplined31 journalist who cultivates his indiscipline but is the father of almost all the ideas by which contemporary aesthetics lives: Shklovsky. 32

Mirsky notes as he goes through these names the high proportion of Jews among them; he uses the term standard in the late Tsarist administration, inorodtsy, 'aliens'. He eventually apologizes for the fact that of all the names he lists, only one is 'completely white': he has in mind, of course, Khodasevich. This leads to the second half of the article, which condemns the use of political criteria in judging literature, a sin committed not so much by the Bolsheviks, says Mirsky, as by the emigration.


By 4 February 1926, Mirsky had finished his article for the second and final issue of Shakhovskoy's almanac, 'On Conservatism', which, he remarks in his accompanying letter, he hopes 'is not too ill-intentioned':33

'The reader you speak about (there is another kind, but there are fewer of them) is guided by two laws: intellectual laziness and the fear of making a fool of himself Literature has to keep him occupied and cheer him up, "like tasty lemonade in summer".34 Be is not prepared to expend any effort. Literature, like music in a restaurant or cinema, like the cinematograph, is rest and relaxation. It therefore has to be immediately comprehensible, and to achieve that it has to follow familar models. A small amount of innovation is fine; it stimulates the appetite and tickles the nerves .... The educated reader knows that one should take an interest in what is new and that art must renew itself But he also knows from bitter experience that there are many charlatans and impostors, that he can't distinguish between them and the "real" ones, and it's therefore easy to make a fool of himself by saying that Igor Severyanin is a great poet, while Khlebnikov's a clown. He therefore entrenches himself inside the wholly dependable classics, making common cause with them according to their degree of deadness, or with what look to him like the least innovatory of his contemporaries according to their degree of sclerosis. You musn't reproach the reader for doing this, of course. Too much of his energy goes on following the ups and downs of the stock market, or to earning himself a salary, and there's none left for reading "incomprehensible" poets, as you call them.'

'But they really are incomprehensible.'

'Everything is incomprehensible to someone who hasn't the time to comprehend. Art is the creation of new values ... .'

This last sentence caught the fancy of Jane Harrison; she wrote from Cambridge on 9 August 1926:

'Art is the creation of new values' [Harrison cites the phrase in Russian] now that is really worth saying & to me the most illuminating thing I have read for a long time with more stuff in it than a whole decade of Pontigny analysis.

I have often wanted to ask you to formulate for me the reactionary and revolutionary element in yr outlook but I did not feel I knew you quite well enough (asking a person to state their opinions is really more intrusive than asking the amount of their income)35 & now you have done it unasked.

By the next time Mirsky wrote to Shakhovskoy he had delivered his lecture on 'The Ambience of Death in Pre-Revolutionary Russian Literature', which was to become notorious. Mirsky offered this piece to Shakhovskoy for publication in The Well-Intentioned, but then evidently changed his mind, and saved it for his own journal, Vyorsts, even though it would miss the first issue. The last letter of the correspondence with Shakhovskoy dates from 17 June 1926. Mirsky complained that Shakhovskoy was a bad correspondent -- not knowing that during the preceding couple of months Shakhovskoy had gone through the decisive phase of the evolution that led him to choose the path diametrically opposite to the one that Mirsky soon opted for: he gave up the world entirely and went to Mount Athos in order to study to become a priest of the Orthodox Church. He would end up as one of the most eminent clerics of the emigration, known in the highest office he occupied as Archbishop Ioann of San Francisco and the Western United States.

By 1926, the year in which the first volume of his English-language history appeared, Mirsky had thus made an appearance in all the principal periodical publications of the Russian emigration. As a sort of epitaph to this involvement, he then published a harshly critical review of the back issues of Contemporary Notes and The Will of Russia in the first issue of the journal he founded himself, Vyorsts, and left himself with no way back into the mainstream. 36


In his dialogue on conservatism, Mirsky set down one particularly significant passage about his relations with his fellows in the emigration:

'Tradition is like Ariadne's thread -- once dropped, it cannot be picked up again. One can take one's stand only on a directly precursive tradition that has not yet been broken. Restoration never happens, either in politics or culture. The new must be new, not yesterday's stuff warmed up. It must be revolutionary, it must look forward and not back. True, it sometimes dons a mask that's got up to look like the old. But that's only a mask. You mentioned the Eurasians. They have one face but two souls, which "war with each other, alas". If the soul wins that wears the face, they will lose all significance. If the soul wins whose face wears the mask, the soul that is organically related to the future, they will become the greatest cultural force of tomorrow.'

Starting in 1925, Mirsky involved himself more and more deeply with these mask-wearing men who had two souls, the men of the Eurasian movement.37 The initial contact took place in September 1922, when Mirsky visited Berlin and was introduced to Pyotr Petrovich Suvchinsky, one of the four founders of Eurasianism. Though this impression may be the result of the fact that more evidence concerning it survives than concerning any other -- 163 letters by Mirsky written between October 1922 and September 1931 -- Mirsky seems to have formed a closer relationship with Suvchinsky, and for longer, than with any other person he met after he left Russia.

Suvchinsky (1892-1985)38 was born in Kiev and educated in SfPetersburg; he went to the Tenishev school, like Mirsky. He became a musicologist and took part in musical journalism immediately before the First World War; he was then found unfit for military service. In emigration he became an amateur of the arts whose main interest remained music; his practical abilities and/ or dedication as pianist and singer never seem to have been sufficient for him to make a career as a performer. Suvchinsky first lived in Sofia, where the Eurasian movement began. He moved to Berlin at some time in 1922, then to Paris in 1925, and remained there to the end of his life.

As soon as Mirsky got back to London from Berlin in the autumn of 1922, with his customary expeditiousness he published three English-language accounts of the Eurasian movement, all of them positive.39 In a letter of 7 September 1922 to P. N. Savitsky, Suvchinsky claimed Mirsky as a convert, and in 1923 charged him with forming a Eurasian group in England.40

The Eurasian movement was a complex and tangled conglomeration of ideas . and personalities, policies, theories, and agendas. By the end of the 1920s it had spawned a very substantial body of printed documents. They include a series of collections of articles, several monographs, and a chronicle dealing with the organization's public activities.41 Eurasianism is best known, indeed almost exclusively known, in its ideological aspect, which has been confidently summarized many times. By far the clearest summary of its ideology in its initial phase (1921-6) is by Mirsky, an article that stands as one of the best examples of his ability to boil down complex notions to their essentials.42 The article was written in 1926, when Mirsky was feeling maximally benevolent towards the movement and the personalities involved in it, and just at the time when he himself was becoming a leading participant. Several further summaries of Eurasian ideology were made long after the demise of the movement by scholars outside Russia.43 Until the late 1980s, the movement was not an approved topic of research and discussion inside Russia. After the fall of the USSR, the Eurasians' attempts to conceptualize a post-Communist Russia became of great interest and relevance, and there began a spate of republications44 and reinterpretations.45

The formal beginning of the movement was marked by a collection of ten essays that appeared in Sofia in 1921 under the title Exodus to the East, edited and written by four emigres who had landed up there after making their way out of Russia by various routes: Prince Nikolay Sergeevich Trubetskoy (189o-1938), Georgy Vasilievich Florovsky (1893-1979), Pyotr Nikolaevich Savitsky (1894-1968), and, as we know, P. P. Suvchinsky. How exactly the four got together and from whom the original impetus came to produce the book has not yet been clearly related. All four original Eurasians, like Mirsky, were in terms of social and academic background and upbringing metropolitan Russian intellectuals from the dvoryanstvo, but they had different areas of specialization. Trubetskoy was the only one of them who had published any significant proto-Eurasian writings before the 1921 collection, and he was clearly the principal ideologue. But he was always a reluctant leader. He was an academic dedicated to research in his specialist subject; in emigration at the University of Vienna he held one of the most prestigious chairs in Slavonic studies, and he was soon to emerge as one of the greatest theoretical linguists of the twentieth century if not of all time.46 His commitment to his academic work grew stronger as the 1920s went on, and eventually led him to resent the time and energy he was called on to spend on his unruly brainchild, which from his point of view kept on side-slipping into politics and away from the speculative ideas that interested him. It would appear from his earliest writings that as an adolescent, in strong contrast to Mirsky, Trubetskoy conceived a violent antipathy towards Western culture, and British attitudes in particular.

Savitsky was an economist and geographer who had been a favourite pupil of P.B. Struve and had worked with him in the White administration in the Crimea. He responded immediately to Trubetskoy’s early publications, and he was to prove the most enthusiastic and persistent proponent of Eurasianism among the original quartet. He was also the most prolific author among them; indeed, he was something of a graphomaniac, and the knotty loquacity of his writings is one factor that has deterred scholars from tackling his archival legacy.47 Mirsky eventually came to view him as a self-righteous bigot.48

Florovsky was an Orthodox theologican, and very soon publicly distanced himself from the movement.49 Florovsky and Savitsky, however, were brothers-in-law, and apparently retained a close personal relationship. Florovsky was replaced as the Eurasian house theologian by Lev Karsavin (1882-1952), the ballerina Tamara’s brother, who suffered all his life from not being as rich and famous as she was.50 He was one of the group of intellectuals expelled from Russia in 1922, and he became closely involved with Eurasianism when he moved to Paris in 1925. The presence in the same place of Suvchinsky and Karsavin was one factor that altered the centre of gravity of the movement for a while at this point.

Suvchinsky was the least distinguished of the four founders intellectually. He contributed a number of culturological essays to the various Eurasian publications, but none of them really repays careful study because his thought is so slipshod; they consist mainly of verbose emotional gestures. Mirsky’s letters to Suvchinsky teem with ever-harsher instructions about how he should tighten up his thinking and clean up his style. Suvchinsky was by nature a parlour intellectual, fond of the sound of his own voice and loving to hold court. How he managed to support himself is an enigma, unless he really did manage to allot himself a salary from Eurasian funds; his third former wife, Vera, contemptuously referred to him as ‘a genuine parasite’. He was something of a sexual predator, and he married four times, all the women concerned being between 18 and 22 years old at the time. His fourth marriage, in 1933, was something of a Eurasian dynastic event, to Marianna Karsavina, one of the daughters of the philosopher. Karsavin, incidentally, was conned into thinking that Suvchinsky was a millionaire.

As a body of doctrine, Eurasianism has been much more frequently summarized than critically examined. This is partly because the publications are so extensive, and partly because they are still difficult of access; there does not seem to be a single repository anywhere in the world where all the Eurasian publications can be studied together.51 The anonymous preface to Exodus to the East spelled out the fundamental ideas. The sentence from it that became most famous also marks the limit of the usual notion of what Eurasianism amounted to: ‘The Russian people and the peoples of the “Russian world” are neither European nor Asiatic.’

The Eurasian people, one but only one constituent among whom are the ethnic Russians, inhabit that geographically distinctive space which stretches from the Baltic to the Pacific, and from the Arctic to the mountain ranges that provide it with a southern border. In terms of climate and vegetation it is divided into four broad ‘flag-like’ strips that run east-west; reading from north to south they are made up of tundra, northern forest, steppe, and desert.52 Eurasian history is essentially the process of human confrontation with and assimilation of this space. This history begins not with Kievan Christianity but with the unfortunately named Tartar yoke, which the Eurasians viewed as a positive phenomenon rather than a catastrophe that gave rise to Russia’s notorious ‘backwardness’. Under the Mongols the Eurasian space was first brought under unitary rule; it functioned efficiently as a political and economic entity and successfully defended itself against Catholicism and Protestantism and the false beliefs and economic exploitation indivisible from them.

A definition of national identity, subsuming and transcending ethnicity, sprang from the geopolitical basis. The Eurasian mentality, according to Exodus to the East, is continental, nomadic, and tolerant in religious affairs. Nevertheless, a central administration came about that gave a coherent political articulation to ‘continent Eurasia’ as a geographical space, further integrated by growing adherence to the Russian Orthodox Church and the use of the Russian language. The outlook of the people who inhabit the landlocked and featureless expanses of Eurasia was and remained utterly different from that of the peoples who inhabit the regions west of the Elbe, with their peninsulas and islands riven by mountains and short rivers flowing fast to nearby seas. In this setting there developed individualism, participatory democracy, aggressive chauvinism, rapaciously acquisitive materialism, religious intolerance and eventually secularism, and a ruthless hunger for technological development; these attitudes drove the acquisition of sea-borne empires founded on myths of national supremacy and on the enslavement or even extermination of aliens rather than the Eurasian process of comparatively benign enserfment of the native lower orders. The reforms of Peter the Great betrayed the Eurasian idea of importing alien Western concepts and structures of government, leading to a loss of organic unity, a growing alienation between rulers and ruled, and the eventual revenge of the ruled in 1917. The revolution was taken over from the top, however, by fanatical adherents of Marxist Communism, the most obnoxious of all the ideologies that had been foisted on Russia from the West. The Eurasians thus accepted the legitimacy of the Russian revolution, but rejected the legitimacy of Bolshevism.

The four founding ideologues of Eurasianism were all Russian men of the same generation as Mirsky. Like him, they just had time to complete at least a substantial part of their higher education in their native country before historical developments robbed them of the context in which it would have been natural for them subsequently to emerge as leading figures in their chosen fields and perhaps more widely, in political life. 53 Their personal circumstances had been transformed beyond recognition by the events that began in 1914. Instead of being leaders-in-waiting, these men found themselves outcasts in alien societies whose values they found unacceptable.

All along there were really two Eurasias in the thinking of the original group, as is implied by Mirsky's remark about the two souls. They were complementary, and were never really synthesized. The first, associated with Trubetskoy, was an ethnic and cultural construct. The second, developed particularly by Savitsky, was a geopolitical construct. In the second phase of the movement there was an attempt to add a legal arm and what one might call a religious arm, the theory of the 'symphonic personality' as developed by Karsavin. But from the start there was a fatal lack of agreement about the purpose of the movement. In a situation where no power was at stake, there was a vacuum at the point where male motivation normally has its roots. Eurasian ideology was in no way less coherent than that of Bolshevism before or after 1917, but there was no equivalent among the Eurasian leaders to Lenin, whose life and soul were dedicated to the cause of revolution and who before 1917 was undeterred by apparent success or failure in the real world-and whose mother supplied him with an allowance that enabled him to devote himself to his obsession. Savitsky was the nearest thing there was to a Eurasian fanatic, but his thoughts and actions seem childish and unfocused compared with the unremitting purposiveness of Lenin.
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Part 2 of 6


It is quite clear from his first few letters to Suvchinsky that Mirsky did not share some of the fundamental tenets of Eurasianism in its early form. He made only one contribution to its coterie publications before 1928 -- the article on Avvakum that is discussed at length in the letters to Suvchinsky of August and October 1924. And it can be seen from subsequent letters that Mirsky's intellectual reservations remained. He was interested in Eurasianism not because he thought it was right but principally because he thought that it was a uniquely dynamic element in what he saw as the stagnant slough of emigre thought and politics.

The Eurasians produced enormous amounts of printed paper and no doubt even greater amounts of hot air that has mercifully evaporated. No single individual writing after the demise of the movement can ever actually have read, much less carefully studied, the entire range of published documents engendered by or associated with Eurasianism. Much less has any single person yet studied all the unpublished documents as well. The production of such quantities of what must have been largely unread verbiage was possible because the Eurasians secured for themselves substantial financial backing in Western funds. It was commonly insinuated by: the enemies of the Eurasians in the Russian emigration of the 1920s that the movement was in fact a front organization for the Soviet government, and in its pay, This charge was, and remains, unsubstantiated. How the publications before 1924 were financed is not clear, except in the case of the third collection. 54 But what happened then is quite certain. From the Moscow archive materials and the Mirsky letters we know that the Eurasians were financed by the British philanthropist H. N. Spalding.

Henry Norman Spalding (1877-1953) was educated privately and at New College, Oxford; he was a civil servant in the Admiralty from 1901 to 1909, then became a barrister, and made two unsuccessful attempts to enter Parliament. He returned to the Admiralty during the First World War. From the fortune he inherited he was a generous benefactor to the University of Oxford, endowing inter alia the Chair of Eastern Religions and Ethics. 'The money', as the Eurasian officers referred to it, was a gift of £10,000 made to the movement in 1922 or 1923. This was a huge sum; to get some idea of what it was worth, it is enough to recall that in the early to mid-1920s Bernard Pares ran the School of Slavonic Studies with a staff of seven on an annual grant from the UGC of £2,000.

Just before the movement split, Spalding published the most substantial treatment of it to appear in a language other than Russian, and in fact the only such treatment by a non-Russian, which is surprising in view of the geographical distribution of the intellectual emigration, but not surprising in view of the emigration's generally Russia-oriented priorities. 55 Mirsky's reaction to this book in his letter to Suvchinsky of 6 May 1928 was vitriolic:

I got Spalding's book yesterday. I've skimmed it, and it looks like a huge piece of mediocrity [bol'shoe ubozhestvo, a favourite phrase of Mirsky's] -- it's nothing but the Elder Zosima plus the Upanishads. What's worse is that it talks about the necessity for a bloody coup d'etat when the Communist Party is overthrown. Finally, it is completely impermissible to twist the name 'Eurasian' into 'Europasian'. What a disgrace to renounce one's name just because some petty little wogs in Ceylon call themselves the same thing.

Named Zinovy before he became a monk and sometimes called “Zosimov,” Zosima is Alexei Fyodorovich’s spiritual guide and the most revered elder at the monastery to which Alexei belongs. When Zosima is introduced into the novel, he is around sixty-five years old and has been a monk for forty years. He comes from a family of landowners and once had an orderly named Afanasy. Zosima was in the army in his early youth and served in the Caucasus as a commissioned officer. While still an officer, he encouraged equality between the upper-class and their servants. He then started his monastic effort in “a poor, little-known monastery in Kostroma” and later traveled with Father Anfim all over Russia to collect donations for their poor monastery. Zosima is a gentle cleric who is drawn to the most sinful of his followers. Many of the other monks believe that Zosima is a saint, though, there are others who resent Zosima’s influence and extraordinarily holy reputation. Many people, particularly women, flock from all over Russia to receive his blessings. He is “a tall, lean, but still vigorous old man, dark-haired with much gray, and with a long, pious, and important face.” When the elder dies, Alexei expects a miracle and is disappointed when Zosima’s body rots like that of any other man, casting doubt on his holiness. However, Alexei has a dream about the elder which restores his crumbling faith and encourages him to follow Zosima’s advice “to sojourn in the world,” or to leave the monastery and re-engage with people.

-- Zosima, the Elder, Character Analysis, by LitCharts

The use of the phrase 'new party in Russia' in Spalding's title proclaims how little the author understood about what was really going on, for there was no 'party' in any substantial sense, and the idea that the Eurasians were based inside Russia was the result of a GPU confidence trick, as we shall see.

In the early 1920s Mirsky was prepared to take the postulates of Eurasianism seriously, but with some real reservations, as prolegomena to a theory of Russian history, and even -- before he completely repudiated essentialist and idealist concepts and became a Marxist -- a theory of 'the Russian idea'. He stated his position with. absolute clarity to Suvchinsky in his second letter written on 4 December 1922; this is notwithstanding the fact that, as we have seen, Suvchinsky had already claimed him as a convert:

The first thing is that, though I accept absolutely that Russia is a specific cultural-historical type (to use Danilevsky's language), I consider it to be neither absolutely shut off and impenetrable nor absolutely alien to the West. Spengler is accused (and rightly so) of overlooking Christianity, and the same thing should not happen to us, for the West after all is Christian, and with all the conviction I can muster I insist that both Rome and Luther are closer to me than Islam. The Christian world is one thing and Asia another. Just as India and China are closer to each other than either of them is to us. I agree that we (thanks to the Greeks) possess a purer ideal of Christian faith, but I cannot consign St Francis and Pascal to the outer darkness. 56

Second, and going on from that. I cannot consider Orthodoxy to be the property of the Russian people alone; Orthodoxy was created (in so far as it was created by human beings at all) by the Egyptians, the Syrians, and the Greeks .... And no matter how low the faith has sunk in the Balkans, we are nevertheless a province of Orthodoxy. ... In short, the mystical identification of Russia with Orthodoxy I most emphatically do not accept, and in general I do not accept the heresy of being Chosen by God. Let's leave that to the Yids. In all this there is a great danger of relativism, exactly that.

Mirsky adds a postscript to this disquisition that characteristically broadens the horizons of his argument in a way that would not have occurred to many Russians; it is worth remembering that the 'Troubles' were at their height when he arrived in England in 1921: 'In Europe there is another Eurasia, you know -- Ireland. It's just as alien to the Germano-Roman world as we are. Which doesn't in the least mean that it's especially close to us.' Suvchinsky kept badgering Mirsky for a contribution to one of the Eurasian publications, but Mirsky fended him off, in the process making one of his most revealing statements about himself, on 11 August 1923:

I'll be happy to write something for you later on, if you're willing to take on someone who's so lacking in seriousness that he's a Eurasian in even years and a European in odd ones. In general, though, I'm a man without convictions, and a born (though not always open) enemy of ideas in general. So just try doing business with me.

Mirsky's only contribution to the coterie publications of the Eurasian movement was an essay on Avvakum, a Russian parallel to the preface he-had provided for the Harrison-Mirrlees translation; it displays the same heightened vivacity and resonance compared to the English as do the other writings on the same subject in the two languages. 57 And it contains the most trenchant statement Mirsky ever made of his views on the Russian literary language and how he thought it should be written. He was concerned here not so much with the language of creative writing as with that of journalism and criticism. Mirsky regarded the 'newspaper' Russian of the intelligentsia as degenerate, debased by 'Westernizing' influences and scholasticism, and he constantly promoted a specific succession of writers who in his view remained creatively rooted in the soil of colloquialism: Avvakum, Derzhavin, Field Marshal Suvorov, Admiral Shishkov (Mirsky's admiration for these two non-literary men is entirely characteristic of him), Griboedov, and Leskov. Coming nearer to his own time; Mirsky added two more names to this list, arguing that the literary language

needs to be shaken up and moved along .... This is something that has to be done, and everyone has to do it for himself Everyone must once more come to feel the weight and significance of words, the resistance of the material. This is what Tolstoy did in his time .... and after him Rozanov did the same. One should not write like Avvakum, like Tolstoy, like Rozanov---one must oneself do the same work that Avvakum, Tolstoy, and Rozanov did. 58

Mirsky followed this advice in his own written Russian, which has a rugged vitality that his English lacks; he manifestly does not feel 'the resistance of the material' in his second language. Among the Russian creative ·writers of his own time, Mirsky discerned the linguistic quality he was looking for in one man and woman: Aleksey Remizov and Marina Tsvetaeva.


Despite his· reservations about an outright Eurasianist contribution, Mirsky had evidently decided by late 1925 that he and Suvchinsky could do business with each other. Remizov and Shestov, two giants of the older generation, were on the scene and unattached. Mirsky and Suvchinsky brought them in; but a serious enterprise eventually coalesced because of the arrival in Paris of a woman of their own generation, the poet Marina Tsvetaeva.

Remizov had a firmly established, though· not popular, reputation by the time he left Russia, while Tsvetaeva was not widely known at all. With Remizov, Mirsky concentrated from his earliest years in emigration on transmitting knowledge of his work to the English-speaking public and providing him with a Russian-language outlet for his new writings.59 With Tsvetaeva, beginning from the time he met her at the end of 1925, Mirsky did the same; but acted primarily as the first serious critic to establish what he saw as her major status with what he knew all too well to be the exiguous Russian reading public of the emigration.

Both Remizov and Tsvetaeva were profoundly innovatory writers, but their originality stemmed not so much from what they had to. say, which was fairly unremarkable, but from the way they said it. They were therefore the hardest kind of writer to translate, and at an increased disadvantage in emigration compared with those writers who were stylistically conventional, like Bunin and Aldanov; Neither of them could ever become a really popular writer with foreign readers, but Mirsky exerted mighty efforts to promote them, working in parallel for both the English and the Russians.

Aleksey Remizov (1877-1957) came from a Moscow merchant family; next after Gorky, his were the humblest social origins of anyone Mirsky ever knew well.60 Remizov was arrested in November 1896 at a Moscow University student demonstration, imprisoned, and then exiled to Penza. He was rearrested there in 1898 for involvement in revolutionary political activity among railway workers, exiled to Vologda province, and then amnestied by P. D. Svyatopolk-Mirsky in 1903; when he was Minister of the Interior, Mirsky's father also gave Remizov permission to return to Petersburg. Remizov lived in the capital until war broke out in 1914. It was here, as we have seen, that the schoolboy Mirsky was introduced to him and his wife by Mikhail Kuzmin.

Remizov's wife and inseparable companion was Serafima Pavlovna Dovgello (1876-1943). Born in the Chernigov area, she went to the famous Bestuzhev Courses for Women and the Institute of Archaeology in St Petersburg, and she was a pupil of Platonov, the man Mirsky called 'the greatest of our modern historians'.61 Serafima Pavlovna was a devout Orthodox Christian and also a revolutionary, the favourite 'grandchild' of Ekaterina Breshko-Breshkovskaya, 'the grandmother of the Russian revolution'. Eventually she was arrested. She spent a year in solitary confinement, and was then exiled for three years to Vologda, which is where she met Remizov in 1902; they married in 1903. The marriage was opposed by Serafima Pavlovna's parents, and she was disinherited. The Remizovs had a daughter, Natalya (1904-43), who became estranged from her parents while she was still a girl, lived with Serafima Pavlovna's family, and remained in Russia.

The Remizovs moved to Paris in the autumn of 1923. In the spring of 1924 they moved to the apartment where Mirsky saw most of them, one of the most famous addresses of Russian Paris -- the Villa Flore at 24 avenue Mozart, in the swanky 16th arrondissement, where they stayed for three years. Serafima Pavlovna was a massively corpulent woman with a chronic liver complaint, while he was a frail, gnome-like, twisted manikin. She was direct and outspoken, and he was evasive and sly. Both Remizovs, and Aleksey Mikhailovich especially, essentially lived in a fantasy world, invented on the basis of their mutual fascination with the pre-Petrine Russian past. Reality for them came to an end in the late seventeenth century. Remizov started to cultivate his legend as a rejected and misunderstood writer very early; his incorrigible self-pity and self-promotion were weapons for his shameless cadging. He was not seriously interested in politics, but he remained loyal to his early Socialist orientation and never came out publicly with any anti-Soviet views. He thereby earned the suspicion and mistrust of a large segment of the emigration.

The most signal accolade Mirsky bestowed on Remizov was to incorporate him into the advisory board of Vyorsts in 1926, along with Tsvetaeva and Lev Shestov, and publish some new writing by him in all three issues of the enterprise. The presence of Shestov on this editorial board was an anomaly for contemporary commentators, who could not see what he had in common with the others. Shestov was in fact a marginal figure, and he remained so.


Mirsky's most important contribution to the literary life of the Russian emigration was made in connection with Tsvetaeva and her work. 62 And his personal relationship with her was the closest he ever had with a writer, with the possible exception of Remizov. In early December 1925, Tsvetaeva moved to Paris from Prague, where she had been living since 1922. On 16 December 1925 Mirsky told Suvchinsky that he would like to meet Tsvetaeva; the meeting evidently took place soon after Mirsky got to Paris for the ensuing Chrstmas vacation. His relationship with Tsvetaeva dominated the next six months of his personal life.

From the beginning, Mirsky's relattonshtp wtth Tsvetaeva mvolved another of his closest friends, Princess Salomeya Nikolaevna Halpern, nee Andronikova (1888-1982). Long afterwards, the Halperns became very friendly with Isaiah Berlin, and he wrote a characteristically scintillating memoir of them. 63 I showed Berlin Mirsky's letters to Salomeya, and his response illustrates very well the dangers of assuming that everybody between whom one can prove acquaintanceship always knows everything their other acquaintances know:

I had no idea that [Mirsky] was so close to Salome (as I called her) -- neither she nor her husband ever mentioned his name to me. I have a notion that their entire White/Red Russian world was locked away, and not a subject for conversation with unsound people like me who were strictly anti-Communist. I have no idea why Salome was so passionately pro-Soviet -- I blame myself for not ever putting the question to her; I cannot think why I did not -- but I suppose she was part of the general movement of Eurasia, Suvchinsky, etc., which gravitated in that direction -- although Suvchinsky had close relations with Stravinsky, who was rigidly anti-Soviet all his life.[/quote]

Marina Tsvetaeva's husband, Sergey Yakovlevich Efron (1893-1941), came from two prominent radical intelligentsia families. His father's side of the family is known to all literate Russians because a member of it was responsible for the most comprehensive work of reference published in Russia before 1917 -- its usefulness continued to grow as the Soviet authorities attempted to replace it, and it is still indispensable -- the encyclopedia usually referred to simply as 'Brockhaus-Efron'. On his mother's side Efron was a Durnovo, a family which like the Efrons belonged to the solid radical intelligentsia, but which was more politically active and undeviatingly on the left.

Sergey Efron and Tsvetaeva hardly saw each other between 1916 and 1922. Quite unlike Mirsky, Efron was an amateur soldier; like many sprigs of the intelligentsia he originally joined up in 1916 as a medical orderly (as did Brecht and Hemingway, and Walt Whitman before them); but he was a front-line officer in the White army. Tsvetaeva and their daughter Ariadna joined Efron in Prague after finding out his whereabouts from Ilya Erenburg. In 1924-6 Efron was one of the editors of an extremely interesting periodical called By Our Own Paths (Svoimi putyami), the earliest attempt by the younger generation of adult emigres to give expression to their views.

Although Mirsky's more intense relationship was with Tsvetaeva, Efron was named as one of the three editors of Vyorsts. The evidence available suggests that he was not a leading policy-maker, but was used as a glorified secretary mainly to provide him with some sort of income. Efron has always, inevitably, been seen through his wife's eyes by people who are primarily interested in her. He is usually written off as a hopelessly idealistic individual who was incapable of 'supporting' her, and who eventually brought about her downfall by selling out to the Soviets. In all this, Tsvetaeva is usually portrayed as a political innocent who had no real idea of what her husband was up to. It is sometimes said that he was incapable of earning any money, which is manifestly inaccurate, an allegation enthusiastically promoted by his wife to boost her begging. Efron had a Czech government grant up to the end of 1925. After that he had some income from Vyorsts and Eurasia; after that he soon started to get money from Soviet sources. He probably actually earned as much as Tsvetaeva, but the handouts from the Halpern-Mirsky source and Raisa Lomonosova were directed primarily to supporting her as a creative artist, and he was a beneficiary. Efron's published writings and his letters show him to have been a highly intelligent and perceptive person, if erring on the side of idealism rather than cynicism.

Tsvetaeva's first reading in Paris took place on 6 February 1926, and it was a triumph that she never managed to repeat. By this time Mirsky had gone back to start his teaching term in London, and he was not present. But on 2 3 January I 926 he had written to Ariadna Tyrkova-Williams enlisting her help in organizing and publicizing a reading by Tsvetaeva in London. 65 He wrote four letters altogether, exploring various possibilities; by 25 February he was able to send her ten tickets for the reading. On 27 February Mirsky published the first substantial article ever to appear about Tsvetaeva in English, in the New Statesman, which was edited at the time by Leonard Woolf.66

Tsvetaeva was in London from 11 to 25 March 1926. On the day she arrived, she wrote a letter to Suvchinsky for his eyes alone. It contains one of the most startling statements she ever put down on paper about her personal relationships and her triadic theory of human relations:

How much I lack an elder in life, and how much at this moment, in London, I miss you! My interlocutor [Mirsky] keeps silent, and so I'm the one who does the talking. And I have no idea whether what I say goes home or not. After all, I can't see people at all, especially close up, 67 in a relationship I need a firm hand leading me, so that the leitmotif doesn't come from me. And nobody wants (perhaps nobody is able!) to take this upon themselves, they wait for me to lead, me, who all my life have been one of the LED! ... I need the calmness of the other person and the calmness I feel on his behalf. What am I to do with human silence? It oppresses me, deflects me, knocks me down, and I fill it with content that's perhaps completely inappropriate. If he's silent, that means things are bad. What can I do to make it good? I'm becoming unnatural, forced-jolly, completely vacuous, completely concentrated on one concern-not to let the air in the room be silent. Yesterday, in the course of a single evening, I expended so much that I feel -- and the night didn't help! -- completely beggared. The silence of the other person means that I have to expend, for nothing, in vain. The man doesn't talk. Doesn't talk, just looks. And here am I hypnotized by silence, watching-and what? -- enemy forces!

'I'm a difficult person. Will you be able to stand me for these two weeks?' Long pause. 'What about you standing me?'

I would like simplicity, calm, certitude. But the other is no help, with his immobility challenging me to complexity, confusion, doubt, something obviously not mine, and it's made me feel humiliated, I'm suffering. You know what it's like when there's false air between people? Not reliable, soon to explode.

Ah, I think I get it! I can't stand it when a person is filled with me. I can't stand the responsibility. I want him to be mine, my own, but not me. After all, I don't love myself (personally), I love what's mine. Something that coincides with what's mine, that's the thing. Otherwise, eventually, it's loneliness, non-meeting, passing by without meeting. If two people come together in a third,-yes. But two people can never meet in one of the two or in each other. X loves Y, and Y loves X = isolation. X loves Y and Y also Y =isolation. X loves Z and Y loves Z =meeting. Z =his own (for X and for Y), what coincides is that both X and Y are superior. 68

In 1925, the same year as Tsvetaeva, Konstantin Rodzevich (1895-1988) had moved from Prague to Paris; he became an active Eurasian, and a friend of Mirsky, though not a close one. Rodzevich emigrated from Russia after service in the Civil War, and in Prague in the autumn of 1923 he had a passionate affair with Tsvetaeva, who immortalized it in two of her greatest works, Poem of the Mountain and Poem of the End. Rodzevich's view of Tsvetaeva, and the views of many other witnesses of their affair, has been amply discussed in the massive biographical literature on Tsvetaeva, and also represented in a few poor words by Rodzevich himself Many years later, Rodzevich spoke about the relationship between Mirsky and Tsvetaeva in London; the banality of his version of it could not be further from the soaring fancy of hers: 'There was one incident when they were in a restaurant together facing each other across. the table. She said something offensive to him and he turned his chair round and sat with his back to her. She often used to demonstrate for us how he did it, and she would tell this story with humour but also with annoyance. '69

Tsvetaeva gave her reading at the School of Slavonic Studies on 12 March 1926, the day after she wrote her extraordinary letter to Suvchinsky. Mirsky introduced the· reading. Two years later Tsvetaeva recalled the occasion: 'Poems, with an introductory statement by Prince Svyatopolk-Mirsky, of which I understood only my own name, and even that in phonetic transcription into English!'70 But writing to Suvchinsky on 15 March, she said that Mirsky began by heaping disgrace on Chekhov, who was, he said, more distant from him than some Chinese poet he had never read. She also said that her poems had 'struck home'. Mirsky reported to Suvchinsky on 16 March that the reading had been a success, especially financially.

In this same letter Tsvetaeva reported to Suvchinsky that she had been to see the Golitsyns. She and Mirsky were .driven to Chessington by a White Russian veteran called Rastorguev. I talked to 'Rasti' in 1974 and with bated breath asked this unique surviving eyewitness what Mirsky and Tsvetaeva had said to each other during the journey. He replied with considerable satisfaction that they had said nothing in his presence, because he did all the talking himself. Tsvetaeva asked questions about the White army (at the time she was beginning work on Perekop; the long poem about the final episodes of the Civil War), and Rastorguev gave her his account of it, while Mirsky sat silently, in a huff, not wanting to dredge up his past.

Towards the end of the time she spent in London, on 24 March 1926, Tsvetaeva wrote to her Czech benefactress, Anna Teskova, that this had been her first two weeks of freedom for eight years:

I'm going back tomorrow. I'm glad, but also sorry. London is wonderful. Wonderful river, wonderful trees, wonderful children, wonderful dogs, wonderful cats, wonderful fireplaces and wonderful British Museum. Not wonderful is only the chill brought in by the ocean. And the dreadful crossing. (I just lay there without raising my head.) I wrote a big article here. I finished it in a week, at home it would have taken six.71

The 'big article' was 'Poet on Critic', one of Tsvetaeva's most scathing pieces of invective. Towards the end of it she singles out Mirsky for approval as distinguished from the vast mass of critics by not judging poetry in terms of politics. This was perhaps the highest accolade the critic Mirsky ever received during his lifetime, and from the harshest critic.


The editors of Vyorsts, and especially Mirsky, faced demoralizing difficulties in their struggle to publish literature in Russian when there were not enough customers to make this an economically viable enterprise.72 These practical difficulties, in addition to the inevitable clashes of personality within the editorial board, led to the closure of the journal after three annual issues, which is by no means an indication of failure. The journal stands as one of the most enduring literary monuments of the prewar Russian emigration; an unusually small proportion of its contents are dross, and it contains several masterpieces. It was Mirsky's finest Russian-language achievement.

The idea of founding a literary journal crops up from time to time in Mirsky's letters to Suvchinsky from the very beginning of their relationship in 1922. Suvchinsky clearly expected Mirsky to find the funding for the enterprise. The immediate stimulus for getting things off the ground was Tsvetaeva's arrival on the Paris scene in December 1925. During the early months of 1926 Mirsky was working out editorial policy and drumming up financial support for the project. He went first to Jane Harrison, who immediately stumped up £50 of the £200 Mirsky reckoned he needed, and recommended several other useful contacts. 73 One of them was Leonard Woolf; in writing to him, Mirsky follows Harrison's advice and presents the enterprise as belonging purely to the realm of aesthetics, and staying out of politics. The letter was written from IS Torrington Square, London WCI, on 1 February 1926:

I have been writing to Miss Harrison about a plan I have, & she has responded with even more than ordinary kindness & helpfulness. She has also advised me to write about it to you. This is the matter: as you probably know the Russian press outside Russia is entirely under the control of the leaders of the emigre political parties, who give their columns to independent & non-political writers (novelists & poets) only in so far as those conform to their political demands. It thus happens that, for instance, the two writers who to my best understanding are the most significant writers outside Russia -- Remizov & Marina Tsvetayeva (as well as others of minor but still considerable significance) have practically had their mouths stopped. For their works are either refused publication, or censored in a most ridiculous way. The Russian money available outside Russia is also all at the service of the political parties, and thus Russian Literature abroad is in the same situation as Balaam, -- the prophet silenced & the ass alowed to prophecy [sic]. I am trying to find money in England for a magazine that would be free from political control, and that might unite under one cover independent writers living in & outside Russia. The main group of contributors here will be Remizov, Shestov, Marina Tsvetayeva and myself, and we hope to have the support of several writers living in [the] USSR, including especially Pasternak, Mandelstam, Babel & Shklovsky.

I would be infinitely grateful to you if you could help me in this affair by your advice. Miss Harrison suggests that Mr. Keynes might take an interest in it. But I do not know him. Do you think it would be possible to approach him about it? He has met Remizov in Paris at Miss Harrison's, and Mrs Keynes74 (Miss H. tells me) very much took to him .... 75

Keynes did in fact donate £20. Mirsky got another substantial donation from Mrs Meyrisch, the wife of a Luxembourg steel magnate, who was involved in the Pontigny meetings. On 8 February 1926 Mirsky wrote to Suvchinsky about how he saw the publication: it would be an issue of about 240 pages, with a print run of 1,000 or even 2,000 copies. The title was decided upon after some argument between the prime movers. The word Vyorsts refers to an old Russian unit of linear measure, just over one kilometer, and it also refers to the posts that indicated these distances along the sides of the main roads; it has often been translated as ‘Mileposts’. Tsvetaeva had published a collection of poetry with this title in two editions in 1922. The inside cover announced that the journal was ‘edited by Prince D.P. Svyatopolk-Mirsky, P.P. Suvchinsky, and S. Ya. Efron, with the closest cooperation of Aleksey Remizov, Marina Tsvetaeva, and Lev Shestov’.


Mirsky made his single most controversial contribution to literary polemic in the Russian émigré community in connection with the launch of Byorsts. On 5 April 1926, at the same location, 79 avenue Denfert-Rochereau, where Tsvetaeva had given her reading in February, he delivered his lecture on ‘The Ambience of Death in Pre-revolutionary Russian Literature’. The occasion was announced as being organized by the editorial board of Byorsts, and it was chaired by Suvchinsky. The lecture was attended by many famous figures who after it were to become Mirsky’s implacable enemies; they included Adamovich, Aldanov, Bunin, Gippius and Merezhkovsky, Khodasevich, and Zaitsev. Khodasevich left a description of Mirsky’s performance; in an undated letter to Prince Shakhovskoy, he minimizes the number of important people who were there:

Sv. M. just gave a proclamatory lecture; he’d sent out invitations to take part in discussion following it. Of those invited, only Bunin, Aldanov and I turned up. We didn’t sit through to the discussion –- we left after the lecture, which was rubbish of a kind nobody (even I) expected from Svyat. It was a disaster for him, and Bunin, Aldanov, and I celebrated in a bar.76

When the text of the lecture was published the following year in the second issue of Byorsts, Mirsky added a postscript, saying that it aroused

the indignation of the entire émigré sinedrion.77 I can only rejoice in the indignation of the majority of my accusers. As for the epigones and nihilists who take pride in their corpse-like odour, I would not wish to hold any opinions in common with them, and I consider their condemnation the highest form of praise.78

Zinaida Shakhovskaya, the sister of the ‘well-intentioned’ Prince, was present at this occasion; she accompanied the Remozovs. She reports that Mirsky spoke ‘with exemplary cleverness’, at one point declaring emphatically: ‘as the eminent Russian writer Kundyshin once said’. When they were all leaving the building someone asked in confusion: ‘Forgive me, Dima, I can’t quite seem to recall who Kundyshin was.’ ‘He wasn’t anybody,’ said Mirsky solemnly, ‘I made him up.’79

This address did indeed mark a parting of the ways for Mirsky with the established powers of the emigration; after it, he published nothing in the Russian émigré press that was not edited by himself. The first sentence of the piece is categorical: ‘The entire literature of the last reign is shot through with a spirit of death and decay.’ The subsequent argument, in characteristic fashion for Mirsky’s critical writing, images the sociological through the somatic, and contrasts sickness with health. Mirsky explains that he is talking about ‘historical death, the death of a cultural formation, the body of culture’, and he has in mind what he customarily refers to as ‘Petersburg culture’, that is, Russian culture from the early eighteenth century to 1917. The culture of the dvoryanstvo was mortally wounded by the Decembrist debacle, and the culture of the intelligentsia that succeeded it was mortally wounded by the rout of the People’s Will. By the early twentieth century, says Mirsky, Petersburg culture had an ‘upper storey’, inhabited by the ‘decadents’ and the religious philosophers, and a ‘lower storey’, in which lived the Chekhovian intelligentsia and the revolutionary parties, which had ‘lost their soul’. There was no staircase connecting them. The writers of the lower storey, says Mirsky, had no sense of purpose, and the most symptomatic case among them was that of Gorky’s ‘passionate thirst for truth and tragic inability to find it’. Bunin, Artsybashev, and Andreev were all obsessed by the theme of death. On the upper storey, the ‘decomposition of the spirit’ that came out of Dostoevsky and Solovyov [Soloviev], the latter with his ‘mystical eroticism’, degenerated into ‘subterranean necrophilia, pathophilia, and a love for non-existence’, the latter most strongly expressed in the poetry of Gippius. When the Revolution brought about the historical death of ‘Petersburg Russia’, the inhabitants of the upper storey ‘greeted it like the Juggernaut, with a frenzy of horror and self-destruction’. The tonality of Russian literature began to change; it underwent what Mirsky calls, emphasizing the phrase, a liberating impoverishment. In explaining what he means, Mirsky resorts to his pet surgical metaphor:

In literature this was connected with formalism, futurism, and acmeism. The significance of all three lay in their amputation of the spirit, which was so far gone in decomposition that it could not be healed. But ferrum sanat, and to save the organism the decomposing spirit was removed. This operation may not have saved us, but had it not happened, it would have been impossible for us to be saved. (Thus, the Revolution itself was a crisis that could have been followed by either death or recovery, but without it recovery was impossible.)80

The remaining sentences of ‘The Ambience of Death’ hint that recovery is in progress, saluting the birth of ‘a new phase of the Russian spirit’, a ‘Renaissance of the Heroic’, which has been foreshadowed in the work of Gumilyov, and which can be found at its best in Pasternak and Tsvetaeva, and in ‘many of the young writers working in Russia’.81 This peroration could well be read as a manifesto for what was to come in Vyorsts.

Mirsky’s lecture and its later publication had unpleasant ramifications. ‘The problem of death’ and ways of ‘overcoming’ it formed a substantial element in the intellectual fabric of modernist Russian culture, and were articulated principally in the thought of Nikolay Fyodorov (1828-1903), with which Mirsky toyed when he was a Eurasian and which he then swiftly rejected when he became a Marxist. Though this aspect of his work seems not to have been much remarked upon by his contemporaries or his more recent critics, Fyodorov was manifestly obsessed by the idea of resurrecting the dead as a way of avoiding the necessity for human sexual reproduction, for which he had a pathological aversion – few others have tried to build a philosophical system on loathing for female genitalia. Strikingly, those Russians who became most vehement on the subject of the ‘culture of death’ in the mid-1920s were themselves physically sterile: Mirsky, Khodasevich, Gippius, and Bunin in the emigration, and Mayakovsky back in Russia. Which of their ways out was the most deplorable: Mirsky’s Stalinism, Khodasevich’s nihilism, Bunin and Gippius’s sour misanthropy masquerading as Christianity, or Mayakovsky’s suicide?


The three issues of Vyorsts were fairly standard in terms of the way Russian ‘thick journals’ and literary almanacs tend to be put together. Poetry and fiction lead the way, followed by critical articles, and then come reviews. The principal formal innovation in Vyorsts was to reprint a substantial text as a supplement bound in with each issue. What mattered most about Vyorsts was that works by authors resident in the USSR are presented side by side with émigré writing, as represented chiefly by Remizov and Tsvetaeva. The marginal place occupied by Shestov’s work in the journal is particularly remarkable; he was named as an associate editor, but the only piece by him that appeared in Vyorsts was transferred into the first issue from Contemporary Notes because of delays in publication by that journal.82

The first number of Vyorsts occupies 269 closely printed pages of very good quality rag paper, using a bewildering variety of founts and both New and Old orthography. It includes five outstanding items. The first is Tsvetaeva’s Poem of the Mountain, written in Prague in 1924, and the greatest love poem in twentieth-century Russian literature. After it came nearly 100 pages of miscellaneous literary matter, punctuated by one of the most extraordinary pieces of sentimental whimsy Remizov ever created. Under the title ‘In very Truth’, it is an open letter addressed to the writer Mirsky several times said was the greatest of his time, Remizov’s old friend Vasily Rozanov, the seventieth anniversary of whose birth fell in 1926, but who had died in 1919. Remizov brings Rozanov up to date on what has happened in Russian culture since then, with heavy emphasis on his own doings.83 Not too many pages later comes a factually expert and copiously illustrated overview of the music of Stravinsky by Artur Lurie.84 Lurie continued this survey in the third issue of Vyorsts with a piece on Stravinsky’s two controversial operas, Mavra (1922) and Odeipus Rex, which was brand new when Lurie wrote about it in May 1927. Lurie’s first essay is followed by some turgid stuff by Suvchinsky and Mirsky’s perfunctory ‘Poets and Russia’.

After Mirsky’s contribution comes a magnificent essay, ‘Three Capitals’, on the hoary theme of the contrasts between Petersburg, Moscow, and Kiev; this one, though, has never really been bettered. It is signed ‘E. Bogdanov’, which was a pseudonym adopted for his own good reasons by the religious philosopher Georgy Fedotov (1886-1951), who had left Russia only the year before. And in the reviews section comes Mirsky’s devastating survey of Contemporary Notes and The Will of Russia, which he reads as the sepulchers of the right and left wings respectively of the old Socialist Revolutionary Party. It was in this context that Mirsky delivered an insult that has never been forgotten or forgiven; he describes Vladislav Khodasevich as ‘that little subterranean Baratynsky, the favourite poet of everyone who doesn’t like poetry’. The supplement to the first issue of Vyorsts presented the complete text of The Life of the Archpriest Avvakum, which had been specially edited and copied out for the purpose by Remizov.


Predictably, the first issue of Vyorsts was met largely with contempt by the leading lights in émigré literature; equally predictably, it was Khodasevich who eventually made the heavyweight pronouncement, prompted by Gippius.85 Khodasevich’s long article in Contemporary Notes was the first systematic attempt to destroy the credibility of the man Khodasevich calls ‘our worker-peasant prince’ by writing him off as a politically motivated opportunist, who would uncritically and unscrupulously say anything whatsoever to promote the Soviet cause; there is a constant insinuation that Mirsky has somehow been bought and is acting under instructions from Moscow.86 The next public assault on Mirsky of this kind would come from the Soviet dramatist Vishnevsky after Mirsky had returned to Russia, and there is a ghoulish similarity in tone between his article and Khodasevich’s. The personal animus in both is unmistakable.

Khodasevich points out that the émigré contributors to Vyorsts were all against Lenin’s revolution when it happened, but insinuated that they were too cowardly to do anything overt: ‘One of the editors, S. Ya Elfron, took up arms against it. Where Messrs. Suvchinsky and Bogdanov, Prince Trubetskoy, Svyatopolk-Mirsky himself, and the others were at the time – we know not.’ This is an obvious provocation, fishing to get Mirsky the proto-Communist to declare his credentials as a White officer, which Khodasevich must have known about full well. Meanwhile, the now whiter-than-white Khodasevich had originally accepted the revolution, and remained in Russia until 1922, working for Soviet institutions.

The editors of Contemporary Notes were hesitant about publishing the piece by Khodasevich, and in the esvent it came out with significant cuts, which have never been described in detail.87 Whatever these were, there cannot be much doubt about the main reason for the editors’ hesitation. In another provocative phrase that was left in the article, Khodasevich accused Suvchinskiy of gleefully anticipating a ‘good old Russian pogrom’ – ‘which is not very polite in a journal where one of the editors is S. Ya. Efron, and among the contributors are Pasternak, Babel, L.I. Shestov and Artur Lurie’. The editors of Vyorsts deal with this accusation and several others in their indignant repudiation of this slur.88 All the members of the editorial board of Contemporary Notes happened to be Jewish; Khodasevich was the son of a Polish father and a mother who was an ardent convert to Catholicism, the daughter of a notorious Jewish anti-Semite.

Like Mirsky, Khodasevich was a sterile and deeply neurotic man, but unlike Mirsky, he always opted to cohabit with women. He reached the age of 40 in 1926; the fount of his superb poetry dried up soon after. The studied Pushkinian form of his poetry articulates one of the most devastating expressions in Russian of the spiritual aridity that Mirsky spoke about so often with reference to postwar Europe.89 But Khodasevich drew conservative conclusions, while Mirsky did the opposite. Instead of poetry, Khodasevich subsequently gave himself to writing literary journalism of increasing biliousness, and to his obsession with card games. He never wrote literary history on the scale that Mirsky did; instead, he tended to do the opposite and write concise personal memoirs about the writers he had known, and they are among the very best of their kind in Russian. Notwithstanding the radical difference in their politics, Khodasevich’s literary views and many particular emphases in them are very similar to Mirskyi’s, and the acuity of his literary judgment is the equal of Mirsky’s; he is the only Russian contemporary besides Gumilyov of whom this can be said. The spectacle of the two most gifted critical minds of the emigration tearing at each other in the way Mirsky and Khodasevich did is one of the most dismal in the unhappy story of Russia Abroad.

Khodasevich’s allegations about the editors of Vyorsts tuckling to the Soviets were countered, unbeknownst to him, from the horse’s mouth. The editors of Vyorsts sent a copy of the first issue to Russia; to whom it was addressed is not clear, but it came into the hands of the appropriate official, M. Arseniev, Political Editor of the Leningrad branch of the Soviet censorship, Glavlit (Foreign Literature Sub-Section). His report is concise and to the point:

A collection of work by Russian authors, published, so the preface says, for genuinely Russian people presently living outside the country. The entire collection is saturated with an anti-Soviet tendency and with hatred for the Bolsheviks. The collection is alien to our ideology. Conclusion: ‘Prohibit’.90


Mirsky visited Tsvetaeva in St Gilles-sur-Vie in the Vendee soon after 15 July 1926.91 By this time, their relationship was starting to cool off; Tsvetaeva was deep into her next obsession after Mirsky, the triangular epistolary relationship with Pasternak and Rainer Maria Rilke that has been extensively documented and discussed.92 As for Mirsky, this was the time that he was feverishly putting the finishing touches to his History. On 30 September 1926 Mirsky wrote one of his best staff officer’s dispatches to Suvchinsky:

I was at Shestov’s yesterday. He reproached us, and I think he’s right, for not paying any attention to the Orthodox philosophers, Berdyaev and so on, and he says that we should at least write something about The Way,93 and about Ilin’s book (Resistance to Evil).94 This seems essential to me, but 1) we can’t have a Yid writing about it, 2) Ilin and Karsavin don’t inspire my trust, and consequently it has to be you that writes it – tertium non datur. I’ve had a letter from Marina where she 1) demands a reply about whether we agree to give her 2,500 francs for Theseus and if so when, and if we can’t agree we’ve to pass it on to The Will of Russia! I don’t think this amount excessive, but this kind of ultimatumish behavior is completely improper 2) She demands a reply about whether Seryozha [Efron] will be getting 500 francs per month, and if not, she’ll get him another position and he’ll work for Vyorsts only in the time he has free from his duties 3) Finally, she’s very much against Schmidt.95

One other thing – the distribution of Vyorsts. It’s shamefully badly set up. Efron is an incredible arsehole.

Shortly before he vented his feelings in this way, on 6 September 1926, Mirsky wrote, from what was now after the death of his mother the house he and his sisters owned at Courbevoie, to Salomeya Halpern about Marina Tsvetaeva, and informed her that he was sending some money to the poet at St Gilles. This was the beginning of the financial support system Mirsky and Halpern organized; for six years it constituted the nearest thing Tsvetaeva had to a regular income.

During the winter of 1926-7 Mirsky was putting together what became the second issue of Vyorsts. On 23 January 1927 he told Suvchinsky:

I do not wish to continue publishing Vyorsts according to the formula as it is now. I wouldn’t mind, but two factors get in the way: a growing and completely insuperable revulsion (not in the figurative sense, but simply inhibition, impossibility) towards Efron and Marina. Any dealings with them whatsoever, spoken or written, are complete torture for me. I’m exaggerating a big, but this is a very serious matter. Secondly, my role as drummer-up of funds is even more revolting for me than having to deal with the Efrons. It’s absolutely not my line, and no matter what you might say to me about my obligations and so on, I’m getting totally impotent in this respect – I just can’t rise to it [the sexual innuendo is more explicit in Mirsky’s Russian] – there’s nothing more to say. And so I propose the following scheme: instead of these huge bricks of ours let’s publish small collections of articles. I’d say we could bring out the first one by summer, made up of you, me, maybe Fedotov, maybe Karsavin or Shestov … not both of them …. And a new title (not Vyorsts), but we could put Vyorsts Publishers on it. What think you?

There were several other reasons for this change in attitude. One of them involved Pasternak. On 12 January 1927 Tsvetaeva wrote a letter to Pasternak accompanying one by Mirsky to the poet, which Mirsky had left with her to send on to Moscow. He was forced to do this because she had refused to give him Pasternak’s home address, and she implored Pasternak not to give it to him either, but to fob him off with something institutional. Tsvetaeva eventually sent off the letter on 9 February 1927, and added another note:

The last milestone 9versta] on your road to him: please send your letter to him open, so as to teach the critic hierarchy and the prince, politeness. (A note on Hierarchy: a poet and a critic cannot have a secret from another poet. I never name names, but in a context like that ours sound right.) Your letter to him, the open one, naturally, I shall not read.96

The letter sent on to Pasternak by Tsvetaeva was written by Mirsky from his university address in London on 8 January 1927. He enquired whether or not Pasternak had seen Vyorsts, and then switches to enthusiastic flattery:

After such material subjects I do not dare to write what I would wish to – of that great attachment that I have long felt towards you as the author especially of My Sister Life, a book which is however so bottomlessly full of content that, plunging down into it ever more deeply as I constantly do, I still do not know whether I have reached its final circle and concentration. If I could dare to hope that my evaluation might be of interest to you, I would like also to tell you that there has not been a poet such as yourself in Russia since the Golden Age, and that in Europe now there can be a contest only between you and T.S. Eliot.

I shall ask Marina Ivanovna to send this on to you, but I would be happy if you would reply to me directly at the address above and let me know yours.97

It is not difficult to imagine Tsvetaeva’s fury when she read Mirsky’s letter before sending it on – as she must inevitably have done, despite her assurance to the contrary – and discovering that Eliot rather than she was mentioned as the equal of Pasternak.

On 5 June 1928, writing to Suvchinsky, Mirsky expressed a vigorously coarse reaction to the last book Tsvetaeva published during her lifetime, which had just come out after a long delay; it finally brought together her poetry of the Prague period:

I just received Marina’s poems. I reread a lot of them and was deeply moved – what a fucking poet she is, all the same! (Kakoi vse-taki, ebi ee mat’, poet!) The one bad thing is that she wasn’t thrashed enough early enough. These years, 1922-25, are her best. Her rising line continues up to Rodzevich and with Rodzevich it breaks off.98

In a letter of 18 June 1928 to Salomeya Halpern, Mirsky says that he had attended a poetry reading the day before, by ‘that woman’ – Marina Tsvetaeva. This same date is found beneath the dedication to Mirsky in the book he reported on to Suvchinsky, After Russia: ‘To my dear friend Dmitry Petrovich Svyatopolk-Mirsky, to remind him of that Villette, that London, and that Vendee. Marina Tsvetaeva, Meudon, 17 June 1928.’99 The dedication is an obvious reproach for what happened in the preceding two years between the best poet of the emigration and her best critic.
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Part 3 of 6


The 285-page second issue of vyorsts is a manifest step down from the luxurious first. It is printed on poor-quality paper that makes it half as thick as the 1926 issue, and it has no illustrations; the first carried excellent glossy portraits of Pasternak and Tsvetaeva (demonstratively on the same page), and also studio portraits of Remizov, Shestov, and Stravinsky. The first eighty-three pages contain Tsvetaeva’s verse drama Theseus, about which Mirsky and Suvchinsky wrangled painfully with the author, trying to point out that it was far too long for their purposes and that the fee was more than they could afford. They eventually yielded, but Mirsky found Tsvetaeva’s insistence hard to forgive.

The vivid phrasing and compressed argument of Mirsky’s own essay here, the revised text of the lecture he had given in 1926 on ‘The Ambience of Death’, make it jump off the crumbling pages to this day, made even more lively by its drab, droning context. At the head of the bibliographical section, Mirsky’s survey of current Russian literature is another superb piece of compression; it looks briefly at the recent posthumous edition of Esenin, and then turns to some of the major achievements of Russian fiction of the mid-1920s, all of them by writers resident in Soviet Russia except the first, Maksim Gorky. One sentence in this review of The Artamonov Business is of particular interest in view of the fact that less than a year after he wrote it, Mirsky would meet Gorky personally and claim that he had rediscovered Russia in him. Mirsky says that into the characters of Kuzma and Tikhon ‘Gorkyi has poured all the tormented history of his own quest, in its helpless hopelessness the most tragic drama of the Russian soul. There can be no doubt that with this hopeless blundering Gorky carries a cross for all of us, we of little faith, we strutters on the spot, we Khlestakovs of the spirit ….’100

The most distinctive feature of the 1927 issue of Vyorsts was the contributions by a number of non-Russian critics, all of them commissioned by Mirsky and translated by him. His Pontigny colleagues Bernard Broethuysen and Ramon Fernandez appear here. The single most remarkable item is an essay by E.M. Forster, ‘Contemporary English Literature’, the original of which was apparently lost with the archive of Vyorsts.101 Mirsky had originally approached I.A. RIchards for a contribution, but he can surely not have been disappointed; the essay may be read as a concise version of Forster’s Aspects of the Novel, which was among the many classic books of the period that Mirsky reviewed for the London Mercury.102 The substantial review by Mirsky of T.S. Eliot’s Poems, 1905-1925 in the 1927 Vyorsts, and several other less significant items, make this issue stand out among the publications of the Russian emigration for its serious and well-informed attention to contemporary non-Russian culture. The Eliot review was the end result of a rather different plan by Mirsky, which he mooted in his letter to Suvchinsky of 11 March 1926: ‘I’ve had the idea of doing a verse translation (vers libre, like the original) of T.S. Eliot’s long poem The Hollow Men (4 pages, about 100 lines), a work of genius in terms of the concentration of its feeling for the death and impotence of post-war Europe, and it really is a very important piece in artistic terms.’103

The literary supplement of the 1927 Vyorsts is a sixty-page passage from Rozanov’s The Apocalypse of Our Time. Janko Lavrin, who had been a journalist colleague of Rozanov in St Petersburg, remembered this publication particularly well, though he thought it had been in the 1926 issue. He characterized The Apocalypse as ‘one of the most biting and vicious attacks on Socialism, Communism and so on’, and surmised that when Mirsky reprinted it he can still only have been ‘flirting’ with Communism.

Mirsky directed a mounting barrage of protests at Suvchinsky while the third issue of Vyorsts was being worked out. By 27 May 1927 he was getting desperate; he wrote to Suvchinsky, using his now familiar numbered points:

What to do about Byorsts I don’t know. It looks as if I have no options left for raising money. When I ask people about it, their answer is: 1) why do you publish such thick books? 2) why is nobody buying it? I had hoped to sink into Vyorsts my part of the proceeds from our house in Asnieres 9i.e. Courbevoie], but it still hasn’t sold, and I don’t know when it will. I could contribute from my earnings, but then I’d have to write much more in English than I’m doing now, and this would exclude the possibility of writing for Vyorsts. The Eurasian publishing house might advance us a certain amount. You can’t deny that Vyorsts is serving the Eurasian cause and has done a lot to propagandize Eurasian ideas.

Mirsky had become even more exasperated by 12 June 1927:

I’ll do all I can to get out the third issue of Vyorsts. But on the following conditions, which are absolute: 1) if you produce an article for it. This is a sine qua non and if you don’t produce one, there is decidedly nothing I can do; b) if you swear a solemn oath that you will never in any way try to persuade me to continue Vyorsts after No. 3. I’m fed up to the back teeth with it. I’ve got nothing out of it except enormous unpleasantness; none of the contributors interest me at all, apart for you, Avvakum, and Rozanov (and Pasternak, Bable, and others).

This might reasonably be taken to indicate that a breach of relations was imminent, but in fact the opposite happened. Mirsky and Suvchinsky soon made common cause in ventures quite different from those represented by Vyorsts.

If the first issue of Vyorsts had not been in any real sense ‘Eurasian’ except for the formal association with the name of Suvchinsky, the contents of the second and third have a much stronger connection with the movement.104 However, N.S. Trubetskoy appeared in the first two issues, his precise scholarly tone contrasting strongly with his surroundings on these occasions. His essays are both literary rather than linguistic.105 In the 1926 issue he published his celebrated article on one of the most interesting works of late Old Russian literature, Afonasy Nikitin’s Journey beyond the Three Seas, attempting to read it as a creative work rather than as a linguistic monument.106 To the 1927 issue Trubetskoy gave another pioneering study, on the metrics of the Russian folk chastushka, based on original material recently brought from Russia whose intermediacy is a puzzle. 107 The Eurasian flavor of Vyorsts was intensified not so much by Trubetskoy’s contributions as by the articles in the second and third issues by Lev Karsavin. His ‘Without Dogma’ in the 1927 issue is mainly about the historiographical conceptualization of the Russian Revolution, and it is a very good example of the persistent tendency in Russian high journalism to make enormous generalizations without adducing very much accurate documentation; but it does contain some valuable thoughts about historicism. The 1928 item, ‘Russia and the Jews’, was prefaced by a cautious note from the editors, and followed by a riposte from A.Z. Shteinberg, and then another piece by him, on Dostoevsky and the Jewish question.108

The other surviving patriarch of Eurasianism, P.N. Savitsky, contributed a characteristic ‘geographical essay’, ‘Towards an Understanding of the Russian Steppes’, to the third issue of Vyorsts. It is so clotted with interpolated quotations, reference material, and unexplained technical terms that it could serve as a useful model of how not to write an article, except perhaps a pseudo-scholarly one. The growing impression that some sort of maniac is at work is confirmed when after nearly thirty double-columned pages of this stuff, there is a precise date of writing following the author’s signature. The fact that Savitsky was capable of producing this amount of verbiage is surpassed by his apparent belief that it matters that he did it on 10 May 1927. And after he has signed off, Savitsky opens up again because of two new sources that he had devoured since his first discharge finally petered out.

For the third issue of Vyorsts, the editors abandoned the idea of reprinting a substantial text, and instead published three letters written in 1899 by Fyodorov, whose ideas were being taken very seriously at the time by several Eurasians. A long introduction by one of them, N.A. Setnitsky, attempts to point out the contemporary relevance of this material. Mirsky was to deal with this interest in Fyodorov among the Eurasians when he became a Marxist and came to think of Fyodorov’s writings as one of the snares on his way to enlightenment.109

The most remarkable contribution to the 1928 Vyorsts, though, came from Nikolay Berdyaev, who had published several articles in the immediately preceding years that take a respectful but eventually negative view of Eurasianism. His ‘Russian Religious Thought and the Revolution’ is an extended and slightly breast-beating historical account of the relations between the Russian intelligentsia and the revolutionary movement, in the spirit of ‘where it all went wrong’. The writing is fatally fluent and stylistically flat, with absolutely no sense of ‘the resistance of the material’ that Mirsky celebrated in the prose he liked. There is no more striking contrast than that between Berdyaev’s self-indulgent rambling and Mirsky’s crisp and specific discussions of similar subjects.

The principal difference between the last issue of Vyorsts and the two that preceded it was announced in the introductory matter: there would be no reprints of literary work originally published in the USSR. The editors claimed that they had achieved the object of their previous policy and compelled the readers outside Russia to take this writing seriously. The most provocative item in the 1926 issue was a reprint of the 1925 Party declaration on literature and the responses to it by a number of eminent writers who included Bely, Veresaev, Leonov, Shklovsky, Pasternak, Pilnyak, and A.N. Tolstoy. There is also a reptilian paragraph by one of Mirsky’s future colleagues when he became a Soviet literary critic, G. Lelevich (1901-45); at the time, this Party veteran had already failed as a poet and was becoming a militant proletarianist critic. Khodasevich made great play with all this in his essay in Contemporary Notes, alleging that the editors of Vyorsts were illustrating their conviction that literary life had now been liberated in Russia, and confronting it with his own material showing that the opposite was the case.

The selections from Soviet fiction in the 1927 issue are magnificent. They include extracts from three of the novels that Mirsky discussed in the bibliographical section of the same issue: Artyom Vesyoly’s Insurrection, Tynyanov’s wonderful historical novel Kyukhlya, and Bely’s remarkable Moscow under the Hammer. Two important names are absent from these lists of Soviet authors. In his letter to Leonard Woolf about the aims of Vyorsts, Mirsky specifically mentioned Mandelshtam and Shklovsky as authors he hoped to publish, but they did not appear. The authors selected for reprinting in Vyorsts reflect Mirsky’s taste, and his critical articles of the mid-1920s are full of praise for these two figures.

Vyorsts was Mirsky’s finest contribution to the cultural legacy of the Russian emigration, but it was achieved at the price of tremendous strain. He acted as the staff officer he was trained to be – constantly reassessing the situation, making plans, chivvying his associates to get things moving in the required direction, and threatening disciplinary action when they failed to do so. He got very little support from his co-editors; Suvchinsky in particular was continually letting him down. Tsvetaeva’s claim in various letters that it was her husband Efron who bore the main burden of producing Vyorsts is yet one more example of her self-aggrandizement, this time vicarious; he seems to have been used only for secretarial work, and Mirsky continually complains about his slackness. Meanwhile, Efron was being paid, while Mirsky was shelling out. The quality of Suvchinsky’s individual contributions to Vyorsts is truly abysmal, but fortunately there are only two of them. One stroke of good fortune was that Suvchinsky was originally supposed to write on Stravinsky, but Lure stepped in admirably when Suvchinsky failed to produce.110

It is quite clear from Mirsky’s letters that hardly any copies of Vyorsts were sold to the reading public, and that to the bitter end Mirsky was responsible for finding the money to meet the fees and production costs of the enterprise. There was no change of the series being sold to readers in Russia. In November 1926 Mirsky considered one obvious way out, analogous to the way later taken by Nabokov – to cross the language barrier, produce an English version of the more important items from the journal, and bring in a representative to handle sales in the USA. He produced the appropriate flyer, but nothing else happened.

On 27 February 1927 Mirsky wrote to Suvchinsky, expressing more strikingly than anywhere else that commitment to concision that makes his own émigré writing so bracing:

[You] can’t publish a journal that nobody buys – and if, as you assert, everybody is reading it, then it’s clear that we have to publish it in such a way as the readers can buy it, and for this there’s one condition, and this is the main thing – to write shorter pieces, which our contributors don’t know how to do – and not to print what’s not strictly necessary …. There’s nothing that can’t be fitted into 8 pages of our format …. Long articles are a holdover from the period when paper and production costs used to be cheap. That kind of writing is like still taking a dormouse from Paris to Berlin.111 I can’t forgive myself that we published Theseus. But in any case, if you can, have a word with that woman. I’ll write to her and tell her to have a word with you.[/quote]


Mirsky’s dealings with Eurasianism and the Eurasians in 1926-9 constantly confronted him with the problem of religious faith. Adherence to Orthodoxy was a fundamental tenet of Eurasianism; and Suvchinsky was a communicant member of the Church – though his then wife Vera told me that he only went to services to listen to the singing. The religious concerns of Eurasianism came to the surface in the second and third issues of Vyorsts, as we have seen, at first in connection with Karsavin and the question of the Jews.

In writing to Suvchinsky, rather than the neutral evrei (Jew), Mirsky persistently and naturally uses a word I have unavoidably translated as ‘Yid’ (zhid), which is now as thoroughly taboo in decent Russian company as it is in English. For a man of Mirsky’s generation and background this would probably have been a habitual term that did not necessarily imply any animosity or contempt. In this regard as in so many others, Mirsky was something of a special case. In general, in the social circles in which he grew up, and especially in the elite reaches of the officer corps, anti-Semitism was endemic and virulent. It is quite likely that Mirsky was not personally acquainted with anyone Jewish before 1918, just as he was not personally acquainted with any professional women; there was no reason why such people should have crossed his horizon. The one exception can only have been the schoolmate with whom Mirsky made his literary debut, Victor Zhirmunsky, the son of a prosperous Petersburg laryngologist. In view of all this, Mirsky’s subsequent attitude is remarkable, because in his adult life and writings he seems to have been without prejudice. If anything, he was somewhat philo-Semitic. He several times went out of his way to point to the superior cultural achievements of Russian Jewry compared to those of ethnic Russians since 1917; suffice it to mention Pasternak, Mandelshtam, and Babel. There were many others. Mirsky rather blots his copybook writing to Suvchinsky on 4 March 1927 when he observed that ‘the only idea of Trubetskoy’s about the Yids known to me is that all Yids are exhibitionists, which by the way is true’.112 But he restores something of his credibility when he responds spiritedly to the manuscript of Karsavin’s article on 11 March 1927:

Karsavin’s article is not bad either, and mine will be a defence of the Jewish periphery, starting with Philo.113 Objectively, Karsavin is absolutely wrong when he asserts that the Jews of the periphery are all second-rate, ‘except perhaps Spinoza’ (that ‘perhaps’ is absolutely ridiculous). In Russia this may be the case (but what about Trotsky and Pasternak, though), but in Europe the entire nineteenth century is full of an absolutely disproportionate amount of Jews ‘in leading positions’, such as Marx, Heine, Disraeli, Lassale, Minkovsky. And at the present time in France and Germany there’s more of them perhaps than non-Jews (Bergson, Einstein, Freud, etc.). The periphery is a legitimate and inalienable manifestation of Jewry.

Whatever the case, Mirsky was obviously far too intelligent a person to be a racist. As with everything, the basis of his attitude was intellectual. During his discussions with Suvchinsky about the possible contributions to Vyorsts on the Jewish question, he stated: ‘In the West the Jewish question is increasingly being put in purely racial terms, to the exclusion of others. Therefore perhaps it would be better to emphasize that we’re talking about the Russian-Jewish question, where putting things in any specifically racial terms is out of date.’

The Russian Orthodox Church in Mirsky’s time tended to take a much less rational view of this matter than Mirsky did. Inevitably for a person of his age and social background, Mirsky had been brought up in the Church, and we have seen evidence of his mother’s piety, especially with regard to the journey to the new shrine of St Serafim in 1904. All Mirsky’s public life before he left Russia, especially his army service, was conducted in a context of ritual observance of the Church’s rites. Whether or not Mirsky’s short-lived marriage began with a religious ceremony, we do not know. Religious observance was especially prominent in the White army, and formed one of the few elements of a genuinely shared ideology in the movement. In emigration, however, the practice of these observances inevitably loosened. The Church was a prime focus of Russian émigré life in London and Paris; but there is no evidence that Mirsky was a communicant member in London, and very little evidence that he went to services in Paris. The argument with Roger Fry suggests that in 1925 Mirsky was still far from being an atheist; but the exchanges with Shakhovskoy suggest equally strongly that Mirsky viewed the ‘dark’ side of religion and the Orthodox Church with mounting revulsion. Mirsky dealt with his religious evolution in a curt paragraph of his intellectual autobiography:

Since I was inwardly inclined towards materialism, it was not the religious and mystical side that appealed to me most in Eurasianism, although neither did it repel me … For twenty years my ‘reason’ succeeded in imposing on my ‘heart’ an idealist and theological chaos that my common sense refused to take seriously, but which was enough to inhibit any shift in my intellectual conscience.114

Mirsky locates the final break at the time Eurasia came to an end, in September 1929:

My materialist ‘heart’ rebelled against this so-called ‘reason’ which had held it prisoner for nearly a quarter of a century. The chains were worn; it needed only one last effort to break them. Pokrovsky had already swept away a good deal of idealist refuse. I had made contact again with Marx.115



1. On Russian literature of the first emigration, see principally Gleb Struve, Russkaya literatura v izgnanii, 2nd edn (New York, 1984); Simon Karlinsky and Alfred Appel, Jr. (eds.), The Bitter Air of Exile: Russian Writers in the West, 1922-1972 (Berkeley, Calif., 1977); Temira Pachmuss, A Russian Cultural Revival: A Critical Anthology of Emigre Literature before 1939 (Knoxville, Tenn., 1981 ); Robert H. Johnston, 'New Mecca, New Babylon': Paris and the Russian Exiles, 192D-1945 (Kingston and Montreal, 1988).

2. On this deportation, see Mikhail Geller, "'Pervoe predosterezhenie" -- udar khlystom', Vestnik russkogo khristianskogo dvizheniya 127 (1978), 187-232.

3. P. P. Suvchinsky, letter to N. S. Trubetskoy, 25 Nov. 1922; 'Pis'ma P. P. Suvchinskogo -- N. S. Trubetskomu (1922-1924)', in Rossiiskii arkhiv: Istoriya otechestva v svidetel'stvakh i dokumentakh XVIII-XX vv., v (Moscow, 1994), 478.

4. See the penultimate paragraph of 'O nyneshnem sostoyanii russkoi literatury', repr. in D. S. Mirsky, Uncollected Writings on Russian Literature, ed. G. S. Smith (Berkeley, Calif., 1989), 229.

5. Vladislav Khodasevich saw a good deal of Gorky in the early 1920s, co-edited the journal Dialogue, and lived in his household from Oct. 1924 to Apr. 1925; see 'Gor'ky', in Vladislav Khodasevich, Koleblemyi trenozhnik (Moscow, 1991), 353-74.

6. 'Tam ili zdes'?', repr. in Vladislav Khodasevich, Sobranie sochinenii, ed. John Malmstad and Robert Hughes, ii: Stat'i i retsenzii, 1905-1926 (Ann Arbor, Mich., 1990), 364-8.

7. Anon., 'Alexander Blok', The Times Literary Supplement, 13 Apr. 1922, 242.

8. Mirsky had published 'A Russian Poetess', Outlook, 18 Mar. 1922, 217-18; in the first issue of the School of Slavonic Studies' journal he reviewed the three most recent collections by Akhmatova: Slavonic Review 1 (r) (1922), 690-1.

9. V. V. Perkhin, 'Odinnadtsat' pisem (1920-1937) i avtobiografiya (1936) D. P. Svyatopolk-Mirskogo', Russkaya literatura 1 (1996), 241-2.

10. Slavonic Review 2 (4) (1923), 145-53.

11. On Pilnyak's visit to and literary representations of England, see Ol' ga Kaznina, Russkie v Anglii: Russkaya emigratisya v kontekste russko-angliiskikh literaturnykh svyazei v pervoi polovine XX veka (Moscow, 1997), 316-37.

12. See Stephen Graham, Part of the Wonderful Scene: An Autobiography (London, 1964), 291.

13. Mirsky's friend Helene Izvolsky lived with her invalid mother in Pau in the early 1920s, and this may have been a visit to them.

14. Marina Tsvetaeva, Sobranie sochinenii v semi tomakh (Moscow, 1995), vii. 392-3.

15. 'O sovremennom sostoyanii russkoi poezii', repr. in Mirsky, Uncollected Writings on Russian Literature, 87-117.

16. Ibid. 117.

17. The Oxford Book of Russian Verse. Chosen by the Hon. Maurice Baring (Oxford, 1924), 204.

18. Kn. D. Svyatopolk-Mirsky, Russkaya lirika (Paris, 1924), 191.

19. The Oxford Book of Russian Verse, 206.

20. Mirsky, Russkaya lirika, 197. Ozerki is the name of the summer resort referred to in the English note. An Unexpected Joy (Nechayannaya radost') is the title of the cycle of lyrics in which 'The Unknown Woman' was included by Blok.

21. Mirsky, Russkaya lirika, p. xii ('talantlivaya, no beznadezhno raspushchennaya moskvichka '). The second adjective also means 'debauched' or 'dissipated', and indicates someone who takes liberties with themselves and others.

22. Ibid. 184.

23. On the great lawyer, politician, and Jewish activist M. M. Vinaver (r862-1926), see H. M. Winawer (ed.), The Vinaver Saga (London, 1994), 275-413.

24. See Oleg Korostelev, 'Parizhskoe "Zveno" (1923-1928) i ego sozdateli', in M. Parkhomovsky (ed.), Russkoe evreistvo v zarubezh'e, i (6) (Jerusalem, 1998), 177-201.

25. For studies of Nicholas Bakhtin and his work, see the introduction and annotation to Galin Tihanov, 'Nikolay Bakhtin: Two Letters to Mikhail Lopatto (1924) and an Autobiographical Fragment', Oxford Slavonic Papers n.s. 31 (1998), 68-86.

26. D. S. Mirsky, 'Novoe v angliiskoi literature: Moris Bering', Zveno, 11 Aug. 1924, 3.

27. Kn. D. Svyatopolk-Mirsky, 'I. E. Babel', Rasskazy', repr. in Uncollected Writings on Russian Literature, 203-5; '0. E. Mandel'shtam, Shum vremeni', repr. ibid. 208-Io; 'B. L. Pasternak, Rasskazy', repr. ibid. 206-7. The Mandelshtam book was reviewed at the same time by two of the best critics of the emigration, Konstantin Mochulsky in The Link and Vladimir Veidle in the newspaper Days; their articles were reprinted, together with Mirsky's, and with an informative introduction by K. Polivanov, as 'Trizhdy uslyshannyi shum: Retsenzii na knigu "Shum vremeni" ', Literaturnoe obozrenie I (1991), 55-8.

28. 'M. I. Tsvetaeva, Molodets. Skazka', Sovremennye zapiski 27 (1926), 567-72; Mirsky published a parallel review in English: Slavonic Review 4 (1926), 775-6.

29. Kn. D. P. Svyatopolk-Mirsky, 'Izdaniya rossiiskogo instituta istorii iskusstv', Sovremennye zapiski 24 (1925), 434-8.

30. 'Esenin', repr. in Mirsky, Uncollected Writings, 211-12. Mirsky's English-language obituary is much less emotional and personal: see 'S. A. Esenin', Slavonic Review 4 (12) (1926), 706-7.

31. Mirsky uses the adjective raspushchennyi, which he famously applied to Tsvetaeva.

32. 'O nyneshnem sostoyanii russkoi poezii', 225-6.

33. Kn. D. Svyatopolk-Mirsky, 'O konservatizme: Dialog', Blagonamerennyi 2 (1926), 208. This piece, uniquely among Mirsky's writings, is in dialogue form.

34. Mirsky was inordinately fond of quoting this line from Derzhavin's ode 'Felitsa' (1782), sometimes substituting the adjective 'sweet' for the original 'tasty'.

35. Harrison no doubt had in mind inherited income, the possession of which she seems, like Virginia Woolf, to have regarded as a precondition for the intellectual life; it was certainly a precondition for her own.

36. 'Sovremennye zapiski, 1-26 (1920-1925); Volya Rossii, i (1922, 1925, i 1926, 1-2)', Vyorsty I (1926), 206-10.

37. For a general account of Mirsky's dealings with the movement, but written before the publication of Mirsky's letters to Suvchinsky, see Ol'ga Kaznina, 'D. P. Svyatopolk-Mirsky i evraziiskoe dvizhenie', Nachala 4 (1992), 81-8.

38. For a well-disposed view of Suvchinsky, see Vadim Kozovol's introductory article to 'Iz perepiski B. Pasternaka i P. Suvchinskogo', Revue des Etudes Slaves 58 (4) (1986), 637-48.

39. 'The Exodus to the East', Russian Life I (1922), 210-12; 'Two Aspects of Revolutionary Nationalism', ibid. 5 (1922), I72-4; 'A "Eurasian" Manifesto', The Times Literary Supplement, 1 July 1922, 350.

40. See Kaznina, 'D.P. Svyatopolk-Mirsky i evraziiskoe dvizhenie', 81.

41. After Exodus to the East (Iskhod k vostoku, Sofia, 192I) came On the Paths (Na putyakh, Berlin, 1922) and Russia and the Latin World (Rossiya i latinstvo, Berlin, 1923), both substantial collections of articles. There were three issues in the series under the title Evraziiskii vremennik (Berlin, 1923 and 1925; Paris, 1927); and ten of the chronicle Evraziiskaya khronika: nos. 1 and 2 (Paris-Berlin, 1925); nos. 3-6 (Prague, later Paris, 1925); nos. 7-9 (Paris, 1927); and no. 10 (Paris, 1928).

42. 'The Eurasian Movement', repr. in Mirsky, Uncollected Writings on Russian Literature, 237-45.

43. Struve, Russkaya literatura v izgnanii, 40-9; Otto Boss, Die Lehre der Eurasier (Wiesbaden, 1961); N. V. Riasanovsky, 'The Emergence of Eurasianism', California Slavic Studies 4 (1967), 39-72; Georges Nivat, 'La "fenetre sur l'Asie" ou les paradoxes de I' "affirmation eurasienne"', Rossiya/ Russia 6 (1988), 81-93.

44. See Evraziya: Istoricheskie vzglyady russkikh emigrantov (Moscow, 1992); Puti Evrazii: Russkaya intelligentsiya i sud'by Rossii (Moscow, 1992); Rossiya mezhdu Evropoi i Aziei: Evraziiskii soblazn (Moscow, 1993); Evraziiskaya perspektiva (Moscow, 1994); Mir Rossii-Evraziya: Antologiya (Moscow, 1995); Russkii uzel evraziistva: Vostok v russkoi mysli: Sbornik trudov evraziitsev, ed. Sergey Klyuchnikov (Moscow, 1997); Petr Savitsky, Kontinent Evraziya (Moscow, 1997); and the reprint of Iskhod k vostoku (Moscow, 1997).

45. S. M. Polovinkin, 'Evraziistvo i russkaya emigratsiya', in N. S. Trubetskoy, Istoriya: Kul'tura: Yazyk (Moscow, 1995), 731-62; Yu. K. Gerasimov, 'Religioznaya pozitsiya evraziitsev', Russkaya literatura I (1995), 159-76; S. Polovinkin, 'Evraziistvo', in Russkaya filosofiya: Malyi entsiklopedicheskii slovar' (Moscow, 1995), 172-8; A. V. Antoshchenko, 'Spory o evraziistve', in O evrazii i evraziitsakh (Petrozavodsk, 1997), 7-43; O. S. Shirokov, 'Problema etnolingvisticheskikh obosnovanii evraziistva', in Iskhod k vostoku (Moscow, 1997), 4-42.

46. On Trubetskoy's life and thought, see Anatoly Liberman, 'Introduction: Trubetzkoy as a Literary Scholar', in N. S. Trubetzkoy, Writings on Literature, ed., trans., and introduced by Anatoly Liberman (Minneapolis, 1990), pp. xi-xlvi; id., 'Postscript', in N. S. Trubetzkoy, The Legacy of Genghis Khan and Other Essays on Russia's Cultural Identity, ed., and with a postscript, by Anatoly Liberman (Ann Arbor, Mich., 199I), 295-375; and N S. Trubetskoy i sovremennaya filologiya (Moscow, 1993).

47. For Savitsky's views on the development of Eurasianism during the period of Mirsky's involvement, see his 'V bor'be za evraziistvo: polemika vokrug evraziistva v 1920-kh godakh', in Tridtsatye gody (Paris, 1931), 1-52 ( Utverzhdenie evraziitsev, 7 ), published under the pseudonym 'Stepan Lubensky'. Savitsky was deported from Prague to the USSR in 1945 and sent to the GULag; amnestied in 1956, he returned to Prague and died there. On his geographical theory of Eurasia, see esp. M. Bassin, 'Russia between Europe and Asia: The Ideological Construction of Geographical Space', Slavic Review 50 (I) (1991), 1-17.

48. For a view of Savitsky as a prophet of genius and a major figure in twentieth-century geopolitical theory and the theory of 'the conservative revolution', see A. Dugin, 'Evraziiskii triumf', in Savitsky, Kontinent Evraziya, 433-53.

49. On Florovsky's life, see Andrew Blane, 'A Sketch of the Life of Georges Florovsky', in Georges Florovsky: Russian Intellectual and Orthodox Churchman (Crestwood, NY, 1993), 11-2I7; this book also contains a bibliography of Florovsky's writings. On Florovsky's departure from Eurasianism, see particularly the letter from Suvchinsky to Trubetskoy of 27 Feb. 1923: 'Pis'ma P. P. Suvchinskogo-N. S. Trubetskomu (1922-1924)', 479-81.

50. See A. Shteinberg, Druz'ya moikh rannikh let (1911-1928) (Paris, 199I), 198; this sibling rivalry became especially acute when in the early 1920s Erik Pommer used Tamara for the leading role in his film Kraft und Schonheit and she became a household name.

51. An excellent bibliography is A. V. Antoshchenko and A. A. Kozhanov (eds.), O Evrazii i evraziitsakh (Bibliograficheskii ukazatel') (Petrozavodsk, 1997).

52. Mirsky expounds Eurasian geopolitical ideas, with excellent maps, in his Russia: A Social History (London, 193I). For the geopolitics of 'Eurasia' written without reference to Russian sources and Russian Eurasian theory, and based instead on the theories of Mackinder and others that may have influenced Savitsky, see Stuart Legg, The Heartland (New York, 1970).

53. It is worth remembering that among the close contemporaries of Mirsky were Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890-1969), Charles de Gaulle (1890-1970), Ho Chi Minh (1890-1969), Jawaharlal Nehru (1889-1964), and Adolf Hitler (1889-1945). In Stalin's entourage, Mirsky's closest contemporary was Vyacheslav Molotov (1890-1986), who got his first big Moscow job in 1930.

54. Pyotr Arapov secured the money to publish Rossiya i latinstvo (Berlin, 1923) from a lady he had seduced. See 'Pis'ma P. P. Suvchinskogo-N. S. Trubetskomu (1922-1924)', 477; the same article contains as a supplement the publishing agreements made by the Eurasians in 1923, but in Feb. 1924 Suvchinsky told Trubetskoy that the coffers were empty.

55. Russia in Resurrection: A Summary of the Views and of the Aims of a New Party in Russia. By an English Europasian (London, 1928).

56. As an afterthought, Mirsky inserted the name 'Serafim' (St Serafim of Sarov) between those of St Francis and Pascal. His point here exactly anticipates one of the major conclusions of Otto Boss: cf. Die Lehre der Eurasier, 76.

57. 'O moskovskoi literature i protopope Avvakume (Dva otryvka)', repr. in Mirsky, Uncollected Writings on Russian Literature, 145-55.

58. Ibid. 154.

59. See esp. Irene Zohrab, 'Remizov, Williams, Mirsky and English Readers (with some Letters from Remizov to Ariadna Tyrkova-Williams and Two Unknown Reviews)', New Zealand Slavonic Journal (1994), 259-87. Zohrab established that the earliest post-revolutionary article in English about the writer, 'Alexei Remizov', The Times Literary Supplement, 21 Feb. 1924, was jointly written by Mirsky and Harold Williams.

60. On Remizov's life, see Horst Lampl, 'A. M. Remizov: A Short Biographical Essay (1877-1923)', and Natalya Reznikova, 'Alexei Remizov in Paris (1923-1957)', Russian Literature Triquarterly 19 (1986), 7-60, 61-92.

61. Mirsky, A History of Russian Literature (1949), 22.

62. See G. S. Smith, 'Marina Tsvetaeva i D.P. Svyatopolk-Mirsky', in Robin Kemball et al. (eds.), Marina Tsvetaeva: Actes du I Colloque Marina Tsvetaeva (Bern, 1991), 192-206. This article was written in 1982, and traces the history of Mirsky's published responses to Tsvetaeva's work, which will not be summarized here; instead, attention will be drawn to materials that have become available since that time.

63. 'Aleksandr i Salomeya Gal'perny', in Mikhail Parkhomovsky (ed.), Evreiv kul'ture russkogo zarubezh'ya: Sbornik statei, publikatsii, memuarov i esse, i: 1919-1939 gg. (Jerusalem, 1992), 229-41. Berlin asserts in passing here that A. J. Halpern was a British intelligence agent.

64. Sir Isaiah Berlin, unpublished letter to G. S. Smith, 20 Mar. 1996.

65. See G. S. Smith, 'D. S. Mirsky: Four Letters to Ariadna Tyrkova-Williams (1926), with an Unknown Review by Ariadna Tyrkova-Williams (1924)', Slavonic and East European Review 71 (3) (1993), 482-9.

66. 'Marina Tsvetaeva', repr. in Mirsky, Uncollected Writings on Russian Literature, 217-21.

67. Tsvetaeva is talking partly here about her short-sightedness, which was acute; she refused to wear glasses.

68. Tsvetaeva, Sobranie sochinenii v semi tomakh, vi. 315-16.

6g. Veronika Losskaya, Marina Tsvetaeva v zhizni (Tenafly, 1989), 143.

70. Tsvetaeva, Sobranie sochinenii v semi tomakh, vi. 317.

71. Ibid. 345.

72. For a summary of these problems, see Marc Raeff, 'The Gutenberg Galaxy: Publishing in Alien Lands', in Russia Abroad: A Cultural History of the Russian Emigration, 1919-1939 (New York and Oxford, 1990), 73-94.

73. 'Jane Ellen Harrison: Forty-Seven Letters to D. S. Mirsky, 1924-1926', Oxford Slavonic Papers n.s. 28 (1995), 86-7.

74. Lydia Lopokova; on her, see Jane Ellen Harrison's letter to Mirsky of 29 Jan. 1926.

75. Unpublished letter, Leonard Woolf Papers, University of Sussex Library.

76. Arkhiepiskop Ioann Shakhovskoy, Biografiya yunosti: Ustanovlenie edinstva (Paris, 1978), 193.

77. Mirsky uses the Greek form of this word, usually represented in English as 'Sanhedrin', the supreme council of the Jews in Biblical Jerusalem; the equivalent in the Russian Bible is the richly ironic sovet. Bulgakov also uses the Greek form in the second chapter of The Master and Margarita.

78. 'Veyanie smerti v predrevolyutsionnoi literature', repr. in Mirsky, Uncollected Writings on Russian Literature, 236.

79. Zinaida Shakhovskaya, Otrazheniya (Paris, 1975), 25.

80. Mirsky, Uncollected Writings on Russian Literature, 236.

81. Georgy Adamovich was present at Mirsky's lecture, and wrote a letter to The Link protesting particularly about the pro-Soviet tone of Mirsky's coda (Zveno 169, 25 Apr. 1926); Mirsky replied, emphasizing that his chief example was Gumilyov, who was in no sense Soviet: Kn. D. Svyatopolk-Mirsky, 'Pis'mo v redaktsiyu', Zveno 172, 16 May 1926, to which is appended a riposte by Adamovich.

82. G. S. Smith (ed.), The Letters of D. S. Mirsky to P. P. Suvchinskii 1922-31 (Birmingham, 1995), 183.

83. In passing, Remizov mentions the recent three-evening celebration of Shestov's 60th birthday (Shestov had a considerable private income, and could afford to put on this sort of thing). The third, 'philosophical' evening was attended by Berdyaev, Vysheslavtsev, Efron, Ilin, Pozner, Lazarev, Lurie, Suvchinsky, Mirsky, Fedotov, and Mochulsky ('Stepun didn't come!'); Remizov entertained them with a three-hour reading of The Life of Archpriest Avvakum without an interval: Aleksey Remizov, "'Voistinu"', Vyorsty I (1926), 83.

84. Artur-Vintsent Lurie (1892-1966) was a composer; he is most famous for being another man besides Boris Anrep whom Akhmatova refused to follow into emigration. On him, see B. Kats and R. Timenchik, Akhmatova i muzyka (Leningrad, 1989).

85. See Zinaida Gippius, Pis'ma k Berberovoi i Khodasevichu, ed. Erika Freiberger Sheikholeslami (Ann Arbor, Mich., 1978), 43.

86. Vladislav Khodasevich, 'O "Verstakh" ', repr. in Vladislav Khodasevich, Sobranie sochinenii (2 vols., Ann Arbor, Mich., 1990), ii. 408-17.

87. M. V. Vishnyak, 'Sovremennye zapiski': Vospominaniya redaktora (Bloomington, 1957), 140-6. The essentially decent and long-suffering philistine Vishnyak recoils here from the intemperate feuding of his literary colleagues. He contentedly points out (p. 146) that the principal contributors to Vyorsts soon returned to Contemporary Notes: Shestov and Tsvetaeva sooner, Remizov later. The devious Remizov, however, actually wrote Vishnyak a letter distancing himself from Mirsky and Suvchinsky before the text of Mirsky's lecture was published.

88. For documentation and discussion of this incident, see the annotation by John Malmstad and Robert Hughes in Khodasevich, Sobranie sochinenii, ii. 544-9. The most significant outcome of it was an astonishing letter written by Tsvetaeva to Suvchinsky and Karsavin on 9 Mar. 1927 about Sergey Efron and Jewish identity.

89. See G. S. Smith, 'The Versification of V. F. Xodasevic, 1915-1939', in Thomas Eekman and Dean S. Worth (eds.), Russian Poetics: Proceedings of the International Colloquium at UCLA, September 22-26, 1975 (Columbus, Ohio, 1982), 373-92.

90. Cited from an unpublished document in the Suvchinsky archive in Vadim Kozovoi:, 'Pis' rna Mariny Tsvetaevoi', 203-4.

91. See Tsvetaeva's letter to Salomeya Halpern, 12 Aug. 1926, Sobranie sochinenii v semi tomakh, vii. 101.

92. See Reiner Maria Rilke, Boris Pasternak, and Marina Tsvetaeva, Pis' ma 1926 goda (Moscow, 1990).

93. Mirsky refers to the journal edited by Berdyaev, which began publication in Paris in 1925 and continued until the outbreak of the Second World War. The early issues were reviewed by V. Sezeman: Versty 2 (1927), 275-80, and 3 (1928), 175-81. For dealings between the Eurasians and Berdyaev in the period before the publication of The Way, see 'K istorii evraziistva: 1922-1924 gg.', Rossiiskii arkhiv: Istoriya otechestva v svidetel'stvakh i dokumentakh XVIII-XX vv., v (Moscow, 1994), 489-91.

94. I. A. Il'in, O soprotivlenii zlu siloyu (Berlin, 1925). This reasoned refutation of Tolstoy's pacifism and non-resistance to evil was inspired by what Ilin saw as the disastrous consequences of that doctrine in revolutionary Russia; it was later read with great interest by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.

95. On Tsvetaeva's reaction to Pasternak's poem Lieutenant Schmidt, see particularly her letter to Pasternak of 1 July 1926, in which she describes its hero as 'an intelligent, not a sailor' (Pis'ma 1926 goda, 159).

96. Tsvetaeva, Sobranie sochinenii v semi tomakh, vi. 269.

97. Cited in Lazar' Fleishman, 'Iz pasternakovskoi perepiski', Slavica Hierosolymitana 5 and 6 (1981), 535-41.

98. Mirsky is referring to Posle Rossii (Paris, 1928), published after considerable delay by his friend J. E. Pouterman.

99. Library of the School of Slavonic and East European Studies, University of London.

100. Kn. D. Svyatopolk-Mirsky, 'Kriticheskie zametki', Versty 2 (1927), 257.

101. A back-translation into English of this essay by G. S. Smith is cited and discussed in Evelyn Hanquart, 'Forster on Contemporary English Literature', Aligorh Journal of English Studies 5 (I) (1980), 102-9.

102. Untitled composite review, London Mercury 17 (1927), 208-10. Forster was working at the time on his Clark Lectures (Jan.-Mar. 1927 ), which were rewritten and published as Aspects of the Novel.

103. The Hollow Men (1925) was included in Eliot's Poems: 1909-1925. A translation by Ivan Kashkin, 'Polye lyudi', was included in Mirsky's Antologiya novoi angliiskoi poezii (Leningrad, 1937), 352-6.

104. John Cournos, reviewing the third issue, said: 'This is the organ of the Eurasians, who are extreme Nationalists and hold that Russia is a separate cultural entity': Criterion 8 (30) (Sept. 1928), 182-3.

105. See Anatoly Liberman, 'Introduction: Trubetzkoy as a Literary Scholar', in N. S. Trubetzkoy, Writings on Literature (Minneapolis, 1990), pp. xi-xlvi.

106. For a translation, see N. S. Trubetskoy, Three Philological Studies (Ann Arbor, Mich., 1963), and Ladislav Matejka and Krystyna Pomorska ( eds. ), Readings in Russian Poetics: Formalist and Structuralist Views (Cambridge, Mass., and London, 1971), 199-219.

107. See M. L. Gasparov, 'K geografii chastushechnogo ritma', in his Izbrannye trudy, iii: O stikhe (Moscow, 1997), 279-89.

108. On this episode, and the friendly relations and radical differences of opinion about Judaism and Othodoxy that had preceded it for many years, see A. Shteinberg, 'Lev Platonovich Karsavin', in his Druz'ya moikh rannikh let (1911-1928) (Paris, 1991), 193-217.

109. For a brief but usefully contextualized view of Fyodorov's significance, see Irene Masing-Delic, 'The Transfiguration of Cannibals: Fedorov and the Avant-Garde', in Laboratory of Dreams: The Russian Avant-Garde and Cultural Experiment (Stanford, Calif., 1996), 17-36.

110. Alternatively, Suvchinsky's failure to produce a contribution may have led to the insertion of a very interesting article that is not listed in the contents and has consequently been omitted from bibliographies: Vladimir Dukel'sky, 'Dyagilev i ego rabota', Vyorsty 3 {1928), 251-5, datelined 'London, 1927'. In his American identity as Vernon Duke, Dukelsky (1903-69) made a greater contribution to Western popular culture than any other Russian of the emigration (with the possible exception of Ayn Rand); he was the composer of 'I Can't Get Started with You', 'April in Paris', 'Cabin in the Sky', and other standards.

111. A dormeuse is a heavy horse-drawn carriage equipped with beds, the predecessor of the railway sleeping-car.

112. Trubetskoy published his views on this subject later, sharply criticizing Nazi theories: 'O rasizme', Evraziiskie tetradi 5 (1935), 43-54.

113. Mirsky did not produce this article, in which he proposes to discuss the Alexandrian philosopher Philo Judaeus (c.2o BC-c. AD 50); later in this letter he mentions among more famous men Herman Minkowski (2864-1909), the Russian-born mathematician who studied and taught in Germany. In speaking of the 'periphery', Karsavin has in mind secularized persons of Jewish origin living outside the principal European area of Jewish settlement.

114. Mirsky, Uncollected Writings on Russian Literature, 362.

115. Ibid. 366.
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Part 4 of 6

Chapter 6: Writing Politics

Any émigré intellectual who wishes to remain alive must either lose his nationality or accept the revolution in one way or another.

-- D.S. Mirsky, 1931


The final phase of Mirsky’s life in emigration began with an event that explicitly raised the idea of his going back to Russia: during the Christmas vacation of 1927-8 he went with Suvchinsky to visit Maksim Gorky in Sorrento. Many years later, Suvchinsky told Veronique Lossky: ‘One day Mirsky asked me to go with him, and we spent Christmas at Gorky’s … We were followed the whole time. Gorky tried to persuade us to go to Russia, saying “I’ll fix you up”, and he convinced Mirsky and me.’1 Suvchinsky told me: ‘I had known Gorky back in Petersburg-Petrograd and met him at Shalyapin’s. D.P. didn’t know him and asked me to introduce him. I exchanged letters with Gorky and we got visas through the poet Ungaretti, which at that time was not easy.’2

On what basis exactly Gorky promised Mirsky and Suvchinsky that he could ‘fix them up’ in Russia is a puzzle, because Gorky’s own standing at this tie was not at all clear. He had been given his marching orders by Lenin in October 1921 because of the persistent criticism he leveled at the new regime, chiefly in his journal Untimely Thoughts, on the basis of its record in human rights and freedom of information; he had not been back to Russia since.3 Gorky lived at first in Germany; in the spring of 1924 he moved to Sorrento. Mussolini would not allow him back onto Capri, where Gorky, as a political exile with a massive international reputation and correspondingly large income, had created a refuge for the Russian revolutionaries before 1914. In his rented villa in Sorrento he lived as before with a substantial entourage, which now included two additions of particular significance: the enigmatic Moura Budberg4 and also the more obvious eyes of the NKVD in the form of Gorky’s ‘secretary’, Pyotr Kryuchkov.

It is clear from Mirsky’s letters to Suvchinsky in the run-up to their visit that Mirsky not only made the necessary arrangements, but also paid Suvchinsky’s expenses. Giuseppe Ungaretti (1881-1970) was employed at the time in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Rome; he was the Italian literary adviser to Commerce, and Mirsky would have known him in that connection. Mirsky may not have been personally acquainted with Gorky, but the latter certainly knew who he was. Gorky had noted and commented on the publication of Vyorsts in one of his regular reports about what was going on in Western Europe, a letter of 24 July 1926 to A.K. Voronsky in Moscow:

The editor is Prince Svyatopolk-Mirsky, apparently the son of the one who promised to make a ‘spring’ in 1901-2. He’s a very clever and independent critic who writes superlative characterizations of Zaitsev, Merezhkovsky, Khodasevich and others. There are reprints of Artyom Vesyoly … Babel … Pasternak … But the Eurasians are in here too – Lev Shestov, Artur Lurie, and of course, Marina Tsvetaeva and Remizov. It’s a princely affair.5

In a letter written from Sorrento on 6 January 1928 to the novelist Olga Forsh, Gorky speaks of ‘the Eurasian Suvchinsky, who is living at the Minerva6 together with one of the descendants of Svyatopolk the Accursed’.7 Since Mirsky was anything but the kind of person who paid visits to celebrities just because they were celebrities, there must have been a weighty reason for his approaching Gorky. He had no illusions whatsoever about the ambiguities of Gorky’s personality and political stance; in his writings Mirsky had mercilessly formulated the ethical reservations about him that were standard among the émigré intelligentsia:

With an enormous insight into reality, Gorki has no love of truth. And as he has no motive to restrain him from telling half-truths, and insinuating untruths, his essays more often than not become grotesque distortions of reality. This practically nullifies his moral weight in the eyes of all Russians. And it seems Gorki will be richly repaid for his contempt of the Russian people. Even now he is not taken seriously except by foreigners, for the Bolsheviks use him only as a convenient signboard to be contemplated from beyond the pale.8

Side by side with remarks of this kind, though, Mirsky had constantly stressed Gorky’s pre-eminent status among living Russian writers, and spoken warmly of his efforts to maintain links between the divided worlds of Soviet and émigré culture. The obvious reason for going to see Gorky would have been in order to forge such a link, presumably with reference to the Eurasian movement, because at this stage Mirky did not want to go directly to an official Soviet representative. Meanwhile, several significant but inconclusive pointers suggest that in 1927 the Eurasian leadership did attempt a direct rapprochement with the Soviet authorities, as we will see.

To get Gorky back to Russia was an important objective of Soviet policy. Khodasevich observed in 1925: ‘The most compromising thing about the Bolshevik paradise is that those who adore it would do anything rather than live there.’9 He was referring specifically to Erenburg, but Gorky was the prime illustration of this notion in the public mind. After Gorky settled in at Sorrento, a stream of Soviet writers started to visit, always with the permission of their own and the Italian authorities, neither of which was easy to secure. His visitors eventually included several representatives of the new literary elite, both Party members and fellow-travelers: the poets Aseev and Marshak, the novelists Babel (whose Italian visa was facilitated by Mirsky), Olga Forsh, Vsevolod Ivanov, and Valentin Kataev, and the playwright Nikolay Erdman. In the autumn of 1927 Sholokhov was on his way, but he was refused an entry visa by the Italians. Just before Mirsky and Suvchinsky went to see Gorky, Anastasiya Tsvetaeva had paid him a visit, and towards the end of it she went to see her sister Marina in Paris; there may well have been some direct connection between this visit and that of the two Eurasians.10

Also in the autumn of 1927, Gorky was visited by Kamenev, who had just been appointed Soviet Ambassador to Italy;11 this seems to have been the moment when an agreement was struck that Gorky would come back to Russia. How and when he would come, though, was a ticklish business. For one thing, the state of Gorky’s health was more than a politically convenient excuse for his spending at least the winters outside Russia. But the main problem was, of course, the delicate relationship between Gorky and Stalin. Gorky had immaculate credentials as a close personal friend of Lenin, and such people were increasingly felt to be a threat by his successor.

Mirsky expressed the public face of his private feelings about his visit in a letter he wrote to Gorky from London on 2 February 1928:

I have been meaning to write to you ever since I left, and I still can’t find the right words to tell you what an enormous blessing our meeting was for me. I probably never will be able to, but I feel that I was not in Sorrento but in Russia, and that this time I spent in Russia really straightened me out. There is no other man who could bear Russia within himself like you do, and not only Russia, but also that quality without which Russia cannot exist – humanity…. As we were leaving, Suvchinsky said to me ‘We never saw Tolstoy, though!’ Tolstoy was the only person we could think of. But you are more Russian, you ‘represent’ Russia, more than Tolstoy did.12

Writing a week later, on 9 February 1928, Mirsky put to Suvchinsky a leading question, and answered it himself: ‘I keep asking myself what divides us (me) from the Communists? Only first principles.’ Mirsky attributed particularly great important to the visit to Gorky in the account of his intellectual development that he wrote after he had joined the Communist Party in 1931:

Leaving aside the unforgettable impression made on me by the great charmer that was Gorky, this visit was our first direct contact with ‘the other side of the barricade’ and our first breath of pure materialist air from regions uninfected by the metaphysical miasma we had been breathing.13

At this time, though, the thoughts of going back to Russia that Mirsky says were stimulated by the visit to Gorky were left to lie fallow; nearly three years went by before Mirsky next contacted him. As we shall see, Mirsky was not at first thinking in terms of going back for good. In fact, until about a year before he actually left for Moscow, he seems to have conceived the enterprise as a visit and no more. Gorky’s example, or perhaps even Gorky’s own advice, may have suggested that it would be possible to go and come back.


Instead of turning irrevocably east, Mirsky did the opposite. He finally paid his long-mooted visit to the USA in the summer of 1928, as a result of an invitation from Columbia University that had been brokererd by Michael Florinsky. After this visit, Mirsky considered taking up a permanent academic appointment in America. The idea of America had been part of his consciousness since his earliest days in emigration: through the intermediacy of Bernard Pares, whose connections with American Russianists were of long standing, Mirsky’s books had found parallel American publishers, and he had contemplated a lecture tour as early as 1924. After Florinsky moved to New York in 1926, one of his first letters sounds Mirsky out about a possible job at Columbia University. Later, Florinsky offered to fix up a lecture tour so that Mirsky could have a look round. On 6 December 1926 Mirsky replied that he would be glad to come, but ‘for this I’d like to receive a goodly amount of dollars, since three weeks on the ocean is worth that’. He also said that he could only be released in the summer term. On 14 February 1927 Mirsky told Florinsky that he had had an invitation from Clarence Manning14 to give a lecture series from 1 to 15 July 1928 for 600 dollars. Very soon after this, though, Mirsky made an abrupt about-turn, telling Florinsky: ‘I must say honestly, though, that I absolutely don’t want to come to America, and I’ll take it on only out of a sense of duty. To hell with it [Nu ee sovsem]. I attach three copies of my biography.’

Eventually Mirsky sailed for America on 27 June 1928. Two letters survive that he wrote to Suvchinsky from New York. In the first, he hints that something to do with the Eurasian connection had gone seriously wrong there. Malevsky-Malevich had been active on behalf of the Eurasians, and Mirsky took a dim view of the results:

Unfortunately, I’m not seeing much of the Americans. The Russians are mediocrities, on the whole worse than those in Paris, with a few exceptions. I haven’t seen any Eurasians and I think it’s not worth it, I can see from here they’re mediocrities. Malevsky has debauched himself here to the limit. Perhaps I’ll still try and say a few warm words to them.15

In the second letter from New York, written on 9 August, Mirsky claims to have established a link with the Department of State and to be trying to fix up a meeting with the head of the Russian section for Suvchinsky or Arapov when that person is next in Paris. Whether anything came of this is unknown, but it seems unlikely that anything did. Mirsky gave three lectures at Columbia, Cornell, and Chicago. The lecture at the University of Chicago was delivered on 31 July in the Harper Assembly Room, and its subject comes as rather a surprise in the light of the way Mirsky’s views were developing at this time: ‘Elements of Russian Civilization: Russia and the Orthodox Church’.16


Meanwhile, at the same time as he was planning his trip to America and writing his major historical works in English, the main concern of Mirsky’s practical life increasingly became Russian politics, and in particular the politics of the Eurasian movement. The letters to Suvchinsky show that from about the middle of 1926 Mirsky was constantly offering advice about the policy decisions that were being taken by the Eurasian leadership.

Mirsky was not the only, not yet the most influential, newcomer to the leadership of the movement at this time. Lev Karsavin became involved with Eurasianism soon after he arrived in Berlin in 1923.17 Karsavin’s candidacy for a leading position in the movement was initially treated with considerable reservation by Trubetskoy and Savitsky, but Suvchinsky apparently convinced them to take him on purely as an expert adviser. In talking about Karsavin in this connection, Suvchinsky uses the current Soviet slang term for an expert, spets, which Savitsky thought deeply suspicious when the branch of expertise concerned was religion. Mirsky’s reaction to Karsavin was similar, and ominous; he wrote to Suvchinsky on 8 August 1926:

Forgive me, but I can’t help sensing in [Karsavin] something that is in the highest degree spiritually unsound … -- his entire approach is the purest utilitarianism, isn’t it? He’s a nihilist and a blasphemer, and his very theologizing looks to me like a sort of refined defamation.

The generation that was born in the years of Dostoevsky’s evil deeds (Notes from Underground, 1864-1881!) will not bring forth sound fruit. And if you take him on purely as a spets in theology, isn’t that doing things the Latin way? Does Orthodoxy really have any familiarity with this kind of spetsish theologianizing that has no connection with the spiritual essence?

Karsavin moved to Paris in July 1926 and settled in Clamart, where Suvchinsky and also Berdyaev (and later Tsvetaeva) lived. That autumn Karsavin instituted a Eurasian seminar there; it became the ideological engine of the movement. This was the first articulation of the schism between Paris and Prague that was to wreck Eurasianism in 1929.

Three other men became prominent in the Eurasian movement at the same time. Vladimir Nikolaevich Ilin (1890-1974) was another philosopher who had been expelled from Russia in 1922; he had contributed an essay to the Eurasian volume of 1923 on East-West ecclesiastical relations. He was resident in Prague. The legal scholar Nikolay Nikolaevich Alekseev (1879-1964) was also resident in Prague; from 1926 he began publishing essays that attempt to construct a Eurasian theory of the state and law. Finally, Vasily Petrovich Nikitin (1885-1960) began contributing essays to Eurasian publications on the relations between Russia-Eurasia and the Middle East.

The contemporary published documents give no precise indication about how the Eurasian movement was formally managed. Though the Eurasian Chronicle contains a good deal of information about various events, there are no systematic reports of when and where meetings were held or how many people attended them, not to mention any financial accounts. It may well be that there was in fact no formally constituted structure, no protocols and formalized proceedings. Some evidence about the high command of the Eurasian movement after 1925, though, has emerged from the previously secret materials that have become available since the downfall of the USSR.

The earliest such documents are two ‘Protocols’ of March 1923 in which ‘the three Ps’, as they call themselves – Arapov, Suvchinsky, and Savitsky (who shared the first name Pyotr) – discuss Eurasian publishing policy, and another ‘Protocol’ of June 1923 in which the same three set out a concise definition of the nature and aims of the movement. Their concluding paragraph is of considerable interest:

In practical matters, the first and foremost essential is circumspection. Effort should be concentrated in the first instance on spreading the spiritual influence of Eurasian ideas in Russia, and in the second, on the creation of a circle of persons spiritually connected with each other and variously gifted in terms of action.18

In 1927 Karsavin left Paris to take up a teaching post at the University of Kaunas in Lithuania, but he remained an active Eurasian until the schism of 1929.19 He lived in Kaunas until 1940, when his university removed to Vilnius. He lost his job after the Soviet occupation in 1945, and was duly arrested on 9 July 1949. He was then interrogated, mainly about the Eurasian movement.20 He stated that in 1926, when he first became involved, there was a Council (Soviet), which consisted of five men. In the order in which Karsavin names them, and which seems to indicate a hierarchy at least in his mind, they were: Trubetskoy, Savitsky, Suvchinsky, Arapov, and Malevsky-Malevich. At a congress in Prague in 1926, this Council chose a four-man Politbyuro – the Soviet-style term is indicative – which consisted of Trubetskoy, Suvchinsky, Malevsky-Malevich, and Arapov. The Council was then expanded; Karsavin himself joined it, but according to his own testimony he soon resigned. Three others joined the Council in or around 1926, precisely at what date Karsavin does not say; they were ‘the former Russian consul in Persia, Nikitin; colonel of the Tsar’s army Svyatopolk-Mirsky; and the officer Artomonov’. If this statement is accurate, it means that in the run-up to the schism the governing body of the Eurasian movement consisted of eight men, of whom Mirsky was one.

Karsavin himself seems to have been involved only in the public activities of the Eurasians. There was, though, another side to the movement, which Karsavin does not discuss, but which may be inferred from a passage in Mirsky’s essay of 1927:

In practical politics the Eurasians condemn all counter-revolutionary activity, not to speak of political terror or foreign intervention. They do not, however, abdicate from making propaganda for their ideas in the U.S.S.R., and signs are not lacking that these ideas are being favourably accepted inside the Union by ever-increasing numbers.21

Behind this coy reference to propaganda for their ideas in the USSR there lay in fact an extensive covert operation.

All the published accounts of Eurasianism suggest that it began as a purely intellectual enterprise, but was then hijacked and betrayed in about 1925-6 by politically motivated scoundrels, with Mirsky prominent among them. The story is usually told as a decline and fall from the innocence of the preternatural spiritual quest of the Russian intelligentsia to a Boshevik-bedevilled mess of cynical politicking.

This interpretation is not seriously defensible. Apart from anything else, the financial support that enabled the Eurasian movement, the ‘Spalding money’, came from a source whose motivation may not have been purely philanthropic, to say the least, and it was secured not by the Continental intellectuals but, according to most accounts, by Malevsky-Malevich, and negotiated with the aid of Arapov. Malevsky-Malevich and Arapov were quite different from Trubetskoy and Savitsky. They came not from intelligentsia, but from the executive arm of the old Imperial ruling class. Like Mirsky, they had both been career army officers in crack regiments, and they had served in the high command of the White armies during the Civil War. Exactly how much Mirsky knew about their activity when he wrote the passage about not abdicating from making propaganda in the USSR is unclear, but there is considerable circumstantial evidence to suggest that in fact he knew a great deal.

The role of Savitsky in all this is enigmatic. He was by no means a closeted intellectual of the kind that Trubetskoy made himself out to be.22 There is abundant evidence to suggest that Savitsky really did believe that the Eurasians could take power in Russia, that he fancied his own chances of assuming a leading position, and that he was deeply involved in political manoeuvring and covert activities. He made at least one covert trip to Russia, in the latter half of January and early February 1927, and boasted about the warmth of his reception, especially the fact that he was able to take Communion at a Moscow church.

The most detailed account published so far of the covert activities of the Eurasians comes from another source that only became available after the collapse of the USSR. On the night of 9/10 October 1939, just over a year after he was repatriated to Russia, Sergey Efron was arrested, and subjected to lengthy interrogation.23 The main focus was his participation in the Eurasian movement. His captors’ task was to build the case that the Eurasians had been a prime focus of anti-Soviet activity in the emigration, and to incriminate everyone who had been involved in it.24 Efron appears to have conducted himself with immense fortitude under interrogation. There is no reason to suppose that he told anything but the truth when his mental balance was judged to be disturbed; he was confined for a while in the psychiatric section of the Butyrka Prison after attempting suicide, and he was repeatedly beaten. The contents of these interrogations are grotesque to a degree that makes Darkness at Noon seem infantile. Efron repeatedly ‘confesses’ that he did indeed make contact with various Western intelligence services, but his equally genuine insistence that he did so under instructions from his GPU controller is unacceptable to the NKVD interrogator of 1939, because this aspect of the truth does not fit his brief, which was to prove that Efron was working against the USSR as a hired agent of foreign powers and not on behalf of it as a willing collaborator.

Efron stated that the Eurasians had two principal political goals for the future of Russia: first, the replacement of the economic monopoly of the state by state capitalism; and secondly, the replacement of Communists in the Soviet administrative structure by Eurasian sympathizers. To work for these goals there was a covert wing within the movement in emigration. Its activity was divided into three sectors. The first sector, said Efron, was concerned with the dispatch of Eurasian literature into the USSR, using in part the Polish diplomatic bag. This sector was organized by Konstantin Rodzevich and Pyotr Arapov. The second sector was concerned with sending emissaries into the USSR. This was undertaken through a body that Efron refers to as ‘the Trust’. Efront does not immediately say who ran this sector, but from his subsequent answers it is clear that the principal figure involved was also Pyotr Arapov. The task of the third sector, much less covert, was to spread Eurasian propaganda among Russians in France. This activity was organized by Efron himself; he would arrange meetings and discussion sessions, to which Soviet citizens living abroad as well as émigrés would be invited.

With the hindsight of seventy years, these goals and methods may seem intrinsically unrealistic, but in fact they represent one particular facet of the extensive practical efforts to undermine the Soviet regime that began in the emigration when the regime itself began, and ceased only with the collapse of the USSR in 1991. From the perspective of the post-Soviet period, one fundamental similarity between the Eurasian programme and that of Stalin’s CPSU is more striking than anything else: the Eurasians had no respect for what Mirsky once called ‘the paraphernalia of liberal democracy’, by which he meant government by popularly elected representatives. Mirsky explained Eurasian thinking on this point as follows:

They have given the name of ‘ideocracy’ to the system of government they propose. They visualize it as exercised by a unique party united by one idea, but an idea accepted by the symphonic personality of the People. Here again Communism and Fascism have to be regarded as rough approximations to a perfect ideocratic state. The insufficiency of Fascism lies in the essential jejuneness of its ruling idea, which has little content apart from the mere will to organize. The insufficiency of Communism lies in the only too obvious contradiction between a policy that is ideocratic in practice, and the materialist philosophy it is based on, which denies the reality of ideas, and reduces all history to processes of necessity.25

In Mirsky’s mind, this contradiction was soon to be resolved, as it was for so many others, by an acceptance of Stalin as the embodiment of ‘willed necessity’ (to cite a standard Soviet definition of freedom); Mirsky thus found a focus for the voluntarist principle that was central to all his positive judgments. But the fundamentally anti-democratic position of Eurasianism made it vitally cognate with the Soviet system, so that the politically minded Eurasians could reasonably think in terms of taking over that system and re-ideologizing it rather than conducting another revolution that involved the masses.

The most intriguing aspect of Efron’s deposition of 1939 concerns what he refers to as ‘the Trust’. This has long been known to have been the cover-name used for the most successful operation mounted by the Soviet secret service in the 1920s. Its activities have been described several times in English and elsewhere, but the Eurasians make hardly any appearance in these accounts.26 The Trust was a fictional anti-Soviet organization on Soviet territory invented by the GPU to smoke out, draw in, and eventually control anti-Soviet activity based abroad. The only authoritative account of this organization by someone who was actually involved with it outside Russia was written by S.L. Voitsekhovsky, a former White officer who was in emigration from September 1921 and seems to have become involved in covert activity very soon after that.27 Voitsekhovsky never makes clear the precise relationship between the émigré monarchist organizations on the one hand and the Eurasians on the other. This would appear to be because for him, as for many others, the relationship never actually was clear at the time. They evidently used the same channels of communication and shared some personnel, principally Pyotr Arapov. Several Russian scholars have stated with great confidence on the basis of archival documents that the Trust in fact penetrated the Eurasian movement via Pyotr Arapov as early as December 1922.28 Arapov did not simply write letters and send money into Russia; he was also a courier.

Pyotr Semyonovich Arapov remains one of the most enigmatic figures in Mirsky’s life. Apparently a few years younger than Mirsky, he was a nephew of General Vrangel, commanded his personal escort during the Civil War, and earned a reputation for ruthless cruelty.

Chapters Four through Seven examine Aufbau's rise and fall in Munich from 1920 to 1923. Aufbau gained its initial impetus from the cooperation between former volkisch German and White emigre Kapp Putsch conspirators located in Bavaria and General Piotr Vrangel's Southern Russian Armed Forces, which were based on the Crimean Peninsula in the Ukraine. Scheubner-Richter led a dangerous mission to the Crimea to specify the terms of mutual support between his right-wing German and White emigre backers in Bavaria and Vrangel's regime. The Red Army soon overran the Crimean Peninsula and sent Vrangel and his soldiers fleeing, but Scheubner-Richter nonetheless turned Aufbau into the dynamic focal point of volkisch German-White emigre collaboration.

-- The Russian Roots of Nazism: White Emigres and the Making of National Socialism, 1917-1945, by Michael Kellogg

In emigration, he seems to have been prominent in both the militant monarchist and the Eurasian movements. Under interrogation, Sergey Efron said that Arapov told him that he was connected with the intelligence services of Poland, Germany, and perhaps England; and that he had made these connections at the behest of the GPU. It seems abundantly clear that Arapov had been a Soviet agent from the start, but his motives and procedures for becoming one have gone with him to his unmarked grave. Suvchinsky and Savitsky knew about his connections with the Trust and his trips to Russia, but they seem to have taken all this at face value.

The nature of Mirsky’s relationship with Arapov, and some details of Arapov’s activities, can be reconstructed from the many passing references to him in Mirsky’s letters to Suvchinsky. Arapov lived with the Golitsyn family, Mirsky’s old friends, at Chessington in Surrey. He appears to have had no regular employment, but nonetheless to have been able to travel frequently between England and the Continent without difficulty. Mirsky first came into contact with Arapov late in 1922. The evidence in Mirsky’s letters to Suvchinsky about Arapov indicates that Mirsky regarded him as a ruthless, even unscrupulous man of action whose limited intellectual capabilities were an invaluable corrective to the endless theorizing of Savitsky and Suvchinsky. A firm friendship developed between the two men during the 1920s. Mirsky says several times that he misses Arapov badly when the latter is away on his various missions; it can be inferred from Mirsky’s letters to Suvchinsky that Arapov went to Russia in February 1925, February 1928, and December 1929. There may well have been other trips; the first of them may have taken place in September 1924.29

In strong contrast to his attitude towards Aropov, it is clear from the letters to Suvchinsky that Mirsky soon came to detest the other leading Eurasian who was based in England, Pyotr Nikolaevich Malevsky-Malevich (1891-1974). The latter published a New Party in Russia (London, 1928), which Mirsky derided almost as sarcastically as he did Spalding’s effort of the same year.30 The fact that these two books, the only contemporary accounts of the Eurasian movement in a language other than Russian, were published in English in London, suggests that they might have been undertaken as an effort to convince some paymaster of the value that was being obtained for his money. Where Malevsky-Malevich’s funding came from is obscure; like Arapov, he seems to have been a frequent international traveler on Eurasian and other business – he was certainly the principal Eurasian connection with the USA – but not to have held any kind of salaried post. Whatever may be the case, Malevsky-Malevich remains the most mysterious figure in the Eurasian high command.


Mirsky was back in London from America on 28 August 1928. In the first fort-night of October he sent off to Suvchinsky in Paris his first contributions to the newspaper that had been proposed in Eurasian circles.31 Mirsky then wrote an enigmatic letter to Suvchinsky on 16 October in which he outlines a project he calls ‘hommage a l’URSS’. He tells Suvchinsky that John Squire had promised an article on Lenin, and that on Leonard Woolf’s advice he had written to Maurice Dobb, Kingsley Martin,32 and Lowes Dickinson.33 Mirsky asks Suvchinsky what he should tell ‘these gents’ about fees. It looks as if this was a plan to get some prominent British left-wingers to write something about Soviet Russia.

Mirsky wrote to Salomeya Halpern from London on 6 November 1928 that he had been impossibly busy with Eurasian business during his recent time in Paris and unable to find the time to see even her. He did find the time to meet Mayakovsky on this occasion, though, and described him in this letter offhandedly – showing his own customary lack of seriousness towards Halpern – as ‘a very serious man’. For the public record he later said something much more substantial:

A future biographer will be faced with establishing to what extent this soul, ‘squeezed out’ of his work, found its revenge by manifesting itself in life. People who knew Mayakovsky well will perhaps write about this. On people who knew him superficially (like myself) he made, in the last years of his life, an impression of the greatest self-restraint and of feeling a sense of responsibility for every word he said.34

This meeting with Mayakovsky undoubtedly fuelled Mirsky’s push to have Tsvetaeva’s notorious salutation to him published in Eurasia.

The salutation itself has a headline in small type that runs over two columns: ‘V.V. Mayakovsky in Paris’, and beneath it: ‘V.V. Mayakovsky is presently a guest in Paris. The poet has given more than one public reading of his work. The editorial board of Eurasia offer below Marina Tsvetaeva’s salutation to him.’ Tsvetaeva’s words are set in two vertically parallel columns:

On 22 April 1922, the eve of my departure from Russia, early in the morning, on the completely deserted Kuznetsky I met Mayakovsky. ‘Well then, Mayakovsky, what message d’you want me to pass on to Europe?’

That the truth is over here.’

On 7 November 1928, late in the evening, as I was coming out of the Café Voltaire somebody asked me:

‘What d’you say about Russia after hearing Mayakovsky?’ – and I replied without hesitation: ‘That the power is over there.’

This item was not carried demonstratively on the front page of the first issue of Eurasia, as has sometimes been asserted, but as a tiny item squeezed into the top right-hand corner of the back page. This is telling evidence about how few people have actually ever seen the original; a complete run of the newspaper is perhaps the rarest of all Eurasian printed documents.

The first issue begins with an anonymous editorial that takes up half the front page and does not mention Eurasianism by name at all; instead, it speculates about various attitudes towards the Russian revolution and the building of the New Russia. An article by Trubetskoy, ‘Ideocracy and the Proleteriat’, begins at the top of the extreme right-hand column of the first page and continues on the top right-hand third of the second page. Its tone is strongly pro-Soviet, endorsing the dictatorship of the Party. The article continues in the second issue on 1 December. This was to be the only article Trubetskoy contributed to the newspaper. The dominant think-pieces that carry a signature in the first and other early issues are by Karsavin; his ‘The Meaning of Revolution’ occupies what Russians call the ‘cellar’ at the bottom of the first and second pages, and spills over onto the third. The middle sections of thepaper bring on some much more obscure figures. ‘An Assessment of the Economic Situation of the USSR’ by A.S. Adler, and ‘Points of Departure of Our Politics’ by N.N. Alekseev both manage to end on a hyphenated word on page 3 and continue on page 4, but at least they both end there without further spillage. The first issue also contains three anonymous items containing summary information, one concerning economic developments in the USSR, the second concerning major international events, and the third concerning events in the Russian emigration. Nikitin occupies the cellars on pages 5 and 6 with ‘The East and Us’. Then, relegated to the back as usual, come cultural affairs. There is a turgid survey article of current French literature over the odd signature ‘Ajaxes’, which the letters of Mirsky to Suvchinsky reveal to have been a pseudonym used by Malevsky-Malevich. And finally, at the back, comes Mirsky.

At some stage during the early work on the paper, Suvchinsky drafted an article under the title ‘The Revolution and Power’, which is a kind of pro-Soviet manifesto and eventually appeared in No. 8 on 12 January 1929. The manuscript text was shown to Trubetskoy, who wrote a letter strongly objecting to it. On 1 December 1928 Mirsky wrote to Suvchinsky that he had just seen Malevsky-Malevich, who had shown him Trubetskoy’s letter about this article. Mirsky responded:

This is of course a very serious crisis, and in my opinion we should try and deepen it, i.e. go for a final break. It’s clear that this is what Trubetskoy wants, and I don’t blame him all that much, knowing how much of a burden Eurasianism and politics are for him as a brake on his scholarly activity. But on the other hand we must not allow this completely unpublic-spirited man to put a brake on the work of Eurasianism. In my opinion there can be no question of any kind of ‘bans’ on the paper by Trubetskoy, nor of a kurultai [Eurasian council of state] to wind it up. We must accept the challenge and sever the diseased member (luckily not the prick, as it happens).

The conclusion of Mirsky’s argument is outrageous, and typically maximalist: he urges that two of the pillars of the movement be expelled from it:

Meanwhile, this incident demonstrates that the present organizational system of Eurasianism (‘the ‘group of five’) is completely unsatisfactory. It is essential to ‘democratize’ Eurasianism, to make it into a party … [We] need a big congress, with the central committee + representatives of the local organizations. There is no need to chase after representation from the USSR (which will in fact be representation by the GPU). The congress must be public (or at least open) and be of an agitational nature. The only alternative is a retreat to intelligentsia positions, turning [the movement] into a purely ideological circle, but even in that case it’s essential to distinguish it from the underground. But the thing I do insist on unconditionally is the immediate expulsion of Trubetskoy and Savitsky from Eurasianism, unless of course they submit unconditionally. But any more negotiations with them are impermissible. I understand that this break will be painful for you, but it’s essential, for otherwise Eurasianism is doomed to rot alive. (Each of us rotting individually is enough.) We must acknowledge the position that has already been created (and created by you). Eurasianism is you and the Paris group. There is nothing else worth talking about.


The seventh issue of Eurasia, published on 5 January 1929, carried Trubetskoy’s letter stating that he was leaving the editorial board and the Eurasian movement as a whole. From the tenth issue onwards the newspaper has an increasingly perfunctory feel. It may eventually become possible to establish the authorship of the anonymous articles and those signed by otherwise unknown persons and, in particular, to establish whether or not any of these pieces came from Soviet sources. The letters to Suvchinsky make it clear that even Mirsky did not know who had written some of these items. They are for the most quite unreadable; hindsight makes them risibly wide of the mark as the pointers to the future they were intended to be – even before Marxist inevitability entered the scene.

The unsigned leaders spelled out an increasingly hard pro-Stalin line, especially in discussing the left-wing and other deviations that had recently rocked the Soviet political boat. A series of anonymous articles on ‘The Problem of Ideocracy’ began in No. 12, published on 9 February 1929, and went on and on; as we shall see, these articles were written by Suvchinskyi, and subjected to increasingly harsh criticism by Mirsky in his eltters. The summaries of economic developments and the reports of what was going on in the USSR at the time, though, retain some interest since they manage to maintain a critical edge.

The single fresh voice to appear was that of the only woman to have made a serious contribution to Eurasianism, and then, as we see now, when it was staggering towards its demise: this was Mirsky’s protégée Emiliya Emmanuilovna Litauer, who contributed an extensive series of reviews on philosophical topics. They began with a piece on Heidegger’s Sein und Zeit in No. 2 and went on to tackle some more of the most serious publications in current Continental philosophy; this is technical philosophy on a high level of competence, and it contrasts strongly with the woolly ‘philosophizing’ of such as Karsavin and Suvchinsky.

The latter issues of Eurasia did succeed in attracting some advertising, which to the mentality of seventy years later is much more attractive as literary text than the ponderous articles that precede it. The advertisements tout the services of various Russian-speaking lawyers and doctors in Paris, along with some tailors and oculists; as always, the patent medicines are the most arresting items on offer.

On 26 January 1929 Mirsky informed Suvchinsky that he was so busy writing a big book – he was referring to Russia: A Social History – that he now had too little time to write serious articles for Eurasia. On 13 March 1919 Mirsky tried again for a showdown with Suvchinsky:

When I come over I want to confront directly the question of what we’re doing and what we want. It’s not a matter of the content of Eurasianism, but the way it impinges on real life. Do we anticipate taking power? Are we educating a younger generation? Are we addressing problems that are of general use for anybody besides ourselves? Are we trying to influence Stalin?

The file that was kept on Mirsky after his arrest states that on 24 April 1929 he took part in a meeting of the Eurasian Council; but what transpired has not been discovered so far. On 14 May 1929 Mirsky wrote one of his most peremptory letters to Suvchinsky, treating him now almost like a child. This is the ultimate example of Mirsky’s ‘numbered points’ procedure. He is reacting to the draft of an article, and begins by objecting to the way Suvchinsky makes his philosophy too overt. This is the beginning of a sustained assault:

Secondly, I object to your manner of philosophizing; in the articles about ideocracy, you’ve started writing without knowing how you were going to finish. You’ve been doing your thinking in public. This spadework should be done in private behind closed doors (in the bog, maybe). Thirdly, the philosophical part must be either a) immediately comprehensible, or b) if that is not possible, it must be written in absolutely precise and sustained terminology, and that terminology must be as far as possible 1) uniform, 2) avoid phenomenological language, which is alien to us, and stay close to Hegel, 3) when a new term or one that is not generally understood is introduced, a precise definition must be given immediately (which in the case of new concepts will even precede the appearance of the term itself, thus: this is what we call this process (or these facts)); for example, it took me a long time to understand in which of very many senses you were using the word ‘anthropology’, 4) if a concept is not absolutely new, then you shouldn’t dream up a new word for it, 5) the main thing is to stay completely away from unusual words that do not have an absolutely precise meaning.

In August 1929 Mirsky’s biography of Lenin was commissioned, and he set to work on the reading that would, as he soon asserted, redefine and clarify his entire attitude, leaving all half-way houses behind. On 1 September he peremptorily told Suvchinsky that with Efron and Rodzevich he had decided to close the newspaper after the next issue. He also emphasized that there was no further reason for him to stay in the same organization as Malevich. It took the rest of the year for the affairs of the newspaper to be wound up.

By the time the newspaper closed, Mirsky had published about forty separate items in it. Not surprisingly, his original role was that of the leading spokesman on literature and culture. His first two contributions appeared together in the back pages of the first issue. One of them is an essay on Tolstoy, a pendant to the magnificent articles in English of 1928, the centenary of Tolstoy’s birth, and it concludes with the noblest declaration of his sense of personal ethics that Mirsky ever set down. His familiar emphasis on the creative will is replaced here by a stress on the ethical implications of the passivity he could not tolerate:

Tolstoy’s prophetic inspiration was eventually more powerful than the commandments he invented. We do not believe him when he says that to serve the cause of social justice it is better to do nothing. But the fact that each one of us bears within ourselves responsibility for present untruth; that not a single one of our submissions to this untruth is morally indifferent; that he who is not with the truth is against it, and that there can be no neutrality in this argument; that the first obligation of a man and a Christian is his obligation towards the community of his brothers; than any wealth of the one is founded on the poverty of others, and is therefore criminal and ought to be abolished – all this remains true, and it was all said by Tolstoy more loudly, more powerfully, and more pitilessly than by anybody else, and Tolstoy will always remain the Teacher.35

The second item by Mirsky in this first issue, though, contrasts strangely with the ringing confidence of the piece on Tolstoy. It is a review of the younger Soviet poet Bagritsky’s collection The South-West, an dis crushed in small type onto the back page underneath Tsvetaeva’s greeting. Mirsky singles out and cites one poem from the book as ‘not only one of the best lyric poems of the post-revolutionary period, but one that both in terms of its theme and its tone must necessarily be very close for many men of our generation’:

Against black breath and faithful wife
We’ve been inoculated by greensickness.
Our years have been tried by hoof and stone,
Our fluids suffused with evergreen wormwood.—
Wormwood that’s bitter upon our liops …36

Mirsky supplied some more pieces to Eurasia on literary subjects as 1929 went on, none of them up to his highest standards except for two, which discuss Khlebnikov and Chekhov.37 There are two articles, again characteristically on rising Soviet authors – one on Nikolay Tikhonov and the other called ‘Prose by Poets’, one of his old warhorses. There is also what became almost the final word Mirsky published about Russian émigré literature; his opinion corresponds very closely to what he said on the same topic for Slavisch Rundschau. And there is another interesting piece on literature and cinema.38

Mirsky contributed his most significant articles to Eurasia on non-literary subjects. They are the most explicitly pro-Soviet items in the newspaper. Mirsky’s largest contribution was a doggedly factual thirteen-part series on ‘The Nationalities of the USSR’. It reads in fact like a translation of the appropriate parts of his Russia: A Social History. In a series of purely political articles Mirsky contributed between January and March 1929 he speaks explicitly as a Eurasian, examining the compatibility of Marxist and other ideas with the standpoint of the movement. They begin with ‘The Proletariat and the Idea of Class’ on 19 January, continue with ‘Our Marxism’ on 2 February, ‘Three Theses on Ideocracy’ on 9 February, ‘The Problem of the Difference between Russia and Europe’ on 23 February, and culminate with a three-part discussion of ‘The Social Nature of Russian Power’ that ran to the end of March. In these articles, Mirsky essentially redefines Eurasianism in the spirit of his nascent Marxism; the end result is to present the case that there is no further justification for the independent existence of Eurasianism itself.

The schism in the Eurasian movement, and the political articles Mirsky contributed to the newspaper in 1929, it goes without saying, related to the contemporary events in Russia and elsewhere that made this year a turning-point. In Russia, Stalin decisively consolidated his power. In 1927, he had eliminated the Left Opposition – Trotsky and his followers. In 1928 he conducted the elimination of the Right Opposition, the comrades who had supported him against Trotsky – chief among them Kamenev and Zinoviev, who were soon followed by Bukharin, Rykov, and Tomsky. Stalin then brought back Radek, Zinoviev, and Kamenev, humiliated and cowed. In December 1928 the extension of Soviet power to the countryside, the brutal anti-kulak campaign, began. On the industrial front, the Shakhty trial was mounted at the same time. In February 1929, Trotsky was expelled from the USSR. The collectivization of agriculture and the first Five-Year Plan were pushed ahead. Elsewhere in Europe, the first triumphal Nazi rally was held in Nuremberg as the party’s elected representation rose in the Reichstag; the British parliament acquired a precarious Labour majority;39 and in the USA, on ‘Black Thursday’, 24 October 1929, the New York stock market collapsed. On 17 October 1929 Mirsky ended a letter to Suvchinsky with an eloquent sentence: ‘In my room are installed as the only decorations a World Map (published by Moscow Worker Press) and a portrait of Stalin looking at it.’

On 31 October 1929 Mirsky wrote Suvchinsky what is essentially his farewell to Eurasianism, a letter also tantamount to a farewell to Suvchinsky as a serious ally. The disenchanted attitude towards the USSR here is particularly remarkable; Mirsky had no illusions whatsoever about the way he and the others were viewed by the Soviet authorities. He thinks about his own possible contribution in terms of service, as a subordinate working to external command:

[The] authorities will never agree to let in a group of people who wish to develop a new ideology … [As] a group we can be useful only through what we do here. Only here can we retain the external independence that alone can give us some kind of authority. Over there we can work only as individuals, and then only if we entirely and unconditionally enter the orbit of the C[ommunity] P[arty] (which I personally would agree to do, but I shan’t go there for a long time yet because I think there’s a greater need for me here, if I’m needed at all)… As far as I’m concerned, the ideology of Eurasianism was only a means, a working hypothesis, which has no fulfilled its function. I’ve said all this (approximately) to Arapov too, and he accuses me of defeatism, aber ich kann nicht anders.

In his next paragraph, Mirsky unwittingly foretells his own personal fate; ‘to be sent to places far removed’ was the Tsarist administration’s language for internal exile, and it persisted into the Soviet period:

Going back to practical matters, and once again absolutely condemning the idea of transferring to the Union, at the same time I would very much welcome it if you made a trip there, with Arapov or without. With your well-known ability to butter up and charm people, such a trip might bring good results. But of course one can only consider this if there is a favorable solution to our practice problems. Any kind of transition from visit to residence will of course end badly, most likely of all in places more or less far removed.

Mirsky goes on to dismiss the course he was shortly to take:

One could still think about Gorky, but you understand of course that a connection with Gorky can only come about as a result of the liquidation of organized Eurasianism and a transition to a broad alliance of non-party Leninist-Stalinists. I would welcome an alliance of that kind, of course, and there is a place in it for us. But in practice I don’t believe in it. Everything that has ever been done on Gorky’s initiative has always been afflicted with sterility.

On 11 November 1929 he told Suvchinsky: ‘I’m writing to you just after finishing the Leader’s October article.40 I’ll read the rest of it on the way to Oxford, where I’m going with Arapov to give a lecture.’ This was the occasion when Mirsky was observed by Isaiah Berlin, who gave me a completely different account of what went on that evening from the published account of the meeting. The report in the Oxford Magazine summarizes a familiar line of Mirsky’s about Pushkin’s non-metaphorical style; Berlin, however, insisted that Mirsky was drunk and incapable of coherent speech and thought.41

This was probably one of the occasions on which Mirsky stayed with the Spaldings; in the words of the daughter of the family: ‘In those days we lived in Shotover outside Oxford and I seem to remember that Prince Mirsky mostly stayed in a cottage, then called Domic [Russian domik, ‘little house’], with the Narishkins at the bottom of our garden.’ This may have been the same visit Miss Spalding was speaking about when she said: ‘I certainly remember my parents being much put out when they had invited a number of people to tea to hear, as they expected, Prince Mirsky talking along White Russian lines, to find that over night he had turned Red.’42


Mirsky actually proclaimed himself a committed Communist in a letter written to Suvchinsky from London two days after the trip with Arapov to Oxford, on 13 November 1929. Two years later he published an account of how his conversion came about. It points to several factors that influenced his decision. In particular, Mirsky named three living men who played a part in converting him to Marxism. Two of them were Russians. The first, as we might expect, was Gorky, whose ‘Marxism’ was of an extremely peculiar kind, indistinguishable in fact from Nietzscheanism. The second was the historian M.N. Pokrovsky, whose work Mirsky translated, as we have seen. The third was an Englishman, Maurice Dobb (1900-76), lecturer in economics at the University of Cambridge from 1924, and a founder member of the Communist Party of Great Britain in 1920. In Mirsky’s reference to Dobb, the use of the word ‘realities’ is piquant:

The third source of help was a growing acquaintance with Soviet realities – especially with the great economic achievement of the period of recovery. Maurice Dobb’s Economic Developments in Soviet Russia was of particular assistance. It made me finally understand that the Nep was not transforming Russia into a peasant bourgeois community, but was indeed heading towards Socialism.43

On 11 November 1929 in London, after watching Battleship Potemkin, Mirsky met Eisenstein and Aleksandrov,44 and with the latter, as he told Suvchinsky, he had ‘a long and interesting conversation – he spoke about Soviet construction, the state farms, and all this in such an encouraging spirit (very concrete) that I was even more confirmed in the general line’. Mirsky’s next letter to Suvchinsky, written on 13 November, is characteristically categorical:

Workers of the World, Unite!

That Marxism is correct as a theory of history is for me not conditional but absolute. … I assert the absolute value of Marxism as a historian, and this is my considered and tested conviction, formed precisely through the study of precapitalist periods. The only matter in which I do not go along with current Marxism is that I do not draw conclusions of a metaphysical nature from the absolute correctness of historical materialism.

The last letter to Suvchinsky of the intensive series that began when Mirsky became seriously involved with Eurasianism in 1926 was written on 22 January 1930. Mirsky tells his friend that he has got down to writing his biography of Lenin. To judge from the remainder of the letter, nothing untoward had happened between the two men. But there was then a sixteen-month break in the correspondence, at least from Mirsky’s side; he next wrote to Suvchinsky on 21 May 1931. What went on in the interval is impossible to reconstruct in any detail on the basis of the evidence currently available. Mirsky had nothing further to do with organized Eurasianism, except to pour scorn on it in his account of his conversion to Marxism. But it was in April 1930 that relations between Mirsky and Suvchinsky’s wife, Vera, reached a crisis, and the break with Suvchinsky doubtless had something to do with this.
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Part 5 of 6


In October 1928, just before the launch of Eurasia, Dorothy Galton (1901-92) was appointed secretary to Bernard Pares at the School of Slavonic Studies and came into contact with Mirsky.45 In her published account of her relationship with Mirsky, Miss Galton set down one of the most striking representations we have of Mirsky’s social demeanour as it appeared towards the end of the émigré period:

His memory was prodigious and he had a profound knowledge of at least four literatures. His post at the School, as all lectureships in those days, only provided a small salary, but he probably earned additional money from his books, lectures and articles; it must have been on the rare occasions that he had such a windfall that he would ask me out to dinner. He loved good food and drink; I have seen him start with oysters and Bass, go on to white and red wine, and end by drinking a quarter-bottle of port, while I sipped a little of the wine. Meanwhile, instead of conversing, he would recite poetry in any of his four languages.46

Mirsky’s letters to Miss Galton provide ample evidence that during his last years in emigration, after he had made his decisive move to the left, he continued the pattern of life he had established in 1922, supplementing his salary included. The very first of Mirsky’s surviving letters to Dorothy Galton, written from the up-market resort of Talloires in Haute Savoie on 20 July 1929, reveals that at some time he had signed up with Gerald Christy’s Lecture Agency. Exactly how much work came his way through this organization is not clear, but in a c.v. probably written in 1931 Mirsky states that besides the lectures in America and to the Bronte Society that we already know about, he had lectured at the Royal Society of Literature, the English Association, something called the Ethological Society, the Tolstoy Society, the Philosophical Society (Newcastle upon Tyne), the Literary and Philosophical Society (Hull), ‘etc.’ Of these occasions, by ‘the Tolstoy Society’ Mirsky probably means the lecture he gave on critical assessments of Tolstoy at a Tolstoy Memorial dinner on 6 November 1928. He had accepted this assignment on 28 October 1928 from the PEN Club; it was presided over by John Galsworthy.47 At the time he composed this c.v. Mirsky had in progress a course of lectures on ‘Intellectual Europe of the Present Day’ at the City Literary Institute. As before, Mirsky was in London only during term-time.

The only doctoral student Mirsky supervised to completion in his last years in London was Elizabeth Hill, who took her undergraduate degree at the School in 1924 and finished her thesis in 1931. Mirsky wrote a preface to her first book.48 Elizabeth Hill was the only person who gained both undergraduate and graduate degrees in Mirsky’s subject during his time at the School. In her words, ‘We admired his brain and originality, but he was shy and remote in his dealings with us.’49

In the autumn of 1929 Mirsky discouraged E.H. Carr as a potential graduate student. On 1 November, Carr noted in his diary: ‘Letter from Pares who wants me “to meet Mirsky” to take Ph.D. degree!’ Then, on 19 November: ‘Went up to see Mirsky: an amusing talk; he doesn’t care whether I take a degree or not.’ And finally, on 27 November: ‘Mirsky lunched with me: got some interesting details out of him. A strange creature.’50 Mirsky kept in touch with Carr and wrote a preface, which is very outspoken, to his first book, as he had to Elizabeth Hill’s.51 According to Carr, ‘It is quite worthwhile. He said that he had written it because otherwise Pares would have done it, and this would have spoiled the book.’52

Mirsky supervised part of the doctoral work of Andrew Guershoon Colin, Bertha Malnick, and Helen Muchnic,53 all of whom went on to publish significant work in the field of Russian language and literature. But his attitude towards his teaching was becoming more and more casual, as his initial communications with Carr suggest. And his relations with his boss, Bernard Pares, soon began to deteriorate.

The earliest evidence of serious trouble between Mirsky and his Director came soon after the end of the work on Eurasia. On 24 January 1930 comes the first of a series of letters to Florinsky that demonstrates just how unsettled Mirsky was becoming; he is still aristocratically arrogant, though, and yet again uses numbered points:

I have suddenly (not altogether suddenly) concluded that I need to move to America. Could you perhaps help me in this, perhaps through the good Shotwell? Most of all I would like a one-year stint at a University so as to have a look round, and then either find something better or come back here. Cohabitation with Pares, a la longue (though non-consomme) is becoming intolerable. And there are no prospects for anything better. My communism notwithstanding, I really can’t go to the USSR,-- I’m socially alien no matter what. There remains America. I very much rely on the assistance of you and Shotwell. I would point out the following: 1) My speciality is not literature but history; 2) Most of all I would like to get to Stanford because of the climate (and the proximity of Hollywood), and also it seems they like inviting guest speakers there, and they have a leftish inclination; 3) I absolutely don’t want to go to Columbia.

Mirsky followed this up on 30 January: ‘I apologise for sticking to you like a leaf in a bathhouse. I have just found out that there is a vacancy at Stanford University for the chair of Russian history. Do you not think that this is the hand of Providence and that I ought to do something?’ Five weeks then went by. Mirsky wrote again to Florinsky on 7 March:

My plans for America have been put aside for the time being, it may well be that I’ll come to America next summer, since (this is confidential for the time being) California University looks as if they’re going to invite me. I’ve had a massive scandal with Pares that ended with making things up like a lovers’ quarrel.

How are your intimate feelings? In all respects I’m in a very indeterminate and transitional state – l’age dangereux. Perhaps by the end of the year things will become clearer.


The most striking manifestation of this ‘dangerous age’, or mid-life crisis, concerned Mirsky’s personal life. It involved Vera, the wife of his closest friend, Suvchinsky, and took place in the spring of 1930.54 Vera told me that he had met Mirsky ‘as a Eurasian’ before she came to Paris, in 1924 or early 1925, and thought about marrying him then. Vera was born in St. Petersburg in 1906, the daughter of Aleksandr Guchkov (1862-1936, one of the most colourful politicians of the Duma period of Russian history;55 his grandfather had been an Old Believer peasant, but his father made a fortune as a Moscow merchant. Vera’s mother, who was in her daughter’s words ‘religious and eccentric’, came from the musical Ziloti family; one of her brothers was a famous conductor, the other an admiral. Vera herself was named after her godmother, the great actress and theatrical impresario Vera Kommisarzhevskaya. She attended the Taganskaya gimnaziya in Petersburg – one of the top two for girls, according to her own account – before continuing her schooling in the Caucasus after the family fled south in 1917. When they arrived in Berlin, Vera went to the Russian gimnaziya that had opened there, one of her classmates and friends being Nabokov’s sister Olga. She then went to Berlin University for two years, reading philosophy, but left to get married before taking her diploma. She came to England several times before 1925, on visas arranged by Bernard Pares, who had known her father before the revolution.

Vera married Pyotr Suvchinsky in Paris towards the end of 1925, and after that came to know all the principal Eurasians. She claimed the credit for making Mirsky revise his opinion of Tsvetaeva; and she was present when Mirsky and Suvchinsky met the poet in person at the end of 1925.56 In the summer of 1928 she spent some time at Pontaillac with Suvchinsky, the Karsavin and Nikitin families, and other Eurasians; it was during this summer sojourn that much of the immediate planning for Eurasia must have been done. During this time, on 1 September, Marina Tsvetaeva wrote Vera an extraordinary letter of affection.57 But Vera was much more fond of Efron than of his wife; and she felt great sympathy for their daughter, Alya, who was six years younger than she was.

Vera kept seven of her letters from Mirsky. They all date from the first half of 1930, and they constitute the only substantial first-hand evidence there is about Mirsky’s intimate life where a person of the opposite sex is involved. They are also the only documents that show Mirsky slackening his intellectual control. The first of them dates from 12 March 1930, and was probably written in London. Mirsky refers to Vera’s husband Suvchinsky by his pet name, ‘Petya’:

My dear sweet Vera, I’ve reread your letter many times, and thought about you weeping as you wrote, and about much more besides, and that night couldn’t get to sleep for a long time…. I mentally wrote you a letter on all these subjects, but [perhaps] it’s better that it should remain for the time being unwritten. Now my only task is to live through these sixteen days without loosening my grip and without yielding to provocations (from within myself). I think I’ll manage it, thanks specifically to what you call my lack of seriousness but which is in fact my unconscious optimism (purely dialectical, i.e. relating to this specific stage). Yesterday I sent you some very foolish poetry and I’m afraid I overtaxed your patience with it, but really I’ve been completely obsessed with that rubbish for three days now.

In spite of all that Lenin is progressing well and keeping me going. Up to yesterday the task was overfulfilled by 9Q%. Without Lenin I don’t know what I’d do (and today I’m 11% over).

When he mentions here that ‘Lenin’ is progressing well, Mirsky refers to the biography of Lenin that he began in August 1929 and finished in May 1930. It is the most dated of all Mirsky’s books to read now, its categorical assertion of truth contradicted by the evolution of history since 1930 so comprehensively as to make what Mirsky says verge on the surreal. However, despite the absence of explicit autobiography that characterizes all Mirsky’s writings, Lenin is at the same time of all his books the one in which his own personality seems to be most profoundly engaged. Lenin had no sympathy for the whining and posturing of the intelligentsia; the fact that they were whining and posturing about such issues as the liquidation of those with whom one does not agree is apparently as unimportant to Mirsky as it was to Lenin. He finds in Lenin what was undoubtedly his own ideal, a synthesis of thought and action, where being is indivisible from consciousness:

Lenin’s life was ultimately all action. But, unlike the men of action of previous history, action in him was not dissociated from theoretical knowledge. His political career is explained without omission in his written work. Every one of his acts sprang from knowledge that was organically related to theory. They were not the outcome of those short cuts that go by the name of intuition, but were matured and carried out in the full light of logical consciousness. The complete harmony between action and understanding which we find in Lenin is the first announcement of a new age, the age of Socialism, whose main characteristic will be the absolute ‘transparency’ of its activity in the light of its own understanding.58

Meanwhile, the man who wrote this paean to the willed suppression of the emotions and inflexible self-dedication to the cause was – for the only time in his life, so far as we know – thrashing about in a paroxysm of self-abasing emotion. The day after his first letter to Vera, he wrote to Michael Florinksy:

Right now my life is taking a highly dramatic turn (not in the political sense) and I am completely unable to foresee how it will develop, but in any case to leave for America would be extremely desirable. Otherwise all I have left is the road to the USSR, which I could easily take tomorrow, but restrain myself for the time being for reasons of a purely personal nature.

In the middle of all this, during the Easter vacation of 1930, in fact in early April, Mirsky made the most spectacular of all the eating trips that we know about, to the Hotel Terminus, Lyon Perrache. The Guide Bleu of the period, his standby in these matters, proclaims it to be: ‘etablissement de luxe, vieille reputation, specialite de poulardes a la gelee et de quenelles Morateur’.59 By 7 April Mirsky had apparently passed through Paris and seen Vera; he wrote to her on that day from Lyon, practically abandoning punctuation, and making a pathetically childish sexual boast:

My dear unique beloved Vera my sweet. Very soon after the train left the girl you liked came up to my window and started smiling at me very charmingly at which I also began smiling at her and then she came and sat down next to me and I had a conversation with her, je m’imaginais that she was your representative. I was very happy. But the lady who had been travelling with me on her own at the far end soon started getting so obviously bored and not knowing where to put herself and fidgeting that I felt absolutely awkward and in Dijon just so she wouldn’t fidget I bought her Vu, Cinemonde and Detective,60 but as for conversing, I didn’t do that all the way to Lyon. I even didn’t take advantage of the tempting possibility of raping her in a tunnel we were in for a long time. Please signale ca to Petya. However, the whole way here I was thinking only of your perfections which more and more amaze and impress me. Really I can’t understand how it can be that you exist in the world. Where did you come from? Sweetie?

I had dinner here at Morateur’s; he was very gracious and tried to make me get more wine going but I was just as firm as I was yesterday with the Arapovs.61

On 10 April 1930 Mirsky wrote again to Vera:

My dear sweetie, I hoped very much to get a letter from you here but so far I haven't. There'll be one more post before I leave, though. What are you doing? -- it interests me very much and worries me. As does which way your mind is working (qui est si grand).

Today it's very hot the first real hot day (in the sun) although now the clouds seem to be gathering about the Montagne de Lans. Yesterday I had dinner with Sonya and Volodya in a restaurant and had quite a lot to drink. I got so disgusted with myself for -being such an abysmal and total drunkard. Sweetie when we live together you must seriously get down to rooting this out because it's unspeakableness and dissipation. You see your presence in itself will make things better.

The next letter to Vera is from St Pierre de Rumilly, dated Friday, I I April 193o.62 Mirsky reported to Miss Galton on I4 April from Paris that he would probably not be back in London before later that month. This was the day that Mayakovsky committed suicide; Mirsky was soon to publish his considered thoughts on the matter. On May Day Mirsky wrote from his Gower Street address to Salomeya Halpern a letter whose opening sentences resume the story of his relationship with Vera; by now, it seems, she had left her husband and moved back in with her parents (or one of them; her father had remarried by this time):

My dear, I have to bother you with a request to help fix up a position for Vera Suvchinskaya. Apart from her completely catastrophic financial position, she is very brought down by her enforced idleness and dependence on her parents. The most desirable thing would be, if possible, to arrange a position as secretary or something like that whereby she could live at the place where she works. It would be especially desirable if it could not be in Paris, or involve taking trips, e.g. chaperoning idiot women from America.

This, then, is how Mirsky the proto-Communist understood the permissible roles of younger women; the awkward praise of her intelligence and abilities that he had expressed in his intimate letters to Vera shortly before he wrote to Salomeya throw his social conventionality into even greater relief. It must have been perfectly obvious to Salomeya that Mirsky was really trying to find a way of detaching Vera from her family and finding her a place in London where they could be together as much as possible.

According to Vera, Mirsky told her that if she did marry him, they would stay in England, because at the time she was not enough of a Communist to be taken to Moscow. She reported her response as: 'I love you, I adore you, I have no better friend, but as for marriage -- no.' The insurmountable reason for her refusal, she told me in a few sentences that she would not allow to be recorded, was that Mirsky was sexually impotent. Vera was a vigorous 24 at the time, and Mirsky had just reached 40; she was coming to the end of a loveless first marriage to another Russian emigre of Mirsky's age and roughly similar background. She had married Suvchinsky to get away from her parents and had broken off her education; there was no way now she could achieve independence by taking up a profession. This vivacious young woman was born into politics, impatient of intellectuals, not seriously interested in the arts, and in other circumstances would have been immensely well suited for some sort of public career. As things were, the most she was ever able to do before 1939 was become a Communist foot soldier, which inevitably involved her not so · much in public affairs as in skulduggery.

From Paris on 22 September Mirsky informed Miss Galton that he would be back in London by the last day of the month. He came back to trouble. A postcard to Miss Galton datestamped in London on 25 October 1930 bears the simple message: 'Pares is a bloody idiot.' On a postcard dated 19 November from somewhere in London Mirsky tells Miss Galton that he had had a most interesting dream the night before, 'consisting of a long conversation with prominent officials of the GPU'.


A frustrated love affair with an emigree Russian who refused to go back to Russia with him was one important factor among many that drove Mayakovsky to suicide. Mirsky wrote two obituaries of the poet, one in English and one in Russian. The Russian version is dated 7 November 1930, and is the earliest example of Mirsky dealing with literature in uncompromising Marxist categories. It is structured as an extended comparison between Pushkin and Mayakovsky, the deaths of whom Mirsky takes to have both marked the end of an epoch. The article takes wing when, towards the end, Mirsky starts to look closely at Mayakovsky as a representative of a particular generation, which he calls 'the generation of the 1910s', and among which he implicitly includes himself.

The writers among these people stand in a tight 'genetically antithetical' relationship with Symbolism, argues Mirsky, and they fight against Symbolism on its own ground. They are stronger and more healthy, because they are nearer to the health-giving plebeian soil, but internally they are profoundly cognate with their predecessors. Like them they are individualists, but more active and -- again -- more healthy. They do not create closed worlds of subjective experience, but assert their right to live in their own way; their time sees the flowering of the Russian bohemia. They go much further than the Symbolists in the individual differentiation of their techniques, in conscious 'originality'. Like the Symbolists they are formalists, but their formalism is more active and materialist; the work of art for them is not an aesthetic (i.e. passively perceptible) 'value', but instead a series of technical processes which culminate in the creation of a material 'thing', which, using Shklovsky's famous phrase, Mirsky refers to as 'the sum of its devices'. 63

Mayakovsky, says Mirsky, was the most prominent figure in the generation he is talking about. And unlike most of the others, the poet was explicitly on the side of the revolution from the very beginning. But ten years after the revolution, another generation of writers came on the scene who possessed not an individualistic outlook but one for which, as the class society of NEP was overcome by the Great Leap Forward in 1929, the individual could be subordinated to the mass without a legacy of personal anxiety. Mayakovsky understood the necessity for this transition, but committed suicide in a noble act of recognition that he as an incorrigible individualist was incapable of making it:

We do not know the subjective reasons that led Mayakovsky to suicide (and let us hope that we will not find out soon -- 'the late lamented didn't like that at all'). But the objective meaning of his death is clear: it is an acknowledgement that the new Soviet culture has no need of individualistic literature, which has its roots in pre-revolutionary society.64

Mayakovsky, concludes Mirsky, 'laid bare his antique soul only in order to murder it'. His suicide was 'the act of an individualist and at the same time a putting down of individualism. It buried pre-proletarian literature once and for all.'

Seen from the point of view of someone who values literature, this position revalidates individualism, since literature is not possible without it; but Mirsky apparently now believed that literature, as a phenomenon lacking social utility, may wither away unlamented. Six weeks after he said all this, Mirsky finally wrote another letter to Gorky and set in train the events that were to lead to his return to Russia. Nearly three years had elapsed since his visit to Sorrento with Suvchinsky. 65


Meanwhile, on the real 'literary front' in the real Soviet Russia the public events that led Mayakovsky to commit suicide unrolled. From the beginning of its rule, the Party leadership had issued numerous pronouncements about literature, but it had always stressed that the aesthetic side was not its concern, and apparently meant what it said.66 The Party leadership also insisted that it did not want to get involved in the administration of the creative arts. After all, it had more weighty matters on hand.

After the Great Leap Forward began in 1929 the Party became aggressively interventionist in cultural affairs. However, the idea of the publicly endorsed professional literary organization, so foreign to accepted notions in the Western world about how cultural activity should properly be conducted, was not a Stalinist innovation in Russia. During the 1920s a succession of such organizations had existed, each bidding for the endorsement by the Party that would bring with it decisive political and economic clout. By 1929 the leading organization in the field was the militantly Marxist Russian Association of Proletarian Writers (RAPP).67 This was the organization that did most to alienate Mayakovsky.

Its leader acted as Mirsky's mentor in the first years after his return to Russia. Before he was 30 years old, Leopold Averbakh (1903-37) became the single most powerful person in the Soviet literary world. He dressed in a military-style tunic and jackboots, wore a pince-nez, shaved his head so that it glistened like a billiard-ball, could overwhelm anybody by sheer force of oratory, and would unquestioningly do anything the Party told him to; he was the very model of a 1920s Bolshevik functionary. Averbakh belonged to a new elite, but one that made use of the kind of connections that no human system seems able to keep out or down for very long. He came from a prosperous merchant family in Nizhny Novgorod. His mother was the sister of Yakov Sverdlov, Lenin's right-hand man; their brother Zinovy Peshkov was Gorky's stepson. Averbakh's wife was the daughter of another crony of Lenin's, Vladimir Dmitrievich Bonch-Bruevich, who adopted and brought up Averbakh's son when the father was arrested and the mother exiled in 1937; And Averbakh's sister Ida was married to the notorious Genrikh Yagoda (I89I-1938), an orphan whom their father had taken in and brought up; he became the head of the NKVD at the start of the purges in 1934.

Averbakh and his buddies wanted to keep RAPP in existence, and have it endorsed by the Party, but Stalin and the Party bosses overruled him. In its last years RAPP was split into two warring factions, and could hardly have been endorsed anyway. Stalin's preference -- Or that of the key policy-makers in the Party -- was for a unitary organization without any formal ties to the recent past, one that could be presented as a consensus arrived at by the mutually hostile groupings, with the Party acting as grand conciliator. It would be a centrist body and eliminate the infighting that had been for many an archaic and undignified feature of the Soviet literary scene in the 192os; it would reflect the new socialist society in which class conflict was supposed to have been eliminated. Not coincidentally, it would be much easier to control than a variety of squabbling groups. There is no doubt that the majority of the creative intelligentsia welcomed this prospect at the time. Among other things, the material benefits to them promised to be considerable.


Stalin needed Gorky more than Gorky needed Stalin: Gorky was the only international cultural star available to the Party whose participation would lend respectability and the appearance of continuity in the national cultural tradition to what was in prospect. There was no doubt whatsoever that in the last analysis Gorky was on the side of the revolution: his interventions in international cultural politics had always been on balance pro-Soviet. He paid the price by, among other things, making himself unelectable for the Nobel Prize for literature; he was by far the most meritorious Russian candidate after the First World War, and the award of it to the relatively paltry emigre Bunin in 1933 was commonly regarded at the time, and rightly, as a despicable act of political expediency. Bunin's own relentless lobbying for it alone should have been enough to disqualify him.

Gorky was pitilessly worked on by the Soviet security services while he was living in Sorrento. Yagoda, who became the first truly Stalinist head of them, had, apart from his professional assignment, a personal interest in courting Gorky: he was attracted to Nadya Peshkova, the writer's daughter-in-law. At some time in the late 1920s Gorky was added to the GPU payroll, though just how fully aware he was of the source of the money and perks that came his way is not known.

The pressure on Gorky to come back to Russia ·increased when his 60th birthday was celebrated in the spring of 1928. On 27 May that year, a few months after Mirsky and Suvchinsky had visited him in Sorrento, Gorky finally agreed to make a summer visit to Russia, and he was duly feted on a tour of the country in July and August. He was allotted some of the luxury perquisites that had been expropriated from 'has-beens' like Mirsky in 19I7-I8: the former Ryabushkinsky mansion to live in when he was in Moscow, a palatial dacha in the Crimea, and another dacha at Gorki68 in the countryside near Moscow. Gorky regularly made grumbling protests against these signs of personal favour, emphasizing to anyone who would listen that· 'the people' had bestowed them on him, and that he did not personally own what had been allotted to him in the proletarian paradise. One reason why Gorky decided to go back may well have been financial; his international reputation and sales outside Russia were beginning to slip. It is tempting to speculate about what arrangements were subsequently made (or Gorky by the Soviet authorities in the matter of receiving his foreign royalties. Was he deemed to wish to surrender them to the state, in the way that later became standard practice for Soviet figures of international stature in the arts?

In the summer of 1929 Gorky visited Russia again, this time for a longer period. Among other things he made a tour of inspection to Solovki, the pioneering Soviet concentration camp in the far north-west, where he was duly impressed by the success of what he genuinely took to be a rehabilitation programme. It is not clear whether he set eyes on the religious philosopher Father Pavel Florensky or the medieval historian and later Academician Dmitry Likhachov, who were serving sentences in Solovki at the time of his visit. On IS November 1930 Gorky demonstrated beyond all doubt which side he was on by publishing an article which soon became notorious, entitled 'If the Enemy Does Not Surrender, He Is Exterminated'. This principle soon came to seem like an ·expression of old-fashioned humanitarianism· the highly placed 'enemies' such as Bukharin, .Zinoviev, and Kamenev, who did surrender to Stalin, were exterminated in short order nonetheless.

Gorky went back to Russia for the summer again in 1931, and made his decisive move back to Moscow in the spring of 1932, about six months before Mirsky; the winter of 1932-3 was the last he spent by the Mediterranean. The return of the great man was anticipated and commemorated by a burst of the renaming mania that would become a familiar feature of Soviet life. The old Tverskaya, the premier Moscow thoroughfare heading north-west from the centre, was renamed for Gorky in 1931. In 1932, the fortieth anniversary of Gorky's literary debut, all manner of things were named after him: the city of Nizhny Novgorod, the Literary Institute that was being planned in Moscow by the fledgling Union of Writers, and which admitted its first students in 1933; the Central Park of Culture and Rest in Moscow; and even the Moscow Art Theatre, which Stalin insisted on naming after Gorky despite the much more significant link it had with Chekhov. On 19 May 1933 Gorky returned to the USSR for good.

On 30 December 1930 Mirsky contacted Gorky again after a lapse of nearly three years, to ask for advice about what practical steps to take in order actively to work for the Communist cause. 69 In this characteristically categorical declaration, Mirsky told Gorky that he had now arrived at 'a complete and unconditional acceptance of Communism', and that from now on he wished to 'dedicate what strength I have to the cause of Lenin and the Soviet Republics'. Recent events had convinced him, said Mirsky, that 'there can no longer be any neutrality and half-way houses, and that he who is not with the working class is against it':

[The] more normal way of addressing myself to the Soviet Consulate seems not entirely satisfactory to me, because firstly, I am motivated not by Soviet patriotism but by hatred of the international bourgeoisie and faith in a universal social revolution; and secondly, I have not the slightest wish to be an ordinary Soviet citizen, but instead a worker for Leninism. Communism is more precious to me than the USSR.

Gorky -- or one of the people who processed his mail -- underlined this last sentence when he read the letter, as well he might. Mirsky undoubtedly meant what he said; this sentence offers one more indication that he was thinking not of moving permanently to Russia, but of working for the cause outside it1 perhaps making visits to the homeland. This attitude was soon construed as anti-Soviet.

As a result of Mirsky's appeal for help, Gorky evidently advised him to write to the Central Committee, which Mirsky did, sending his letter via Gorky on 17 February 1931.


In August 1930, after he had begun writing Lenin, Mirsky wrote the preface to his Russia: A Social History, the text of which he had finished in the spring of 1929. This book is his most undeservedly neglected work; it still has no serious rivals in English as a compact narrative introduction to the subject and the vivid account of the multi-cultural empire in which the author grew up is particularly valuable. However, Mirsky himself repudiated the book. He is fully conscious, he says in the preface, of grave defects in it, 'the most serious of which is the absence of a single point of view':

This serious shortcoming is due to the fact that in the course, and under the direct action, of my work, my own historical conception underwent an adjustment which at first imperceptible to myself, only crystallized after it was completed. If I now were to rewrite it, it would be more strictly consonant with the conception of historical materialism, and economic facts would have been more consistently emphasised as the one and only protophenomenon of all historical reality. 70

Mirsky concludes this preface by expressing his thanks to Trubetskoy and Savitsky for their help, with ethnology and linguistics from the former and geography and archaeology from the latter, but now asserts that 'their general views are toto caelo removed from mine'.

This move to the left inevitably affected Mirsky's relations with his employer. His letters to Pares show that in 1929 and 1930 Mirsky was still a valued member of the Slavonic Review team, consulted as before by Pares for opinions on manuscripts that had been submitted to the journal. However, relations between Pares and Mirsky soon became strained. The following ominous communication came from Pares on 23 January 1931:

I want you to realise that if it was your considered attitude about the Review which you were expressing this morning, you put me in a difficult position. The Review is part of the most important work of the School and collaboration in it is part of the work of each member of the Staff. We could hardly have a Lecturer in Russian Literature who refused to write for the Review. If I had asked you to express my own views in it, you would have every ground for refusal. What I asked you to do was to express your own [views] -- however different from or opposite to my own, as I particularly emphasised. Our principle is that all views can be expressed. The Editors cannot of course accept the suggestion that their own should not, or that they should be dictated by anyone else. I can hardly think that you mean that. Please think the matter over and let me hear from you. 71

Mirsky replied on the same day:

I had to go before finishing our conversation, & I am afraid the reasons I gave you for not being anxious to write a political article for the Slavonic Review was not the principal reason why I felt that way. The real reason is that I am well aware of your opinion of me in so far as I hold or express political views. I know that you do not take me seriously (or rather do not take my political views seriously) & that you regard me primarily as an amusing enfant terrible. I have no doubt that this view is largely justified, but you will understand that my being aware of this opinion of yours forces me to be very careful about expressing such political views as I hold in your presence or under · your auspices. Knowing your attitude it would on my part be a grave lack of respect to the causes with which I sympathise to write about anything directly connected with them in a periodical where I am regarded as primarily an object of mild amusement. In connection with this last phrase please do not think that I am in the least offended: every man deserves the opinions held about him, & your personal attitude towards me has always been one of infinite tact and kindness. The point is that the views I hold -- I hold seriously, and to give public expression to them in company where I am not taken seriously would be incompatible with. this. I am afraid there is no 'way out of this situation, for even if you wished you cannot change your opinion of me at a month's notice.

I thought that it would be better to put all this down in writing, as the more dispassionate way. I hope -- I am sure -- you will not take my letter en mauvaise part.

Soon after this, Mirsky sent Pares a contribution to the Review -- it turned out to be his last -- and then on 26 February 193I he asked Pares for permission to be away for three or four weeks at some time in the next term, probably immediately following the Easter vacation. He promised to give extra teaching to make up, though this involved only two students. What Mirsky was planning to do during his absence is not clear, and certainly, he did not make it clear to Pares- -- a move guaranteed to put any Head of Department's back up.

The final break with Pares came when Mirsky stepped over the limits of collegiality by publishing a contemptuous review in the Listener on 11 March 1931. of Pares's contribution to a series of BBC broadcasts under the general title The New Russia.72


At the same time as Mirsky's relationship at work with Bernard Pares was running into trouble; the finale of his most important literary relationship was also approaching. It is clear from his letter to Suvchinsky of 20 May 1929 that Mirsky had agreed to speak at a reading by Tsvetaeva scheduled for five days later.73 But this plan came to nothing; it would seem from subsequent discussion that Suvchinsky dissuaded Mirsky from speaking, and that as a result he incurred Tsvetaeva's wrath, and this led to further resentment by Tsvetaeva against Mirsky. Mirsky visited the Efrons at some time shortly before 20 September 1930 for two days, and Tsvetaeva describes him as 'gloomy as hell' and 'moaning more than ever'. 74

Tsvetaeva now thought that Mirsky simply no longer wanted to help her. Writing to Raisa Lomonosova75 on 10 February 193I, Tsvetaeva complained that Mirsky 'doesn't want to take anything on -- there was a time when he was crazy about my poetry, now he's completely cooled off, just as he has towards me as a person -- we didn't quarrel, it just went away'.76 On 13 February 1931 she again lamented the 'cooling off', now citing the first lines of one of her love lyrics:

About DPSM (sounds like an institution, doesn't it?) 'You can't be friends with me, to love me is impossible' -- and so it ended, in deliberate indifference and enforced forgetting. He has locked me up tight inside himself, on his visits to Paris he visits everyone except me, and he sees me by chance and with other people around. There was a time when he loved me (I want to put that in parenthesis). I was the first to show him, that is, make him realize, that the Thames at the time of (high or low tide?) flows backwards .... I wandered around London with him for three weeks,-he kept wanting to go to museums, but I wanted to go to markets, to bridges, under a bridge. It turned out that I taught him life. And made him bankrupt himself for three wonderful sky-blue (one beige) shirts, which he, out of savage meanness towards himself, hasn't forgiven me to this day, but he hasn't worn them out either. At that time he loved Boris [Pasternak] just as madly as he did me, but Boris is a man, and over the hills and far away, so that [love] hasn't changed.

We parted company over Mandelstam's stillborn prose [memoir], The Noise of Time, which he adored and I hated, where the only live things are objects and anything that's alive is a thing.

That's how it ended. 77

Eventually, Tsvetaeva wrote to Anna Teskova on 27 February 1931 [78] that she had received 'the final cheque' from Mirsky (it was for £6) on 24 December 1930 -- and there had been a terrible mistake; she had been given the equivalent of £10 in French francs and she had not questioned the amount, thinking that Mirsky had sent more because the cheque was to be the last -- but the bank was now asking her for the difference.

Tsvetaeva was a married woman and a mother; she had two daughters, one of whom died in childhood, and a son. In her private life she acted as a free agent to an extent either desired or managed by few even of the unmarried women of her time, but family considerations weighed heavily in the decisions she made about her life. Mirsky, apart from the fact that he was a man, was never fettered by such concerns; after his mother died in 1926, there were no serious constraints on his personal freedom of action. Tsvetaeva eventually followed her husband and daughter back to Russia, taking her son to what she thought was the best future she could provide for him -- in Stalin's Russia. Mirsky's free choice was eventually as fatal as Tsvetaeva's circumscribed choice.


Mirsky had still heard nothing as a result of his appeal to the Central Committee, and he was getting desperate. On 14 March 1931 he wrote to Gorky again, saying that he hoped to accompany him on his next trip to Russia. Two weeks later there had been no reply, and Mirsky wrote yet another anxious letter to Gorky. But at' some time in the first fortnight of May, things began moving. The Sokolnikovs -- the Soviet Ambassador in Britain and his wife, who had just returned from a visit to Gorky in Sorrento -- assured Mirsky that the case was going to be decided in his favour. 79 It was evidently at this point that Mirsky joined the Communist Party of Great Britain; his statement about his conversion was published on 30 June 1931.80 His first public appearance as a Party member seems to have been made when he gave a lecture on 'Leninism: Theory and Practice' on the evening of Sunday, 21 June 1931 at 71 Park Street, Camden Town. 81

Does Mirsky's relationship with the Soviet Ambassador mean that he was a collaborator with the Soviet secret service? It is only reasonable to assume that he was. In the first place, Sokolnikov would have been duty-bound to refer Mirsky's application for a visa and a passport to 'the organs', and they would have been duty-bound to consider his potential value to them. But only one unambiguous statement on this matter has been published so far. The high Soviet literary official Ivan Mikhailovich Gronsky (1894-1985) asserted that Mirsky had worked for foreign intelligence services (though at what time he does not say), and adds that Mirsky was very close to Kryuchkov, Gorky's secretary (as his GPU minder was euphemistically called). This implies that Mirsky, like Sergey Efron, had made contact with various Western services under the instructions of the Soviet service. 82 Mirsky's Soviet passport was probably earned at least partly by his agreeing to appear as a propagandist in British universities and elsewhere. Soviet Russian intellectuals used to be fairly sophisticated, for obvious reasons, about collaboration with the secret services; in my experience they always made a careful distinction between informing, or agreeing to disinform, as a 'secret collaborator' (seksot), and actually being paid or hired agent. They regarded the latter kind of person as an infernal creature, but the former simply as someone doing what one had to do. Mirsky would have been in close contact with the Soviet diplomatic staff, and it have been perfectly normal for him to have been allotted a GPU control, but he was in no sense an intelligence professional. 83

Mirsky naturally did not mention to Gorky or to his Soviet contacts more generally an additional factor that was recorded by Dorothy Galton, and it undermines any sense of absolute purposiveness in his actions in 1930-2. This was that he applied not only for Soviet citizenship, but -- simultaneously -- for British citizenship as well. 84 There was no single and logical progression in Mirsky's actions, certainly none over which he had control. He reached a point he threw rationality to the winds and took a gamble, and his life could have gone in a completely different direction from the one it did if the result the gamble had been different.

On 17 April 1931 Mirsky wrote to Miss Galton from Paris agreeing to give a lecture to the Fabian Society, of which Miss Galton's father was the secretary; and he also reported that he had just returned from a 'splendid, but unfortunately too short tour in the South'. His health had been giving him some concern lately, he said, but he told Miss Galton on 17 April that his 'neurasthenia' was now better; evidently he was recovering from the emotional stress of the crisis in his relationship with Vera. 'Still,' he added, 'I am rather horrified at the prospect of another term at the School.'

On 21 May 1931, Mirsky wrote his first letter to Suvchinsky since the end of Eurasianism; it was evidently Suvchinsky who took the initiative. In his reply, Mirsky told his old friend that he would be in Paris in early August, dependent on the date of his proposed trip to Moscow. He told Suvchinsky that his Soviet citizenship had been restored, and that he would be glad to see him. This letter was later marked by Suvchinsky as 'the last'.

Mirsky was still at Gower Street on 10 June 1931, as a letter to Salomeya Halpern shows. But on 23 June he wrote yet again to Gorky; now from Paris, that Gorky had 'completely forgotten' him, and making yet more categorical statements of devotion:

Outside the general line of the All-Union Communist Party and the Comintern there is no place for those who do not wish to be the enemies of humanity and culture. And I insist that the cause of Communism has finally and unconditionally flowed into one, there is neither humanity nor culture outside the Communist revolution.

He also referred to making contact with the French Communist Party, which he had first mentioned as a possibility on 14 May.

On 6 July 1931 Mirsky wrote to Miss Galton saying that he could not after all come to England because of 'unforeseen circumstances' which were keeping him in Paris. On 9 July, he informed her that he was going to speak on that day to the 'returnees' (vozvrashchentsy) on 'the political situation in general'. This is another possible indication of an assignment from the Soviet secret services. 85

On 18 July 1931 Mirsky gave Miss Galton the following momentous information: 'I have just received a letter from the London Embassy that I have been restored in my citizenship. Only the actual passport is not ready yet.' He reported this same information to Gorky on 31 July, declared that he was intending to set off for Moscow by 1 September, and hoped he would arrive in time to see Gorky there. A note at the top of the letter to Dorothy Galton adds:

Of course this is not for publication (esp. not for Florinsky). I will probably write to Pares when it [the Soviet passport] materializes. I saw another doctor last Thursday: He told me that my blood pressure was slightly below normal, and that the only thing that is wrong with me is the Great Gut, or whatever it is called in English (gros intestin) . ...

According to Suvchinsky, he and Mirsky applied for Soviet citizenship on the same day, but Suvchinsky, to his annoyance, was turned down: 'Now he was a real White Guard .... Socially we were identical. But they still gave it him and refused me. '86 Evidently, the Soviet authorities considered that Suvchinsky would not be of much use to them back in the USSR, while Mirsky, with his high public profile, had great potential as a trophy. Quite apart from his expertise in foreign literatures, his highly articulate ideological commitment was bound to have been attractive.

On 22 July, Mirsky told Miss Galton that he was going to Grenoble on the 27th of the month and would stay there until the 31st. On 9 August he wrote from the Hotel Recamier, Place St Sulpice, enclosing a letter from Pares that has not survived with the rest of the correspondence. Evidently, Pares had refused to vouch for Mirsky's application for further residence in Great Britain. Mirsky reacted by asking:

If Pares would not help, then could your Labour friends help me to get readmitted? Don't you think it rather caddish to connect in this way the refusal to admit him into Russia with the question of my readmission into England? Is that the behaviour of an English gentleman?

On 13 August Mirsky wrote to Gorky to tell him that his intention had been to make a trip to Russia and then return to England for the beginning of the academic session in October 1931, but that as the bearer of a Soviet passport he would not be permitted to come back into the country. Mirsky then speaks to Gorky of enticing prospects for Party work in England, and says he will go from Paris to London and remain in London doing Party work until such time as he is extradited. The Soviet passport led to a final breach of relations with Pares, who, in his own account, agreed that summer to help Mirsky renew his residence permit with the Home Office; he added:

I wrote that I would do so; but the Home Office would certainly require from me a pledge on his behalf that while in England he would not work for the overthrow of our own system of government by violence. To this he did not reply, but on his return he told me he could not give this pledge, so I left his relations with our Home Office to himself.87

It is worth recalling just how tense the domestic political situation was in Britain at this time; in progress was the most serious confrontation between Left and Right after the General Strike of 1926. There were two general elections in 1931. As a result of the first, the National Government was formed in August 1931 by Ramsay MacDonald, an event widely interpreted by the Left as proof that a Labour government could not be viable in England, and that Communism was the only answer; and then there was another election in October. In between came the Invergordon mutiny.

On 11 September Mirsky acknowledged a letter from Gorky:

I shall be very glad to come to Italy and travel with you to Moscow. But will they let me into Italy? It would be very annoying to keep putting off my trip. But I think that I can do some more work in England. Certain prospects have suddenly opened up there of a kind about which one could only have guessed three months ago. I'm going there in the next few days.

Then, on 15 September, he wrote to Miss Galton from Marseilles that he would be in London about 1 October, but 'this depends however on R. P. Dutt whom I want to see on the way in Belgium'. Mirsky upbraided Miss Galton for telling Pares he had not yet got permission to go to Russia, and Miss Galton must have questioned this accusation, for Mirsky wrote again to her from the Recamier on 21 September that he had written to Pares about 10 August that 'owing to your abominable and swinish behaviour I shall have to put off my journey to Moscow'. Pares had replied, Mirsky tells Miss Galton, that

'you need not go out of your way to blackmail me in this kind of way, because I understand from Miss Galton that you have not yet got your permission', which was quite true, but which was no business of his. As a matter of fact I got the papers only the other day, but I shall not be leaving before the end of the [academic] year. When I leave it will be for good.

This is the earliest indication that Mirsky had decided that he would not come back from Russia. In the autumn of 1931 he did indeed manage to arrange an entry permit for England, apparently without Pares's support -- Dorothy Galton may well have fixed it through her influential friends, as Mirsky requested. He duly returned to London to begin the 1931-2 academic session, and also to continue his work on behalf of the Communist Party of Great Britain.


Mirsky asked Miss Galton on 21 September 1931: 'Have you seen my article in the [Nouvelle Revue Francaise]? It is making quite a sensation here.' The article he had in mind was his 'Histoire d'une emancipation', in which he gave an account of the ideological evolution that had led up to his conversion to Marxism and joining the Communist Party. It had come out in the September 1931 issue of the journal that Mirsky had perused in Athens a decade before. In the article, Mirsky makes no mention of the various alternative paths that we have seen him considering on his way to his commitment to Communism. Instead, he presents his development as a gradual but consistent shedding of the baggage of his idealist education and habits of thought. He dismisses this education in a few cutting sentences; contemptuously reviews his early respectful attitude towards the first phase of Eurasianism; notes with satisfaction the healthy influence of reading the new Soviet literature and the part Vyorsts played in spreading knowledge of it; registers his growing revulsion for the British bourgeoisie, especially during the General Strike; and then turns to the immediate prehistory of his conversion:

Towards 1928 'left Eurasianism' was formed, totally different from the original Eurasianism, and with the journal Evraziya as its mouthpiece. If in politics the new journal wanted to adopt bolshevism (or rather that which was least communist in bolshevism, because they supported the rightists against Stalin), its ideology was a completely extraordinary hotchpotch in which a confused idealism proclaiming itself to be Orthodox theology was attempting to unite with a Marxism emasculated of its materialism .... Of all Marx's work it was the Theses on Feuerbach that absorbed us first and that we liked most. This route into Marxism is doubtless abnormal and was only forced on us by our dear old idealist education, but it is perhaps to be particularly recommended to intellectuals. 88

Eurasianism came to an end; Mirsky finally rejected the last lingering remnants of religion. He then recounts that he was invited to write his life of Lenin, and testifies to the effect of his preparatory reading:

The months that I spent alone with Lenin were the most important and fruitful of my life. They allowed me finally to emerge from an intellectual adolescence that had been prolonged far beyond natural limits. What Lenin gave me was above all clarity and reality. The idealist servitude of my mind had made the free exercise of my intelligence impossible .... Lenin was for me an intellectual liberation, for it was he who made me see reality as it is, not as one would wish it or as one imagined it. And the reality that he made me see was a complex, complete reality, with an infinity of dimensions, in constant movement, but capable of being grasped by the truly free and active mind, the mind that approaches this reality not as a 'disinterested' observer but as a technician who wishes to understand reality only in order to change it, in short -- a dialectical reality.89

Through Lenin, Mirsky says, he came to Marx, and at that very time world events were proving incontrovertibly that the Marxist analysis was correct: the Five-Year Plan, the agrarian revolution, the end of American prosperity, the beginning of the world crisis of capitalism.

Mirsky's public account of his development, with its gloating self-righteousness typical of Party discourse at the time, was written at almost exactly the same time as a remorseful private statement by Mirsky's exact contemporary and erstwhile comrade, Nikolay Trubetskoy. Princes Mirsky and Trubetskoy were taking stock of what had happened to themselves during the two years that had passed since the downfall of Eurasianism, and both of them speak explicitly of undergoing a personal liberation, but they draw diametrically opposed conclusions from evidence and experience that was in many essential respects identical. Trubetskoy conveyed his conclusions to Savitsky in an agonized letter that took him three days to write, from 8 to 10 December 1930.90 It is one of the most heartrending documents in Russian intellectual history. Trubetskoy tells Savitsky that he has reviewed his old writings, public and private, and found most of them 'childish'. He has lost the youthful optimism that fuelled Eurasianism. He no longer has the self-confidence that enabled him to write about so many large issues; instead, he is full of scepticism about these things, and begrudges the time they took away from his specialized professional work: 'I have learned to see the fragility and illusoriness of broad generalizations. The soundness of an edifice is more important for me than its grandeur.' He then expresses exactly the same feelings as Mirsky about cultural developments in Russia: that they have made the generation of 1890 into relicts of the past, like the Old Believers. 'No matter how much we wish to, we cannot be part of the new proletarian Russian (or proletarian-Eurasian, if you like) culture, and the values we are creating will not become part of it.' These values are the swan-song· of pre-revolutionary European-Russian culture, says Trubetskoy. Meanwhile, like Mirsky, in 1930 Trubetskoy asked himself the permanent Russian question, and answered it just as categorically as Mirsky did: 'What to do? I think nothing remains but to venture outside this nationally limited European-Russian culture and (horribile dictul) work for a common European culture that aspires to be called that of common humanity. There is no alternative.' This is already facing in the opposite direction from that of the Eurasian Trubetskoy. But worse is to come:

I would never permit myself to write in German or French about something I didn't know or that I wasn't sure of, because I'm aware of the fact that among the hundred or so specialists who will read what I write there will assuredly be some who will expose me in print. In Russian, meanwhile, more than once have I written irresponsible things, and what is more about questions I am not competent to discuss; you say to yourself 'Never mind, it'll get by!' When I look back now on my past as an author, I regret not so much that I wrote such dilettante works, but that along with them I wrote some valuable things in Russian .... If [they] had been written in German or French they would have been of real use.

Mirsky, of course, had acted in exactly the opposite way from Trubetskoy, and with exactly the opposite results: he had published general works in English, and more narrowly specialist works in Russian; and he had achieved an exceptionally positive reputation with his foreign readership and a negative one among his fellow Russians.

Trubetskoy then turned to the Eurasians. He had reached the same conclusion as Mirsky: 'I have become convinced that for [Europe] Communism with all its consequences is unavoidable and essential.' But he had drawn the opposite inference in terms of personal action: not to become involved in Communism, but to withdraw from the political arena, since he could not in good conscience 'preach' that truth, the truth. of Communism, which he had understood but with which he could not reconcile himself personally. Both Trubetskoy and Mirsky subsequently acted according to their convictions: Trubetskoy devoted himself to scholarly linguistics and withdrew almost entirely from the Eurasian movement, while Mirsky joined the Communist Party and resigned his academic post. They both saw themselves as anachronisms, or 'relicts'; but while Trubetskoy the academic aristocrat reconciled himself with this and went on constructing 'old cultural values', Mirsky the service aristocrat found a way, as he thought, of subordinating his individuality to the new social demand and contributing, as he thought, to the new values.
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