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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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Part 6 of 6


On 26 September 1931 from the Hotel de Lutece; 17 avenue de Keyser, Antwerp, Mirsky wrote the last of his long series of letters to Suvchinsky. He said that he was there on political business, and that the business was in Brussels. This concerned the Communist Party of Great Britain and the Comintern: the next day Mirsky reports to Miss Galton that he had seen Palme Dutt in Brussels and would see him again. that day. Rajani Palme Dutt, the most important British person in the Comintern network, was based in Brussels from 1929 to 1936.91 Mirsky was no doubt directed to this meeting by the CPGB.

Once back in London, Mirsky began teaching as usual. Bernard Pares's account of subsequent events tries to maintain a dignified tone: 'While still with us, he attacked me violently in the press as a "mouth piece" of reaction. I took his political views as temperamental and did not reply. At the end of the next session he went off to Russia ..... '92 Towards the very end of 1931 there was an exchange of letters between Pares and Michael Florinsky. Pares wrote on 16 December:

The Mirsky affair has worked out as you expected. He wrote casually to me from abroad in the summer saying he was going on to a Soviet passport and asking me to arrange his visa at our Home Office. I had meanwhile read his 'Lenin' which, well as it is written, is evidently a most ex-parte statement. I replied saying the Home Office might ask me certain questions, for instance, was he prepared to abstain from agitating, while in England, for an overthrow of our system of government by force. This he did not answer in his reply, which was heated. On his return he refused to give the pledge mentioned above, but said he was leaving us at the end of this session, which he wished me to communicate to our Principal (of King's). This interview took place in Seton-Watson's presence. In view of his leaving we decided to take no further step: but since then he has not only done a lot of Communist propaganda here, but has now written a grossly perverted statement with regard to myself calling me 'one of the principal mouth-pieces of Anti-Soviet propaganda' and suggesting that I know nothing of Russia. He had earlier published a scurrilous invective against the 'Oxford and Cambridge blacklegs' who volunteered for public service during our General Strike, You might tell all this to Shotwell.93

Pares's recommendation that Florinsky denounce Mirsky to Shotwell probably indicates that Pares had got wind of Mirsky's tentative steps about finding himself a job in America. His further thoughts provide eloquent testimony about just how thin the field of Russian studies was in the English-speaking world in the early 1930s, and about the way appointments were arranged in those easygoing days:

It is all very unpleasant, but the main reason why I am writing is that there will anyhow be a vacancy on our staff next October if not earlier. My own Chair is supposed to cover 'Russian Language, Literature and History' and Mirsky does the literature. This gap must be filled, but it is not necessary that the scope of my Assistant should be defined in the same way as for him. The salary is £325. I am writing to one or two people to ask if they would like to be candidates, and that is why I am writing to you. I understand that your father was Professor of· Philology. What are your own record and studies in the field of Literature? We have a separate post for Comparative Slavonic Philology (held by Jopson, who is excellent). Could you more or less cover the literature (up to the standard of an Assistant Lecturer)? Were you appointed, I should of course welcome your cooperation in history. Have you at all followed current contemporary Russian Literature (in Moscow & abroad)? Don't understate things, but let me know -- if you would like to be a candidate -- how you stand in these matters and give me your full curriculum vitae with dates.

Florinsky politely declined Pares's invitation: 'I know nothing about philology, and I have never made any study of Russian literature except what one learns in a gimnaziya, which, as you know, is not much. I feel therefore that I would be a most inadequate substitute for Mirsky.' Florinsky is surely not the only person who has entertained the sentiment expressed in this last sentence.


The 'Party work' Pares mentions consisted, at least in its public aspect in England, of speaking at rallies and writing for Communist publications. Mirsky contributed a series of articles to the Labour Monthly, which was edited by Palme Dutt. The first two appeared in 1931;94 two more appeared there in 1932.95 None of them is concerned with literature. The first of these articles has been recognized as the earliest authoritative presentation for the British Left of the current state of Dialectical Materialism in Soviet Russia after the 'Deborinite' ideological crisis of 1930.96 It found at least one appreciative reader in Antonio Gramsci, one of Mirsky's most illustrious Communist contemporaries. 97

In the autobiographical statement not for publication that he made in 1936 Mirsky claimed that he had spoken at about sixty meetings in various parts of England and-Ireland, mainly on behalf of the Friends of the Soviet Union.98 He is known to have spoken on behalf of the Friends of the Soviet Union and the Workers' Educational Association, in Manchester on 12 December 1931 16 January 1932; and in September 1932; in Edinburgh on 18 December 1931: in Glasgow in February 1932; and in Liverpool in March 1932.99 Vera Traill expressed the obvious view of what inevitably went on: 'He was a prince, and then he was a Russian- by origin, and when he gave Communist speeches at Communist meetings, someone in the crowd would always yell: "If you think it's so marvellous, why don't you go there to your country?"' Vera's version of the cry from the crowd, to which the unregenerate English mind irresistibly supplies a few expletives, was as manifestly unidiomatic as Mirsky's must have been when he gave these grotesque speeches.

At least one English proletarian did attribute to Mirsky a decisive role in the formation of his political views, though. One Sunday morning a certain David Wilson went for a long walk with Mirsky and bad his eyes opened to what he describes as the power of the bourgeois press to instil bourgeois opinion into the British proletariat, but their inability to create proletarian opinion. 100

The most prominent proletarian Mirsky knew at this time was a Scotsman Hugh MacDiarmid (Christopher Murray Grieve, 1892-1978).101 MacDiarmid was fond of using Russian sources, and he was dependent on translations into English; among his principal sources were the writings of Mirsky.102 Direct contact between MacDiarmid and Mirsky was. apparently made, by correspondence if not in person, after the Scotsman reviewed Modern Russian Literature103 and Contemporary Russian Literature. 104 MacDiarmid's admiration for Mirsky and solidarity with his political development as the 1920s drew to a close were expressed in his dedication of the programmatic First Hymn to Lenin (1931) to 'Prince D. S. Mirsky'. This dedication, which has appeared many times in the various republications of MacDiarmid's works, stands as the most enduring testament to the two men's affinities. In a return tribute which many fewer people can have noticed, Mirsky included an item by MacDiarmid in the anthology of modern English poetry which eventually appeared without his name after he was arrested. 105 These lines render into standard literary Russian three stanzas of 'The Seamless Garment', a Scots lyric addressed by MacDiarmid to a cousin who worked at the mill in their native town, Langholm. Eventually, one of MacDiarmid's major later works was dedicated, among others, to Prince Dmitry Mirsky,

A mighty master in all such matters
Of whom for all the instruction and encouragement he gave me
I am happy to subscribe myself here
The humble and most grateful pupil.106

Mirsky and MacDiarmid were born at opposite ends of the social spectrum, but both came from border country, and both were on active service on foreign soil in the First World War; like most survivors of this conflict, they subsequently wondered what on earth they had been fighting for. In emigration, beginning with some of his earliest publications, Mirsky was involved in the agonized debate about the Russianness of the Russian Revolution;107 his involvement in the Eurasian movement revived this question. He conceived Russia: A Social History with a special emphasis on the nationalities question. In the book he wrote about the British intelligentsia soon after he returned to Russia, though, Mirsky makes no mention of nationalism as a significant element in their views.

Meanwhile, Hugh MacDiarmid was a founder member of the National Party of Scotland in 1928, but he was expelled from it because of his Communist sympathies in 1933. At some time in 1934 he joined the Communist Party of Great Britain.108 MacDiarmid's involvement with nationalist politics undoubtedly helps to account for Mirsky's reservation about his ideology in a Soviet encyclopedia article of 1933, and also the reference to the poet's 'idealism' in the anthology of 1937.109 The fact that, for publication in the anthology, Mirsky's translator turned MacDiarmid's Scots into standard Russian is a patent manifestation of the Great Russian chauvinism that was then becoming an important part of the ideology of Stalinism. Mirsky's standard English prose in his translation of a poem by Pushkin was turned into MacDiarmid's self-marginalizing Scots poem 'Why I Became a Scots Nationalist'; then his original Scots poetry about Lenin was translated into standard literary Russian, another language of imperial power.

Between the time he first read it and his arrest, Mirsky was probably too busy to think much about MacDiarmid; but between then and his death in the GULag, Mirsky had ample time to reflect on the now infamous stanza of the poem the Scotsman had dedicated to him in 1931:

As necessary, and insignificant, as death
Wi' a' its agonies in the cosmos still
The Cheka's horrors are in their degree;
And'll end suner! What maitters't wha we kill
To lessen that foulest murder that deprives
Maist men o' real lives?110

Mirsky, along with millions of others, certainly came to 'end suner'. The author of this poem, meanwhile, not being a Russian, had nearly fifty years of 'real' life left to reflect on whether or not all this mattered.


According to some contemporaries, Mirsky's new-found Communism was fanatical. Beatrice Webb reports and then paraphrases his old friend Meyendorff's sad words (it is worth recalling the same man's assertion concerning Mirsky's erstwhile fanatical monarchism):

'We never meet now', for apparently he has a real admiration and liking for the talented and wayward Mirsky; he rejected Kingsley Martin's suggestion that Mirsky's conversion was not sincere -- it was all of a piece with his romantic career and his refusal as a young Guards officer to drink the health of the Tsar and consequent dismissal from his regiment. Indeed he said that Mirsky was a little mad and was becoming madder -- he feared that there might be some crisis. 111

Thirty years later, Kingsley Martin declared that 'Marxism, as understood in England, began with the destruction of the Labour Government in 1931 and ended with the Nazi-Soviet Pact in 1939. It was not an aberration of the Left Wing, but a deduction from the facts.' 112 This idea underlies the book Mirsky wrote about the British intelligentsia after he went back to Russia. In its penultimate chapter, dealing with the current state of British science, Mirsky asserts: 'From the autumn of 1931, in all British universities and in wide circles of the left intelligentsia, the study of dialectical materialism began.'113 The process, he says, was set in train by the political events of 1931, for scientists in particular by the publication of an English translation of Lenin's Materialism and Empiriocriticism, and also by. 'the arrival of a delegation from the USSR to the International Congress on the History of Science and Technology'.114 In the very last pages of the book Mirsky finds some hope for the future of Britain:

The interest in the U.S.S.R. is enormous and the interest in marxism is growing. In the course of the 1931-1932 academic year a number of clubs to the left of the reformists were founded. To-day there are, in the London School of Economics, The Marxist Society, in Oxford, The October Club, while in Cambridge the old Heretics now has a marxist leadership and a radically inclined membership. 115

Much of all this, Mirsky concedes, is transient and superficial, but 'everywhere there is healthy young growth; cadres are already forming'. We know with hindsight that certainly the most effective of these cadres, 'clear that civilisation to-day is inseparable from the task of proletarian revolution', were the ones whose commitment took the form of an agreement to work underground for the Soviets. The spectre of English Marxism has haunted the country ever since; the question of collaboration with the secret service raises a more substantial phantom.

The reference Mirsky makes in The Intelligentsia of Great Britain to the reformed Heretics Club in Cambridge is of particular interest. On Sunday, 22 November 1931 Mirsky lectured to the Heretics on Dialectical Materialism. Several eyewitnesses have described this event, with various degrees of hindsight. Esther Salaman set down her memory of it nearly half a century later:

We knew a good many people in the audience: Desmond Bernal and J. B. S. Haldane, in the front; behind us was Herbert Butterfield, the historian. Mirsky talked of 'the collapse of capitalism', the 'end of Western bourgeois civilisation' .... Now Mirsky was disinforming us; but I did not know at the time that he was driven by a desire to go back to Russia. Bernal got up and mumbled complete agreement on Dialectical Materialism. Butterfield asked some pointed questions ....

Salaman, who had grown up in Russia, listened with growing resentment. Eventually she blew up, and reproached Mirsky for daring to speak of the death of civilization in Cambridge, where so much pioneering work was going on in the natural sciences. It was, after all, at the Cavendish in 1932 that Rutherford's team discovered the neutron; Cockcroft split the atom at almost exactly the same time as Mirsky gave this talk, and Mirsky's compatriot Pyotr Kapitsa (1894-1984) was still working in the University.116 Mirsky, though, cheerfully admitted that he knew nothing at all about science. Salaman then

told Mirsky that the Bolsheviks had ruined 'our revolution': by introducing an alien philosophy to Russia. I had not forgotten our hope of a free Russia after the Revolution of 1917, which the Bolsheviks crushed by closing the Constituent Assembly and putting an armed guard outside when they found themselves in the minority. And the slogans! 'Dictatorship of the Proletariat' when there was no proletariat, 'Class war' when there were no classes in Marx's sense.

When there were no more questions Mirsky got up, and made his replies. At the end he said: 'As for the lady's criticism, it's not a matter for argument but for pistols .. .'117

Perhaps the most talented younger member of the CPGB in the early 1930s was the poet John Cornford (1915-36), the son of the Cambridge historian of ancient philosophy Francis and his poet wife, Frances. Frances Cornford wrote a letter to her son on Tuesday, 24 November 1931:

We went and heard Prince Mirsky last Sunday night on Dialectical Materialism-the philosophy of Communism. I longed for you to be there. Haldane tackling him. But Esther [Salaman] made much the best speech and Dadda asked much the best question, which really drew him. I'll have to tell you about it at length. Mirsky can't think much- -- ut he looks like a Byzantine Saint and he believes in Communism like a B. S. in the Trinity -- and his smile, when his ugly black-bearded face lights up with belief and hope, is one of the best things I've seen for ages. 118

This meeting of the Heretics was chaired by the distinguished Germanist Roy Pascal, who recalled it for me more than forty years later. He asserted that Mirsky's lecture was the first time that he and the other young Heretics who had recently radicalized the Club had heard about dialectical materialism from someone who seemed to know what he was talking about. Pascal was certain that Haldane and Bernal were present, also Maurice Cornforth and Hugh Sykes Davies, and probably also Joseph Needham and David Haden Guest. The moving spirit was Maurice Dobb. Pascal had met Mirsky before in Dobb's rooms in Cambridge, and thought he might have been to a talk on art or literature that Mirsky had given on a previous occasion, when Mirsky 'was very rough indeed to the traditional Cambridge approach to these problems, and he startled us very much with the brusque way in which he dismissed our attitudes, but he was always a very attractive person, a bit eccentric, with a strange whining in his voice whenever he stopped talking and so on, but very charming'.

Pascal took Mirsky as

really a man of ideas. You see, with this passion for culture, for ideas and so on, but very impractical, and I think very impractical about politics ... he wouldn't understand, but hardly anyone in England understood either ... however much one tried, one couldn't quite understand what the character of the Party was, and· what was the relationship between the Party (the Communist Party, of course) and the ideals which it represented or the proletariat that it represented and so on ...

The Party cell inside the university was founded by David Haden Guest soon after Mirsky's talk, in April 1932, and Maurice Dobb and J. D. Bernal were among its leading members. Similar cells came into being in the LSE in October 1931 and at University College London at about the same time; the three units made contact with each other in London at Easter 1932, and evolved a plan for coordinating student Communist activities throughout Britain.119 This was the situation when Mirsky returned to the USSR.

Mirsky's public speaking on behalf of Communist-front organizations continued. On 5 March 1932, the Morning Post reported that 'The activities of Prince Mirsky outside his work at King's College are such as to call for the attention of the public.'120 On 11 March, under the headline 'Mr D. S. Mirsky No Longer Connected with London University', the Morning Post carried the following notice:

It was stated at Kings College yesterday that Mr D. S. Mirsky, who had been a lecturer in the School of Slavonic Studies, had recently resigned -- although his contract was not due to expire until next July -- and that he was no longer connected with the College.

It will be recalled that on March 5 the 'Morning Post' called attention to the Communistic speeches that Mr Mirsky (who was formerly known as Prince Mirsky) had been making up and down the country.

After this unpatriotic activity in Great Britain, Mirsky spoke at two separate conferences in Amsterdam in 1932; the first took place in April.121 The second was held in late August, and is much better known; it is referred to variously as the 'Anti-War', 'Anti-Military', or 'Peace' Conference, a Comintern exercise masterminded by their propaganda wizard, Willi Munzenberg.122 The figureheads were billed as Gorky, Romain Rolland, and Henri Barbusse, and the proceedings opened on 27 August. The members of the Soviet delegation, headed by Gorky and Shvernik, were denied visas. This seems to have been the culminating point of Mirsky's involvement with the international Communist movement that was orchestrated by Palme Dutt in Brussels. 123


In a letter written on 22 June 1932 to Lady Ottoline Morrell, Virginia Woolf mentions that she must 'tomorrow dine with Mary Hutchinson and go to the Zoo; and on Monday have Mirsky and his prostitute, and on Tuesday dine with Americans ... '. Woolf's supercilious 'prostitute' refers, of course, to Vera Suvchinskaya.124 But for herself she noted, in her journal entry for this day:

So hot yesterday -- so hot, when Prince Mirsky came ... but Mirsky was trap mouthed: opened and bit his remark to pieces: has yellow misplaced teeth: wrinkles in his forehead: despair, suffering, very marked on his face. Has been in England, in boarding houses, for 12 years; now returns to Russia 'for ever'. I thought as I watched his eye brighten and fade -- soon there'll be a bullet through your head. That's one of the results of war, this trapped cabin'd man.125

One question is asked more often than any other about Mirsky's life, for obvious reasons. Why did he go back to Russia? If Virginia Woolf's perception is to be trusted, his decision to go had not brought Mirsky any serenity. Enough has been said so far about Mirsky's character to demonstrate that his actions were not seriously influenced by the drives that are conventionally reckoned to motivate men. He never seems to have done anything for the sake of power, for example, or fame actual or posthumous, or sexual passion--especially the final item in this list. 126 Janko Lavrin asserted, though, in all seriousness, a different sort of physical basis for Mirsky's actions:

Somebody told him -- or several people must have told him -- that his face was a replica of Lenin's face. It was so. And, d'you know, at first glance when you saw him, for the first time, you would have taken or mistaken him for Lenin; and he told me once: 'I'm very proud to resemble Lenin. He has made one of the greatest revolutions in history, and Russia is going to play an enormous part in world history now' .... This was in the 20s, long before those bloodbaths of Stalin and so on; he was quite seriously convinced that something enormous would come out of Russia ... If he was a Communist, he was a patriotic Communist, you know. Hoping, d'you know, for the very best as far as his own country was concerned.

The idea that Russian patriotism should lead to a commitment to the Soviet state was utterly inadmissible for Gleb Struve, and he postulated instead a purely psychological basis for Mirsky's actions, which he saw as irresponsible: 'To many people his conversion to Communism ... came as a surprise. But to some who knew him well this about-face seemed a natural result of his love of intellectual mischief and his instinctive nonconformism, and when in 1932 he went back to Russia, these people confidently predicted that he would end badly.'127[/quote]

The impressions of Lavrin and Struve concur in their implication that rather than by any of the usual considerations, Mirsky's actions were to an extraordinary degree driven by intellectual conviction. This conviction seems to have occupied the space usually shared to a greater or lesser extent by physical and emotional drives. Mirsky did many things for money, but only in order to have enough to supply his immediate needs; he seems to have had no interest in accumulating more. He denigrated his aristocratic origins, but he remained loyal to his parental family for as long as it lasted, and never seems to have wanted to start one of his own, preferring his 'boarding houses' to some alternative such as Virginia Woolf's childless and asexual arrangement. In his eyes, of course, it was she, not he, who was 'trapped, cabin'd' -- in English bourgeois society.

Mirsky did have a strong sense of his own dignity, though, and by the end of 1927 the life he was living must constantly have offended it. As a Russian emigre he was an embodiment of pitiable failure. As a Russian emigre prince he even embodied a standard caricature in the popular mythology of contemporary Western Europe. He had been teaching at the School of Slavonic Studies for five years, and although he had come across a small number of excellent individual students, his work in the classroom was demeaning for a man of his family tradition. He had published what he must have known to have been his best work, the two-volume history of Russian literature. This literature itself, the object of his study and teaching, seemed to be going into decline, and what promising talent did· exist was making itself felt in Soviet Russia rather than where he was, on the outside. Mirsky's own efforts to publish new Russian writing outside Russia had been an artistic success, but also an immense burden, because there were simply not enough readers to liberate the enterprise from dependence on private sponsors. The Eurasian movement seemed at first to offer some. possibility of genuine creative work, but it proved incapable of being moved on from what Mirsky saw as the pettifogging scruples of the old Russian intelligentsia. And the Eurasians' attempt to establish some sort of footing inside Russia was ignominious. Mirsky had lost his faith in the Orthodox Church and with it one of the central mainstays of Russia Outside Russia. He was accepted on equal terms by the literary elite of England and the other countries of Western Europe, and French cuisine was second to none, but given his character, how long could he have gone on with these pleasant distractions in this cultural wasteland that he considered 'done for'? He toyed with the idea of America, but his one expedition there boded ill. Above all, as someone who was never content to settle for what he had, Mirsky must have felt that he lacked a worthy purpose.

Meanwhile, Stalin was taking his country in hand. Russia had been restored to something closely approximating the borders of Mirsky's youth, when it was at the height of its prosperity and international weight. And it was setting itself up as the country that would lead the world towards the future. Russia was going somewhere. Its leader was the embodiment of that conscious will that Mirsky spoke about so often, while the rest of the world seemed to be going nowhere. And Mirsky's attitude was by no means an isolated case, to say the very least. Here is Hugh Dalton's rehearsal of a view that was commonplace among European intellectuals by the end of 1931:

There was no unemployment in the Soviet Union. Here was no 'industrial depression', no inescapable 'trade cycle', no limp surrender to 'the law of supply and demand'. Here was an increasing industrial upsurge, based on a planned Socialist economy. They had an agricultural problem, we knew, in the Soviet Union, but so had we in the capitalist West, where primary producers had been ruined by the industrial slump. We knew that in Soviet Russia there was no political freedom. But there never had been under the Russian Czars and, perhaps some of us thought, we had over-valued this in the West, relatively to the other freedoms. 128

Mirsky seems to have been able to live with the inescapable contradiction between Marxist determinism and godless post-Nietzschean willed forging of destiny. Though his knowledge of the rise of Stalinism was abstract., deriving almost entirely from his reading, Mirsky understood perfectly well what was actually going on in Russia. And he had no objection to it in principle, in fact quite the opposite: he had never believed in liberal democracy, with its 'paraphernalia', but instead he respected and argued the necessity for strong, even ruthless, leadership. Though he never explicitly worshipped 'necessary' cruelty to the extent that MacDiarmid and some other admirers of the USSR did, Mirsky evidently considered the inhumanity attendant on the introduction of a new order to be acceptable, and preferable to what he came to see as the protracted death of life under capitalism. Mirsky's disdain for Chekhov, which so many English people have found it so hard to forgive him, was partly based ·on stylistic grounds; but his most vehement objection was to what he called Chekhov's 'horrid contemptible humanitarianism, pity, contempt and squeamishness towards humankind, and not a single clever thought' .129 Having condemned Mayakovsky, who, though he had been on the side of the revolution all his conscious life, could not in the end put his and his generation's individualism behind him, Mirsky himself committed suicide, but suicide psychological rather than physical. He attempted to murder his individuality by committing himself to the service of the common cause, as some sort of disembodied agent of History. His return to Russia was the final expression, and also the abnegation, of that 'willed consciousness' he had spoken about so much in his writings about literature. He ended by surrendering his own will to Stalin's.

Some of the Russian intellectuals who stayed in Russia after 1917 did so because they wanted at least to represent the older values of their country in the face of the values of the new regime. Many emigres had left because they thought this cause hopeless, so that the national heritage had to be preserved and defended outside the geopolitical borders until such time as a new regime replaced the Bolsheviks. For Mirsky, though, his country always seems to have retained some supreme significance in and of itself;. he was a patriot in a way which is not to be confused with the maudlin nostalgia that was a persistent theme in Russian emigre writing, nor with the mystical messianism that was a common attitude among Russian intellectuals of his time. He always felt that what mattered most for his country was necessarily going on inside it, not outside it. He was born a Russian and brought up with the idea of service to his country, and his extraordinarily cosmopolitan education and his exposure to non-Russian societies reinforced rather than weakened his sense of national identity.

There is ample evidence that Mirsky's decision to go back was certainly not rash and impulsive, as has so often been said to be the case. He twisted and turned, considering several radical alternatives to Russia, chief among them a post in America or staying in England with Vera. It was the circumstances of twentieth-century political history, the crudely politicized view of loyalty that closed borders to 'undesirables' of all kinds, that meant that Mirsky's decision to go to Russia, once made, was irreversible; there was no possibility, for example, of making the maximum use of his abilities and coming and going between Russia and the West. Of his contemporaries, only Erenburg came near to achieving this balancing act, and it was done at a terrible cost in terms of personal integrity.

Mirsky's movements during the summer of 1932 can be traced from the postcards he regularly sent to Dorothy Galton in London. He indulged in his customary gastronomic tourism, for the last time. He left Paris for Gibraltar on 15 July, Vera Suvchinskaya taking the same ship from Marseilles. He said he was intending to be in the south of France by about 1 August. He sent another postcard from Seville on 23 July: 'Spain is really too sweet, I don't think I'll get out of it in a hurry. I am flying tomorrow to Madrid.' And again on 25 July: 'Seville is delightful ... I flew here, at a tremendous height all the time, about 5,000 feet I should say.' The last dated message to Miss Galton from Mirsky the emigre was dated 6 August 1932 and sent from the Hotel Melodia, par Le Levandou (Var): 'Vera and I are here till next Sunday (7th). On Thursday we shall be in Toulon. On Sunday we shall probably be going to Nice.' Mirsky sailed for Russia from either Le Havre or Marseilles, and arrived in Leningrad by ship in late September.



1. Cited in Veronika Losskaya, Marina Tsvetaeva v zhizni (Tenafly, 1989), 196.

2. Cited in G. S. Smith, The Letters of D. S. Mirsky to P. P. Suvchinskii (Birmingham, 1995), 2.

3. On Gorky's life, see Geir Kh'etso [Kjetsaa], Maksim Gorky: Surlba pisatelya (Moscow, 1997).

4. On Budberg, see Nina Berberova, Zheleznaya zhenshchina (New York, 1981).

5. M. Gor'ky i sovetskaya pechaat, ed. A. G. Dementiev et al. (2 vols., Moscow, 1964), i. 40 (Arkhiv M. Gorkogo, 10). By 'princely' Gorky probably means something like 'magnanimously hospitable'.

6. The Minerva was a boarding-house opposite Gorky's villa, run by one Signora Cacace. Her surname sounds to the Russian ear like a neologism meaning 'shittier', and it entered the language of Gorky and his circle; see Vladimir Khodasevich, 'Gor'ky', in Koleblemyi trenozhnik (Moscow, 1991), 358-60.

7. Gor'ky i sovetskie pisateli (Moscow, 1963), 602. The annotation to this letter (603) contains one of the very few references to Mirsky published in the USSR in the 40 years following his death, and gives his date of death as 1937.

8. 'The Literature of Bolshevik Russia', repr. in D. S. Mirsky, Uncollected Writings on Russian Literature, ed. G; S. Smith (Berkeley, Calif., 1989), 70. For a fuller discussion of Mirsky's published opinions of Gorky, see Ol' ga Kaznina and G. S. Smith, 'D. S. Mirsky to Maksim Gor'ky: Sixteen Letters (1928-1934)', Oxford Slavonic Papers n.s. 26 (1993), 87-92.

9. Khodasevich, Sobranie sochinenii (2 vols., Ann Arbor, Mich., 1983), ii. 535.

10. See Anastasiya Tsvetaeva, Vospominaniya, 3rd edn (Moscow, 1983). Tsvetaeva (1894-1993) remained in Moscow when her sister emigrated; she 'sat' in the GULag from 1937 for ten years, then in internal exile, and finally returned to Moscow in 1959.

11. Kamenev (1883-1936) was expelled from the Party as a Trotskyite in Dec. 1927, but readmitted after denouncing Trotsky the next year, only to be expelled again in 1934.

12. Kaznina and Smith, 'D. S. Mirsky to Maksim Gor'ky', 93.

13. 'The Story of a Liberation', in Mirsky, Uncollected Writings on Russian Literature, 364.

14. Clarence Augustus Manning (1893-1972) was Professor of Russian at Columbia University in Mirsky's time.

15. Malevsky-Malevich seems to have made his first address on behalf of the Eurasians in New York on 2 Jan. 1926: see Evraziiskaya khronika 4 (1926), 48-50.

16. University of Chicago, Weekly Calendar, 29 July-4 Aug. 1928. The university archivists at Cornell and Columbia have not been able to trace any information about the subjects of Mirsky's talk at their institutions.

17. For summary information on Karsavin's life and work, see Bibliographie des reuvres de Lev Karsavine. Etablie par Aleksandre Klementiev, Preface de Nikita Struve (Paris, 1994). On Karsavin's role in the Eurasian movement, see Claire Hauchard, 'L. P. Karsavin et le mouvement eurasien: de la critique a l'adhesion', Revue des Etudes Slaves 68 (3) (1996), 36o-5.

18. Cited in 'K istorii evraziistva. 1922-1924 gg.', in Rossiiskii arkhiv: Istoriya otechestva v svide-tel' stvakh i dokumentakh XVIII-XX vv.', v (Moscow, 1994), 494.

19. There is no evidence for the assertion (see Lev Karsavine: Bibliographie, 13) that in 1927 Karsavin turned down an offer made by Mirsky to take up a post at Oxford; this is one of many mysterious references to Mirsky's having some sort of Oxford association while he was in England. The offer may have had something to do with H. N. Spalding, who lived at Shotover Cleve near Oxford, rather than with the University of Oxford.

20. See S. S. Khoruzhy, 'Karsavin, evraziistvo i VKP', Voprosy filosofii 2 {1992), 84-7. See also A. B. Sobolev, '"Svoya svoikh ne poznasha": Evraziistvo, L. P. Karsavin i drugie', Nachala 4 (1992), 49-58.

21. 'The Eurasian Movement', repr. in Uncollected Writings on Russian Literature, 245.

22. Trubetskoy was something of a whited sepulchre, though; the letters he wrote to his close friend Roman Jakobson during the early years of the Eurasian movement show that he slyly relished the potential political resonance of his publications. See especially the letters of 1922 in Trubetzkoy 's Letters and Notes. Prepared for publication by R. Jakobson with the assistance of H. Baran, O. Ronen and M. Taylor (The Hague, 1975).

23. The last interrogation took place on 5 July 1940, but Efron was pronounced guilty only on 6 July 1941, and then was not executed until 16 Oct. 1941.

24. The materials on this subject that beyond reasonable doubt once existed in Mirsky's GPU files, consisting of the transcripts of those interrogations at which certain aspects of Eurasianism were discussed, have been removed, probably to use against Efron and the others who came back at about the same time as Mirsky (who had been arrested more than two years before Efron was repatriated). Efron's depositions have not been published in full; for extracts and summary, see M. Feinberg and Yu. Klyukin, 'Po vnov' otkryvshimsya obstoyatel'stvam', in Bolshevo: Literaturnyi istoriko-kraevedcheskii al'manakh (Moscow, 1992), 145-66, and Irma Kudrova, Gibel' Mariny Tsvetaevoi (Moscow, 1992), 95-156.

25. Mirsky, 'The Eurasian Movement', 244.

26. Geoffrey Bailey, The Conspirators (London, 1971); Christopher Andrew and Oleg Gordievsky, KGB: The Inside Story of Its Foreign Operations from Lenin to Gorbachev (London, etc., 1990), 43-114. See also A. V. Sobolev, 'Polyusa evraziistva', Novyi mir I (1991), 180-2.

27. S. L. Voitsekhovsky, Trest (London, Ont., 1974). Andrew and Gordievsky seem not to have known about this book. Voitsekhovsky apparently knew Bailey's book, but manifestly did not understand very much of what it has to say. There is also a fictionalized Soviet account of the Trust, based on conversations with Langovoy, the chief agent involved: Lev Nikulin, 'Mertvaya zyb'', Moskva 6 (1965), 5-90, and 7 (1965), 47-141. On Mirsky's acquaintanceship with Nikulin, see Chapter 7 below.

28. A. V. Sobolev, 'Knyaz' N. S. Trubetskoy i evraziistvo', Literaturnaya ucheba 6 (1991), 127.

29. See Suvchinsky's letter to Trubetskoy of 7 Oct. 1924: 'K istorii evraziistva', 487-8.

30. 'Col. Peter Malevsky Malevitch stayed with us often when my father was writing that book. I think he did something to inspire it' (Anne Spalding, unpublished letter to G. S. Smith, 5 Nov. 1974).

31. On the editorial disagreements before and during the establishment of the newspaper, see Irina Shevelenko, 'K istorii evraziiskogo raskola 1929 goda', Stanford Slavic Studies 8 (1994), 376-416.

32. Kingsley Martin (1897-1969) taught at the London School of Economics from 1923 to 1927, worked on the Manchester Guardian from 1927 to 1931, and then edited the New Statesman and Nation from 1932 to 1962.

33. Galsworthy Lowes Dickinson (1862-1932) was a Fellow of King's College, Cambridge, and a part-time lecturer at the London School of Economics.

34. D. Svyatopolk-Mirsky, 'Dve smerti: 1837-1930', repr. in Stikhotvoreniya: Stat'i o russkoi poezii (Berkeley, Calif., 1997), 135.

35. D. Svyatopolk-Mirsky, 'O Tolstom', repr. in Mirsky, Uncollected Writings on Russian Literature, 293.

36. D. S. Mirsky, 'Yugo-zapad V. Bagritskogo', repr. in Stikhotvoreniya: Stat' i o russkoi poezii, compiled and ed. G. K. Perkins and G. S. Smith (Berkeley, Calif., 1997), 110.

37. D. Svyatopolk-Mirsky, 'Khlebnikov', repr. in Uncollected Writings on Russian Literature, 294-7; 'Chekhov', repr. ibid. 298-302.

38. D. Svyatopolk-Mirsky, 'Literatura i kino', Evraziya 15 (2 Mar. 1929), 6; Mirsky also reviewed Pudovkin's film Potomok Chingiskhana, Evraziya, 20 Apr. 1929, 8 (this film is known in English as Storm over Asia).

39. Mirsky published two articles about these developments: 'Posle angliiskikh vyborov', Evraziya 29 (22 June 1929), 4, and 'Pervye shagi "rabochego" kabineta v Anglii', Evraziya 31 (13 July 1929), 5.

40. I. V. Stalin, 'God velikogo pereloma: K XII godovshchine Oktyabra', published in both Pravda and Izvestiya on 7 Nov. 1929; see I. V. Stalin, Sochineniya (13 vols., Moscow, 1946-51), xii (1949), 118-35.

41. For Berlin's account, see Smith, The Letters of D. S. Mirsky to P. P. Suvchinskii, 223-4.

42. Anne Spalding, unpublished letter to G. S. Smith, 29 Aug. 1974.

43. 'Why I Became a Marxist', Daily Worker 462 (30 June 1931), 2.

44. Grigory Vasilievich Aleksandrov (1903-84), Eisenstein's assistant on his first four films travelled abroad with him during 1929-31, and later became a very successful Soviet director.

45. Dorothy Galton, 'Sir Bernard Pares and Slavonic Studies in London University, 1919-39', Slavonic and East European Review 46 (107) (1968), 481-91.

46. Ibid.

47. Slavonic Review 7 (20) (1929), 512.

48. 'Introduction', in Dostoevsky's Letters to His Wife, trans. Elizabeth Hill and Doris Mudie (London, 1930), pp. ix-xiv.

49. Elizabeth Hill, unpublished letter to G. S. Smith, 31 Jan. 1974. Hill (1900--96) was born in St Petersburg, and taught at Cambridge from 1936 until her retirement in 1968 from the Chair of Slavonic Studies, to which she had been elected in 1948.

50. Unpublished diary entry, E. H. Carr archive, King's College, Cambridge; I am grateful to Jonathan Haslam for this reference.

51. 'Preface', in E. H. Carr, Dostoevsky (1821-1881): A New Biography (London, 1931), unpaginated.

52. E. H. Carr, unpublished letter to G. S. Smith, 1 Feb. 1974.

53. Guershoon's thesis was eventually published as Certain Aspects of Russian Proverbs (London, 1941). Bertha Malnick's first book offers a highly informative but now embarrassingly uncritical introduction to the Russia Mirsky went back to: Everyday Life in Soviet Russia, with drawings by Pearl Binder (London, 1938). On Helen Muchnic, see Chapter 4 above, n. 84.

54. For detailed information about Vera's life and the Russian texts of her letters to Mirsky, see Richard Davies and G. S. Smith, D. S. Mirsky: Twenty-Two Letters (1926-34) to Salomeya Halpern; Seven Letters (1930) to Vera Suvchinskaya (Traill)', Oxford Slavonic Papers n.s. 30 (1997), 91-122.

55. There is a vivid representation of Guchkov and his political activities particularly his plan for a coup d'etat in 1916, in Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's Krasnoe koleso ('The Red Wheel).

56. See Irma Kudrova, 'Vera Treil, urozhdennaya Guchkova: Po materialam doprosov na Lubyanke', Russkaya mysl' 4068 (9-15 Mar. 1995), 11-12. It is clear from this article that Vera repeated to Kudrova many of the things she had said in her interviews with me.

57. Vera gave me this letter, one of the few personal documents that survived her mother's auto-da- fe after her daughter was arrested in 1940, in the course of our interviews in 1974. I duly gave it to Leeds Russian Archive, and it was first published without permission in Russia: see Zvezda 10 (1992), 34-6, and again in Marina Tsvetaeva, Sobranie sochinenii v semi tomakh (Moscow, 1995), vii: Pis'ma, 181.

58. D. S. Mirsky, Lenin (Boston and London, 1931), 190.

59. Vallee du Rhone: Cevennes (Paris, 1927), 10. Morateur, at 3 rue du President Carnot was the premier eating-place in the city.

6o. Helene Izvolsky worked for the Paris weekly Detective as an investigative journalist; among other cases, she was assigned the kidnapping of General Kutepov, but 'The police were as confounded as I was. I found the "case of the vanishing General" so scary that I turned it over to a reporter with stronger nerves than mine': No Time to Grieve (Philadelphia, 1985), 175. General A. P. Kutepov ( 1882-1930 ), on whose staff Mirsky had served when Kutepov's army captured Oryol at the height of the White success in the Civil War, in emigration became the president of the Russian General Military Union (ROVS), the principal ex-servicemen's organization and a prime target of GPU counter-intelligence. Kutepov was kidnapped on the street in Paris in broad daylight on 26 Jan. 1930, and never seen again.

61. This is chronologically the last reference in Mirsky's correspondence to Pyotr Arapov. Which other Arapov was present on this occasion I do not know; perhaps it was Pyotr Arapov's brother Kirill. It is possible that Pyotr was repatriated because he had something to do with the abduction of General Kutepov. There is also a private reason for Mirsky's mentioning Arapov to Vera. During our conversations in 1974, Vera told me that there had been two great loves in her life. One was Bruno von Salemann, a German Communist she met in France during the early part of the Second World War; the other was Pyotr Arapov. I never discovered when her affair with Arapov took place, and what relationship if any it had to her feelings for Mirsky in 1930. On Vera's affair with von Salemann, see her novel The Cup of Astonishment (London, 1944), published under the pseudonym 'Vera T. Mirsky'.

62. This village in Haute Savoie was the location of the Chateau d'Arcine, a boarding-house and sanatorium run by the Shtrange family, who were Russians and Communist sympathizers; they went back to Russia after the Second World War. Sergey. Efron went there on 23 Dec. 1929, after a recurrence of his tuberculosis. See Davies and Smith, D. S. Mirsky: Twenty-Two Letters', 118.

63. 'Dve smerti: 1837-1930', repr. in Mirsky, Stikhotovoreniya: Stat'i o russkoi poezii, 127.

64. Ibid. 134.

65. On 7 Sept. 1932 Gorky sent a copy of Mirsky's essay to Stalin, saying that his opinion of it would be important in connection with setting up the proposed Literary Institute. Stalin seems not to have replied. See '"Zhmu vashu ruku, dorogoi tovarishch" ', Novyi mir 9 (1998), 170.

66. For an expert examination of this question, see Karl Aimermakher [Eimermacher], 'Sovetskaya literaturnaya politika mezhdu 1917-m i 1932-m , m V tiskakh ideologii. Antologiya literaturno-politicheskikh dokumentov, 1917-1927 (Moscow, 1992), 3-61.

67. The most instructive treatment of the period leading up to the reform of 1932 is still Edward J. Brown, The Proletarian Episode in Russian Literature, 1928-1932 (New York, 1953); it has been supplemented by the previously secret documentation in D. L. Babichenko (ed.), 'Schast'e literatury': Gosudarstvo i pisateli (Moscow, 1997).

68. The name means 'Hillocks', and is unrelated etymologically to Gorky's pseudonymous surname, which means 'The Bitter One'.

69. See Kaznina and Smith, 'D. S. Mirsky to Maksim Gor'ky: Sixteen Letters (1928-1934)'.

70. D. S. Mirsky, Russia: A Social History (London, 1931), p. ix.

71. 'Letters of Prince Svyatopolk-Mirsky to Sir B. Pares, 1922-1931', British Library, Add. MS 49,604.

72. Dorothy Galton said that this review was the real reason for the break between Mirsky and Pares: see 'Sir Bernard Pares and Slavonic Studies', 487.

73. In a letter to Sergey Efron of 19 May 1929 that has been preserved with the letters to Suvchinsky, Mirsky writes: 'I consider it a great honour to speak at M[arina] l[vanovna's] evening, but I'm afraid that 1) I'll speak badly; 2) my participation will keep many people away. No?'; see Smith, The Letters of D. S. Mirsky to P. P. Suvchinskii, 217.

74. Davies and Smith, 'D. S. Mirsky: Twenty-Two Letters', 176.

75. Raisa Nikolaevna Lomonosova (1888-1973) was the wife of the railway engineer Yury Vladimirovich Lomonosov (1876-1952), who decided to stay in the West rather than going back to the USSR in 1927; her primary residence was in England. Lomonosova furnished material assistance to both Pasternak and Tsvetaeva. She seems not to have been personally acquainted with Mirsky; even though he is mentioned in her correspondence with the two poets. On Lomonosova, see the annotation by Richard Davies to 'Pis' rna Mariny Tsvetaevoi k R, N .. Lomonosovoi (1928-1931 gg.). Publikatsiya Richarda Devisa, podgotovka teksta Lidii Shorroks', Minuvshee 8 (1989), 208-73. The texts of the letters and some annotations are repr. in Tsvetaeva, Sobranie sochinenii v semi tomakh, vii. 313-47.

76. 'Pis' rna Mariny Tsvetaevoi k R. A. Lomonosovoi', 244; see also Tsvetaeva, Sobranie sochinenii, vii. 328.

77. 'Pis'ma Mariny Tsvetaevoi k R. A. Lomonosovoi', 247; Tsvetaeva, Sobrame sochmenii, vii. 330.

78. Ibid. vi. 392.

79. G. Ya. Sokolnikov (1888-1939) was appointed Soviet ambassador to London in 1929 as a result of his opposition to Stalin. Mirsky was invited to a PEN monthly dinner at the Garden Club, Chesterfield Gardens, on 1 Mar. 1932, presided over by Louis Golding, with 'Mrs Sokolnikoff' as the guest of honour (unpublished letters to D. S. Mirsky from the Secretary of London PEN Club, Jan. 1932, Harry Ransome Humanities Research Center, University of Texas at Austin). Sokolnikov's wife was the prominent historical novelist Galina Serebryakova (1905-80), who among other things worked on her life of Marx while she was in London. Serebryakova and Mirsky saw each other back in Russia; they were among the group of writers invited out to Gorky's country house to meet Romain Rolland on 9 June 1935; see Chapter 7 below. Serebryakova survived 17 years in the GULag, and achieved notoriety when she made a pro-Stalin speech at the XX Party Congress in 1956, when Stalinism was officially 'unmasked'.

80. 'Why I Became a Marxist', Daily Worker, 30 June 1931, 2.

81. See announcements in the Daily Worker, 17 June 1931, 2, and 20 June 1931, 2.

82. I. M. Gronsky, 'Beseda o Gor'kom: Publikatsiya M. Nike', Minuvshee 10 (1990), 71.

83. A fleeting reference in a letter of Oct. 1936 to Dorothy Galton suggests that Mirsky might have known Samuil Borisovich Kagan, the Soviet resident in Britain who controlled the 'climate of treason'; on Kagan, see Andrew Boyle, The Climate of Treason, rev. edn (London, 1980). In his autobiographical statement of 1936, as someone who could vouch for his activities before he returned to Russia Mirsky gave the name of one A. F. Neiman, who was attached to the Soviet Embassy; again, the nature of their contacts remains to be discovered (see V. V. Perkhin, 'Odinnadtsat' pisem (1922-1937) i avtobiografiya (1936) D. P. Svyatopolk-Mirskogo', Russkaya literatura I (1996), 259).

84. Galton, 'Sir Bernard Pares and Slavonic Studies', 485. Vera Traill told me the same thing.

85. Mirsky means the Union of Returnees (Soyuz vozvrashchentsev), set up in Paris by the Soviet authorities to stimulate and control pro-Soviet sentiment among the emigration; Sergey Efron later worked for this organization.

86. Cited in Losskaya, Marina Tsvetaeva v zhizni, 196.

87. Sir Bernard Pares, A Wandering Student (Syracuse, NY, 1948), 291.

88. Mirsky, Uncollected Writings on Russian Literature, 364-5.

89. Ibid. 366-7.

90. For the text of this letter, see O. A. Kaznina, 'N. S. Trubetskoy i krizis evraziistva', Slavyanovedenie 4 (1995), 89-95.

91. See John Callaghan, Rajani Palme Dutt: A Study in British Stalinism (London, 1993), 128-72.

92. Pares, A Wandering Student, 291.

93. Unpublished letter, Michael Florinsky Deposit, Bakhmeteff Archive, Columbia University; the reply from Florinsky is from the same source.

94. D. S. Mirsky, 'Bourgeois History and Bourgeois Materialism', Labour Monthly 13 (7) ( 1931), 453-9; 'The Philosophical Discussion in the C.P.S.U. in 1930-31', ibid. 13 (9) (1931), 649-56.

95. D. S. Mirsky, 'The Outlook of Bertrand Russell', Labour Monthly 14 (1932), 113-19 (a review of The Scientific Outlook); 'Mr Wells Shows His Class', Labour Monthly 14 (1932), 383-7 (a review of The Work, Wealth, and Happiness of Mankind).

96. Jonathan Ree, Proletarian Philosophers: Problems in Socialist Culture in Britain, 1900-1940 (Oxford, 1984), 71-2.

97. Gramsci (1891-1937) had been in prison since 1926; he was not in Stalin's GULag, though, but in a prison of Mussolini's, where conditions were not dissimilar from those the leading Russian revolutionaries had enjoyed before 1917. Gramsci wrote to Tatyana, the sister of his Russian wife, Yulka, from Turi prison on 3 Aug. 1931: '[It] is quite surprising how ably Mirsky has made himself master of the central nucleus of Historic Materialism, displaying in the process such a lot of intelligence and penetration. It seems to me that his scientific position is all the more worthy of note and of study, seeing that he shows himself free of certain cultural prejudices and incrustations which infiltrated the field of the theory of history in a parasitic fashion at the end of the last century and the beginning of this one, in consequence of the great popularity enjoyed by Positivism': Gramsci's Prison Letters, trans. and introduced by Hamish Hamilton (London, 1988), 153-4.

98. See Perkhin, 'Odinnadtsat' pisem (1922-1937) i avtobiografiya (1936)', 258.

99. See Nina Lavroukine and Leonid Tchertkov, D. S. Mirsky: profil critique et bibliographique (Paris, 1980), 41.

100. See Leopold Labedz, 'Isaac Deutscher's "Stalin": An Unpublished Critique', Encounter 52 (1) (1979), 68.

101. On Mirsky and MacDiarmid, see G. S. Smith, 'D. S. Mirsky and Hugh MacDiarmid: A Relationship and an Exchange of Letters (1934)', Slavonica 2/3 (1996-7), 49-60.

102. See Peter McCarey, Hugh MacDiarmid and the Russians (Edinburgh, 1987).

103. C. M. Grieve, 'Modern Russian Literature', New Age 37 (8) (25 June 1925), 92; the review is hostile, especially with reference to Mirsky's comments on Chekhov.

104. C. M. Grieve, 'Contemporary Russian Literature', New Age 40 (I) (4 Nov. 1926), 9. Here, MacDiarmid is almost entirely positive: 'a model book of its kind .... These 330 pages have a readability and, indeed, a raciness any literary historian might envy. I know no parallel to his feat.'

105. M. Gutner (ed.), Antologiya novoi angliiskoi poezii (Leningrad, 1937), 392.

106. Hugh MacDiarmid, In Memoriam James Joyce: From a Vision of a World Language (Glasgow, 1955); see The Collected Poems of Hugh MacDiarmid (2 vols., Manchester, 1993), ii. 736.

107. 'Two Aspects of Revolutionary Nationalism', Russian Life 5 (1922), 172-4; 'Russian Post-Revolutionary Nationalism', Contemporary Review 124 (1923), 191-8.

108. MacDiarmid was expelled from the Communist Party for nationalist deviation in 1938, and rejoined it -- as usual for him, against the grain -- in 1956. In between, he rejoined the Scottish National Party (as it had then become) in 1942, and left it in 1948.

109. In an article whose date of writing is unclear, Mirsky described MacDiarmid as 'A radical and Scottish nationalist in politics, a confused vitalist in philosophy': 'Angliiskaya literatura', in Entsiklopedicheskii slovar' russkogo bibliograficheskogo instituta Granat, 7th rev. edn, supplementary vol. i (Moscow, 1936), cols. 434-5.

110. The Collected Poems of Hugh MacDiarmid, i. 298.

111. Beatrice Webb's Diaries, 1924-1932, ed. Margaret Cole (London, 1956), 301. On 7 Jan. 1932 Mirsky informed Miss Galton that the Webbs had invited him for a weekend, and commented: 'This is rather amusing (the idea rather than the fact).'

112. Kingsley Martin, Father Figures: A First Volume of Autobiography, 1897-1931 (London, 1966), 201.

113. D. S. Mirsky, The Intelligentsia of Great Britain, trans. Alec Brown (London, 1935), 205,

114. This delegation to the International History of Science Congress, held in London in the summer of 1931, also visited Cambridge; among its members was Nikolay Bukharin. See Gary Werskey, The Visible College (London, 1978), and Science at the Crossroads: Essays by N I. Bukharin and Others, 2nd edn (London, 1971).

115. Mirsky, The Intelligentsia of Great Britain, 235-6.

116. See J. W. Boag, P. E. Rubinin, and D. Schoenberg (eds.), Kapitza in Cambridge and Moscow: Life and Letters of a Russian Physicist (Amsterdam, 1990).

117. Esther Salaman, 'Prince Mirsky', Encounter 54 (I) (1980), 93-4. True to his officer's code, Mirsky doubtless means that the appropriate response would be to call out the lady's husband for allowing her to speak in this way in public.

118. Understand the Weapon, Understand the Wound: Selected Writings of John Cornford, with some Letters of Frances Cornford, ed. Jonathan Galassi (Manchester, 1976), 143.

119. Bruce Page, David Leitch, and Phillip Knightly, 'The Cambridge Marxists', in Philby: The Spy who Betrayed a Generation, rev. edn (London, 1977), 64-70.

120. Cited in Lavroukine and Tchertkov, Mirsky, 41.

121. Mirsky reported to Dorothy Galton that he spoke in Amsterdam on 18 Apr., on what occasion he does not say.

122. On Munzenberg (1889-1940), see Stephen Koch, Double Lives: Stalin, Willi Munzenberg and the Seduction of the Intellectuals (London, 1996).

123. Mirsky and Dobb made some sort of proposal to the Comintern about setting up a special section for intellectuals: see Callaghan, Rajani Palme Dutt, 133.

124. The Sickle Side of the Moon: The Letters of Virginia Woolf, v: 1932-1936, ed. Nigel Nicolson and Joanne Banks (London, 1979), 71.

125. Virginia Woolf, A Writer's Diary: Being Extracts from the Diary of Virginia Woolf, ed. Leonard Woolf (London, 1953), 181-2.

126. A persistent rumour insists that there was more to Mirsky's private life than the relationship with Vera Suvchinskaya: 'his unsuccessful marriage to Vera Nikolaevna, Countess Buxhoeveden, which is what drove him to take that desperate deranged step with regard to the "Soviet paradise". I knew Vera Nikolaevna personally, and I know from her personally about these circumstances. She blamed herself for his downfall; every time the conversation turned to "Dima" she would say that she alone was to blame for the fact that he totally gave himself over to those monsters': unpublished letter by Marina Ledkovsky to Olga Kaznina, 10 June 1994, quoted with permission.

127. Gleb Struve, Russian Literature under Lenin and Stalin, 1917-1953 (London, 1972), 270.

128. Hugh Dalton, The Fateful Years (London, 1957), cited in Kingsley Martin, Editor (London, 1968), 60. Dalton visited the USSR in 1932, and he was not alone; indeed, 'The entire British intelligentsia has been in Russia this summer', declared Kingsley Martin: Low's Russian Sketchbook. Drawings by Low, text by Kingsley Martin (London, 1932), 9. Dalton is mentioned among other leading left-wing politicians as a person to contact in Mirsky's letter to Suvchinsky of 18 Oct. 1928.

129. Letter to Suvchinsky, 8 Oct. 1924. The phrase in Russian is: Gadkaya prezritel' naya gumannost', zhalost', prezrenie i brezglivost' k chelovechestvu, ni odnoi umnoi mysli.
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Re: Freda Bedi, by Wikipedia

Postby admin » Sat Jul 27, 2019 8:13 am

Part 1 of 2

Chögyam Trungpa
by Wikipedia
Accessed: 6/30/19



They kept pouring in, their numbers rising from thirty thousand [30,000] to seventy thousand [70,000].....

At one point during this stage of her life she had an inexplicable insight. Freda "saw" that Tibetan Buddhism would not only travel to the West but would take root there. And the ones who would bring it about would be the tulkus, Tibet's recognized reincarnated high lamas and spiritual masters, who held the essence of the teachings.....

In the early 1960s, Buddhism was still virtually unknown in the West, outside of a very small handful of scholars ... In the eyes of the intellectual Buddhist scholars, Tibetan Buddhism was regarded as degenerate -- shrouded in the magic and mystery fostered by those shamans of the Bon religion that existed in Tibet before Buddhism took root. There was too much ritual, too much Tantra, too much mumbo jumbo....

There was also the matter of reincarnation itself, which in the predominantly Christian West was still regarded as heretical. People had been burned at the stake and been killed en masse (such as the Cathars) for believing such anathema. In the 1960s and 1970s reincarnation was still a taboo subject. The Tibetans, however, not only completely accepted reincarnation as a given fact of life, they went farther than any other Buddhist country by devising a system to find specific rebirths of accomplished spiritual masters who had forsaken higher states of consciousness after death in order to be reborn in an earthly body solely to continue to teach others how to reach the same exalted state they had achieved. The voluntary return to this vale of tears was seen as the highest mark of altruism, brave and noble beyond measure. These were the tulkus, titled rinpoches, or "Precious Ones." They were the cream of Tibetan society, revered, feted, and sometimes unwittingly used as pawns in others' games of corruption. These were the people Freda was now planning to bring to the West to plant the seeds of the Buddha's teachings into American, European, and Australian soil for the first time.

Finding the right candidates, however, posed an enormous problem. The entire community of Tibetan refugees was in total disarray, with lamas, yogis, householders, carpenters, tailors, and others, mingling together in a homogenized, indistinguishable mass formerly unheard of in the conservative, strictly hierarchical society of old Tibet, where Tulkus were kept apart from the hoi polloi for fear of contamination ....

Undeterred by, or unaware of, these seeming obstacles Freda forged ahead with her dream. She had seen for herself what she thought were exceptional, special qualities in the handful of tulkus she had come across amid the mayhem of the camps. To her eyes they exuded an unmistakable refinement, wisdom, maturity, and dignity way beyond their years, which she was convinced would be as attractive to Westerners as it was to her....

Trungpa was installed as the principal of the Young Lamas Home School, and Akong was its manager. When all was complete, Freda had an audience with Nehru to thank him profusely for his help. Nehru smiled and said in a low, quiet voice, "It was not for you I did it." Nevertheless Freda had single-handedly planned and brought into being the Young Lamas Home School. She had succeeded in her pioneering task to bring the tulkus into the twentieth century, and she was on her way to realizing the next stage of her vision -- to bring them to the West.....

The tulkus were learning English and their lessons on the modern world with varying degrees of success. Freda's star student, Trungpa Rinpoche, however, was making exceptional progress, and Freda's aspirations for him became increasingly ambitious. He had a natural aptitude for English and had taken to reading the poets that Freda presented him with, especially T.S. Eliot. He was keen on history and geography too. Freda decided that he was ready to try to get into Oxford, her own university, where he would receive the finest education the West had to offer. With such credentials he would be perfectly equipped and have the clout to bring the sacred Buddhist teachings to the outside world in a language it could understand.

With the help of John Driver, an Englishman who was also tutoring Trungpa, Freda set about getting a Spalding Scholarship for Trungpa, and succeeded. In early 1963 Trungpa set sail for England accompanied by Akong Rinpoche, to enter into the arcane, privileged, and hallowed halls of Oxford University. It was another epic journey into the unknown, heralding as many adventures, pitfalls, and triumphs as they had met in their escape from Tibet.

-- The Revolutionary Life of Freda Bedi, by Vicki Mackenzie

On January 17, 1960, they crossed the border into India.

Rinpoche spent nearly four years in India, where he encountered a world vastly different from Tibet. He had grown up in an essentially medieval culture, and a very unusual one at that. It was one of the very few places on earth, at least in the twentieth century, where spirituality was uppermost in the minds and hearts of almost the entire population. Tibet was certainly not an idyllic society. Rinpoche often said that there was it great deal of corruption in Tibet, and that this was a contributing factor in its occupation by the communist Chinese. At the same time, he loved the land and the people, and he was completely immersed in a Buddhist world there.

In Tibet, he had been a very special and privileged person. In India, the Tibetans were refugees and were not generally treated very well, although kindness was extended to them by the Indian government and many individuals living in India. However, Rinpoche was no longer a person of high status, as he had been. He told me that, not long after arriving in India, he was invited to an English garden party. The hostess was passing around a tray of cucumber sandwiches, which she offered first to Rinpoche. He took the whole tray, thinking that she had made a nice lunch for him. Later, he was quite embarrassed by this.

Many of the Tibetan refugees ended up in camps. He stayed in the camps for a short time, but then he was able to relocate to Kalimpong, which was close to the seat that His Holiness the Karmapa established in Sikkim after escaping from Tibet. While he was in Kalimpong, Rinpoche studied thangka painting, and he produced beautiful paintings of Padmasambhava and his consort Yeshe Tsogyal, as well as other subjects. Later, he was able to bring these paintings with him to the West, and one of them hangs in my house today. He became friends with Tendzin Rongae, a wonderful thangka painter who had also recently arrived from Tibet and helped Rinpoche with his painting. Rinpoche became close to the entire Rongae family. While in Kalimpong, he learned that Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche had also recently entered India and was living a few miles away, about an hour away by foot. Rinpoche used to walk over to see Khyentse Rinpoche and to receive teachings from him. Dilgo Khyentse was over six feet tall, very unusual for a Tibetan, and he had enormous warmth and presence. During this time, Rinpoche became friends with Khyentse Rinpoche's nephew Ato Rinpoche.

India is a significant place for Tibetans because it was the home of the Buddha and of many of the great teachers whose works are studied in Tibet. One could say that India is for Tibetans what the Middle East is for Jews, Muslims, and Christians. There are many Buddhist pilgrimage sites in India. Rinpoche was able to visit Bodhgaya, where the Buddha attained enlightenment, and other important sites.

In India, Rinpoche was also exposed to many non-Buddhist cultures for the first time. He came to love Indian food and to appreciate many things about the Indian culture. He encountered people from all over the world there. In particular, he met several English Buddhists who were extremely kind and helpful to him. Freda Bedi was one of these. She was an Englishwoman who had married an Indian, Baba Bedi. She worked for the Central Social Welfare Board of the Indian government helping Tibetan refugees, and she was so affected by her involvement with the Tibetans that she became a Buddhist herself. After her husband's death, she was one of the first Westerners to become a Tibetan Buddhist nun.

Rinpoche met her at the refugee camp in Bir, and she formed an immediate bond with him. From the earliest contacts he had with Westerners, he shone out like a light or a beacon to them. Lama Govinda, a Westerner and an early writer about Tibetan Buddhism, reported this quality. Lama Govinda met Rinpoche in northern India, just after Rinpoche's escape from Tibet. Many Tibetan refugees stayed at Lama Govinda's house in the Himalayas on their way south, and he said that Trungpa Rinpoche was the brightest of them all.

Freda Bedi helped Rinpoche resettle in Kalimpong, and later she asked him to help her establish a school to train young Tibetan monks, the Young Lamas Home School, in New Delhi, which moved to Dalhousie after about a year. He was delighted to do this, and with the blessings of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Rinpoche became the spiritual advisor to the young monks at the school.

This was the first time that Rinpoche had ever lived in a secular society, and although at first he found it quite strange, he soon took to it. He went to meetings of a British women's club so that he could hear the poetry of T.S. Eliot read, and he used to go to the cinema in New Delhi. On his way out of Tibet, close to the border with India, he was exposed to alcoholic beverages for the first time. In one of the villages where they stopped, you couldn't drink the water, and everyone drank a kind of Tibetan beer. He had been hesitant to imbibe any alcohol since it was a violation of his monastic vows, but once he gave in, he enjoyed the experience, an din India he started to drink occasionally, though not openly. Tendzin Rongae and Rinpoche liked to get together and drink from time to time.

On the way out of Tibet, Rinpoche had fallen in love with a young Tibetan nun, Konchok Paldron, who was part of the escape party. He became clandestinely involved with her while he was in India. She was living in the refugee camp in Bir. She visited him at the Young Lamas Home School, and they took a mattress up on the roof of the building, where they spent the night together. She became pregnant and gave birth to Rinpoche's eldest son, Osel Rangdrol Mukpo, a short time before Rinpoche left for England. When she was pregnant, she made a pilgrimage to Bodhgaya, and their son was born there. She could no longer be a nun, so after Osel was born, she worked as a road laborer to support herself for some time. Later, she married and had another child.

Around this time, Rinpoche received a Spaulding [Spalding] Scholarship to attend Oxford University. This had come through the intercession of Freda Bedi and John Driver, an Englishman who tutored Rinpoche in the English language in India and helped him with his studies later at Oxford. The Tibet Society in the United Kingdom had also helped him to get the scholarship. To go to England, Rinpoche needed the permission of the Dalai Lama's government. They would never have have allowed him to leave if they had known about his sexual indiscretion, nor do I think it would have gone over very well with the Tibet Society or his English friends in New Delhi. He and Konchok Paldron kept their relationship a secret, and it was a long time before anyone knew that Rinpoche was the father of her child. This caused him a great deal of pain, although I also think that he hadn't yet entirely faced up to the implications of the direction he was going in his relationships with women. At that time, in spite of the inconsistencies in his behavior, he still seemed to think that he could make life work for himself as a monk. Rinpoche continued to stay in touch with Konchok Paldron and his son Osel, and a few years later, he returned to see them and to make arrangements for his son to come to England.

Rinpoche sailed from Bombay for England early in 1963, on the P&O Line, accompanied by his close friend Akong, who was to be a helper and companion to him at Oxford. Rinpoche had been working very hard on his English, but when he left India, he was still struggling with the language, speaking what would be called a form of pidgin English. When Rinpoche and Akong docked in England, they were welcomed by members of the Tibet Society, and before his studies started at Oxford in the fall, Rinpoche spent time in London, where he met many of the most prominent members of the English Buddhist community. He was invited to give several talks at the Buddhist Society, and he attended a kind of summer camp they sponsored each year, where he gave a number of lectures.

Remembering High Leigh SUMMER SCHOOLS

The Buddhist Lodge (now The Buddhist Society, London) ...

-- The 90th Anniversary of The Buddhist Society 1924–2014, by The Buddhist Society

... When he went up to Oxford, he had quite a challenge trying to bring his English up to speed so that he could understand the lectures and the books he was given to read. Rinpoche wanted to learn as much as he could about English history, philosophy, religion, and politics, but it was pretty tough going for him at the beginning. John Driver, who he had met in India and who had been instrumental in bringing him to England, returned to England and helped Rinpoche a great deal with his lessons, and Rinpoche never forgot this kindness. In the evenings, Rinpoche attended classes in the town of Oxford to improve his English. Years later, he still remembered how his teacher had made the class say words over and over, to improve their elocution, such as "policeman, policeman, policeman." Rinpoche proved himself a brilliant student of the English language. By the time he left England for America, his English vocabulary exceeded that of many of his students.

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

Alongside this new emergency, Freda continued to pursue another hugely ambitious project. 'My two lama "sons" are coming to England in March ... wonderful young lamas,' Freda told Olive Chandler -- an indication of the strong emotional as well as spiritual bonds forged with these tulkus.24 Along with John [E. Stapleton] Driver, a scholar of Tibet who had spent several years in Kalimpong, she managed to secure a Spalding scholarship to allow Trungpa to study at Oxford University. Akong was to accompany him. They were, in Cherry Armstrong's words, Freda's 'golden boys'. She recognised in Trungpa, in particular, an exceptional spiritual presence and an ability to communicate and to inspire those with whom he came into contact. Both had formal roles at the school -- Trungpa as codirector (he described himself as the school's spiritual advisor) while Akong made sure that the place ran with tolerable efficiency. Anita Morris, who taught English both at Green Park and at Dalhousie, had mixed opinions of the two. 'Akong was very much taking care of the younger ones -- a lot of them were a lot younger. So if they had any pains or any problems, they would go to Akong,' she recalls. 'He'd be going down maybe to a doctor at Dalhousie if necessary or just for ordinary shopping and taking care of things. Whereas Trungpa just did his own thing, his bits of painting and that sort of stuff.'25 A Tibetan lama who knew both well at Dalhousie comments that Trungpa always wanted attention and prominence, while Akong was solid and reliable. Trungpa was already developing a reputation as something of a wild child. Although it was a well-kept secret, he apparently fathered a child with a Tibetan nun who came to Dalhousie to visit him. They took a mattress up on the roof of the school -- said Trungpa's English wife in her memoirs -- and spent the night there. That was not at all typical of the school, but not entirely untypical ofTrungpa.26 He was an enormously important figure in the spread of Tibetan Buddhism in North America and Europe and one of the first to teach westerners in English, but he had lifelong issues about sexual promiscuity and the use of drink and drugs.

At Ladakh Buddhist Vihar, Cherry remembers Trungpa and Akong sitting in their room studying maps of the London Underground and out-of-date bus timetables in preparation for their journey. They travelled by boat. On the day they were due to dock outside London, the pupils at the Home School -- by now back in Dalhousie -- held a prayer ceremony on an open patch of woodland on the hillside adjoining Kailash. 'They lit a fire of juniper branches and the smoke rose in a blue spire into the branches of the trees and on up into the cloudless sky. We sat on brightly patterned Tibetan rugs spread over the stony ant-infested ground and the lamas began their chanting. It was a happy, picnic-like affair around the scented bonfire, with kettles of hot buttery Tibetan tea.'27 At Tilbury, Cherry's parents were on hand to welcome the two Tibetans -- as were Anita Morris and other well-wishers -- and to provide them with an initial berth at the family home in High Wycombe. Once installed at Oxford, Trungpa and Akong were joined by an old friend and another alumnus of the Home School, Chime Rinpoche. They shared a small flat in St Margaret's Road, on the same street as Freda's old college, and Akong took work as a hospital orderly to help support the household. All three became powerful beacons of Tibetan Buddhism in the west.

-- The Lives of Freda: The Political, Spiritual and Personal Journeys of Freda Bedi, by Andrew Whitehead

David Chadwick: [Trungpa] Rinpoche said that until he met Little Joe, the Peyote Road Man, Suzuki Roshi was the only sane man he'd met in America. Rinpoche said that after he left Tibet he never heard of his teacher again and he felt so sad and alone and then when he met Roshi he felt that he had a friend. He said that all the people supporting him in England were only making things worse -- the whole Christmas Humphreys crowd.

-- Interviews: Bob Halpern cuke page, by Crooked Cucumber: The Life and Zen Teaching of Shunryu Suzuki, by David Chadwick

Chögyam Trungpa before 1959
Title Tulku
Born March 5, 1939
Nangchen, Kham region, Tibet
Died April 4, 1987 (aged 48)
Halifax, Nova Scotia
Cause of death Myocardial infarction and Liver cirrhosis[1]
Religion Buddhism
Nationality Tibetan
Spouse Lady Diana Mukpo
Children Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, Tagtrug (Taggie) Mukpo, Gesar Mukpo
School Vajrayana
Lineage Kagyu and Nyingma
Senior posting
Teacher Jamgon Kongtrul of Sechen
Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche
Khenpo Gangshar
Predecessor Chökyi Nyinche
Successor Choseng Trungpa
Reincarnation Trungpa Tulku

Chögyam Trungpa (Wylie: Chos rgyam Drung pa; March 5, 1939 – April 4, 1987) was a Buddhist meditation master and holder of both the Kagyu and Nyingma lineages, the eleventh Trungpa tülku, a tertön, supreme abbot of the Surmang monasteries, scholar, teacher, poet, artist, and originator of a radical re-presentation of Shambhala vision.

Recognized both by Tibetan Buddhists and by other spiritual practitioners and scholars[2][3] as a preeminent teacher of Tibetan Buddhism, he was a major figure in the dissemination of Buddhism to the West,[4] founding Vajradhatu and Naropa University and establishing the Shambhala Training method.

Among his contributions are the translation of numerous Tibetan texts,[5] the introduction of the Vajrayana teachings to the West, and a presentation of the Buddhadharma largely devoid of ethnic trappings. Trungpa coined the term crazy wisdom.[6] Some of his teaching methods and actions were the topic of controversy during his lifetime and afterwards.


Early years

Khenpo Gangshar (left) and Chögyam Trungpa

Born in the Nangchen region of Tibet in March 1939, Chögyam Trungpa was eleventh in the line of Trungpa tülkus, important figures in the Kagyu lineage, one of the four main schools of Tibetan Buddhism. Among his three main teachers were Jamgon Kongtrul of Sechen, HH Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, and Khenpo Gangshar.

The name Chögyam is a contraction of Chökyi Gyamtso (Tibetan: ཆོས་ཀྱི་རྒྱ་མཚོ་, Wylie: Chos-kyi Rgya-mtsho), which means "ocean of dharma". Trungpa (Tibetan: དྲུང་པ་, Wylie: Drung-pa) means "attendant". He was deeply trained in the Kagyu tradition and received his khenpo degree at the same time as Thrangu Rinpoche; they continued to be very close in later years. Chögyam Trungpa was also trained in the Nyingma tradition, the oldest of the four schools, and was an adherent of the ri-mé ("nonsectarian") ecumenical movement within Tibetan Buddhism, which aspired to bring together and make available all the valuable teachings of the different schools, free of sectarian rivalry.

At the time of his escape from Tibet,[7] Trungpa was head of the Surmang group of monasteries.

Escape from Tibet

On April 23, 1959, twenty-year-old Trungpa set out on an epic nine-month escape from his homeland.[8][9] Masked in his account in Born in Tibet to protect those left behind,[10] the first, preparatory stage of his escape had begun a year earlier, when he fled his home monastery after its occupation by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA).[11] After spending the winter in hiding, he decided definitively to escape after learning that his monastery had been destroyed.[12] Trungpa started with Akong Rinpoche and a small party of monastics, but as they traveled people asked to join until the party eventually numbered 300 refugees, from the elderly to mothers with babies – additions which greatly slowed and complicated the journey. Forced to abandon their animals, over half the journey was on foot as the refugees journeyed through an untracked mountain wilderness to avoid the PLA. Sometimes lost, sometimes traveling at night, after three months’ trek they reached the Brahmaputra River. Trungpa, the monastics and about 70 refugees managed to cross the river under heavy gunfire,[13] then, eating their leather belts and bags to survive, they climbed 19,000 feet over the Himalayas before reaching the safety of Pema Ko.[14] After reaching India, on January 24, 1960 the party was flown to a refugee camp.[15][16]

Between 2006 and 2010, independent Canadian and French researchers using satellite imagery tracked and confirmed Trungpa’s escape route.[17] In 2012, five survivors of the escape in Nepal, Scotland and the U.S. confirmed details of the journey and supplied their personal accounts.[18] More recent analysis has shown the journey to be directly comparable to such sagas as Shackleton’s 1914/17 Antarctic Expedition.[19] In 2016 accumulated research and survivors’ stories were published in a full retelling of the story,[20] and later in the year preliminary talks began on the funding and production of a movie.

Early teachings in the West

In exile in India, Trungpa began his study of English. In collaboration with Freda Bedi, who had initiated the project,[21] Trungpa and Akong Tulku founded the Young Lamas Home School and, after seeking endorsement from the Dalai Lama, were appointed its spiritual head and administrator respectively.[22]

In 1963, with the assistance of sympathetic Westerners, Trungpa received a Spalding sponsorship to study comparative religion at St Antony's College, Oxford University.[23][24] In 1967, upon the departure of the western Theravadan monk Anandabodhi, Trungpa and Akong Rinpoche were invited by the Johnstone House Trust in Scotland to take over a meditation center, which then became Samye Ling, the first Tibetan Buddhist monastery in the West (future actor and musician David Bowie[25] was one of Trungpa's meditation pupils there). In 1970, after a break with Akong, Trungpa moved to the United States at the invitation of several students.

Shortly after his move to Scotland, a variety of experiences, including a car accident that left him partially paralyzed on the left side of his body, led Trungpa to give up his monastic vows and work as a lay teacher.[26] He made that decision principally to mitigate students' becoming distracted by exotic cultures and dress and to undercut their preconceptions of how a guru should behave.[26] He drank, smoked, slept with students, and often kept students waiting for hours before giving teachings. Much of his behavior has been construed as deliberately provocative and sparked controversy. In one account, he encouraged students to give up smoking marijuana, claiming that the smoking was not of benefit to their spiritual progress and that it exaggerated neurosis. Students were often angered, unnerved and intimidated by him, but many remained fiercely loyal, committed, and devoted.

Upon moving to the United States in 1970, Trungpa traveled around North America, gaining renown for his ability to present the essence of the highest Buddhist teachings in a form readily understandable to Western students. During this period, he conducted 13 Vajradhatu Seminaries, three-month residential programs at which he presented a vast body of Buddhist teachings in an atmosphere of intensive meditation practice. The seminaries also had the important function of training his students to become teachers themselves.[27]

Introduction of the Vajrayana

Trungpa was one of the first teachers to introduce the esoteric practice of the Vajrayana to the West. According to Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso, "The one who mainly spread the Vajrayana in the West was Trungpa Rinpoche."[28] In contrast to its traditional presentation in Tibet, where the esoteric practices are largely the domain of the monastic sangha, in the US Trungpa introduced the Vajrayana to the lay sangha.[29]

The presentation of these teachings gave rise to some criticism. According to Trungpa's former student Stephen Butterfield, "Trungpa told us that if we ever tried to leave the Vajrayana, we would suffer unbearable, subtle, continuous anguish, and disasters would pursue us like furies".[30] Other Vajrayana teachers also warn their students about the dangers of the esoteric path.

Butterfield noted "disquieting resemblances" to cults, and "to be part of Trungpa's inner circle, you had to take a vow never to reveal or even discuss some of the things he did." But Butterfield also notes that "This personal secrecy is common with gurus, especially in Vajrayana Buddhism,"[31] and acknowledges that Trungpa's organization is anything but a cult: "a mere cult leaves you disgusted and disillusioned, wondering how you could have been a fool. I did not feel that charlatans had hoodwinked me into giving up my powers to enhance theirs. On the contrary, mine were unveiled."[32]

Meditation and education centers

The purkhang at Karmê Chöling

In 1973, Trungpa established Vajradhatu, encompassing all his North American institutions, headquartered in Boulder, Colorado. Trungpa also founded more than 100 meditation centers throughout the world. Originally known as Dharmadhatus, these centers, now more than 150 in number, are known as Shambhala Meditation Centers. He also founded retreat centers for intensive meditation practice, including Shambhala Mountain Center in Red Feather Lakes, Colorado, Karmê Chöling in Barnet, Vermont and Gampo Abbey in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia.

In 1974, Trungpa founded the Naropa Institute, which later became Naropa University, in Boulder, Colorado. Naropa was the first accredited Buddhist university in North America. Trungpa hired Allen Ginsberg to teach poetry and William Burroughs to teach literature.

Trungpa had a number of notable students, among whom were Pema Chödrön, Allen Ginsberg, Peter Orlovsky, Anne Waldman, Diane di Prima, Peter Lieberson, John Steinbeck IV, José Argüelles, David Nichtern, Ken Wilber, David Deida, Francisco Varela, and Joni Mitchell, who portrayed Trungpa in the song "Refuge of the Roads" on her 1976 album Hejira.[33] Ginsberg, Waldman, and di Prima also taught at Naropa University, and in the 1980s Marianne Faithfull taught songwriting workshops. Lesser-known students Trungpa taught in England and the US include Alf Vial, Rigdzin Shikpo (né Michael Hookham), Jigme Rinzen (né P. Howard Useche), Ezequiel Hernandez Urdaneta (known as Keun-Tshen Goba after setting up his first meditation center in Venezuela), Miguel Otaola (aka Dorje Khandro), Francisco Salas Roche, and Francesca Fremantle. Rigdzin Shikpo promulgated Trungpa's teachings from a primarily Nyingma rather than Kagyü point of view at the Longchen Foundation.[34][35]

Shambhala vision

In 1976, Trungpa began giving a series of secular teachings, some of which were gathered and presented as the Shambhala Training,[36][37] inspired by his vision (see terma) of the legendary Kingdom of Shambhala. Trungpa had actually started writing about Shambhala before his 1959 escape from Tibet to India, but most of those writings were lost during the escape.[38]

In his view not only was individual enlightenment not mythical, but the Shambhala Kingdom, an enlightened society, could in fact be actualized. The practice of Shambhala vision is to use mindfulness/awareness meditation as a way to connect with one's basic goodness and confidence. It is presented as a path that "brings dignity, confidence, and wisdom to every facet of life." Trungpa proposed to lead the Kingdom as sakyong (Tib. earth protector) with his wife as queen-consort or sakyong wangmo.

Shambhala vision is described as a nonreligious approach rooted in meditation and accessible to individuals of any, or no, religion. In Shambhala terms, it is possible, moment by moment, for individuals to establish enlightened society. His book, Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior, provides a concise collection of the Shambhala views. According to Trungpa, it was his intention to propagate the kingdom of Shambala that provided the necessary inspiration to leave his homeland and make the arduous journey to India and the West.[39]

Work with arts and sciences

From the beginning of his time in the US, Trungpa encouraged his students to integrate a contemplative approach into their everyday activities. In addition to making a variety of traditional contemplative practices available to the community, he incorporated his students' already existing interests (especially anything relating to Japanese culture), evolving specialized teachings on a meditative approach to these various disciplines. These included kyūdō (Japanese archery), calligraphy, ikebana (flower arranging), Sadō (Japanese tea ceremony), dance, theater, film, poetry, health care, and psychotherapy. His aim was, in his own words, to bring "art to everyday life." He founded the Nalanda Foundation in 1974 as an umbrella organization for these activities.[citation needed]


Trungpa visited Nova Scotia for the first time in 1977. In 1983 he established Gampo Abbey, a Karma Kagyü monastery in Cape Breton. The following year, 1984–85, he observed a yearlong retreat at Mill Village and in 1986 he moved his home and Vajradhatu's international headquarters to Halifax.

By then he was in failing health due to the auto accident in his youth and years of heavy alcohol use. On September 28, 1986, he suffered cardiac arrest,[40] after which his condition deteriorated, requiring intensive care at the hospital, then at his home and finally, in mid-March 1987, back at the hospital, where he died on April 4, 1987.

In 2006 his wife, Diana Mukpo, wrote, "Although he had many of the classic health problems that develop from heavy drinking, it was in fact more likely the diabetes and high blood pressure that led to abnormal blood sugar levels and then the cardiac arrest".[41] But in a November 2008 interview, when asked "What was he ill with? What did he die of?," Trungpa's doctor, Mitchell Levy, replied, "He had chronic liver disease related to his alcohol intake over many years."[42] One of Trungpa's nursing attendants reported that he suffered in his last months from classic symptoms of terminal alcoholism and cirrhosis,[43] yet continued drinking heavily. She added, "At the same time there was a power about him and an equanimity to his presence that was phenomenal, that I don't know how to explain."[44]

Trungpa is reported to have remained in a state of samādhi for five days after his death, his body not immediately decaying and his heart remaining warm.[45] His body was packed in salt, laid in a wooden box, and conveyed to Karmê Chöling. A number of observers have reported that his cremation there on May 26, 1987, was accompanied by various atmospheric effects and other signs traditionally viewed as marks of enlightenment. These included the appearance of rainbows, circling eagles,[46][47] and a cloud in the shape of an Ashe.[48][49]

Continuation of the Shambhala lineage

Upon Trungpa's death, the leadership of Vajradhatu was first carried on by his American disciple, appointed regent and Dharma heir, Ösel Tendzin (Thomas Rich), and then by Trungpa's eldest son and Shambhala heir, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche.

The next Trungpa tülku, Chokyi Sengay, was recognized in 1991 by Tai Situ Rinpoche.
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Major lineage holders of Trungpa's Tibetan Buddhist traditions and many other Buddhist teachers supported his work.

Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche

In 1974, Trungpa invited the 16th Karmapa, head of the Karma Kagyu lineage, to come to the West and offer teachings. Based on this visit, the Karmapa proclaimed Trungpa one of the principal Kagyu lineage holders in the west:

The ancient and renowned lineage of the Trungpas, since the great siddha Trungmase Chökyi Gyamtso Lodrö, possessor of only holy activity, has in every generation given rise to great beings. Awakened by the vision of these predecessors in the lineage, this my present lineage holder, Chökyi Gyamtso Trungpa Rinpoche, supreme incarnate being, has magnificently carried out the vajra holders' discipline in the land of America, bringing about the liberation of students and ripening them in the dharma. This wonderful truth is clearly manifest.

Accordingly, I empower Chögyam Trungpa Vajra Holder and Possessor of the Victory Banner of the Practice Lineage of the Karma Kagyu. Let this be recognized by all people of both elevated and ordinary station.[50]

In 1981, Trungpa and his students hosted the 14th Dalai Lama in his visit to Boulder, Colorado. Of Trungpa, the Dalai Lama later wrote, "Exceptional as one of the first Tibetan lamas to become fully assimilated into Western culture, he made a powerful contribution to revealing the Tibetan approach to inner peace in the West."[51]

Trungpa also received support from one of his own main teachers, Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, head of the Nyingma lineage. In addition to numerous sadhanas and poems dedicated to Trungpa, Khyentse Rinpoche wrote a supplication after Trungpa's death specifically naming him a mahasiddha.[52][53][54] Among other Tibetan lamas to name Trungpa a mahasiddha are the Sixteenth Karmapa, Thrangu Rinpoche, Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche and Tai Situpa.[55]

The Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche said, "As taught in the Buddhist scriptures, there are nine qualities of a perfect master of buddhadharma. The eleventh Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche possessed all nine of these."[56]

Suzuki Roshi, founder of the San Francisco Zen Center and Tassajara Zen Mountain Center, and another important exponent of Buddhism to western students, described Trungpa in the context of a talk about emptiness:

The way you can struggle with this is to be supported by something, something you don't know. As we are human beings, there must be that kind of feeling. You must feel it in this city or building or community. So whatever community it may be, it is necessary for it to have this kind of spiritual support.

That is why I respect Trungpa Rinpoche. He is supporting us. You may criticize him because he drinks alcohol like I drink water, but that is a minor problem. He trusts you completely. He knows that if he is always supporting you in a true sense you will not criticize him, whatever he does. And he doesn't mind whatever you say. That is not the point, you know. This kind of big spirit, without clinging to some special religion or form of practice, is necessary for human beings.[57]

Gehlek Rinpoche, who lived with Trungpa when they were young monks in India and later visited and taught with him in the U.S., remarked:

He was a great Tibetan yogi, a friend, and a master. The more I deal with Western Dharma students, the more I appreciate how he presented the dharma and the activities that he taught. Whenever I meet with difficulties, I begin to understand – sometimes before solving the problem, sometimes afterward – why Trungpa Rinpoche did some unconventional things. I do consider him to be the father of Tibetan Buddhism in the United States. In my opinion, he left very early – too early. His death was a great loss. Everything he did is significant.[58]

Diana Mukpo, his wife, stated:

First, Rinpoche always wanted feedback. He very, very much encouraged his students’ critical intelligence. One of the reasons that people were in his circle was that they were willing to be honest and direct with him. He definitely was not one of those teachers who asked for obedience and wanted their students not to think for themselves. He thrived, he lived, on the intelligence of his students. That is how he built his entire teaching situation.

From my perspective, I could always be pretty direct with him. Maybe I was not hesitant to do that because I really trusted the unconditional nature of our relationship. I felt there was really nothing to lose by being absolutely direct with him, and he appreciated that.[59]


[Trungpa] caused more trouble, and did more good, than anyone I'll ever know.

—Rick Fields, historian of Buddhism in America[60][61]

Among the forebears formally acknowledged by the Trungpa lineage, and referred to by Trungpa, were the Indian mahasiddha Ḍombipa[62] (also known as Ḍombi Heruka; his name may have stemmed from his consorting with Dhombis, outcast women)[63] and Drukpa Künlek (also Kunley), the Mad Yogi of Bhutan, who converted Bhutan to Buddhism and was famous for his fondness for beer and women.[64][65] Both were recognized for their powerful but unorthodox teaching styles.

Trungpa's own teaching style was often unconventional. In his own words, "When we talk about compassion, we talk in terms of being kind. But compassion is not so much being kind; it is being creative to wake a person up."[66] He did not encourage his students to imitate his own behavior, and was troubled by those who felt empowered by his example to do whatever they wanted and manipulate people. As the third Jamgön Kongtrül explained to Trungpa's students, "You shouldn't imitate or judge the behavior of your teacher, Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, unless you can imitate his mind."[67]

Trungpa's sexuality has been one of the sources of controversy, as he cultivated relations with a number of his female students. Tenzin Palmo, who met him in 1962 while he was still at Oxford, did not become one of his consorts, refusing his advances because he had presented himself as "a pure monk." But Palmo stated that had she known Trungpa had been having sexual relations with women since he was 13, she would not have declined.[68] Trungpa formally renounced his monastic vows in 1969.[69]

Trungpa was also known for smoking tobacco and liberally using alcohol;[70] many who knew him characterized him as an alcoholic.[71][72] He began drinking occasionally shortly after arriving in India.[73] Before coming to the US, Trungpa drove a sports car into a joke shop in Dumfries, Scotland.[74] While his companion was not seriously injured,[75] Trungpa was left partially paralyzed. Later, he described this event as a pivotal moment that inspired the course of his teachings. Some accounts ascribe the accident to drinking.[76][77] Others suggest he may have had a stroke.[78][79] According to Trungpa himself, he blacked out.[80]

Trungpa often combined drinking with teaching. David Chadwick recounts:[81]

Suzuki [Roshi] asked Trungpa to give a talk to the students in the zendo the next night. Trungpa walked in tipsy and sat on the edge of the altar platform with his feet dangling. But he delivered a crystal-clear talk, which some felt had a quality – like Suzuki's talks – of not only being about the dharma but being itself the dharma.

In some instances Trungpa was too drunk to walk and had to be carried.[77] Also, according to his student John Steinbeck IV and his wife, on a couple of occasions Trungpa's speech was unintelligible.[82] One woman reported serving him "big glasses of gin first thing in the morning."[43]

The Steinbecks wrote The Other Side of Eden, a sharply critical memoir of their lives with Trungpa in which they claim that, in addition to alcohol, he spent $40,000 a year on cocaine, and used Seconal to come down from the cocaine. The Steinbecks said the cocaine use was kept secret from the wider Vajradhatu community.[83]

An incident that became a cause célèbre among some poets and artists was the Halloween party at Snowmass Colorado Seminary in 1975, held during a 3-month period of intensive meditation and study of the Hinayana, Mahayana, and Vajrayana vehicles of Tibetan Buddhism. The poet W. S. Merwin had arrived at the Naropa Institute that summer and been told by Allen Ginsberg that he ought to attend the seminary. Although he had not gone through the several years' worth of study and preparatory mind training required, Merwin insisted on attending and Trungpa eventually granted his request – along with Merwin's girlfriend. At seminary the couple kept to themselves. At the Halloween party, after many, including Trungpa himself, had taken off their clothes, Merwin was asked to join the event but refused. On Trungpa's orders, his Vajra Guard forced entry into the poet's locked and barricaded room; brought him and his girlfriend, Dana Naone, against their will, to the party; and eventually stripped them of all their clothes, with onlookers ignoring Naone's pleas for help and for someone to call the police.[84] The next day Trungpa asked Merwin and Naone to remain at the Seminary as either students or guests. They agreed to stay for several more weeks to hear the Vajrayana teachings, with Trungpa's promise that "there would be no more incidents" and Merwin's that there would be "no guarantees of obedience, trust, or personal devotion to him."[85] They left immediately after the last talk. In a 1977 letter to members of a Naropa class investigating the incident, Merwin concluded,

My feelings about Trungpa have been mixed from the start. Admiration, throughout, for his remarkable gifts; and reservations, which developed into profound misgivings, concerning some of his uses of them. I imagine, at least, that I've learned some things from him (though maybe not all of them were the things I was "supposed" to learn) and some through him, and I'm grateful to him for those. I wouldn't encourage anyone to become a student of his. I wish him well.[86]

The incident became known to a wider public when Tom Clark published "The Great Naropa Poetry Wars". The Naropa Institute later asked Ed Sanders and his class to conduct an internal investigation, resulting in a lengthy report.[87][88][89][90][91]

Eliot Weinberger commented on the incident in a critique aimed at Trungpa and Allen Ginsberg published in The Nation on April 19, 1980. He complained that the fascination of some of the best minds of his generation with Trungpa's presentation of Tibetan Buddhism and Tibetan theocracy created a dangerous exclusivity and elitism.[92]

Author Jeffery Paine commented on this incident that "[s]eeing Merwin out of step with the rest, Trungpa could have asked him to leave, but decided it was kinder to shock him out of his aloofness."[93] Paine also noted the outrage felt in particular by poets such as Robert Bly and Kenneth Rexroth, who began calling Trungpa a fascist.[94]

Trungpa's choice of Westerner Ösel Tendzin as his dharma heir was controversial, as Tendzin was the first Western Tibetan Buddhist lineage holder and Vajra Regent. This was exacerbated by Tendzin's own behavior as lineage holder. While knowingly HIV-positive, Tendzin was sexually involved with students, one of whom became infected and died.[95]


1940: Born in Kham, Eastern Tibet. Enthroned as eleventh Trungpa Tulku, Supreme Abbot of Surmang Monasteries, and Governor of Surmang District. Some put his birth in 1939.[96]

1944–59: Studies traditional monastic disciplines, meditation, and philosophy, as well as calligraphy, thangka painting, and monastic dance.

1947: Ordained as a shramanera (novice monk).

1958: Receives degrees of Kyorpön (Master of Studies) and Khenpo (Doctor of Divinity). Ordained as a bhikshu (full monk).

1959–60: Follows the Dalai Lama to India during the 1959 Tibetan uprising, which failed to overthrow the Chinese government.

1960–63: By appointment of the 14th Dalai Lama, serves as spiritual advisor to the Young Lamas' Home School in Dalhousie, India.

1962: Fathers first son, Ösel Rangdröl (Mukpo), by a nun later referred to as Lady Kunchok Palden (or Lady Konchok Palden).[97]

1963–67: Attends Oxford University on a Spaulding scholarship, studying comparative religion, philosophy, and fine arts. Receives instructor's degree of the Sogetsu School of ikebana (Japanese flower arrangement).[98]

1967: Co-founds, with Akong Rinpoche, Kagyu Samyé Ling Monastery and Tibetan Centre, in Dumfriesshire, Scotland.[98]

1969: Travels to Bhutan and goes on solitary retreat.[98]

1969: Receives The Sadhana of Mahamudra terma text while on retreat in Paro Taktsang, a sacred cliffside monastery in Bhutan.[99]

1969: Becomes the first Tibetan British subject. Injured in a car accident, leaving him partially paralyzed.[100]

1970: After the accident Chögyam Trungpa renounces his monastic vows.[100] He claims that the dharma needs to be free of cultural trappings to take root.[98]

1970: Marries wealthy sixteen-year-old English student Diana Judith Pybus.[101]

1970: Arrives in North America. Establishes Tail of the Tiger, a Buddhist meditation and study center in Vermont, now known as Karmê Chöling. Establishes Karma Dzong, a Buddhist community in Boulder, Colorado.[102]

1971: Begins teaching at University of Colorado. Establishes Rocky Mountain Dharma Center, now known as Shambhala Mountain Center, near Fort Collins, Colorado.

1972: Initiates Maitri, a therapeutic program that works with different styles of neurosis using principles of the five buddha families. Conducts the Milarepa Film Workshop, a program which analyzes the aesthetics of film, on Lookout Mountain, Colorado.

1973: Founds Mudra Theater Group, which stages original plays and practices theater exercises, based on traditional Tibetan dance.[103] Incorporates Vajradhatu, an international association of Buddhist meditation and study centers, now known as Shambhala International. Establishes Dorje Khyung Dzong, a retreat facility in southern Colorado.[104] Conducts first annual Vajradhatu Seminary, a three-month advanced practice and study program.

1974: Incorporates Nalanda Foundation, a nonprofit, nonsectarian educational organization to encourage and organize programs in the fields of education, psychology, and the arts. Hosts the first North American visit of The Sixteenth Gyalwang Karmapa, head of the Karma Kagyü lineage. Founds The Naropa Institute, a contemplative studies and liberal arts college, now fully accredited as Naropa University. Forms the organization that will become the Dorje Kasung, a service group entrusted with the protection of the buddhist teachings and the welfare of the community.

1975: Forms the organization that will become the Shambhala Lodge, a group of students dedicated to fostering enlightened society. Founds the Nalanda Translation Committee for the translation of Buddhist texts from Tibetan and Sanskrit. Establishes Ashoka Credit Union.

1976: Hosts the first North American visit of Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, revered meditation master and scholar of the Nyingma lineage. Hosts a visit of Dudjom Rinpoche, head of the Nyingma lineage. Empowers Thomas F. Rich as his dharma heir, known thereafter as Vajra Regent Ösel Tendzin. Establishes the Kalapa Court in Boulder, Colorado, as his residence and a cultural center for the Vajradhatu community. Receives the first of several Shambhala terma texts (see termas). These comprise the literary source for the Shambhala teachings. Founds Alaya Preschool in Boulder, Colorado.

1977: Bestows the Vajrayogini abhisheka for the first time in the West for students who have completed ngöndro practice. Establishes the celebration of Shambhala Day. Observes a year-long retreat in Charlemont, Massachusetts. Founds Shambhala Training to promote a secular approach to meditation practice and an appreciation of basic human goodness. Visits Nova Scotia for the first time.

1978: Conducts the first annual Magyal Pomra Encampment, an advanced training program for members of the Dorje Kasung. Conducts the first annual Kalapa Assembly, an intensive training program for advanced Shambhala teachings and practices. Conducts the first Dharma Art seminar. Forms Amara, an association of health professionals. Forms the Upaya Council, a mediation council providing a forum for resolving disputes. Establishes the Midsummer's Day festival and Children's Day.

1979: Empowers his eldest son, Ösel Rangdröl Mukpo, as his successor and heir to the Shambhala lineage. Founds the Shambhala School of Dressage, an equestrian school under the direction of his wife, Lady Diana Mukpo. Founds Vidya Elementary School in Boulder, Colorado.

1980–83: Presents a series of environmental installations and flower arranging exhibitions at art galleries in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Denver, and Boulder.

1980: Forms Kalapa Cha to promote the practice of traditional Japanese Tea Ceremony. With the Nalanda Translation Committee, completes the first English translation of The Rain of Wisdom.

1981: Hosts the visit of the 14th Dalai Lama to Boulder, Colorado. Conducts the first annual Buddhist-Christian Conference in Boulder, Colorado, exploring the common ground between Buddhist and Christian contemplative traditions. Forms Ryuko Kyūdōjō to promote the practice of Kyūdō under the direction of Shibata Kanjuro Sensei, bow maker to the Emperor of Japan. Directs a film, Discovering Elegance, using footage of his environmental installation and flower arranging exhibitions.

1982: Forms Kalapa Ikebana to promote the study and practice of Japanese flower arranging.

1983: Establishes Gampo Abbey, a Karma Kagyü monastery located in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, for Western students wishing to enter into traditional monastic discipline. Creates a series of elocution exercises to promote precision and mindfulness of speech.

1984–85: Observes a year-long retreat in Mill Village, Nova Scotia.

1986: Moves his home and the international headquarters of Vajradhatu to Halifax, Nova Scotia.

1987: Dies in Halifax; cremated May 26 at Karmê Chöling. (His followers have constructed a chorten or stupa, The Great Stupa of Dharmakaya, located near Red Feather Lakes, Colorado, for his remains.)

1989: The child recognized as his reincarnation, Chokyi Sengay, is born in Derge, Tibet; recognized two years later by Tai Situ Rinpoche.


• Born in Tibet (1966), autobiography, story of escaping from Tibet.
• Meditation in Action (1969)
• Mudra (1972)
• Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism (1973)
• The Dawn of Tantra, by Herbert V. Guenther and Chögyam Trungpa (1975)
• Glimpses of Abhidharma (1975)
• The Tibetan Book of the Dead: The Great Liberation through Hearing in the Bardo, translated with commentary by Francesca Fremantle and Chögyam Trungpa (1975)
• Visual Dharma: The Buddhist Art of Tibet (1975)
• The Myth of Freedom and the Way of Meditation (1976)
• The Rain of Wisdom (1980)
• Journey without Goal: The Tantric Wisdom of the Buddha (1981)
• The Life of Marpa the Translator (1982)
• First Thought Best Thought: 108 Poems (1983)
• Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior (1984)
• Crazy Wisdom (1991)
• The Heart of the Buddha (1991)
• Orderly Chaos: The Mandala Principle (1991)
• Secret Beyond Thought: The Five Chakras and the Four Karmas (1991)
• The Lion's Roar: An Introduction to Tantra (1992)
• Transcending Madness: The Experience of the Six Bardos (1992)
• Training the Mind and Cultivating Loving Kindness (1993)
• Glimpses of Shunyata (1993)
• The Art of Calligraphy: Joining Heaven and Earth (1994)
• Illusion's Game: The Life and Teaching of Naropa (1994)
• The Path Is the Goal: A Basic Handbook of Buddhist Meditation (1995)
• Dharma Art (1996)
• Timely Rain: Selected Poetry of Chögyam Trungpa (1998)
• Great Eastern Sun: The Wisdom of Shambhala (1999)
• Glimpses of Space: The Feminine Principle and Evam (1999)
• The Essential Chögyam Trungpa (2000)
• Glimpses of Mahayana (2001)
• Glimpses of Realization (2003)
• The Collected Works of Chögyam Trungpa, Volumes One through Eight (2003)
• True Command: The Teachings of the Dorje Kasung, Volume I, The Town Talks (2004)
• The Sanity We Are Born With: A Buddhist Approach to Psychology (2005)
• The Teacup & the Skullcup: Chogyam Trungpa on Zen and Tantra (2007)
• The Mishap Lineage: Transforming Confusion into Wisdom (2009)
• Smile at Fear: Awakening the True Heart of Bravery (2010)
• The Truth of Suffering and the Path of Liberation (2010)
• Work, Sex, Money. Real Life on the Path of Mindfulness (2011)
• The Profound Treasury of the Ocean of Dharma (2013)
• The Path of Individual Liberation (volume 1) (2013)
• The Bodhisattava Path of Wisdom and Compassion (volume 2) (2013)
• The Tantric Path of Indestructible Wakefulness (volume 3) (2013)
• Training the Mind and Cultivating Loving-Kindness (2013)
• Devotion and Crazy Wisdom: Teachings on the Sadhana of Mahamudra (2015)
• Glimpses of the Profound: Four Short Works (2016)
• Mindfulness in Action: Making Friends with Yourself through Meditation and Everyday Awareness (2016)
• Milarepa: Lessons from the Life and Songs of Tibet's Great Yogi (2017)
• The Future Is Open: Good Karma, Bad Karma, and Beyond Karma (2018)

See also

• Buddhism in the United States
• Shambhala Buddhism
• Tulku (documentary film by Trungpa's son Gesar Mukpo)
• Celtic Buddhism
• Ken Keyes, Jr.
• Miksang (contemplative photography)
• Reginald Ray
• Samaya
• Charles H, Percy


1. ... rmont.html
2. Midal, 2005
3. Luminous passage: the practice and study of Buddhism in America By Charles S. Prebish; p44
4. "Exceptional as one of the first Tibetan lamas to become fully assimilated into Western culture, he made a powerful contribution in revealing the Tibetan approach to inner peace in the West." The Dalai Lama, "A message from his Holiness, the Fourteenth Dalai Lama" in Recalling Chogyam Trungpa Ed. Fabrice Midal; pp ix–x
5. Chögyam The Translator Archived 2008-08-29 at the Wayback Machine
6. Divalerio, David (2015). The Holy Madmen of Tibet. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 239.
7. MacLean, Grant (2016). From Lion's Jaws - Chögyam Trungpa's Epic Escape To The West (1 ed.). Mountain. ISBN 978-0-9950293-0-9.
8. Trungpa, Chögyam (1966). Born in Tibet.164
9. MacLean, Grant (2016). From Lion's Jaws: Chögyam Trungpa's Epic Escape To The West
10. Trungpa, Chögyam (1966). Born in Tibet.
11. From Lion's Jaws, 65-69.
12. Born in Tibet. 164
13. Born in Tibet.230
14. Born in Tibet.239
15. Born in Tibet.248
16. From Lion's Jaws.270
17. "Finding the Escape Route". Retrieved December 5, 2016.
18. From Lion's Jaws.10-12.
19. "Place in History". Retrieved December 5, 2016.
20. "From Lion's Jaws". Retrieved December 5, 2016.
21. Palmo., Tenzin (2014). The Life and Accomplishments of Freda Bedi, in Karma Lekshe Tsomo, editor. Eminent Buddhist Women. New York: SUNY. ISBN 143845130X.
22. From Lion's Jaws.284
23. Trungpa, Chogyam (2000). Born in Tibet (4 ed.). Boston: Shambhala Publications. p. 252. ISBN 1-57062-116-0.
24. The Buddhist Handbook: A Complete Guide to Buddhist Teaching and Practice at Google Books
25. "Bringing Chogyam Trungpa's "Crazy Wisdom" to the screen "
26. Born in Tibet, 1977 edition, Epilogue
27. last paragraph is exact quote from
28. Interview with Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche; 17 September 2003 [1], after [2]
29. Dead but not lost: grief narratives in religious traditions By Robert Goss, Dennis Klass; p74
30. Butterfield 11
31. Butterfield 12, 100
32. Butterfield 239
33. "What Kind of Buddhist was Steve Jobs, Really?". Retrieved 2015-10-26.
34. Longchen Foundation Archived 2012-01-28 at the Wayback Machine
35. Rigdzin Shikpo 2007
36. Midal 2001, pp 233–247
37. Trungpa 2004, Introduction to Volume 8
38. Midal 2005, pp 363–364
39. Chogyam The Translator, see p. 4 Archived 2008-08-29 at the Wayback Machine
40. Hayward, 2008, p 367
41. Mukpo, 2006, p. 382
42. Chronicles Radio Presents. November 1st, 2008.[3]
43. Butler, Katy. Encountering the Shadow in Buddhist America in Common Boundary May/June 1990. pg. 17
44. Zweig 1991, p. 142
45. Hayward, 2008, p. 371
46. Miles, 1989, pp. 526–528
47. Hayward, 2008, p. 373
48. "Collective identity and the post-charismatic fate of Shambhala International" by Eldershaw, Lynn P., Ph.D. thesis, University of Waterloo, 2004. pg 222
49. "Everyone who stayed long enough at Trungpa's cremation saw the rainbows." Stephen Butterfield, in The new Buddhism: the western transformation of an ancient tradition By James William Coleman; p77
50. "Proclamation to all Those Who Dwell Under the Sun Upholding the Tradition of the Spiritual and Temporal Orders", The Gyalwang Karmapa, 1974, in Garuda IV, 1976, pp 86–87, ISBN 0-87773-086-5.
51. Midal, 2005. p. x
52. Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, Light of Blessings
53. Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche, Reflections on Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche
54. The Vajracarya Trungpa Rinpoche Archived December 5, 2008, at the Wayback Machine: "The 1st Trungpa Rinpoche ... was an incarnation of the Indian Mahasiddha Dombipa"
55. Warrior-King of Shambhala: Remembering Chogyam Trungpa By Jeremy Hayward; p274
56. Midal, 2005. p. 16
57. Midal, 2005. p. 381
58. Midal, 2005. p. 418
59. [4]
60. Fields 1992
61. Fields 1988, poem "CTR, April 4, 1987" in Fuck You Cancer and Other Poems, p. 9. Crooked Cloud Projects (1999)
62. Born in Tibet. p. 33.
63. "Mahasiddha Dombhipa… Dombipa / Dombipāda (dom bhi he ru ka): "He of the Washer Folk"/"The Tiger Rider"". Retrieved 12 December 2016.
64. Chogyam Trungpa: His Life and Vision. p. 154.
65. Dowman, Keith (2014). The Divine Madman: The Sublime Life and Songs of Drukpa Kunley. Createspace. ISBN 1495379833.
66. The Collected Works of Chögyam Trungpa, Volume Six, p. 541
67. Midal 2001, p. 160
68. Cave in the Snow: Tendzin Palmo's quest for enlightenment by Vicki MacKenzie. Bloomsbury: 1998 ISBN 1-58234-004-8. pg 31
69. The Collected Works of Chogyam Trungpa, Volume 1. Shambhala Publications: 2004 ISBN 1-59030-025-4 pg xxix
70. Lojong and Tonglen Community Site. Biography of Chogyam TrungpaArchived 2006-05-14 at the Wayback Machine
71. Coleman 2001, pg. 74
72. Das 1997, pg. 251
73. Mukpo 72
74. Das 1997, pg. 199
75. The new Buddhism: the western transformation of an ancient tradition By James William Coleman; p75
76. The American occupation of Tibetan Buddhism: Tibetans and their American ... By Eve Mullen; p56
77. Zweig 1991, p.141
78. "Following a stroke which left him partially paralyzed, Trungpa renounced his monastic vows" The A to Z of Buddhism – Page 258 by Charles S. Prebish
79. The Dharma Fellowship
80. Warrior-King of Shambhala: Remembering Chogyam Trungpa By Jeremy Hayward; p10
81. Chadwick 1999, p. 374
82. Steinbeck 2001, pp. 176, 248
83. Steinbeck 2001, pp. 32, 41, 266
84. Sanders, 1977, throughout; Miles 1989, pp. 466–470; and Clark 1980, pp. 23–25
85. Sanders, 1977, pp. 56, 88
86. Sanders, 1977, pg. 89
87. Clark (1980)
88. Marin (1979) p43-58
89. Sanders (1977)
90. Kashner (2004) p. 278ff
91. Weinberger (1986) pp 30-33
92. "Cadmus Editions on Clark's publication".
93. Paine (2004) pp. 106–107
94. Paine (2004) pg. 102
95. Fields 1992, p. 365
96. Shambhala Teachers – Vidyadhara Chogyam Trungpa RinpocheArchived 2005-05-31 at the Wayback Machine
97. Eldershaw 2007, p. 83
98. Trungpa, Chögyam (1996). Judith L. Lief (ed.). True Perception: The Path of Dharma Art. Shambhala. p. 133. ISBN 1-57062-136-5.
99. Sadhana of Mahamudra
100. The Collected Works of Chogyam Trungpa, Volume 1, p. xxvii, at Google Books
101. Weinberger, 1986, p. 29
102. Karma Dzong
103. "Mudra Theater Group". Archived from the original on 2008-04-09. Retrieved 2008-03-25.
104. Dorje Khyung Dzong


• Butterfield, Stephen T. The Double Mirror: A Skeptical Journey into Buddhist Tantra. North Atlantic Books, 1994. ISBN 1-55643-176-7
• Chadwick, David (1999). Crooked Cucumber: The Life and Zen Teachings of Shunryu Suzuki. ISBN 0-7679-0104-5
• Clark, Tom (1980). The Great Naropa Poetry Wars. ISBN 0-932274-06-4
• Coleman, James William. The New Buddhism: The Western Transformation of an Ancient Tradition (2001) Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-513162-2
• Das, Bhagavan (1997). It's Here Now (Are You?) Broadway. ISBN 0-7679-0008-1
• Eldershaw, Lynn P. "Collective identity and the post-charismatic fate of Shambhala International" 2004 Ph.D. thesis, University of Waterloo; an article drawn from this thesis was published in Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions, (2007) Vol. 10 No. 4, pp. 72–102, ISSN 1092-6690
• Fields, Rick (3rd ed., 1992). How the Swans Came to the Lake: A Narrative History of Buddhism in America. ISBN 0-87773-631-6
• Hayward, Jeremy (2008). Warrior-King of Shambhala: Remembering Chögyam Trungpa. ISBN 0-86171-546-2
• Kashner, Sam. When I Was Cool: My Life at the Jack Kerouac School. HarperCollins, 2004. ISBN 0-06-000566-1.
• Mackenzie, Vicki (1999). Cave in the Snow: Tenzin Palmo's Quest for Enlightenment. ISBN 978-1-58234-045-6
• MacLean, Grant (2016). "From Lion's Jaws: Chögyam Trungpa's Epic Escape To The West". ISBN 978-0-9950293-0-9
• Marin, Peter. "Spiritual Obedience: The Transcendental Game of Follow the Leader." In Harpers Magazine. February 1979.
• Midal, Fabrice (2001). Chögyam Trungpa: His Life and Vision. ISBN 1-59030-098-X
• Midal, Fabrice (2005). Recalling Chögyam Trungpa. ISBN 1-59030-207-9
• Miles, Barry (1989). Ginsberg: A Biography. ISBN 0-671-50713-3
• Paine, Jeffery (2004) Re-Enchantment: Tibetan Buddhism Comes to the West ISBN 0-393-01968-3
• Rigdzin Shikpo (2007). Never Turn Away. ISBN 0-86171-488-1
• Sanders, Ed (ed.) (1977). The Party: A Chronological Perspective on a Confrontation at a Buddhist Seminary. (no ISBN)
• Steinbeck, John Steinbeck IV and Nancy (2001). The Other Side of Eden: Life with John Steinbeck Prometheus Books. ISBN 1-57392-858-5
• Trungpa, Chogyam (2004). "The Collected Works of Chogyam Trungpa, Volume Eight". ISBN 1-59030-032-7
• Weinberger, Eliot (1986). Works on Paper. ISBN 0-8112-1001-4
• Zweig, Connie; Jeremiah Abrams (eds.) (1991). Meeting the Shadow. ISBN 0-87477-618-X
Further reading[edit]
• Feuerstein, Georg. Holy Madness: The Shock Tactics and Radical Teachings of Crazy-Wise Adepts, Holy Fools, and Rascal Gurus. Paragon House, 1991. ISBN 1-55778-250-4
• Feuerstein, Georg. Holy Madness: Spirituality, Crazy-Wise Teachers, And Enlightenment (revised and expanded edition of Feuerstein, 1991). Hohm Press, 2006. ISBN 1-890772-54-2
• Marin, Peter. "Spiritual Obedience" in Freedom & Its Discontents, Steerforth Press, 1995, ISBN 1-883642-24-8
• Midal, Fabrice. Chögyam Trungpa: His Life and Vision. Shambhala, 2004. ISBN 1-59030-098-X
• Mukpo, Diana J. Dragon Thunder: My Life with Chögyam Trungpa. Shambhala, 2006. ISBN 1-59030-256-7
• Perks, John. The Mahasiddha and His Idiot Servant. Crazy Heart Publishers. ISBN 9780975383605
• Chögyam Trungpa/Dorje Dradül of Mukpo: Great Eastern Sun: The Wisdom of Shambhala (1999), 2nd edition 2001, [5], Shambhala Root Text.
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Re: Freda Bedi, by Wikipedia

Postby admin » Sat Jul 27, 2019 8:26 am

Anagarika Govinda
by Wikipedia
Accessed: 7/27/19



From the earliest contacts he had with Westerners, he shone out like a light or a beacon to them. Lama Govinda, a Westerner and an early writer about Tibetan Buddhism, reported this quality. Lama Govinda met [Trungpa] Rinpoche in northern India, just after Rinpoche's escape from Tibet. Many Tibetan refugees stayed at Lama Govinda's house in the Himalayas on their way south, and he said that Trungpa Rinpoche was the brightest of them all.

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

Lama Anagarika Govinda
Born Ernst Lothar Hoffmann
17 May 1898
Waldheim, Saxony, German Empire
Died 14 January 1985 (aged 86)
Mill Valley, California, U.S.
Other names Lama Govinda
German (1898-1938)
British (1938-47)
Spouse(s) Li Gotami Govinda
(m. 1947; his death 1985)

Anagarika Govinda (born Ernst Lothar Hoffmann, 17 May 1898 – 14 January 1985) was the founder of the order of the Arya Maitreya Mandala and an expositor of Tibetan Buddhism, Abhidharma, and Buddhist meditation as well as other aspects of Buddhism. He was also a painter and poet.[1]

Life in Europe

Ernst Lothar Hoffmann was born in Waldheim, Germany, the son of a German father and a Bolivian mother. His father was quite well to do and owned a cigar factory. His mother died when he was three years old. While enrolled in the German army during World War I, he caught tuberculosis in Italy and was discharged. He recovered at a sanatorium and then studied philosophy, psychology and archaeology at Freiburg University. He did not finish his studies, but went to live in a German art colony on Capri in Italy, as a painter and poet. He studied at the Universities of Naples and Cagliari and made archeological research journeys in North Africa. He lived on Capri from 1920 until 1928.[2] During his time in Italy Hoffman became familiar with the work of German life-philosopher Ludwig Klages whose biocentric metaphysics greatly fascinated him and influenced his approach to and understanding of Buddhism.[3] Already at the age of 16 he started to study philosophy and by way of Schopenhauer he encountered Buddhism. After having made a comparative study of the major religions, he became a convinced Buddhist at the age of 18. He joined the Bund für buddhistisches Leben (Association for Buddhist Living). On Capri he practiced meditation with an American Buddhist friend.[4]

Sri Lanka

In December 1928, Hoffman moved from Capri to Sri Lanka and stayed as a celibate Buddhist layman (brahmacāri), and later as a celibate, homeless layman (anagarika), for nine weeks at the Island Hermitage with Nyanatiloka Thera, a teacher and scholar in the Theravada tradition. He was instrumental in founding the International Buddhist Union (IBU) in 1929, of which he made Nyanatiloka the president. The aim of the IBU was to unite all Buddhists worldwide and to promote Buddhism through the virtuous and exemplary conduct of practising Buddhists. As secretary of the IBU, he travelled to Burma and Europe to raise support. Although he came to Sri Lanka with the aim of becoming a Buddhist monk, he was discouraged to do so by Anagarika Dharmapala on the grounds that it would be difficult to travel as a Buddhist monk. In 1930 he founded the Variyagoda Hermitage in a tea-estate in the mountains near Gampola, but he only lived there for one year with his German stepmother Anne Habermann who had come with him from Europe. At Variyagoda Govinda studied Abhidhamma and Pali.[5]

Life and travels in India and Tibet before WWII

In April 1931 Govinda went to All-India Buddhist Conference in Darjeeling as the representative of the IBU, to propagate the "pure Buddhist teaching as preserved in Ceylon, in a country where it had degenerated into a system of demon worship and fantastic forms of belief." However, in nearby Sikkim he met the Tibetan Gelugpa meditation teacher Tomo Geshe Rimpoche alias Lama Ngawang Kalzang (1866–1936),[6] who greatly impressed him and completely changed his views about Tibetan Buddhism. From then on he embraced Tibetan Buddhism, although he never abandoned his Theravada roots and stayed in contact with Nyanatiloka and later with Nyanaponika. Lama Ngawang Kalzang taught meditation to Govinda, who remained in contact with him until his death. During their 1947–1948 expeditions to Tibet, Govinda and Li Gotami met Ajo Repa Rinpoche, who, according to Govinda, initiated them into the Kagyüpa school of Tibetan Buddhism.[7]

The scholar Donald Lopez questions whether the 'initiations' that Govinda received are to be understood in the traditional Tibetan way of the term, i.e., as an empowerment by a Lama to carry out Tantric rituals or meditations. When he first met Lama Ngawang Kalzang, Govinda spoke no Tibetan and his description of the initiation is vague. According to Lopez, no initiation into the Kagyu order or any other Tibetan order exists, and it is unclear what was the nature of the initiation ceremony and the teachings that Govinda and his wife received from Ajo Repa Rinpoche. Govinda himself wrote in Foundations of Tibetan Mysticism that he understood 'initiates' to mean 'individuals who, in virtue of their own sensitiveness, respond to the subtle vibrations of symbols which are presented to them either by tradition or intuition.'[8] And in The Way of White Clouds, he wrote: "A real Guru's initiation is beyond the divisions of sects and creeds: it is the awakening to our own inner reality which, once glimpsed, determines our further course of development and our actions in life without the enforcement of outer rules."[9]

Govinda stayed on in India, teaching German and French at Rabindranath Tagore's Vishva Bharati university in Santinekan. He lost interest in the IBU, which caused it to collapse. In 1932 Govinda briefly visited Tibet from Sikkim (visiting Mount Kailash), and in 1933 from Ladakh. The summer months of 1932 and 1934 he and his stepmother, who had followed him to India, stayed at his hermitage at Variyagoda, where a German Buddhist nun, Uppalavaṇṇā (Else Buchholz), and a German monk, Vappo, were then also living. Uppalavaṇṇā acquired the property from Govinda in 1945 and stayed there until the 1970s.[10] In a letter dated 1.9.1934 Govinda wrote that he had come to Sri Lanka accompanied by Rabindranath Tagore and had given a series of lectures on Tibetan Buddhism in various places in Sri Lanka, trying to raise support for the planned Buddhist university at Sarnath. The reception in Sri Lanka was poor and Govinda, who had run out of funds, was quite disappointed.[11]

On orders of Tomo Geshe Rimpoche Govinda founded his order, The Buddhist Order Arya Maitreya Mandala, on 14.10.1933. Fourteen people were then ordained. Govinda received the name Anangavajra Khamsung Wangchuk. In 1934, in Calcutta, he had the first exhibition of his paintings. From 1935 to 1945 he was the general secretary of the International Buddhist University Association (IBUA), for which he held lectures on Buddhist philosophy, history, archeology, etc., at the Buddhist academy at Sarnath. In 1936 he got a teaching position at the University of Patna, from where he gave guest lectures at the universities of Allahabad, Lucknow and Benares. His lectures on Buddhist psychology at the University of Patna were published in 1939 as The Psychological Attitude of Early Buddhist Philosophy, and his lectures at Shantinekan as Psycho-Cosmic Symbolism of the Buddhist Stupa in 1940. In 1938, after two failed attempts and on recommendation of the prime minister of Uttar Pradesh, he managed to become a full British citizen. In 1947 he became a citizen of India. From 1937 to 1940 he lived with his stepmother in a house in Darjeeling.[12]

World War II

Although Govinda was now a British citizen, he was nevertheless interned by the British during WWII due to his associations with "persons of anti-British sympathies," i.e. the Nehru family. First he was interned at Ahmednagar. Because he made no secret of being against Fascism, the Nazis in the prison camp bullied him, just as they did with other anti-fascists. This bullying compelled the British to open a special camp for anti-fascists at Dehra Dun, where he was transferred to in 1942. Nyanatiloka and other German Buddhist monks from Sri Lanka were also interned at Dehra Dun. In the camp Govinda stayed with the German monk Nyanaponika, with whom he studied languages, and formed a close friendship that lasted till the end of his life.[13]

Life in Kasar Devi after WWII and travels to Tibet

Lama Govinda and Li Gotami after their wedding in 1947.

In 1947 he married the Parsi artist Li Gotami (original name Ratti Petit, 22.4.1906 - 18.8.1988) from Bombay, who, as a painter, had been his student at Santinekan in 1934. Govinda and Li Gotami wore Tibetan styles robes and were initiates in the Drugpa Kagyu lineage.[14] The couple lived in a house rented from the writer Walter Evans-Wentz at Kasar Devi, near Almora in northern India.[15] Kasar Devi, in hippie circles known as 'Crank's Ridge', was a bohemian colony home to artists, writers and spiritual seekers such as Earl Brewster, Alfred Sorensen and John Blofeld. Many spiritual seekers, including the Beat Poets Allen Ginsberg and Gary Snyder, the LSD Gurus Timothy Leary and Ralph Metzner, the psychiatrist R. D. Laing, and Tibetologist Robert Thurman came to visit Govinda at his ashram. The number of visitors became so great that the couple eventually put signs to keep unwanted visitors away.[16]

From Kasar Devi, Govinda and Li Gotami undertook journeys to Tibet in the late 1940s, making a large number of paintings, drawings and photographs. These travels are described in Govinda's book The Way of the White Clouds.[17] While on the expedition to Tsaparang and Tholing in Western Tibet in 1948-49, sponsored by the Illustrated Weekly of India, Govinda received initiations in the Nyingma and Sakyapa lineages.[18] Pictures of the Tsaparang frescoes taken by Li Gotami, then, before the Cultural Revolution, still intact appear in Govinda's The Way of the White Clouds Foundations of Tibetan Mysticism and Tibet in Pictures (co-authored with Li Gotami).[19] In The Way of the White Clouds Govinda writes that he was a reincarnation of the poet Novalis.[20]

1960s and 1970s world tours

Li Gotami, Anagariki Govinda, Nyanaponika Thera, late 1960s or early 1970s

The German Hans-Ulrich Rieker, who was ordained in the Arya Maitreya Mandala Order in 1952, was ordered by Govinda to set up a Western wing of the Order. The founding took place simultaneously in Berlin by Rieker, and in Sanchi by Govinda, on 30.11.1952. In 1960 Govinda went to Europe as a representative of Tibetan Buddhism at an international religious conference in Venice. Subsequently, he went to England, Germany, Switzerland, Austria and the Netherlands. In 1965 he went on a lecturing tour through Germany, France, and Switzerland. In 1968-69 through the USA and Japan. In 1972-73, and 1974-76 he went on world tours. In 1977 he last visited Germany.

On his journeys to the West Govinda made friends with the Swiss philosopher Jean Gebser, the Zen and Taoist teacher Alan Watts, the pioneer of transcendental psychotherapy Roberto Assagioli and the author Luise Rinser.[21]

Later years

For health reasons Govinda finally settled in the San Francisco Bay area, where he and his wife were taken care of by Alan Watts and Suzuki Roshi's San Francisco Zen Centre.[22] In San Francisco he established a branch of his order, called "Home of Dhyan".[23] In 1980 he visited India for a last time and gave up his house in Almora. He remained mentally agile despite suffering from several strokes from 1975 onwards. During an evening discussion on 14.1.1985, he suddenly felt a sharp pain in his neck that traveled downwards. He lay down on his right side and died laughing.[24]

His ashes were placed in the Nirvana-Stupa, which was erected in 1997 on the premises of Samten Choeling Monastery in Darjeeling.[25]


Govinda wrote several books on a wide variety of Buddhist topics. His most well known books are The Way of the White Clouds and Foundations of Tibetan Mysticism, which were translated in many languages. Some of his works such as Foundations of Tibetan Mysticism were written in German and were subsequently translated to English. His articles were published in many Buddhist journals such as the Maha Bodhi, and the German journal Der Kreis[26] published by his Buddhist Order Arya Maitreya Mandala.[27] Govinda considered The Inner Structure of the I Ching, the Book of Transformation as his most important book.[28]

Works in English

• Art and Meditation, (an introduction and 12 abstract paintings), Allahabad 1936.
• The Psychological Attitude of Early Buddhist Philosophy, Allahabad 1937; New Delhi (Motilal Banarsidass Publishers), 1992: ISBN 81-208-0941-6, 1998 edition: ISBN 81-208-0952-1
• Psycho-Cosmic Symbolism of the Buddhist Stupa, Emeryville 1976 ( Dharma Publishing): ISBN 0-913546-36-4. First shorter edition published as Some Aspects of Stupa Symbolism, Allahabad 1936.
• Foundations of Tibetan Mysticism, London 1957, 1959, 1969 edition, ISBN 0-87728-064-9
• The Way of the White Clouds, London 1966; Fourth reprint, 1972. 1988 edition: ISBN 0-87773-462-3, reprint: ISBN 0-87773-007-5, Hardcover: ISBN 1-58567-465-6, Paperback: ISBN 1-58567-785-X, Ebury: ISBN 0-7126-5543-3.
• Tibet in Pictures: A Journey into the Past, coauthored with Li Gotami, 1979, 2004, Dharma Publishing. ISBN 978-0-89800-345-1
• Drugs or Meditation? Consciousness Expansion and Disintegration versus Concentration and Spiritual Regeneration, Kandy 1973, Buddhist Publication Society, Bodhi Leaves Series No. 62.[5]
• Creative Meditation and Multi-Dimensional Consciousness, London 1976, Allen and Unwin.
• Pictures of India and Tibet, Haldenwang and Santa Cruz 1978. (Perhaps identical with Tibet in Pictures: A Journey into the Past?)
• The Inner Structure of the I Ching, the Book of Transformation, San Francisco 1981 (Wheelwright Press). Reprinted: Art Media Resources, ISBN 0-8348-0165-5
• A Living Buddhism for the West, Boston 1990, (Shambhala), translated by Maurice Walshe, ISBN 0-87773-509-3


• Buddhist Reflections, New Delhi 1994, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 81-208-1169-0 (Collected essays.)
• Insights of a Himalayan Pilgrim, Oakland 1991, Dharma Press. ISBN 0-89800-204-4. (Thirteen later essays on Buddhism, art, and the spirituality that appeared in American, British, German Buddhist magazines.)
• The Lost Teachings of Lama Govinda: Living Wisdom from a Modern Tibetan Master, Wheaton, IL, 2008, Quest Books. Ed. Richard Power, Foreword by Lama Surya Das. ISBN 978-0-8356-0854-1 (Collection of essays and dialogues. Includes a comprehensive introduction to Govinda’s life and work by R. Power.)


1. "Lama Anagarika Govinda Papers," in "Collection on Lama Govinda." New York, New York: C.V. Starr East Asian Library, Columbia University Libraries, retrieved online June 24, 2018.
2. Hecker, 1990, p.84.
3. Volker Zotz, Ludwig Klages as reflected by Lama Anagarika Govinda, in: Gunnar Alksnis, Chthonic Gnosis - Ludwig Klages and his Quest for the Pandaemonic All, Theion Publishing, 2015.
4. Hecker, 1990, p.84.
5. Hecker, 1990, pp.84-85. Bhikkhu Nyanatusita and Hellmuth Hecker, 2008, pp. 105-107.
6. Hecker, 1990, p.85, Birgit Zotz, 'Tibetische Mystik, - nach Lama Anagarika Govinda Lama Anagarika Govinda' [1] (retrieved 6.8.2011)
7. Govinda, 1966, p.156. Donald S. Lopez, p.60. Birgit Zotz, 'Tibetische Mystik, - nach Lama Anagarika Govinda Lama Anagarika Govinda' (retrieved 6.8.2011)
8. Donald S. Lopez, p.60. Govinda 1969, p.25.
9. Govinda, 1966, p.157.
10. Hecker, 1990, p.86. Donald S. Lopez, p.61. Bhikkhu Nyanatusita and Hellmuth Hecker, 2008, pp. 107, 129.
11. Hecker, 1995, pp.170–171
12. Hecker, 1990, p.86-87.
13. Hellmuth Hecker, 1990, p.87. Bhikkhu Nyanatusita and Hellmuth Hecker, 2008, pp. 130.
14. Hecker, 1990, p.87
15. Donald S. Lopez, p.61.
16. Donald S. Lopez, p.61.
17. Collection on Lama Govinda, C.V. Starr East Asian Library, Columbia University Libraries.
18. Hecker, 1990, p.87
19. Donald S. Lopez, p.61.
20. Hecker, 1990, p.88
21. Birgit Zotz, 'Tibetische Mystik, - nach Lama Anagarika Govinda Lama Anagarika Govinda' [2] (retrieved 6.8.2011)
22. Donald S. Lopez, p.61.
23. "Lama Anagarika Govinda" [3], retrieved 6.8.2011.
24. Hecker, 1990, p.87-88
25. "Lama Anagarika Govinda" [4], retrieved 6.8.2011.
26. Der Kreis Archived 1 September 2010 at the Wayback Machine
27. Hecker, 1990, p.88-115
28. Donald S. Lopez, p.61.


• Hellmuth Hecker, Lebensbilder Deutscher Buddhisten Band I: Die Gründer. Konstanz, 1990, 2. verb. Aufl. Verlag Beyerlein-Steinschulte, Stammbach, ISBN 978-3-931095-57-4. (A whole chapter is on pp. 84–115 is on Govinda. Includes an extensive bibliography.)
• Volker Zotz, Ludwig Klages as reflected by Lama Anagarika Govinda, in: Gunnar Alksnis, Chthonic Gnosis - Ludwig Klages and his Quest for the Pandaemonic All, Theion Publishing, Munich 2015 [6]
• Bhikkhu Nyanatusita and Hellmuth Hecker, The Life of Nyanatiloka: The Biography of a Western Buddhist Pioneer, Kandy, 2009, ISBN 978-955-24-0290-6. Book
• Hellmuth Hecker, Der Erste Deutsche Bhikkhu: Das bewegte Leben des Ehrwürdigen Nyanatiloka (1878 - 1957) und seiner Schüler. Konstanz 1995 (University of Konstanz; reprinted by Verlag Beyerlein - Steinschulte) ISBN 978-3-931095-67-3. (A whole chapter, pp. 155–176, is on Govinda and includes his correspondence with Nyanatiloka from 1931 to 1939.)
• Donald S. Lopez, Prisoners of Shangri-La: Tibetan Buddhism and the West, Chicago 1998.[7]
• Birgit Zotz, 'Tibetische Mystik: nach Lama Anagarika Govinda Lama Anagarika Govinda' [8]

Further reading

• Ken Winkler, 1000 Journeys: The Biography of Lama Anagarika Govinda, Oakland 1990, Dharma Press; reprinted: Element Books, ISBN 1-85230-149-X

External links

• Website of The Buddhist Order Arya Maitreya Mandala
• Lama Anagarika Govinda, The Pioneer Translator of Buddhist literature, Stayed at Crank's Ridge (Kasardevi), District Almora ,
• Buddhist Ashram Established by Lama Anagarika Govinda, Crank's Ridge (Kasardevi), District Almora ,
• Lama Anagarika Govinda, brief bio sketch.
• Lama Anagarika Govinda's Buddhist Ashram area and around, 2000-2007 and 2013 videos and photos
• "Lama Anagarika Govinda Papers," in "Collection on Lama Govinda." New York, New York: C.V. Starr East Asian Library, Columbia University Libraries, retrieved online June 24, 2018.
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Re: Freda Bedi, by Wikipedia

Postby admin » Wed Jul 31, 2019 5:25 am

1974 Seminary: Visit the 1974 Vajradhatu Seminary in Snowmass, Colorado
by Vicki Alexis Genson
January 13, 2017



Filmed and edited by Vicki Genson

Vajradhatu seminary, a twelve-week program of practice and study, was the principal training ground for Trungpa Rinpoche’s North American students. During his lifetime, the Vidyadhara conducted thirteen seminaries starting in 1973. The 1974 Seminary took place during September, October, and November of 1974 in Snowmass, Colorado.

The images and sounds that make up this film were all recorded during the Seminary, primarily during days off. His Holiness the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa visited Seminary and performed the Black Crown Ceremony, during his first visit to North America. The nun at the end, touching foreheads with Rinpoche, is Sister Palmo, Freda Bedi, an Englishwoman who gave Trungpa Rinpoche English language lessons in India, and facilitated his entrance into Oxford University.



Throughout the film, there are many glimpses of seminary participants, including Bill Ames, Diane Ames, Latha Barasch, Marc Barasch, Cicely Berglund, Helen Berliner, Gene Bobker, Ken Campbell, Rob Curtis, Nancy Craig, Cyrus Crane, Lodro Dorje, Graham Elliott, Jonathan Eric, Martha Espeset, Fred Ferraris, Wendy Ferraris, Rick Fields, David Flint, Martin Fritter, Tom Garnett, Jason Gavras, Carolyn Gimian, Brian Grimes, Gerry Haase, Paul Hardman, Alice Haspray, Richard Haspray, Tom Hast, Norman Hirsch, Rachel Homer, Giovannina Hughes, Laura Kaufman, Hart Keeler, Rick Kentner, Dr. John Kerns, Max King, Poppy Koch, Otto Koch, Michael Kohn (Sherab Chodzin), Robin Kornman, Tania Leontov, Linda Levine, Ellen Mains, Michelle Matthews, Tony Matthews, Meera Mead, Larry Mermelstein, Bob Morehouse, Noreen Morris, Molly Nudell, Tom Pathe, Douglas Penick, Meg Penick, Bob Rader, Arlan Ray, Reggie Ray, Bruce Robinson , Melissa Robinson, Dorje Root, Karen Roper, John Roper, Marvin Ross, David Sable, Eric Salter, Alan Schwartz, Julie Sheen, Susan Skjei, Alan Sloan, Judy Smith, Bob Sonne, Ricky Spiegel, Ann Spruyt, Alan Sternman, Lena Stone, Margaret Sullivan (Drescher), Randy Sunday, Paul Susnis, Erik Swanson, Anna Taylor, John Tischer, Tsultrim (the monk), Tsultrim Allione, Ludwig Turzanski,

Chogyam Trungpa often worked with large groups of participants. Quite early on he realized that it would not always be possible to provide everyone with the tools and the education to do ikebana in all of the dharma art seminars he presented. Moreover, he was trying to work with principles that could apply to many artistic enterprises, not just flower arrangement. So Chogyam Trungpa, together with Ludwig Turzanski, an art professor from the University of Colorado who was instrumental in the development of dharma art, came up with the idea of object arrangements: arranging various ordinary objects as an exercise for students attending his seminars on art and dharma. In this practice, someone chooses an object and places it on a tapletop or piece of paper. This is the heaven element, which represents the vastness of the primary manifestation and gives the arrangement its tone.

-- Chogyam Trungpa: His Life and Vision, by Fabrice Midal

Over the years, Rinpoche was invited to do a number of ikebana or flower-arranging exhibitions. Later, the exhibits evolved into Dharma Art "installations" in which Rinpoche placed extraordinary flower arrangements in rooms that he and his students designed and created. At the end of 1980, he and a group of students had done a major Dharma Art installation at the LAICA (Los Angeles Institute of Contemporary Art) Gallery. In September, 1981, Rinpoche went to San Francisco for several weeks to give a Dharma Art seminar and to do an installation there.

As with so many other areas, his artistic endeavors drew a large group of students to him, some of them professional artists but many not. A group called the Explorers of the Phenomenal World was formed to explore the principles of Dharma Art and to work on the exhibits and installations. One of the directors of this work, Ludwig Turzanski, was a professor of art at the University of Colorado when we arrived in Boulder. Ludwig and his wife Basia were our close friends from the earliest days in Boulder.

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

Karl Usow, Patricia Usow, Gerry Weiner, Eric Weiss, Lee Weingrad, Herbert Wickenheiser, David Wright, and Elaine Yuen.
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