“I just was a Russian poet…”

The poet Naum Korzhavin was not 22 Jun 2018. He was 92 years old, more than half of his life he spent away from Russia. But he always considered it his home and felt responsible for what was happening to his country. Journalist Leonid Vinogradov has shared with “Provera” memories of the meetings with Nahum Korzhavina.

Photo: korzhavin.poet-premium.ru

  • Intellectuals and faith: was there a turn in the seventies?
  • Poets of the seventies: nekohana protest (+ VIDEO + Audio)
  • Died, the poet Naum Korzhavin
  • America is a Christian country

But the Winter Palace to pay no one

In February 1989, I was, if I am not mistaken, on the first evening, Naum Korzhavin, for the first time after emigration came to Moscow. I don’t remember exactly what DC was held the evening – somewhere on the Belarusian – but I remember how happy and confused at the same time was the poet. Happy that came home, what until recently could not even dream of – from behind the iron curtain if we were leaving forever. And crying because I didn’t expect that at home many remember him, know his poems, which seem more in any Soviet journal was not printed. At the end of the evening, when he was applauded, Naum Moiseevich could not hold back the tears.

In the evening he recited poems, told about his life, answered oral and written questions. In one of the notes asked, not afraid if he read the scene the poem “in memory of Herzen. The truth about the lack of sleep”. Not asked to read, namely asked, not afraid if. In the poem, if anyone remembers, there is the quatrain:

All could do with time.
The procedure could be drawn Russian life…
What… now everything is clear.
To prevent that the baby is sleeping?

Today this is no surprise, and then… Rebuilding began with the ideas of the twentieth Congress of the CPSU and of the sixties – the villain Stalin distorted the ideas of the great Lenin, it is necessary to return to Leninist norms, the government clung to the last this myth, and any disrespectful statement about “most humane man” was still perceived as a challenge. The plans korzhavina clearly was not to challenge the government, but he said the author of the note worthy: told from the poem “in memory of Herzen” doesn’t refuse, but now, in the evening, to read it will not. We are, he explained, may have different attitudes to the taking of the Winter Palace, but today to give it to no one.

Also in the notes korzhavina asked if he believed in God and how one should treat Lenin. Naum Moiseevich said that believes in God, but a non-partisan believer.

Lenin, he explained, was a materialist, I do not, to say that I like Lenin, would mean to lie, but in General, the question about God smart I believe and need, and the question about Lenin is stupid and unnecessary.

After about a month I visited another one of his evening. Many things were repeated. Not only the same poems he read, but again, to say that today the Winter Palace to return to no one that we went into an impasse from which it is not clear how to get out. However, on the evening of the poem “in memory of Herzen” still sounded – Maxim Krivosheev has sung with a guitar for two songs on poems korzhavina: “in memory of Herzen” and one lyric.

“Come Back, Emka!”

The evening was led by Benedict Sarnoff. Then, the writers have divided into camps, and it is hard to imagine another person, who at the time could simultaneously be friends with Benedict by Surkovym and Vladimir Soloukhin. And Korzhavin friends. It seems that on the second evening he sent a note asking how he can make friends with the “great Russian chauvinist” Soloukhin. You know, replied Naum Moiseevich, I myself, in some degree, the great Russian chauvinist, and after the laughter and applause have told that seriously, when in 1947 he was arrested in the dormitory of the literary Institute, all of the roommates said good-bye, and Soloukhin came up, hugged, kissed, and said, “go Back, Emka!” That said Korzhavin, not forgotten.

I hope, from my sketchy memories clear how independent, internally free man was Naum Korzhavin.

He didn’t want to play and didn’t play by party rules, regardless of whether those rules impose by the state or fellow-writers.

After 17 years, in 2006, I was fortunate to personally communicate with Naum Moiseevich, to do an interview with him for “Neskuchny garden”.

It happens that in the years 60-70 with high probability we can predict longevity. For example, on may 1 of this year marked 90 years to the film Director Vitaly Melnikov. I interviewed Vitaly V. in 2007. He then 79-year-old, was cheerful, energetic, full of creative plans. It could be assumed that this person will live to 90-year anniversary. In Nahum Korzhavina to predict longevity was impossible. And in 63 years (just as it was in the beginning of 1989), he seemed like an old man: bloated, almost blind. That didn’t make him less charming, do not interfere with the interest in listening to it, but hardly anyone then could have imagined that he would live to be 92 years old.

The very fact that he lived to 81 years (as he was in the fall of 2006 when we met), seemed a miracle. By the time he has not seen, but was also charming, sincere, warm, and also was keenly interested in everything happening in Russia and the world, on all issues had its own independent judgment.

From other publications, I knew that he was no longer a “non-partisan” believer, and Orthodox, so started a conversation with, that reminded him of the first arrival of what he then called himself the non-believer. Retell the interview will not – it is on the Internet. I recall only that story about the alias. To many she is known as Naum Moiseevich told her many times, but it is always appropriate to repeat, because this is a very important touch to the portrait korzhavina. Soon after the war, he, then a student of literary Institute, called head of the press Department of the party Committee, said he wanted to give him the evening and the publication of poetry in the newspaper, but let them come up with an alias. Real name Naum Moiseyevich Mandel.

“I was an internationalist, loved Russia, but… Easy to say – take a pseudonym – told Naum Moiseevich. – Where in an hour take? Names much. And in the corridor he met his friend Elizar Maltsev – Sibiryak, the future laureate of the Stalin prize. Told him and he said, “Want me to give you a real, thickset Siberian name – Korzhavin?” I liked (really, more like sounds), and since then I’ve published under this name and can say, live with it. Only in the 70 years in exile, I read the Moscow collection of Russian names and found out that the name Korzhavin comes from the dialectal word “corsavy” meaning… “little shabby””.

I think not many have enough self-irony to not only keep the alias, but to tell everyone that it means. And korzhavina, it was natural. A sick old man, he is 81 years old was still able childishly happy and surprised. And about what is happening in the country and the world reasoned like an adult, soberly and wisely.

Involved people

Then, in 2006, anti-Americanism has not yet become a mass obsession, but it was fashionable to blame America. It is known that Korzhavin in America are not assimilated, lived, according to him, Russia and its interests, but of Russian anti-Americanism is not accepted, the views of America as a country of spiritless called lies, saying that America is a Christian country.

But his house he believed Russia. To understand the depth of his love for his country, feelings for her, his sense of responsibility for what is happening, just read a poignant “Poem of belonging”, written in the early 1980s. It is, as I understand it, was a reaction to the war in Afghanistan. Here is an excerpt from the poem:


“We are!” – repeat unauthorized,
An introduction to the graveyards.
From shame and from pain
Will save me Boston,

Where I run. Where too
Airless space.
Where I die… But still
Not from a bullet Afghan.

Not from the righteous vengeance,
Calling the fury of the dead
A donated chair
Where no life long.

Where anger and fatigue
And empty and anxious.
Where clear – left
Life – where to live it is impossible.

There, in that Evil, which is hardly
The world will catch up soon.
Where sent
These boys in the mountains.


We! – assert. – We in the answer.
We are all people of Russia.
We – our children
Trample the fate of others.

And it is, perhaps,
That and God is punishing us
What the elders of the Kremlin
As they play cards.

No!.. Even drowning in curses,
“We are!” shout her heart out.
(Not “they” well call them,
In their shame confessing.)

We!.. To escape from dishonor, –
Nonsense… futile…
We all are guilty together
Before Russia and with her.

The guiltier than older…
Remember the feelings and the date.
There our boys –
We are stronger to blame.


We who perished who survived.
We – who hill who hill.
We in Moscow and Paris
In Tel Aviv, New York.

We who nurtured the faith
That the world we are shining,
We – who made a career
And who disdain it.

Who, suffering from boredom
And lies – everything was in place.
Leaving in science,
In poems, protests.

Who – burning, as if in battle,
Thoughts getting tangled torn,
Denounced the shortcomings
In sensational novels.

Il, quenching the irritation
But looking for understanding
Came to the realization
And sometimes recognition.


We – who were eager not to give up
In the spirit of their believing hard.
Like us, these elders
Not holding by the throat.

Lived – as indeed recognizing
What’s the battle, not the pit.
Infernal darkness giving
The status of a vital drama.


Yes, sadness came.
Yes, teeth gritted.
Anyway – made.
Still – wait.

The elders is an inhuman. We are the people.
But life without sorrow
We are not alone eh on a platter
They are children served?

Not even wincing,
We are accustomed to. We were
In his childhood served as well.

And flew just blindly
The same joyful dove.
Need to get to heaven.

It is hard to escape… the Hole.


The boy who moved eyebrows
In hopeless sorrow.
The least you’re guilty,
Bitter all answer.

As you have son
If the ancestors are.
As for all of our guilt
Responsible Russia.

These verses could write only a person with a heightened conscience, a sense of responsibility for the future and of their country, and the world. This man was a great Russian poet Naum Korzhavin. May his memory be eternal!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.