Maximilian Voloshin

Maximilian Voloshin

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Maximilian Alexandrovich Kirienko-Voloshin (May 28, 1877 - November 8, 1932) was a Russian poet and famous Freemason. He was one of the significant representatives of the Symbolist movement in Russian culture and literature. He became famous as a poet and a critic of literature and the arts, being published in many contemporary magazines of the early 20th century, including "Vesy" ('Libra'), "Zolotoye runo" ('The Golden Fleece') and "Apollon". He was also known for his brilliant translations of a number of French poetic and prose works into Russian.

Early life

Voloshin was born in Kiev
Kiev or Kyiv is the capital and the largest city of Ukraine, located in the north central part of the country on the Dnieper River. The population as of the 2001 census was 2,611,300. However, higher numbers have been cited in the press....

 in 1877. He spent his early childhood in Sebastopol
Sebastopol is a former spelling and frequent variant of Sevastopol, the port on the Crimean peninsula.Sebastopol may refer to the following:Places:* Sebastopol, California, USA* Sebastopol, Mississippi, USA...

 and Taganrog
Taganrog is a seaport city in Rostov Oblast, Russia, located on the north shore of Taganrog Bay , several kilometers west of the mouth of the Don River. Population: -History of Taganrog:...

. Reportedly, "his schooling included a few years at the Polivanov
Polivanov is a Russian family name.*Alexei Polivanov was a Russian military general.*Mikhail Polivanov was a Russian theoretical physicist.*Yevgeny Polivanov was a Russian linguist, orientalist and polyglot....

 establishment and a school in the Crimea
Crimea , or the Autonomous Republic of Crimea , is a sub-national unit, an autonomous republic, of Ukraine. It is located on the northern coast of the Black Sea, occupying a peninsula of the same name...

, where in 1893 his mother had bought a cheap plot of land at Koktebel
Koktebel , formerly known as Planerskoye, is one of the most popular resort townlets in South-Eastern Crimea. Koktebel is situated on the shore of the Black Sea about halfway between Feodosiya and Sudak and is subordinated to the Theodosia city municipality. It is best known for its literary...

." After secondary school, Voloshin entered Moscow University during "a time of the resurgence of the radical student movement in Russia." Voloshin reportedly actively participated in it, "which resulted in his expulsion from the University in 1899."


Not discouraged, Voloshin "resumed his travels the length and breadth of Russia, often on foot." In 1900, he worked with an expedition surveying the route of the Orenburg-Tashkent railway.

He described this period in his life as:
Upon his return to Moscow, Voloshin did not seek reinstatement at the university, but continued his travels to such places as Western Europe
Western Europe
Western Europe is a loose term for the collection of countries in the western most region of the European continents, though this definition is context-dependent and carries cultural and political connotations. One definition describes Western Europe as a geographic entity—the region lying in the...

, Greece
Greece , officially the Hellenic Republic , and historically Hellas or the Republic of Greece in English, is a country in southeastern Europe....

, Turkey
Turkey , known officially as the Republic of Turkey , is a Eurasian country located in Western Asia and in East Thrace in Southeastern Europe...

, and Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

. Reportedly, "his stay in Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

 and travels all over France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 had a particularly deep effect on" him and he came back to Russia "a veritable Parisian."
While during this time in Russia there were "numerous literary groups and trends, known as the Silver Age," Voloshin remained aloof despite "being a close friend of many outstanding cultural figures of the day." In verses devoted to Valery Bryusov
Valery Bryusov
Valery Yakovlevich Bryusov was a Russian poet, prose writer, dramatist, translator, critic and historian. He was one of the principal members of the Russian Symbolist movement.-Biography:...

 he wrote: "In your world, I am a passerby, close to all and yet a stranger to all."

When "a madman" ripped Repin's famous canvas Ivan the Terrible Killing His Son with a knife, shocking Intellectual Russia, Voloshin was the only person in the country to defend the man, "indicating that it was an esthetic statement appropriate to the painting, which displayed gore and bad taste." Voloshin had a brief affair with Miss Sabashnikova, but they soon broke up, and this had a profound effect on his work. Gradually, Voloshin was drawn back to Koktebel in the Crimea, where he had spent much of his childhood. His first collection of poetry appeared in 1910, soon followed by others. His collected essays were published in 1914.

Years of War

During the years of the First World War
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

, Voloshin, in Switzerland
Switzerland name of one of the Swiss cantons. ; ; ; or ), in its full name the Swiss Confederation , is a federal republic consisting of 26 cantons, with Bern as the seat of the federal authorities. The country is situated in Western Europe,Or Central Europe depending on the definition....

 at the time, showed himself to be an author of profoundly insightful poems, engaging in a philosophically- and historically-based exploration of the tragic events of his contemporary Russia. He was known for his humanism
Humanism is an approach in study, philosophy, world view or practice that focuses on human values and concerns. In philosophy and social science, humanism is a perspective which affirms some notion of human nature, and is contrasted with anti-humanism....

, appealing "in the days of revolutions to be a human, not a citizen" and "in the disturbances of wars to realize the oneness. To be not a part, but all: not from one side, but from both."

Eventually Voloshin made it back to France, where he stayed until 1916. A year before the February Revolution in Russia, Voloshin returned to his home country and settled in Koktebel. He would live there until the end of his life. The ensuing Civil War prompted Voloshin to write long poems linking what was happening in Russia to its distant, mythologized past. Later, Voloshin would be accused of the worst sin in the Soviet ideologue's book: keeping aloof from the political struggle between Reds and Whites. In fact, he did not for he protected the Whites from the Reds and the Reds from the Whites. His house, today a museum, still has a clandestine niche in which he hid people whose lives were in danger.

Reportedly, "never were a poet's works so closely bound up with the place where he lived. He recreated the semi-mythical world of the Cimmerii in pictures and verses. He painted landscapes of primeval eastern Crimea. Nature itself seemed to respond to Voloshin's art. If one looks east from the Voloshin Museum, there is a mountain whose shape is uncannily similar to Voloshin's profile."

Miraculously, Voloshin survived the Civil War, and in the 1920s set up a free rest home for writers in his house, in accordance with his rejection of private property. Yet he continued to draw most of his inspiration from solitude and contemplation of nature.

Although some critics may note that Voloshin's poetry "may be esthetically inferior to that of Pasternak
Pasternak or Pasternack . Notable people with the last name "Pasternak" include:* Boris Pasternak, poet and writer* Joe Pasternak , Hungarian-US actor...

, say, or Akhmatova, and it is somewhat patchy," it has been noted that "it contains deep philosophical insights and tells us more about Russian history than the works of any other poet." Many of Voloshin's comments seem to be prophetic. In a normal state, he wrote, two classes are outside the law: the criminal and the ruling class. Today, Russia has fully realized this principle. Voloshin's integrity and profound ideas made him a non-person in Soviet Russia, and not a single poem of his was published in Russia from 1928 to 1961. It has been theorized that "if he had not died in 1932, he would certainly have become another victim of the Great Terror
Great Purge
The Great Purge was a series of campaigns of political repression and persecution in the Soviet Union orchestrated by Joseph Stalin from 1936 to 1938...

. "'Tis not the first time that, dreaming of freedom, we build a new prison," read the first line of one of Voloshin's finest poems.

Later years

During the latter years of his life, he gained additional recognition as a subtle water-colour
Watercolor painting
Watercolor or watercolour , also aquarelle from French, is a painting method. A watercolor is the medium or the resulting artwork in which the paints are made of pigments suspended in a water-soluble vehicle...

Painting is the practice of applying paint, pigment, color or other medium to a surface . The application of the medium is commonly applied to the base with a brush but other objects can be used. In art, the term painting describes both the act and the result of the action. However, painting is...

. Many of his art works now belong to museums around the world, while others are kept in private collections in Russia and abroad.

Voloshin's small village of Koktebel
Koktebel , formerly known as Planerskoye, is one of the most popular resort townlets in South-Eastern Crimea. Koktebel is situated on the shore of the Black Sea about halfway between Feodosiya and Sudak and is subordinated to the Theodosia city municipality. It is best known for its literary...

 in Southern-Eastern Crimea
Crimea , or the Autonomous Republic of Crimea , is a sub-national unit, an autonomous republic, of Ukraine. It is located on the northern coast of the Black Sea, occupying a peninsula of the same name...

, which inspired so much of his poetry, still retains the memory of its famous poet, who was buried there on a mountain now bearing his name. His "House of a Poet" (now a museum) continues to attract people from all areas of the world, reminiscent of the days when its owner served as the host of countless poets, artists, actors, scientists, and wanderers.

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