THE MUROMTSEV DACHA.

In the southern part of Moscow, in a district known as Tsaritsyno, “the tsarina’s,” after its centerpiece, Tsaritsino park (formerly owned by Catherine the Great), there is a former resort settlement in the form of two concentric circular streets with a dozen or so “spokes.” On one of these, Pyataya Radialnaya (‘Fifth Radial’), was a house with quite a past. Sergei Muromtsev, president of the first Duma in 1906, owned it in the early years of the last century, and Ivan Bunin met his future wife Vera, Muromtsev’s niece, there. After the Revolution it became a school and then a house for teachers; in the ’60s it became a research institute and in the ’70s an unofficial cultural center. In this period one of my favorite modern Russian writers, Venedikt Erofeev, spent time there and wrote two of his lamentably few works, and eventually the house became a Yerofeev Memorial Museum.
After 1989 the house passed to a new and mysterious owner that was apparently determined to do away with it; after years of legal maneuvers, the building burned down at the start of this month, and demolition was only staved off by the determined action of ordinary people who flocked there to stand in the way of the bulldozers. I don’t have the heart to detail this sad recent history; you can read all about it, and see stunning photographs, at the Río Wang post where I learned about it. I hope the house can survive and eventually be restored, but considering the state of things in Russia, I would be surprised if it turned out that way.

Comments

  1. mollymooly says:

    A sad story too familiar to be shocking.
    On a language point, I would have said the house was “burned out”; “burned down” suggests the outer walls were not left standing. I suspect this is a fictitious distinction.

  2. Slightly luckier but travelling a similar road are these dachas near St Petersburg
    http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/architecture/why-are-so-many-of-st-petersburgs-renowned-artnouveau-mansions-being-left-to-rot-1866865.html
    (Sorry for not knowing how to do the link elegantly.)
    I am not entirely convinced that they are ‘Art Nouveau’, although that may be because I haven’t seen enough.

  3. This is a tragic story with an ugly stink. Through my running with dogs network I know that Tsaritsyno has become a prized location for developers after the palace and the park were restored. But the good news is that the fight is not over. As Hat writes, they made the bulldozers retreat – how history repeats itself, remember the bulldozer exhibition?
    If you look at the Muromtsev dacha web-site (Russian and English) you will see that they desperately need help. Six families lost homes including a pregnant woman who needs warm clothes, money, but mostly wide publicity – it still works.
    Knowing Hat’s love for detail I thought this web page would be of interest. It shows numbered plots of original dachas superimposed on the Google satellite image of the poselok area now and gives the cost of Muromtsev’s dacha (19,800 rubles in 1893) and Bunin’s reference to its ‘Swedish style’.
    With reference to Vera Muromtseva as Bunin’s wife I remembered Katayev’s novel The Grass of Oblivion where Bunin describes their relationship as ‘sharing the life’ (мою жизнь разделяет) meaning they weren’t married. I wonder if this is correct.

  4. here is a nice photo of Bunin and Vera

  5. Not just in Moscow:

    Leading British playwrights and actors are mounting a campaign to save the Crimean villa where Anton Chekhov wrote some of his most important works, including Three Sisters and The Cherry Orchard. The building is being allowed to fall into ruin because of tension between the Russian and Ukrainian governments, it is claimed.

    The whole article in the Independent newspaper in the UK is here.
    BBC Radio, which you can hear online, is doing a programme on it too. I can’t find the reference at the moment but I’ll post it if and when.

  6. What a beautiful photo of the Bunins, Sashura. I will include it as a link.
    The Russian Wikipedia writes that they started to “share their lives” in 1906, but in 1922 they also married officially: В 1906 году Бунин вступает в гражданский брак (официально оформлен в 1922 году) с Верой Николаевной Муромцевой, племянницей С. А. Муромцева. Strange that Kataev, who wrote the Grass of oblivion much later (in any case it was first published in 1967) has not remembered the second step.
    The article of Mozhaev, also quoted in the original post, writes that the plan of the settlement was taken from the book “Царицыно” by Ivan Sergeev. Unfortunately I have no access to it, although the history of the spreading of the idea of “community settlements” at the turn of the century really interests me.
    And yes, the inhabitants do need every kind of help. From this distance it is money that works the most. You have the necessary data on their page, but it might be a good idea to ask for specific information beforehand (they do know English).

  7. Here is the reference for the White Dacha: Yalta Chekhov Campaign
    and the Radio 4 programme (very good, note a fleeting reference to wife Olga Chekhova, later Hitler’s favourite actress, who used her nazi links to protect the house during WWII, a subject of Beevor’s book) is on Listen Again for 7 days.

  8. Thanks Sashura – beat me to it…

  9. Per Wiki there are three Olga Chekhovas, Chekhov’s wife, niece by marriage, and grandniece, the second (wife of nephew Michael) being the actress.

  10. Paul, you are welcome. whereabouts are you in France?
    Strange that Kataev, who wrote the Grass of oblivion much later
    I found it in the book, it refers to late 1910s, when Katayev and Bunin were living in Odessa during the Russian civil war. So dates fit Bunin’s reference: “жизнь со мной делит В.Н.Муромцева” – ‘VN Muromtseva shares the life with me’. Thanks for pointing this out – I love the book and enjoyed going back to it.

  11. Olga Chekhova the actress was born Olga Knipper, the niece and namesake of Chekhov’s wife Olga Knipper. She married Chekhov’s nephew Michael Chekhov. Her daughter was named Olga Chekhov. So she was sort of a double niece of the Chekhovs.
    Her brother, Lev Knipper, was a Soviet agent. Olga was a Soviet sleeper agent in Nazi Germany.
    It all makes sense in the end, but it was quite a tangle starting froma casual mention and a not quite clearly written Wiki article.

  12. As a famous verslibrist said, three mistakes don’t change the name of the flower.
    Thanks, John, I’ve long kept Beevor’s book on my wishlist, now I’ll make a new year’s resolution to get and read it.

  13. According to the IMDB mini biography http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0874781/bio , Olga Chekhova’s daughter was called Ada. Ada’s daughter, known as Vera Tschechowa, was a well-known film actress in Germany who now apparently directs documentaries about celebrities (Václav Havel, Robert Redford, Ang Lee etc.) Films starring her in her youth can still be seen on German TV from time to time.

  14. Tschechow is one of the greatest of the unknown Russian authors.

  15. PK: I am not entirely convinced that they are ‘Art Nouveau’, although that may be because I haven’t seen enough.
    “Art nouveau” comes from the name of the book he refers to, “The Art Nouveau Dacha: Designs by Vladimir Story, Published 1917 St Petersburg”. There is one picture of an art-nouveau villa, though: the Independent’s picture 7, “The Skandinavia Country Club in the coastal town of Sestroretsk has been restored from a 1903 art-nouveau dacha”

  16. PK: I am not entirely convinced that they are ‘Art Nouveau’, although that may be because I haven’t seen enough.
    “Art nouveau” comes from the name of the book he refers to, “The Art Nouveau Dacha: Designs by Vladimir Story, Published 1917 St Petersburg”. There is one picture of an art-nouveau villa, though: the Independent’s picture 7, “The Skandinavia Country Club in the coastal town of Sestroretsk has been restored from a 1903 art-nouveau dacha”

  17. Mooly: “I suspect this is a fictitious distinction.”
    I reckon they could rebuild it easily enough. It has a concrete base, I noticed. It’s just a question of whether the spirit is willing.

  18. Mooly: “I suspect this is a fictitious distinction.”
    I reckon they could rebuild it easily enough. It has a concrete base, I noticed. It’s just a question of whether the spirit is willing.

  19. It’s just a question of whether the spirit is willing.
    From bloggers’ daily reports it seems they are working hard on it, a dozen of people every day.

  20. According to this, Ada was Olga’s sister. Ada is invisible to The Google. Probably that means that she was the model for Nabokov’s novel.
    Ex-husband Michael Chekhov and brother Lev (who had become an avant-garde composer) took shelter with Olga in Germany. Michael brought the Stanislavsky method to Hollywood.
    Curiouser and curioser.

  21. But Ada Tschechowa is not.

  22. i googled and got Elvis Presley with Vera Tschechowa through GIS
    otoh, my sister saw once a movie with our now President in the movie theater, she’s classmates with his niece cz, the movie was 4 hrs long our production of Chingis khaan, “Monkh tengeriin khuchin dor”
    the closest degree i got near anyone famous

  23. Oh my god.
    The Tschechowa knew everyone, Stalin, Hitler, Elvis, you name it.

  24. Well, it seems that his relationship with Vera Tschechowa (who was referred to as his “mystery girl” by a movie magazine) was just a publicity stunt. Elvis was apparently interested in her, but she didn’t go for him.

  25. “According to this, Ada was Olga’s sister.”
    Well, one does not exclude the other. Olga’s sister was Ada Knipper and Olga’s daughter was Ada Tschechowa, although according to the French Wikipedia article she had been christened Olga. Here’s a portrait: http://www.cyranos.ch/smtsca-e.htm

  26. A propos of Vera, from Wiki: [Vera Navokov] learned to drive and chauffeured her husband on many field trips, notably in the North American West, to hunt butterflies. To protect him she carried a handgun.

  27. Those butterflies can be vicious. It’s always best to be armed.

  28. On the one hand, she might have been reading European pulp fiction about wild Indians in American West. On the other, maybe she had talked to the N.R.A.

  29. marie-lucie says:

    From the legend to the dual portrait: Иван Алексеевич Бунин с женой Верой Николаевной; Бунина Вера Николаевна, урожд. Муромцева (1881-1961) – писательница, мемуаристка.
    She is identified as Bunina Vera Nikolaevna, without a comma, while her husband is Ivan Alekseevich Bunin: is/was putting the married name first a/the common way of referring to married women in Russia?
    She is described as a writer and memoirist, so she must have written interesting things about her life and connections.

  30. The Tschechowa knew everyone
    Was it her son on USS Enterprise?

  31. She is identified as Bunina Vera Nikolaevna, without a comma, while her husband is Ivan Alekseevich Bunin: is/was putting the married name first a/the common way of referring to married women in Russia?
    No, putting the family name first is a common (official) way of referring to everyone in Russia; it just happens that in this case his name was given the other way round.

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