VITYAZEV-SEDENKO.

One of the things I love about investigating obscure references in my reading is that it sometimes leads me into nearly forgotten byways of history that I can then bring to light. In reading Chukovsky I got to the Nov. 17, 1919 entry, which includes the mysterious sentence “Merezhkovsky and I went to the Kolos, where Blok was giving his talk on musicality and civilization.” That makes it sounds like they were visiting a couple named Kolo, but the Russian reads “мы ходили в «Колос»,” which makes it clear that Kolos is the name of some institution or organization (and renders the translation incomprehensible; it should be “Merezhkovsky and I went to Kolos,” without an article). Since колос (kolos) is a common Russian word (meaning ‘ear [of a cereal plant]‘), it took me some creative googling to discover that here it referred to a publishing house that was in existence between 1918 and the mid-1920s. I wanted to know where it was located (which I never did find out), so I kept searching, and learned that it was run by one P. Vityazev (П. Витязев), the pseudonym of Ferapont Ivanovich Sedenko (Ферапонт Иванович Седенко), and it was his story that inspired me to write this post.
Sedenko, described in a Minuvshee footnote as “historian, bibliographer, publisher, and publitsist [political journalist],” was born on May 27 (June 8, New Style), 1886, in the Bessarabian town of Akkerman (now Bilhorod-Dnistrovskyi in Ukraine), the son of a sailor (a вольний штурман or ‘free navigator,’ according to his documents). He spent his first twenty years in Akkerman, in 1905 organizing a student strike; he then went to Novorossiya University in Odessa, but (according to this site) “neglected his studies in order to take part in political struggle as a member of the SR organization and its combat detachments, being active in Akkerman and Odessa during the revolts of 1905-07.” In January 1907 he was arrested; in a 1915 letter he described the succeeding period as “two years in Vologda gubernia, three years in Siberia, two years in prison, and a final two years of wandering and university.” In 1910 Sedenko entered the law school of Saint Petersburg University, where he was a classmate and friend of Pitirim Sorokin, but his participation in the student unrest of 1910-11 earned him another arrest and exile to the south, where he carried on underground revolutionary work; he was arrested again and exiled to Vologda, where according to Ivanov-Razumnik (on page 298 of his memoirs) “he met and became great friends with MI Ulyanova, Lenin’s sister, who was then herself living there. This high-level friendship had, until 1930, saved him from the kind of persecutions to which other prominent SRs had been subjected.” He decided to use his time in exile “exclusively for literary work,” as he wrote a friend. He published articles on Korolenko, Saltykov-Shchedrin, and Chekhov, among others, but it was Pyotr Lavrov to whom he mainly dedicated himself; an article in Sbornik says “Known in literary circles under the pen name of Piotr Vitiazev, he distinguished himself with his study of Lavrov, a Russian revolutionary, anthropologist and philosopher, whose works and letters he published after the revolution.”


At the end of 1915 he joined the army, temporarily abandoning his literary activity. After the Revolution, he organized first the cooperative publishing enterprise Revolyutsionnaya mysl (Revolutionary Thought, 1917-18), and then Kolos (1918 to 1925 or 1926, depending on the source; you can see their printer’s mark here), which published memoirs, literature, materials on the history of social thought, and books on various fields of knowledge; he also wrote and published books on bibliography and the book business as well as his works on Lavrov. He helped Sorokin get his System of Sociology published in 1920 (page 94 of Sorokin’s autobiography); after Sedenko and colleagues secretly printed the two volumes (forging the Communist censorship permission) and ten thousand copies were distributed, the government found out and ordered all copies confiscated and destroyed (though they could find few copies to seize): “Of course the Communist police tried to arrest me and Sedenko, but, expecting the arrest, we ‘ducked underground’ and remained there until we could safely re-emerge.”
At this time there was much discussion of the extent to which the state should control publishing; on Dec. 22, 1920, Gorky published an open letter to the Eighth Congress of Soviets in which he insisted that private publishers should be allowed to exist alongside Gosizdat, the state publishing agency, and Sedenko tried to publish a similar argument but was not given permission to. There remained to him what he called “the old method, already used more than once, of resorting to the assistance of an unofficial printing press,”and his pamphlet Частные издательства в Советской России (“Private publishers in Soviet Russia”), by P. Vityazev, appeared in 1921. In it he recounts the struggle of private presses to survive and argues against Gosizdat’s attacks on them. He insists that private presses are essential for the normal development of literature and culture. He writes: “It is extremely harmful to force the scientific and artistic thought of the country to pass through the narrow crucible of a single government organ… The centralization of all scientific literature in the hands of Gosizdat will inevitably lead to every sort of slaying of critical thought [неизбежно поведет ко всякому убиению критической мысли]“; history shows that government regulation is “real death for the development of creativity in all literature and art [подлинная смерть для развития творчества во всей литературе, во всем искусстве].” This argument is much more pleasing to us today than it was to the Soviet rulers, and it did not win out. [There is a long discussion of the pamphlet, with many quotes, at Leo Pasvolsky's "The Soviet Censor at Work in Russia," in the April 1922 issue of McClure's—thanks, MMcM!]
In April 1930 he was arrested and sent to a Gulag camp building the White Sea Canal, but was released after the intervention of Lenin’s sister and Vera Figner, who had known him in the old days, and in 1933 he even received permission to live in Moscow. But Stalin was determined to wipe out the SRs, and he was rearrested on April 3, 1938, “tried” on June 14, and shot the same day.
Incidentally, Chukovsky’s entry begins with this, which is left untranslated in the Yale edition: “Был у меня Гумилев: принес от Анны Николаевны (своей жены) 1/2 фунта крупы – в подарок – из Бежецка. Говорит, что дров никаких: топили шкафом, но шкаф дал мало жару. Я дал ему взаймы 36 полен. Он увез их на Бобиных санях.” [Gumilyov came to see me; he brought 1/2 pound of groats from Bezhetsk as a gift from Anna Nikolaevna (his wife). He says they have no firewood; they burned a wardrobe, but it didn't give much heat. I loaned him 36 logs; he took them home on Boba's sled.] This is the latest in a disturbing pattern of omitting parts of entries that reflect on the hardships of the times; for instance, the Nov. 13 entry omits a passage on the lack of food (“Yesterday I went to bed hungry. All day I had only rusks and soup!”). I myself would have included more of those telling details, if need be cutting a little of the literary gossip to make room for them.

Comments

  1. I wanted to know where it was located (which I never did find out)
    Was this the same publishing house from before? Is that the printer’s address? Otherwise, only snippets.

  2. John Emerson says:

    Pitrim Sorokin again! Sorokin made it to the US in 1923, where he founded the Harvard Sociology department in 1930. During the 40s and 50s his school of sociology was displaced by structural-functionalism (Talcott Parsons), and when I was a college freshman (1964) Sorokin still had honorific positions but was seldom read and often ridiculed. He died in 1968 and my guess is that after 1970 or so students didn’t even learn his name.
    He sometimes wrote in the prophetic style, a bit like Toynbee or Teilhard de Chardin, and his “The Ways and Power of Love” has recently been reprinted by the Templeton Foundation, introduced by “Stephen G. Post, professor of biomedical ethics at Case Western Reserve University and is president of the newly formed Institute for Research on Unlimited Love.”

  3. a disturbing pattern of omitting parts of entries that reflect on the hardships of the times
    It sounds suspicious, and annoying for the reader. Who would have done it but left the rest, do you think?
    MI Ulyanova
    Her name’s Maria, right? Is it a mark of respect to refer to her in this way? (You may have mentioned this already.) The sisters seem to have played a role in the party hierarchy before and after the revolution, but I can’t find much written about them if I google. What became of them?

  4. a disturbing pattern of omitting parts of entries that reflect on the hardships of the times
    It sounds suspicious, and annoying for the reader. Who would have done it but left the rest, do you think?
    MI Ulyanova
    Her name’s Maria, right? Is it a mark of respect to refer to her in this way? (You may have mentioned this already.) The sisters seem to have played a role in the party hierarchy before and after the revolution, but I can’t find much written about them if I google. What became of them?

  5. I wanted to know where it was located (which I never did find out)
    http://www.encspb.ru/article.php?kod=2804028279
    This link listing Petersburg publishers puts a Kolos there at the correct time, but no actual address. They published Sociology, including Sorokin and literary memoirs. Which is too big a coincidence so I’m sure its the one.
    Pitrim is a rather odd first name, I wonder if it is a Komi name? (He was born in the Komi Krai and his mother was Komi native.

  6. This link listing Petersburg publishers puts a Kolos there at the correct time, but no actual address.
    Yes, I found that too, but as you say, it didn’t help.
    Was this the same publishing house from before?
    Almost certainly not. There were a lot of little publishing houses before the Revolution, and the Bolsheviks shut them all down. If this one had somehow survived as a continuation, I don’t think the SPb encyclopedia keith100 links to would have it starting in 1918.

  7. Pitrim is a rather odd first name, I wonder if it is a Komi name?
    Nope, it’s unusual but it’s genuine Russian; there was a Patriarch of that name in the 17th century, and a Bishop of Perm in the 15th. Wikipedia says the name is неясного происхождения (of unclear origin), but Unbegaun derives it from Greek Πιτεροῦν (Piteroun).

  8. No new information is supplied, but “Kolos” is included in a contemporary English-language report on Soviet censorship from McClure’s. It also includes a portrait of an avuncular Kropotkin.

  9. [I'm morbidly curious about the vengeful (?) reconciliation indicated in Jeffrey Taylor's poem.]

  10. Pitirim
    Thanks for the info, and the links. It gave the impression that its almost limited to high-up orthodox clergy and as my curiosity was triggered searching would seem to confirm that apart from a few writers. Its appropriate as Pitirim was a 5th Centry Saint who “directed a group of ascetics” – quite appropriate for a monk’s taken name.
    http://www.abbamoses.com/months/november.html

  11. Irrelevant to this post, but thought you might be interested in what Google Books has done to the title of Тхе Магхриб Арабик диалекц: http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=paEOAAAAYAAJ

  12. MMcM: Thanks very much for that link (“The Soviet Censor at Work in Russia,” by Leo Pasvolsky–I had no idea people prepared such elaborate drafts of Wikipedia articles!–whose Russian name was apparently Лев Михайлович Пасвольский); the “pamphlet” he quotes from and describes at length is of course Vityazev’s “Private publishers in Soviet Russia,” and I assume he names neither author nor work in an attempt to protect Vityazev. The McClure’s piece is well worth reading.
    Lameen: That’s pretty funny, but how on earth does it happen?

  13. Incidentally, in the same (April 1922) issue of McClure’s there’s a grim report on the famine of 1921, “The Girl at Syzran,” by Paxton Hibben.

  14. My guess would be: The catalog they got it off has the names of Russian books in a Latin transcription, they wrote a script to convert all Russian books’ titles into proper Cyrillic, and because of the place of publication this ended up thrown in. Careless but understandable.

  15. googlebooks
    Further ammunition for Geoffrey Nunberg, I think.
    I wondered if it might be a one off (a bad file, say) so searched by Хусе as in Наука Пуб. Хусе – 3730 results. Not all wrong but an awful lot.
    It looks like the english titles from Russian publishing houses are transliterated into cyrillic but not consistently letter by letter eg Txe = the; othep = other.
    Lameen, thanks for identifying this – very enjoyable to work out the english but worrying in its implication.

  16. Look at this: a Writers Union bookshop called ‘Kolos’ with address. It is also on SPB encyclopedia site, but under ‘Книжная торговля’(Booksellers):
    В 1920 Наркомпрос разрешил создавать книжные лавки при творч. союзах. В П. на Бассейной ул. (ныне ул. Некрасова), 11 открылась лавка Дома писателей «Колос».
    The name of the street (Basseynaya) gave one the best loved rhymes in childrens’ poetry – Rasseyanny (absent minded) by Samuil Marshak who Chuk mentions later in his diary.
    The date here is later than the entry in Chuk’s diary, but this could be because the publishing house “Колос” did not have its own bookshop at first. I suspect the publishers were at the same address as the ‘lavka’. Also, it is more likely that Blok was giving a talk at the Union booksellers’ rather than at a publisher…

  17. no-no, that’s the wrong one – I found what Hat is looking for: Вольфила – Free philosophical association based at Kolos publishers’ flat at Liteyny Prospekt (Volodarskogo), 21. Blok is listed as a speaker and there is a reference to the first meeting taking place on 16 Nov 1919 – the date in Chuk’s diary.
    Открытые заседания проходили: первое (16 нояб. 1919) и десять последующих – в квартире изд-ва «Колос» на просп. Володарского (ныне Литейный), 21;

  18. Sashura, you amaze me. I don’t know why it’s so important to me to know where things are, but it is, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

  19. So it was on the northwest corner of Liteiny and Pestelya (which was probably then still Panteleimonskaya). Chukovsky could have saved me a lot of trouble by writing “Volfila” rather than “Kolos,” but then I wouldn’t have found out about Vityazev-Sedenko (or, if you prefer, Sedenko-Vityazev).

  20. A.J.P.Trotsky: MI Ulyanova. Her name’s Maria, right?
    in Russian you put full stop after each initial and no spaces between initials and surname: M.I.Ulyanova. It’s a neutral-formal way of refering
    to someone in writing.
    Here is the story of her part in the struggle for power after Lenin’s death.

  21. Oh yeah, I had meant to address that. Referring to someone by last name and initials is absolutely standard in Russian.

  22. I had seen that; I skimmed through it, but never read it. It doesn’t say what happened to her in the long term, after Lenin’s death, but it is nonetheless quite fascinating; thanks for pointing it out. She & Krupskaya both seem to have preferred Stalin to Trotsky. At one point she says Stalin was completely unsentimental, but elsewhere that he said he “loved” Lenin (though not in a sexual way, Nij), and partly because of the contradictions I got the feeling that it was as true a picture as one is likely to find of the relations between those people. I especially like the image of N.Krupskaya rolling on the floor crying after Stalin yelled at her on the phone. What a hideous (in all senses) bunch of people.

  23. I had seen that; I skimmed through it, but never read it. It doesn’t say what happened to her in the long term, after Lenin’s death, but it is nonetheless quite fascinating; thanks for pointing it out. She & Krupskaya both seem to have preferred Stalin to Trotsky. At one point she says Stalin was completely unsentimental, but elsewhere that he said he “loved” Lenin (though not in a sexual way, Nij), and partly because of the contradictions I got the feeling that it was as true a picture as one is likely to find of the relations between those people. I especially like the image of N.Krupskaya rolling on the floor crying after Stalin yelled at her on the phone. What a hideous (in all senses) bunch of people.

  24. he said he “loved” Lenin (though not in a sexual way, Nij)
    …but what about Trotsky and Lenin?

  25. Sashura – excellent detective work, thanks and thanks for mentioning Marshak.
    Along with Chukovsky, one of the best children’s poets. Still very popular and very good.
    His Robert Burns translations are quite good. http://lib.ru/POEZIQ/burns.txt
    An odd thing I noticed when searching for a link apart from the usual and obvious criticism of the politicising of Burns (a not uncommon habit in Scotland, either) is this “He eschewed dialect expressions” http://www.docstoc.com/docs/13936022/POLITICS-AND-IDEOLOGY-IN-TRANSLATIONS-OF-ROBERT-BURNS-POETRY-MADE
    Is it actually possible to translate dialect heavy poetry into Russian?
    I wonder if any Russians have criticised Edwin Morgan for translating Mayakovsky (and others) into Scots?

  26. I wonder if any Russians have criticised Edwin Morgan for translating Mayakovsky (and others) into Scots?
    Some of the greatest translations of Russian poetry were done in Scots by Hugh MacDiarmid as part of his neglected masterwork “A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle“; in the first section, linked to the title, you can read his version of Blok’s famous “Незнакомка” (The unknown woman), beginning:
    At darknin hings abune the howff
    A weet and wild and eisenin air.
    Spring’s spirit wi its waesome sough
    Rules owre the drucken stramash there
    And heich abune the vennel’s pokiness,
    Whaur aa the white-weshed cottons lie,
    The Inn’s sign blinters in the mochiness,
    And lood and shrill the bairnies cry.
    You can hear MacDiarmid reading his own poem in the mp3 links at this page; it’s well worth getting acquainted with Scots to the extent necessary to appreciate what he does with it.

  27. I’ve written about and/or quoted MacDiarmid here and here.

  28. Is it actually possible to translate dialect heavy poetry into Russian?
    Why not, you translate dialect in the original lang into standard in target:
    For auld lang syne, my jo,
    for auld lang syne,
    we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
    for auld lang syne.
    Marshak:
    За дружбу старую -
    до дна!
    За счастье прежних дней!
    С тобой мы выпьем, старина,
    За счастье прежних дней.
    Marshak’s version of Shakespeare’s Sonnets is also considered to be the beast.

  29. Ezra Pound, Dudley Fitts, and others, translating into standard English, tried various ways of translating non-standard language in the original into non-standard English. A common mistake they made was to translate colloquial (as opposed to formal or official) language into slang, which is really a different kind of non-standard language. Southern dialect was tried too. None of it was very successful and I don’t think either of them had a good ear for non-literary English.
    An advantage with Scots is that it once was a standard language competing with whatever they call southern English which was used even by kings (even though it hadn’t been prescriptivised.) In this it resembles Catalan, Occitan, and perhaps some forms of German or Italian. American dialects, and to a considerable degree British dialects, are now usually taken as markers of lack of education, which wasn’t true of, e.g., Ionian Greek or Galician Spanish.

  30. Why not, you translate dialect in the original lang into standard in target:
    Sashura – exactly – the criticism of Marshak is invalid. I’ve been was trying to imagine what would have pleased the critic – standard russian with a bit of Ukrainian thrown in for the dialectisms, perhaps? probably ending up with what John describes.
    За дружбу старую –
    and it fits the melody too.
    Scots
    Funnily enough, despite being a Scot myself, I find literary Scots quite difficult to follow. Hearing McDiarmid was quite interesting – I’ve a better idea of the sounds the spellings are trying to convey now, even if half of the words are meaningless without a glossary.

  31. it fits the melody
    This is nothing compared to how he captured the music of English nursery rhymes.
    Since Hat is ploughing through Chuk’s diary, I would like to recommend Chukokkala, Chukovsky’s hand-written album, an amazing ‘guest book’ he had been compiling from the beginning of the century to his death. Drawings, cartoons and poems by and of practically everyone who matters in Russian literature C20. It came out in facsimile edition in 1979 in Iskusstvo, but was not published in English which is a pity. You can see the hand-writing of Chuk himself, Blok and Mayakovsky and on to Yevtushenko and others in the 60s.
    Hat mentions the album in the 4.07.2009 post here (THE LORD AND THE LAUNDRESS’S SON.) Is it possible to put a link to one particular post?

  32. Sure, just use the URL in the address bar, in this case http://www.languagehat.com/archives/003546.php: THE LORD AND THE LAUNDRESS’S SON. And yes, I’d love to see a copy of Chukokkala; they probably have it at the Amherst Center for Russian Culture, which I really must get around to visiting.

  33. If you treat written Scots as a separate language with a (more or less) standard form, it’s appropriate to translate into or out of it into other languages in their standard forms. If you think of it as a dialect of English, it’s appropriate to translate into or out of it into the dialect forms of other languages.

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