I’m nicely settled in at my digs on Kutuzovsky Prospect. It’s a large room in anapartment, although my host isn’t around very much so I have pretty much the run of the place. I have a balcony that looks out onto a small park. Cottonwood seeds are floating around everywhere in the city like a light snow although the temperatures are in the high 70s and it has been sunny. I was dismayed to find out almost immediately that the authorities have blocked accessto all WordPress subdomains, where my blog resides. Apparently a couple of months back they discovered that some terrorist groups were using WordPress, although blocking everyone’s access is an incredibly clumsy way to deal with the problem. In the meantime, I’m sending my posts in a Word file and asking Ben to upload them for me.
Thursday, June 13
I decided to ease into the city by taking in some locations associated with Levitan and Chekhov. But first off I went to the Lenin Library (the Russian State Library) to get myreader’s card. It’s amazing to think that I first worked in that library during a bleak winter some 36 years ago! Then I went to find the School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture, where Levitan started his arts education in 1873 at age 13. There is a plaque dedicated to the painter Alexei Savrasov on the façade of the building. Savrasov taught at the school and was Levitan’s mentor, but still I found it ironic since Savrasov was fired from the school for drunkenness. Across from the school I noticed that the Theatre Et Cetera was performing a dramatization of Chekhov’s long story “Драма на охоте,” usually translated as “The Shooting Party.” I bought a ticket to see it on Sunday night. For lunch I stopped at a café and had пирожки с мясом and some tea. What a treat to have all the Russian comfort food I want !From there I hopped on the Metro and went to the Novodevichy Cemetery where both Chekhov and Levitan are buried—only three rows away from each other.
Friday, June 14
Before I left the U.S., this day had been reserved for going to RGALI (the Russian State Archive of Literature and Art) to begin working. The staff had already set aside the documents that I wanted to look at in microfilm form. Again the registration process was very straightforward—I had come armed with the necessary official letter from the Slavic Department at the University of Washington. In going between the archive’s two buildings I managed to forget my “мышка,” my computer mouse at one of them and had to go back to retrieve it. The archive facilities themselves are very old, very modest. I noticed that there was a high demand on the microfilm readers, so I decided to skip lunch so I wouldn’t lose my spot, working from 10:30am to 4pm. I was starved and exhausted by the end of the day. I’ll go back on Monday to finish going through the microfilm and hopefully order electronic copies of a few documents. As I expected, Levitan had terrible, almost illegible handwriting, so I want to bring copies of the few missing letters I’ve found back to the U.S. and have someone help transcribe them for me. On Tuesday I’m scheduled to start looking at the original documents that I’ve requested access to. For me, this is exciting stuff!