April 30 marks the 75th anniversary of the great poet Yuri Koblanovsky, who has always felt a special connection to Russian classical culture and Orthodoxy. In his younger years, he did not accept Soviet reality, was persecuted for dissent, and in 1982 was forced to emigrate to the West. After 8 years he returned to his homeland. In his worldview, he moved from the West to enlightened conservatism. The beauty of the Russian land, the call of names, lyrics and religious experiences – these are the main themes of his poetry.
Yuri Koblanovsky was born on April 30, 1947 in Rybinsk. He is the author of the collections With the Last Sun, Eclipse, Return, Longer Than Calendar, Reading in Bad Weather, and Long Transit. Last year, the Russian Method Publishing House published a three-volume collection of the poet’s selected words. Yuri Koblanovsky is a laureate of the Literary Patriarchal Prize and many other awards. The documentary film “Motherland is near” (directed by Alexei Borikin) is dedicated to his life path.
Yuri Koblanovsky, poet
– Yuri Mikhailovich, you entered literature when the poems of the 60s appeared. How do you remember that time?
I remember how Andrei Andreevich Voznesensky opened the door for me, he was wearing a blue Hemingway jacket
I partly owe it to the 1960s, when I switched to poetry. In my early school years, I was fond of drawing, I studied in Rybinsk at an art studio, exhibiting my drawings at regional and regional exhibitions. Then she fell into the hands of the groups of Andrei Voznesensky, Bella Akhmadulina, and the songs of Bulat Okudzhava were heard. It was thanks to them that he began to write poetry. I was 14 years old when Khrushchev sharply criticized the dissolution poets, and I wanted to support them. I came to Moscow to Andrey Voznesensky – I found out his address in the city of Moscow Spravka: Nizhnyaya Krasnoselskaya Street, house 45, apartment 45. I came there. I remember how Andrei Andreevich opened the door for me, he was wearing a blue Hemingway jacket. He greeted me warmly. This is how our relationship began. As I grew up, I met other writers who were of interest to me.
Who is the most important influence in shaping your view of the world?
– From contemporaries – this is Alexander Solzhenitsyn. Among those who were before, these are Russian philosophers, whom Lenin exiled abroad in 1922. From the nineteenth century – Pushkin, Dostoevsky. Religion and culture shaped me. Since I learned to read, I spend every day with a book. The poetry of Osip Mandelstam and Joseph Brodsky in part played an important role in my development. I am sincerely grateful to all of Russian culture: I learned something from everyone. I studied not only those whose poetry is not ideologically close to me: from Nekrasov or Mayakovsky. These are foreign poets. Nekrasov is unpleasant with his editorial thought. Mayakovsky repels Bolshevik extremism. In other poets, I also do not like things saturated with revolutionary energy. For example, I can’t read “The Twelve” by Alexander Blok. Block called for “listening to the music of the revolution,” but this is not my music. “February” by Bagritsky, revolutionary poems by Boris Pasternak – this is literature that can be witty and creative, but is ideologically alien to me.
– But you dedicated a separate poem to Nekrasov in the cycle of Russian poets …
– He is a citizen of my country and the author of many wonderful masterpieces, without a doubt. But on the whole, I consider his character to have this ideological voice alien to me. I recently returned from St. Petersburg – I visited the Novodevichy cemetery there, where Tyutchev is buried. But Nekrasov is lying there, too. And I, of course, went up and stood near his grave.
– In Soviet times, state atheism was imposed. How did you come to faith?
It has been enhanced in religiosity by Russian literature
– When I was born, Soviet power was only thirty years old. And although Rybinsk as a whole was a crowded atheist city, many Russians imbued with orthodoxy still live in it. In particular, if my parents were atheists, then my grandmother, who gave me so much, Lyudmila Sergeevna Sokolova (nee Esbulatova) in my childhood, almost secretly baptized me. I had very strong impressions of the old Rybinsk, of the old Russian people. And then, gradually, through Russian literature imbued with the Orthodox spirit (remember the mature Pushkin, remember Dostoevsky), she became more and more powerful in religiosity. When in the second half of the seventies I managed to get acquainted with Father Alexander Min, who served in Novaya Derevnia, I found my confession in him. It can be said that I have always been religious. The church came about thirty years ago. This is probably the usual way in my generation.
Did you have priests in your family?
Yes, but I didn’t know them personally. They were all terrestrial before I was born.
– In your poems of the 60s and 70s, you often wrote about churches in ruins: “And looming over the ruined church, it can hardly be seen four steps away.” Did this issue bother you?
It was a membership for me. From a young age, I felt that my original home was the land of martyrs, especially Christian martyrs. Gradually, it became clear how many Orthodox priests the Soviet government buried in the grounds, and sometimes they were buried alive, as happened in some cities in the first years of Soviet power. I kept in myself the memory of all the innocent victims. This is one of the main themes of my stay.
Why did you migrate?
Joseph Brodsky, residing in the United States, had prepared for the publication of my poetry collection. I sent him a large collection of my poems. He made a selection from there, and my first book was published by the American publishing house Ardis. Publishing a book in the United States was not a regular occurrence at the time. He has become the detonator of my destiny. I had to leave Russia against my will. Then they said to me: “We don’t want to make you a second Gumilyov,” and they offered to emigrate. In the fall of 1982 I ended up in Vienna. Alexander Izhevich Solzhenitsyn sent a letter in which he supported me. There, in particular, he wrote: “After eight years, you will return to Russia.” Then, in 1982, it seemed out of the question. Andropov was at the head of the Soviet Union. First wave immigrants laughed at me and said: “We have been sitting in suitcases for forty years. Settle here. God willing, you will become European too.” But everything turned out, Solzhenitsyn said. Guess year after year. Eight years later, I returned to Russia. Then the course of history accelerated significantly, and they began to spread me in my homeland.
Why didn’t you stay in the West?
As soon as I lost my political refugee status, I immediately returned. And he never regretted it
For me, the question was never: to go back or not to go back. As soon as I lost my political refugee status, as soon as they started posting for me in Russia, I immediately returned. And he never regretted it. And during the first decade after his return, he did not once go to the West. And now I’m not more attracted there. You see what kind of blame Russia gets from the “transgender” atheist West.
What did the immigration experience give you?
– Until then I understood that Western civilization cuts off the branch on which it sits, moving away from religious principles in the direction of freedom without shores. I just didn’t know the agony would come so soon. I expected that by the middle of the twenty-first century. But we see that the West is literally transforming before our eyes into Sodom and Gomorrah in the full and direct sense of this concept. It couldn’t be more accurate.
– Can we say that in your worldview you have turned from a liberal Westerner to an enlightened conservative?
– If we take the classical Russian philosophers of the twentieth century, then this is a typical course of a Russian thinker. At the beginning of the last century, there was such a group – “From Marxism to Idealism”. A completely natural path: first, you become humane, seek justice, and then you realize that this is not enough. Without religion, neither the individual nor the state can exist.
– We love Western culture, but throughout our history we have been in conflict with Western countries. How do you live in this contradiction?
European culture runs through my veins. I love her, know her well and appreciate her. It is very painful to look around the middle bureaucratic peasants to the West, greedy for profit and who do not understand anything in traditional culture. Look at Western officials today: this is embodied ignorance! These people do not feel history, and sometimes they do not know geography. They frighten Belarusians that they will send a fleet to its shores, and pity the Ukrainians because they have lived under the Tatars for many centuries. Before our eyes, the bureaucratic class is turning towards brutality, dragging Europe into Hell.
– How did your poets form – “Modernity in Sharia”?
– On the one hand, I could not stand the eclecticism with which a large part of the Soviet poets indulged themselves, and on the other hand, I did not like the avant-garde, which is associated with the revolution for me. This is how I developed my own style. I’ve always been a freedom lover, but I’ve never been an outlaw. Also, I was never eclectic: I stayed in the canon, I understand its beauty. For me, iconography is a model. All symbols are different, although there are very few plots. This is an incredible religious and cultural achievement. This is what you need to learn.
For many poets, poems are born from a humming sound. What about your visual?
– First of all, from the visual impression. But it should be more than just a beautiful landscape. Behind the landscape, I see the history of these places, the fate of the people. All this wakes up in me, and this is how the poem arises.
– You live permanently in Polenovo. Please tell us why this place is so dear to you.
My wife is the granddaughter of the wonderful artist Vasily Polenov
– My wife is the granddaughter of the wonderful artist Vasily Polenov. And I am very grateful for being able to be at the center of Russian culture and the Russian landscape for so long. By the way, Alexander Solzhenitsyn was very fond of these places. He had a black and white photograph hanging in his home in Vermont – a view of the Oka from Bhovsky Hill near Polenov. When I came to Trinity-Lykovo to Alexander Isaevich, I looked: the same landscape hung above his desk, that is, he seized it when he returned from America to Russia. So I am not alone in my passion for these places, which are so heavily depicted in Russian poetry.
– If you touch the religious painting of Polenov, what works of the master can you notice?
– his biblical studies, a whole collection of them, which will remain in Russian art forever, along, for example, with the religious painting of Alexander Ivanov. And, of course, “Moscow Yard”, “Grandma’s Garden” – first-class pearls in Russian art.
What gives you hope in our tough times, when so many are depressed?
Religion gives me hope. I have warm friendly relations with Bishop Panteleimon, whom we have known since our youth. Recently returned from Donbass … In times of trouble, people always turn to God, becoming more kind and merciful. In this I seek solace.
– How will you celebrate your birthday, which falls this year in the bright week?
– On Easter we go to the Trinity Church in the village of Bekhovo, which was built according to the project of Vasily Polenov. And for my birthday, my wife and I are going to Optina Pustyn.