Nikolai Klyuev house, Tomsk

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This is not the home from which the authorities took Nikolai Klyuev to be shot in 1937, but he did live here for periods of time during the last two and a half years of his life in exile.  Klyuev was an important poet, hard to pin down, one who at times was different things to different people. He has been identified as a nationalist poet with a deep affection for Russian folklore. He is often termed a peasant poet. He is considered a mystical poet with ties to the Symbolists, at least early in his career. Maxim Gorky called him the “bard of the mystical essence of the peasantry.” He wrote poetry with deep religious feeling. In fact my trusty Victor Terras Handbook of Russian Literature calls him the “semi-official composer of religious songs for a local khlyst (flagellant) religious sect.” Some of his poetry (including some religious poetry) exhibits gay tendencies, although, to my knowledge, this aspect of the poet’s work has not been studied seriously. He was first arrested in 1933 and was, essentially, hounded  by the authorities – arrested, freed, exiled, rearrested – until his death in the waning days of October 1937 at the age of 53. His primary address in Tomsk was the one pictured here, in the home of Anna Kuznetsova at 12 Red Firemen Lane. Two plaques on the exterior walls of the old wooden structure commemorate the time Klyuev spent here.

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Klyuev was moved around a good deal while he was in Tomsk. He spent his first nights in a prison which no longer exists, and which was located not far from the way station in which Nikolai Chernyshevsky stopped for 90 minutes in 1864. (I wrote about that site here several weeks ago.) Klyuev also lived at 38 Mariinsky Lane, a site I have yet to photograph, and he was registered in a home on Staro-Achinskaya Street when he was arrested and taken away to be shot. I’ll never photograph that home for it was recently demolished.  The plaque commemorating Klyuev’s connection to this now-disappeared address was salvaged, however, and is now kept in the Vyacheslav Shishkov museum in Tomsk (I’ll write about that sooner than later). A photo of that plaque follows below, as does a drawing of Klyuev, which is also held in the Shishkov museum.

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