Dmitry Mamin-Sibiryak (1852-1912) was a man after my own heart. I myself had a bit of a checkered educational career. It was good, don’t get me wrong. But it wandered around rather like a snake. And then I run across the list of schools that Mamin attended (before he added “Sibiryak,” the Siberian, to his name) and I can’t help but be impressed. He started off being home taught by his father, a factory priest, before enrolling in the school for children of the workers of the Visimo-Shantaisk factory. He later matriculated for a few years in a religious seminary in Yekaterinburg before switching over to the Perm religious academy. Both of these were rather crude middle schools and he didn’t complete either of them. In the first half of the 1870s he studied veterinary medicine at the Petersburg Academy of Medicine and Surgery, but switched over to the law department of Petersburg University… And, yes, you guessed it, he never completed either of those either. While in St. Petersburg Mamin began to publish little stories in the newspapers. He finally figured out what life was trying to tell him – he needed to write more than he needed to go to school. He headed back to his parents’ home in the Urals Mountains and, when his father died and he found himself in the position of having to take care of his mother and siblings, he began to write in earnest. Imagine that, supporting a family by writing! Anyway, he eventually wrote several novels, a large number of essays and travel notes, as well as some plays and a popular cycle of children’s stories dedicated to his daughter Alyona, a sickly child who died in her early 20s. The setting for Mamin-Sibiryak’s work was usually the Ural Mountains area or Siberia.
The name Mamin-Sibiryak also exists in literary folklore thanks to a joke that the playwright Nikolai Erdman came up with during his time of Siberian exile in the 1930s. Erdman wrote beautiful letters back to his family, letters full of wit and charm and warmth, and whenever he addressed one to his mother, he would invariably sign it “Mamin-Sibiryak,” because in Russian, Mamin-Sibiryak means “mother’s Siberian.”
The bust honoring the real Mamin-Sibiryak in Yekaterinburg was unveiled November 5, 1987 and was created by the sculptor Andrei Antonov. It stands with its back to Lenin Prospekt, and stands as part of a duo of busts, the other commemorating Pavel Bazhov, about whom I’ve already written on this site.