Tag Archives: Sergei Volnukhin

Ivan Fyodorov statue, Moscow


Ivan Fyodorov, born between 1510 and 1530, died in 1583, the first printer/publisher in Russia. Only his name wasn’t really Ivan Fyodorov; we really don’t know when he was born; and he wasn’t the first person to print texts in Russia – or in Ukraine, where he is also often called the father of publishing. So much for the facts of history. Fyodor was Ivan’s father’s name and, according to the customs of the Eastern Slavs in the 16th century, a man took his second name from his father. Sometimes Ivan used the form of Fyodorovich, the contemporary patronymic form, sometimes he called himself Ivan Fyodorovich Moskvitin, implying that he was from Moscow. Only he wasn’t originally from Moscow. No one knows for certain, but it would appear that he came from lands that are now attached to Belarus, and he may have studied in Krakow, now belonging to Poland.
Ivan Fyodorov was taught the art of bookmaking by a Dutch master brought to Moscow by Ivan the Terrible. He began printing The Apostle – a combination of parts of the Gospels, and stories of the deeds and declarations of the Holy Apostles – on April 19, 1563, as is engraved on the face of this monument to the publisher in the center of Moscow. He completed printing the book on March 1, 1564. These dates are what are important in the determination of Fyodorov as the first publisher of a book in Russia. In fact there had been at least seven other books printed in Moscow by this time, but none bore dates or the names of the printer/publisher. Fyodorov set history in motion by giving us a name and dates to go with the event. It is generally considered that Fyodorov’s books are of a much higher quality than others that were printed in and around that time. Apparently Fyodorov fell out with some of his colleagues (maybe the ones who were making worse books?) and he left Moscow with his printing partner Pyotr Mstislav in the mid-1560s for lands that are now considered Ukrainian.

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The monument pictured here is now located in rather spectacular surroundings. I don’t necessarily mean that in a positive sense. I just mean that there is a whole spectacle of new-Russian wealth gushing unstemmed about the bronze image of the deacon who printed pious religious texts well over 500 years ago. It is now cradled in the sparkle of high-rent spaces occupied, as you see, by Maserati, Ferrari, Bvlgari, Bentley and other “high-end” companies. What I find interesting is that the modest printer does not suffer all that much for the comparisons that arise. Look at the last picture below and see how well he stands up to the “Billionaire” man sulking behind him.
The monument has stood in various places since it was unveiled in 1909, the work of the sculptor Sergei Volnukhin and architect Ivan Mashkov. I first saw it in more or less at this position in the late 1980s. It then had a much more organic connection to its surroundings – a very nice used bookstore was located where the Ferrari showroom now stands, right behind Fyodor. (See the central photo in the trio above.) In my mind’s eye I still see that bookstore whenever I go by this location, and I still perceive all the new rich tenants as temporary usurpers. For the record, the monument stands alongside Teatralny Proezd (Theater Passageway) No. 2.

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Anna Golubkina home, Moscow


It’s curious what it takes sometimes to learn something. I essentially knew nothing about the sculptor Anna Golubkina until a friend of my wife began working on a film that was/is to be set in the Golubkina house museum in Moscow. Then I started hearing fascinating stories after every call Oksana’s friend would make to her to discuss what they were going to do. Golubkina (1864-1927) is considered the first important Russian woman to do sculpture. Her work puts her among the first rank of all Russian sculptors. I was particularly fascinated to learn that she had studied with Rodin. She replaced Camille Claudel as his assistant in 1897 and remained with him for about three years. According to Wikipedia, Rodin “requested her work on the hands and legs of his sculptures.” I think I’m amazed as anything by the fact that Golubkina is another of those relatively frequent Russian natural talents. Growing up in a strictly religious home, she was not sent to school, but was taught the basic elements of literacy at home. When a  local art teacher in her home town near Ryazan suggested she study art in Moscow, she was already at the ripe age of 25. And then comes another of those marvelous moments you just have to love. Again, I’ll let Wikipedia take over for me: “In 1889 she took entrance exams for Otto Gunst’s Classes for Elegant Arts, an architecture school. Having no formal education, she failed some exams; but an examiner, sculptor Sergey Volnukhin, challenged other examiners to name a sculptor able to produce anything like her ‘Praying old woman.’ He convinced them not only to admit Anna, but to waive her tuition as well.” One Russian biography describes Golubkina as being headstrong, unsure of her own powers, prideful to the point of being arrogant, and quite modest.  What a wonderful combination for an artist!


Moscow Art Theater junkies know Golubkina’s work whether they realize it or not. It is her sculpture, “The Wave,” that hangs over the entrance to the theater’s small stage. She did several sculptural portraits of  major writers, including Andrei Bely, Alexei Remizov, Alexei Tolstoy and Lev Tolstoy. Golubkina met the latter Tolstoy in 1903 and, as was her wont, she gave him some straight talk, telling him outright that she did not share many of his views. So forceful was she in her manner that when she came back to see the great writer, his wife Sofya Andreyevna  told her that Lev Nikolayevich was sick and could not receive visitors. Many years later, in 1926, when she was creating her famous bust of Tolstoy, she said, “Tolstoy is like the sea. But he has eyes like a hounded wolf.” Golubkina left an unfinished wooden sculpture of the poet Alexander Blok when she died in 1927. In that same year her Moscow apartment on Bolshoi Levshinsky Pereulok (Lane) was turned into a “museum house,” setting a precedent for many such museums that subsequently appeared in the Soviet era. In the photo below you can see the balcony extending from the back side of Golubkina’s apartment. It is said she would come out here and chat with many of her writer friends who lived in the next building over. Golubkina suffered from severe rheumatism for much of her adult life and it often interfered with her work. Most often she is considered an impressionist or a modernist. She always considered herself a student of Rodin. She was sympathetic to the Revolution when it took place, although relatively early on she began to refuse to collaborate with the government in protest against its executions of “enemies.”