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I’ve been working under a double whammy that has kept me from making posts to this blog. I’ve been crazy busy, and then my computer with all my photos died. The guy at the shop swears he’ll fix it, but until he does, I’m running on zero. As a result I just now ran out with my camera to grab some shots of a place not far from where I live – the house in which the poet Sergei Yesenin (1895-1925) was registered as a resident from 1911 to 1918. (Many sources say he did not actually move here from his birthplace in the Ryazan region until 1912.) He didn’t live here for that entire period, but this home apparently was his official place of residence.
It’s an odd little location. I can hardly think of a better place to put something that you want no one ever to find or enjoy once they’ve found it. The address is 24 Bolshoi Strochenovsky Lane, bldg. 2. A small plaque announcing the presence of the museum is almost lost in a small sea of other plaques indicating the location here of five or six businesses. The building itself is located behind a tall fence and is blocked off from access by one of those awful little booths manned by a grumpy guard. You pass through a double door and, when you reach the guard, he is just itching to tell you you can’t go through. There’s a huge sign: “Entry by pass only!” But a magical little thing happens when you say you want to visit the Yesenin museum – the guard’s face goes limp with disappointment and he waves you through the second door, the one to the left. What cracked me up was that it doesn’t matter if you go through the door to the left or the one to the right – where you must have a pass to pass – you still end up in the same open courtyard in front of the Yesenin house. But them’s just details.
Yesenin lived here in Apartment No. 6 with his father Alexander Yesenin, who worked in a butcher shop belonging to a certain N.V. Krylov. This two-story, wooden building, erected in 1891, belonged to Krylov. The original structure perished in a fire and it was rebuilt in 1992, becoming the Yesenin museum in 1995. Apparently, the original idea was to make the entire building into a museum, but economic realities were such that, in the end, just two rooms of approximately 40 square meters each were turned over to the museum. The second floor is occupied by one or more business concerns.
The young poet was still searching for himself and his place in the world at the time he was registered here as a resident . At first he took a job alongside his father in Krylov’s meat store, but did not last long there. This was much to the chagrin of his father, who hoped his son would follow in his footsteps. In March 1913 Yesenin took a job as a corrector’s assistant at the nearby Sytin printing press, about which I have written previously in this space. Yesenin’s first wife Anna Izryadnova had this to say about this period in the poet’s life (as quoted in the Walks in Moscow site):
“His mood was depressed – he was a poet, no one wanted to understand that. Editors were not publishing him, his father was grumbling that he was loafing and that he should get a job. He had the reputation of a leader, he attended meetings [of the Surikov literary-musical circle? – JF] and distributed illegal literature. He would throw himself at books, spent all his free time reading, wasted all his pay on books and magazines, never at all thinking about how to live…”
Yesenin and Izryadnova met on the job at the Sytin printing concern where she was also a corrector. They never were married officially, although they had a son, Yury, in December 1914. That, incidentally, is precisely the month that Yesenin quit his job working for Sytin and devoted himself entirely to a life of writing poetry. His first ever published poem, “Birch Tree,” appeared in January 1914 in a magazine, The Little World (Mirok), published by Sytin in January 1914. In 1915 he headed for St. Petersburg for awhile, although this home in Moscow continued to be his official residence.
I could not enter the museum today because I ran out not thinking of anything but shooting photos. The entry fee is 200 rubles and I didn’t have a kopeck on me. However, the door was open so I snapped the picture immediately below, of a small statue of Yesenin that stands in the entryway. If you’d like to see some of the exhibits inside, another Moscow Walks site hosts a fairly large gallery of photos.