By gradually expanding the field of undisputed and universally compulsory knowledge about the poet, we clear the road for his posthumous fate.
Osip Mandel’shtam (1922)
The meteoric suddenness of Viacheslav Ivanov’s arrival on the Russian literary scene in 1904 and the captivating, magnetic quality of his presence are well conveyed by the following extract from Belyi’s profile of the poet (1910.4):
The figure suddenly moved towards me swiftly: his hair, tinged with gold and linen-white, quivered; fine wrinkles creased his high protruding forehead; a golden pince-nez on the bridge of his nose quivered; under the pince-nez, under browless superciliary arches, his penetrating eyes shone blue, exuding warmth and affection, like tiny blue cornflowers, and his tightly drawn mouth dissolved into a truly child-like smile; the old-fashioned figure moved towards me and — bang; stumbled against an armchair.
Belyi’s evocation of a childlike man, both warm and severe, whose headlong movement is no sooner launched than abruptly arrested, suggests a certain inner energy charged with contradictory impulses. In reading such portraits of Ivanov and the many conflicting existing assessments of his significance as a writer and thinker, one is often tempted to wonder whether these tensions were an innate part of Ivanov or whether they were just a reflection of the fragmented perception of his contemporaries and readers.
There is certainly much evidence of change and discontinuity in Ivanov’s life when considered in terms of its external biographical contours. Born in Moscow in 1866, he lost his father at an early age, and received a profound religious and cultural upbringing from his mother. After a brief spell of atheist rebellion during adolescence, in 1884 he embarked on the study of classical antiquity at the Department of History and Philology of Moscow University. Two years later, he married and left for Europe where he pursued his studies under Mommsen and Hirschfeld at the University of Berlin and lived for extended stretches of time in Paris and Rome. During this period his academic interests changed from Roman antiquity to an
investigation of the religion of ancient Greece and his personal life also underwent an upheaval, leading to the discovery of his poetic vocation. In 1893 in Italy he met the main inspiration and love of his life, the singer and future writer Lidiia Zinov’eva-Annibal. After an extended period of travel in Europe and the birth of their daughter, Lidiia, in 1896, they were married in 1899 and set up home in Geneva. In 1905 they finally returned to Russia permanently and settled in St. Petersburg. The regular Wednesday gatherings at their home, known as the tower, became the central focus of cultural life in the capital. After the sudden death of Lidiia in the late summer of 1907, the meetings still continued although the atmosphere was no longer the same. In 1910, prompted by an inner voice that he associated with the wishes of his dead spouse, Ivanov joined his life with Vera Shvarsalon, Lidiia’s daughter from her first marriage. Their son, Dimitri, was born in 1912, a year before the solemnization of their marriage in 1913. When Vera died in 1920, Ivanov was left widowed for the second time in thirteen years.
Although Ivanov never abandoned his scholarly research on classical antiquity, the main emphasis of his work from the time of his meeting with Lidiia was literary rather than academic. By the time he left Russia in 1924, he had already published six volumes of verse, three collections of essays, two tragedies, numerous reviews and uncollected essays on Russian and European literature, aesthetics, and the destiny of Russia, an exchange of letters with Gershenzon debating the metaphysical roots of culture, two volumes of scholarly studies in the field of classical philology, and translations from several languages including Greek, Italian, French, and English.
In the summer of 1924 Ivanov left Russia with his two children, Lidiia and Dimitrii, and moved to Italy where he lived in Pavia and Rome until his death in 1949. This last quarter of a century of his life differed substantially from the previous twenty years spent in Russia. Following his conversion to Catholicism in 1926, his interests turned more in the direction of religion and culture viewed in the context of Christian humanism. During this period he played a much less public role in literary life and wrote relatively little new poetry. His long poem Chelovek [Man] (1939) was made up of sections written in Russia and his last volume of collected verse, Svet vechernii [Vespertine light] (1962), also comprised works mainly composed before emigration, with the notable exception of the “Roman diary of 1944” and of a handful of poems dating from the 1920s, including the “Roman sonnets” (1924). Many of Ivanov’s publications during this period were either general essays on aspects of Russian and European culture (Gogol’ and Aristophanes, Pushkin, Lermontov, Virgil, Petrarch) or related to revisions of his earlier works and to the supervision of their translation into various European languages.
To an outsider, such manifestations of change and discontinuity in the poet’s outer life would seem to suggest paradox and contradiction in the inner life. How was it possible to reconcile within one person the Russian and the European, the scholar and the poet, the man of culture and the religious believer, the follower of Dionysus and the Christian humanist, the Russian Orthodox believer and the Catholic convert, the leading theoretician of an avant-garde literary movement and the recluse of later years?
And yet, the picture suggested by Ivanov’s literary output is rather different; it conveys a remarkable continuity of vision and wholeness of spirit. Few of Ivanov’s contemporaries and critics have been able to match his range of interests and depth of thought; few of them have shared the intensity of his drive toward integration and synthesis. Responses to his personality, ideas, and writings have consequently often been fragmented and conflicting, reflecting the divisions of time, space, and ideology that Ivanov himself sought to transcend in his works.
The remaining part of this introduction will attempt to reconstruct the overall picture of these diverse reflections by outlining some of the principal patterns and trends that can be discerned in the critical writing on Ivanov listed in the secondary bibliography. The span of just over ninety years (1903—1993) covered by this material will be considered in terms of four periods: 1903—1924; 1925—1961; 1962—1985; 1986—1993.
The first period falls into three interlinked phases. During the opening phase (1903—1907) Ivanov published his first three collections of verse, Kormchie zvezdy [Pilot stars] (1903), Prozrachnost’ [Transparency] (1904), and Eros (1907) and a number of influential essays in the periodical press devoted to aspects of the religion of Dionysus and to the elaboration of his theory of symbolist aesthetics. Throughout these early years, he was chiefly engaged in entering into the mainstream of Russian literature, in establishing a platform for his ideas and in consolidating his reputation.
Early reviews of his collections fall into two quite distinct categories: those written by conservative critics for popular journals, and those written by poets and writers of the symbolist persuasion for journals within the orbit of that movement. The first category of reviews reflected the fact that the public was generally quite unprepared for Ivanov’s innovative ideas and verse. The question of whether to accept the new poet into the Russian literary tradition implicitly underlies the attitudes of many of these reviews. The two prejudices most frequently encountered are the view that abstract themes are not the proper subject matter of poetry (which should be lyrical and related to real life) and that “difficult” language or imagery has no place in verse (which should be accessible and easy to read). One reviewer went so far as to state that poetry of thought was an art form essentially “alien to the Slav soul” (1903.6). Thus Ivanov was faulted on two counts: the themes of his verse were seen as alien to the concerns of ordinary life and his erudite allusions and archaic language were subjected to severe criticism and mockery.
It is worth noting that these twin focal points of attack were in fact the two main areas in which Ivanov succeeded in effecting a major change in readers’ perception of poetry: the concept of difficulty in poetry and the use of implicit allusion through symbol, myth, and intertextual reference. Early critics failed to recognize the innovative potential of Ivanov’s archaic use of language; they did not relate his difficulty to the idea of mystic initiation and missed the link between his extensive use of reference to classical mythology and the aims of the classical revival. However, by the end of the decade, Izmailov’s persistent view (1908.7) of Ivanov
as a Trediakovskii whose imitation of Derzhavin was unjustified was neatly countered by Belyi, who asserted that Ivanov was no Trediakovskii but a Derzhavin, preparing the way for a new Pushkin (1910.4).
The rapidity with which this change of perception was achieved can be attributed at least in part to Ivanov’s relative maturity in years; in 1903, when his first collection of verse was published, he was already thirty-seven, substantially older than Blok and Belyi, who were only twenty-three at this time. Another contributing factor was the fact that his ideas, although formed during his years of study abroad, ultimately derived from the same sources as those absorbed by the writers of the younger generation of symbolists raised in Russia: the writings of V. Solov’ev, Nietzsche, Dostoevskii, and Tiutchev. This accounted for the enthusiastic response he encountered among the younger poets, which eventually largely overshadowed the rather hostile reception of the conservative critics.
The early reviewers who were poets in their own right and sympathetic to the aims of symbolism showed a far greater sensitivity to the themes and techniques of Ivanov’s verse. Many of them were close to Ivanov’s ideas and applied these directly to their reading of his verse (see, for example, the reviews by Blok, 1904.2, 1905.3; Chulkov, 1905.7, 1907.8; Gol’shtein, 1906.7; Voloshin, 1906.11; and Gertsyk, 1907.12). Although this inevitably led to a rather hothouse atmosphere and to a marked lack of critical objectivity, these reviews were important documents of symbolist criticism and played a key role in the formation and consolidation of the new literary tradition. Briusov’s reviews (1903.2, 1904.4, 1907.6) are of particular interest and lasting value as an example of a poet’s criticism that succeeded in retaining a more objective approach.
Thus, from the beginning, responses to Ivanov were governed by considerations that, while not exactly being extraliterary, were nevertheless very much affected by polemics surrounding literature. Perhaps as an inevitable consequence of the parti pris nature of much of the critical writing emanating from both camps, direct critical comment on Ivanov as a poet was from a fairly early stage diverted by and into criticism of his ideas. This tendency reached a peak during certain periods. For example, during the polemics surrounding mystical anarchism (1906—1907) Ivanov figured most prominently as a carrier of ideas, and his poetry was normally quoted and discussed exclusively in this context. Once established this approach became firmly entrenched. It could even be argued that a critical evaluation of Ivanov’s poetry has only occasionally succeeded in establishing an independent foothold for itself outside the framework of ideological concerns.
By the beginning of the middle phase (1908—1917) Ivanov was an established figure, the author of three volumes of verse and of a significant number of influential essays as well as reviews, a teacher figure with a growing circle of disciples, and the leading theoretician of the symbolist movement. Evidence of this new status is provided by the appearance of articles with a retrospective orientation that attempted to assess Ivanov’s role in shaping the past, present, and future of modernist poetry. For example, Anichkov (1908.1) rounded off a discussion of recent tendencies in Russian poetry viewed in a historical context with a section on Ivanov, presented as the main source of hope for poetry of the future and as a poet whose theory of myth-creation was capable of giving birth to a “New Word” based
on a new “aesthetics without aestheticism.” Traditional prejudices of the old school continued to be voiced by a few lone critics such as Izmailov but even here the tone had mellowed. Ivanov was now seen as a figure to be reckoned with, whose ideas were central to the literary movements of the time, and whose right to a place in literature was unchallenged.
An important factor in establishing this new position was the appearance of the first volume of Ivanov’s collected essays, Po zvezdam [By the stars] (1909). Several positive reviews of the collection served to buttress the public image of Ivanov as a leading theoretician of literature. Adrianov (1909.2) used the appearance of the collection as an opportunity to review the achievements of recent modernist literature and stressed the centrality of Ivanov’s role in this context as a key influence on the formation of the aesthetic worldview of the younger generation of poets.
However, the collection also indirectly provided the basis for the beginning of a strong counterwave of reaction against the dominant ideological influence of Ivanov. This had its source in a mounting tide of resistance to the poet’s opaque and obscure prose. Previously, dissatisfaction with this aspect of his writing had limited itself to labeling him a reborn Trediakovskii or to noting the disparity between his avowed ideal of universal art for the people and the esoteric obscurity of his own art, accessible only to the initiate. Now it reached a new level, and found an outlet through two parallel lines of attack, aimed at the social and philosophical dimensions of his system of aesthetics.
The social line of attack was given forceful expression by Merezkhovskii in two successive articles, “Zemlia vo rtu” [Earth in the mouth] (1909.17) and its even harsher sequel “Balagan i tragediia” [Farce and tragedy] (1910.15). Merezhkovskii disputed the ideas on the impending spiritual rebirth of contemporary Russia, expressed by Ivanov in his essay “O russkoi idee” [On the Russian idea] (1909); he found that the chief sin of the symbolists was their withdrawal from social involvement into a private world of disillusionment, equated by them with the state of the Russian national soul. Adrianov (1909.2) wrote of the doomed aspirations of modernist writers to solve national problems far beyond their grasp, and Nikolaev (1912.14) argued that Ivanov failed to grasp that social and ethical goals could not be achieved by aesthetic means.
The philosophical critique was advanced by Mokievskii (1910.16), who undermined the foundation of Ivanov’s theory of art as a method of philosophical or objective cognition. Other reviewers such as Frank (1910.8) combined both aspects and attacked the social as well as the philosophical claims of Ivanov’s aesthetics. Although Ivanov was actively defended by figures such as Tasteven (1909.22), the editorial secretary of Zolotoe runo, or the philosopher Stepun (1910.17), even in this camp some ambivalence could be detected. Berdiaev (1909.5) recognized in Ivanov a true mystic and genuine poet with a message for the future, but at the same time voiced the objection that “Dionysianism cannot be preached.” Siunnerberg (1909.20), while professing a great admiration and respect for the master’s ideas, nevertheless referred to them as “ethereal bridges” and confessed to his own personal scepticism.
This is the context in which the crisis of symbolism of 1910 can best be understood. The extensive chain reaction to Ivanov’s essay “Zavety simvolizma”
[The precepts of symbolism] (1910), spreading into a public debate that went on for at least two years, was in fact simply focusing general tensions that were already well developed on the particular issue of symbolist aesthetics.
Responses to Ivanov’s poetry during this period were governed by the same trend. This time it was the younger generation of upcoming poets, in many instances Ivanov’s own disciples, who attempted to oust their teacher from the literary tradition, largely as a means of consolidating their own position. The period from 1908 to 1913 witnessed both their initial formation under Ivanov’s patronage, and then, with astonishing rapidity, their emergence from the chrysalis of his influence, leading in some cases to a fairly strong polemical reaction informed by their drive toward independence. One is inevitably reminded of the blunt description of the cruel dynamics of literary succession that Shestov gives in his essay on Chekhov: “The young growing men kill and eat the old...... The rising star shines always brighter than the setting, and the old must of their own will yield themselves up to be devoured by the young.”
The poets’ reaction was often more intuitive than fully reasoned; nevertheless, it reflects a similar underlying resistance to an all-embracing ideology. In a letter of 1909 to Ivanov Mandel’shtam wrote of his admiration for the architectural splendor and all-embracing vaults of Po zvezdam [By the stars] and yet suggested at the same time that the system was too “rounded” for his taste (1971.7). The growth of this seed of resistance can be traced through the reviews of Ivanov’s verse collections written by the future Acmeist poets. The gradual chameleonlike change that their response to the older poet underwent is clearly visible in the writings of Gorodetskii (1908.5, 1909.12—13 with a turning point in 1910.9—10) and Gumilev (1910.11 with a turning point in 1911.8, 1912.7). The Futurist response to Ivanov can be documented through the essay of Bobrov (1916.5). Other materials relating to Aseev, Burliuk, Khlebnikov, and Maiakovskii were published in later years.
Cor Ardens (1911—1912), the collection of Ivanov’s that appeared at this critical juncture (soon after the eruption of the 1910 crisis of symbolism and just as the new movements were taking shape), inevitably became the focus of the struggle for poetic succession. Although the French critic Chuzewille (1913.2) was careful to express his reservations about the collection tentatively, as a matter of personal taste, this attitude was not on the whole adopted by Ivanov’s compatriots who continued to view his poetry as a battleground on which to dispute theoretical concepts or assert the right to literary and ideological independence.
The consolidation of Ivanov’s role as a theoretician of symbolism and critic of culture through the appearance of two further volumes of collected essays, Borozdy i mezhi [Furrows and boundaries] (1916) and Rodnoe i vselenskoe [Matters native and universal] (1917), led to a new level in the assessment of his ideas on culture and religion, initiated by philosophers such as Berdiaev, Bulgakov, and Shestov. In comparison with Ivanov’s first collection, the second volume of essays Borozdy i mezhi [Furrows and boundaries] attracted a much larger number of reviews that, on the whole, reflected a more pronounced critical attitude and distance. This change of mood can be sensed through a comparison of Berdiaev’s review of the first collection (1909.5) with his review of the second one (1916.4). Berdiaev’s initial willingness to accept Ivanov’s role as a mystic prophet and genuine
poet has been replaced in the second review by a strong attack, based on the accusation that Ivanov substitutes philology for ontology and replaces the realities of religion and philosophy with aesthetic and cultural constructs. The comments of another reviewer, Filosofov (1916.12), are also revealing; in comparing both collections he found that the greater polish of the second had been achieved at the price of a certain “deadness” and went on to deliver an ultimatum, demanding that the author should finally clarify his religious and social position.
Although Bulgakov (1916.7) defended the collection, he still pointed out that Ivanov was subject to the danger of substituting aesthetic values for religious ones. While Shestov’s vigorous attack on “Viacheslav the Magnificent” (1916.16) had a lasting influence, Ern’s attempt to refute it (1917.3) attracted little attention. Almost all reviewers of the collection were united in their wish for Ivanov to turn from obscurity to simplicity and to define his position on key social and religious issues more clearly. On the poetic front, the new “changing of the guard” was signaled by Zhirmunskii’s influential essay “The successors of symbolism” (1916.23), in which Ivanov figures in a brief introductory historical overview as a predecessor of the Acmeists, Akhmatova, Mandel’shtam, and Gumilev.
The chain reaction outlined above (from overcoming initial conservative resistance through establishing a secure platform to being challenged from within) reveals Ivanov’s key role in effecting a fundamental change in contemporary approaches to poetry and aesthetics: the transition from decadence to symbolism and from symbolism to postsymbolism was largely achieved through the mediating agency of his influence and ideas.
The third and final phase of the first stage (1918—1924) covers the years that elapsed between the revolution and Ivanov’s emigration to Italy. During this period the focus of interest in Ivanov was largely determined by the course of historical events and by the social and cultural preoccupations they engendered. This led to a resurgence of interest in Ivanov’s ideas and in the transcendent values of symbolism, and also introduced a new political dimension. The debate over aesthetic issues increasingly gave way to polemics over questions such as the correct interpretation of the first world war and the revolution in the light of Slavophile and religious ideals. This shift of emphasis can be seen in Belyi’s review essay on Rodnoe i vselenskoe [Matters native and universal] (1918.1, 1922.1): the main brunt of his attack was aimed against Ivanov’s view that the revolution was pursuing a nonreligious course.
The same factors explain the fate of the three books that Ivanov published during this period. Little attention was paid to the first two, his autobiographical poem Mladenchestvo [Infancy] (1918) and the tragedy Prometei [Prometheus] (1919). Most of the first work had been written in 1913, and its highly personal, introspective focus struck a somewhat discordant note with current preoccupations when it appeared in 1918. The second work, first published as “Syny Prometeia” [The sons of Prometheus] in 1915, treated universal problems of the human condition through a recasting of the myth of Prometheus in terms generally regarded as too abstract to be relevant to current problems.
Paradoxically, it was the least prepared and most spontaneous work of this period that attracted the most attention: Ivanov’s exchange of letters with Mikhail Gershenzon, Perepiska iz dvukh uglov [A correspondence from two corners],
published in two successive editions in Petersburg and Berlin in 1921 and 1922. This work arose by chance rather than design; it was written in a remarkably short period of time and went to press with no opportunity for revisions or editing. And yet its impact was tremendous and its influence long-lasting. Together with Ivanov’s earlier essays of 1917—1919 on the fate of culture and national identity (in particular his essay of 1919 on the crisis of humanism, “Kruchi” [Steep slopes]), the correspondence became the focus of polemics for or against the metaphysical approach to culture propounded by Ivanov, and in turn determined the main lines of response to his writing within both Soviet Russia and Europe. These lines continue through to the present; in Western Europe they can be traced through the numerous editions and essays on the work that appeared from the 1930s through to the 1950s; in Russia they have only recently resurfaced (see the examples of Zelinskii, 1988.71, 1988.72, 1989.66 and Makagonova, 1989.44). This work more than any other has been responsible for the fundamental reorientation and change of emphasis away from Ivanov the poet to Ivanov the philosopher of culture that persists to this day.
Three distinct strands can be traced throughout this second major period: responses to Ivanov from within Soviet Russia, the emerging voice of Russian émigré critics, and that of non-Russian Western European thinkers. These will be considered in turn.
Soon after Ivanov’s emigration in 1924, a gradual but marked decline in the volume of critical writing about him published in Soviet Russia set in. The criticism of a vulgar Marxist orientation that had begun to appear in early reviews of the Correspondence increasingly came to gain the upper hand; this trend even determined the selection of entries on Ivanov included in the standard bibliographical works of the period. In encyclopaedia entries Ivanov is consigned to the ranks of bourgeois decadents (1930.2, 1930.10). Although his name crops up in various contexts, the strong ideological bias against his worldview and ideas invariably distorts the approach to his works. Medynskii (1933.10), for example, attacks his religious aesthetics from a Marxist and atheist perspective, while Nusinov (1937.6, 1958.4) reads Prometheus as a continuation of Dostoevskii’s negative depiction of revolutionaries in The Devils.
Against this background, nevertheless, some works of value continued to appear. Gudzii’s study (1930.6) of Ivanov and Tiutchev retains much of interest, and Zhirmunskii’s analysis of Ivanov’s approach to Goethe (1932.7, 1937.7), while strongly colored by ideological prejudice, explores significant aspects of an important theme. The volume of Literaturnoe nasledstvo [Literary heritage] published in 1937 contained various substantial articles on symbolism of which the most interesting remains V. Gofman’s essay on the language of the symbolists and comments on Ivanov in this context (1937.4). Orlov’s introduction to his edition of the correspondence of Blok and Belyi (1940.3) also includes material of lasting relevance.
Memoir literature appeared to enjoy a greater degree of freedom from ideological constraints. Ivanov’s name had already begun to crop up fairly frequently in the extensive memoir literature that followed Blok’s death in 1921. As a figure in
his own right, he was given prominent attention in the memoirs of Piast (1929.3) and Chulkov (1930.1) and in the compilation of extracts from different sources edited by Nemerovskaia and Vol’pe (1930.13). Belyi’s memoirs (1933.1, 1934.1), although markedly different in spirit from his earlier recollections of Blok (1922.3—4, 1923.2), nevertheless provided one of the latest and fullest portraits of Ivanov to appear in Soviet Russia until the second wave of memoirs began in the late 1960s.
The second strand was formed by the growing voice of the many Russians who joined Ivanov in emigration. Over the years memoirs and critical articles on Ivanov were published by Florovskii (1926.1, 1937.3), Mirskii (1926.2), Muratov (1926.3), Georgii Ivanov (1928.4, 1949.10, 1952.5), Golenishchev-Kutuzov (1930.4, 1930.5, 1935.4, 1937.5), Medtner (1930.9), Deschartes (1932.4, 1933.5, 1954.1, 1957.1, 1962.9), Stepun (1933.16, 1934.4, 1936.5, 1949.19, 1956.3, 1963.13, 1964.8), Zelinskii (1933.18, 1933.19), Gofman (1934.2, 1955.2), Berdiaev (1935.1, 1946.1), Khodasevich (1936.3, 1954.2), Kuz’mina-Karavaeva (1936.4), Gippius (1938.3), Adamovich (1938.1, 1938.2, 1949.1, 1955.1), Terapiano (1939.2, 1949.20, 1955.8), Dobuzhinskii (1945.1), Bunin (1949.6), Gabrilovich (1949.8), Zaitsev (1949.22, 1963.14, 1964.7), Makovskii (1952.8, 1952.9, 1955.3), Woloschin (1954.2), Pogorelova (1955.7), Tyrkova-Vil’iams (1955.9), Sabaneev (1959.7), and Frank (1963.7, 1965.2).
The fact that the Russian émigré voice was fairly slow to emerge and to gather strength was undoubtedly related to Ivanov’s own reluctance to publish his work in the émigré press. Although he gave informal sanction to the quotation of certain poems in two articles by Golenishchev-Kutuzov (1930.4, 1930.5), it was not until 1936 that he lifted the official ban on the publication of his works in émigré journals, following his first act of association with the émigré community on the occasion of Merezhkovskii’s seventieth birthday in the previous year (1935.3). The appearance of the “Roman sonnets” in Sovremennye zapiski alongside the critical study of Stepun (1936.5) was followed by the regular publication of his verse and initiated a new phase in responses to his work among writers of the emigration.
Some of the émigré critics restricted their comments on Ivanov to an evocation of his leading role in the days of the tower, contenting themselves with brief references to the fact of his “survival” in Rome and conversion to Catholicism, but apparently largely unaware of his continuing artistic development and growing links with European culture. Those writers such as Golenishchev-Kutuzov or Stepun who visited Ivanov in Rome and kept in close touch with him through correspondence were able to provide a fuller picture of the poet’s development. The picture broadened after Ivanov’s death in 1949; it was widely reported in the Russian émigré and European press and gave rise to a large number of obituary articles lamenting the oblivion into which his name had fallen and attempting to reach a fuller retrospective assessment of his role in twentieth-century culture.
As far as the third strand of the European response is concerned, here one should note that when Ivanov arrived in Italy in 1924 he was still a relatively unknown figure in Europe; between 1903 and 1913 only a few articles about him had appeared in English, French, and German journals. One event in his spiritual biography and the publication of two particular works in translation were largely
responsible for bringing him closer to the public eye. His conversion to Catholicism in 1926 attracted considerable interest among Catholic circles and religious thinkers with an interest in the ecumenical union of the churches (Papini, Schultze, Tyszkiewicz, Shiriaev). In addition, the publication of Perepiska iz dvukh uglov [A correspondence from two corners] in Buber’s journal Die Kreatur (1926), followed by editions in French (1930, 1931) and Italian (1932), led Ivanov to engage in correspondence and dialogue with Curtius, Du Bos, Pellegrini, and other prominent intellectuals. The appearance in 1933 of an issue of Il Convegno entirely dedicated to Ivanov with contributions by Curtius, Du Bos, Marcel, Pellegrini, Steiner, and others reflects these interests and initiated a series of invitations to contribute to leading European journals outside Italy such as Corona and Hochland. The publication in 1932 of the German book version of Ivanov’s earlier work on Dostoevskii also provoked several reviews and attracted a great deal of attention. To this day, these two aspects of Ivanov — philosopher of culture and interpreter of Dostoevskii — have continued to play a prominent role in Ivanov criticism.
Most European critics, writing in the aftermath of war and revolution, turned to Ivanov out of an interest in his ideas on Christian humanism and culture. Many of them knew no Russian, and although they frequently refer to Ivanov as the “greatest living Russian poet” (see, e.g., Steiner, 1933.15, 1933.20, or Papini, 1948.9), they had little direct knowledge of his poetry or of his ideas and life in Russia prior to emigration. Notable exceptions were Küfferle, the translator of Chelovek [Man] into Italian (1931.3, 1946.4), and the Italian Slavists Lo Gatto (1942.1, 1944.1, 1952.6, 1958.3), Poggioli (1949.14, 1950. 2), and Ripellino (1954.3).
These three strands — the Soviet Russian, the Russian émigré and the European voices — were fairly disparate, had little connection between themselves, and often developed at some distance from Ivanov. Deschartes, Stepun, and Golenishchev-Kutuzov stand out as figures who were both close to Ivanov and able to provide a bridge between the Russian world and that of European intellectuals. Otherwise, the patchy knowledge and isolation from Ivanov of many of those who were writing about him (in all three camps) often led to an indistinct blurring of the past in which the period of the tower gradually receded into the mists of legend and myth.
The third major period was significant in two ways: it marked the beginning of the response to Ivanov of a new generation, and it saw the publication of the first posthumous editions of his works: the collection Svet vechernii [Vespertine light] (1962), the first volumes of his collected works in Brussels (1971, 1974, 1979), and a book of his verse and translations in Russia (1976).
During this period scholarship in the West moved on beyond the memoirs and general interpretative essays of contemporaries and began to establish itself on a more professional footing. The earlier voices of Russian émigré and Western European critics now merged with the scholarly investigations of a new generation of Western Slavists. Pioneers in this field go back to the late 1950s: Holthusen’s study of Russian symbolist aesthetics and poetics (1957.4), Poggioli’s work on the Correspondence and on modern Russian poetry (1950.3, 1957.6, 1960.8, 1961.5), and Donchin’s careful
investigation of the links between Russian and French symbolism (1958.2). The first detailed monographs and dissertations on Ivanov began to appear in the mid 1960s and early 1970s. As noteworthy examples one could cite Stacy’s dissertation on Cor Ardens (1965.7), Taranovskii’s study of Ivanov’s influence on Mandel’shtam (1967.8, 1969.11, 1976.18), Tschöpl’s monograph on Ivanov’s poetry (1968.14), West’s study of Ivanov’s symbolist aesthetic in the context of the Russian tradition (1970.5), and Hetzer’s monograph on “Tantalus” (1972.9).
The publication in 1971 of the first volume of a new edition of Ivanov’s collected works, edited by Ol’ga Deschartes and Dimitri Ivanov, made rare works by Ivanov accessible once more, and also provided a wealth of biographical and background material in the introduction and notes. Of the six projected volumes, four have already appeared (1971, 1974, 1979, and 1987) and the fifth is due out shortly at the time of writing.
The initiation of this new edition provided an important impetus to further research as well as an opportunity for a general reassessment of Ivanov’s significance for the past, present, and future of Russian poetry. Indirectly it led to a series of international symposia dedicated to Ivanov, held at the Universities of Yale (1981), Rome (1983), Pavia (1986), Heidelberg (1989), and Geneva (1992). Each symposium (apart from the one in Rome) was followed by the publication of a volume of collected papers on Ivanov, appearing respectively in 1986, 1988, 1993, and 1994. Further significant studies also appeared during this period, notably the essay by Holthusen (1982.5) and the monograph by Malcovati (1983.21).
In Soviet Russia scholarship pursued a rather different course. From the early 1960s and with increasing force toward the end of the decade a new voice began to be heard, that of a new generation of critics, profiting from the freer atmosphere of post-Stalinist Russia to rediscover and revive Ivanov for contemporary readers. An important early contribution came from Kseniia Muratova, who provided the first sizable bibliography of works by and about Ivanov (1963.9), including fifty-two items of secondary literature about him, drawing on prerevolutionary as well as Soviet sources. Lidiia Ginzburg’s book on lyrical verse (1964.3) included fresh and unbiased discussion of Ivanov’s aesthetics in relation to the work of other poets, and Mikhail Gasparov’s work (1966.5) initiated the serious study of Ivanov’s versification and poetic technique.
From the middle of the decade, about the time of Ivanov’s centenary, a new wave of memoirs began to appear, including those of Lidin (1965.5), Charnyi (1966.2, 1967.3), Alianskii (1967.1, 1969.1), and Al’tman (1968.2). Apart from the last item, most of these memoirs were written from a fairly “Soviet” perspective, but nevertheless contained much of interest. Explicitly ideological approaches continued to be advanced by figures such as Mikhailovskii, whose essay on the history of Russian symbolism (1969.7, 1971.1), although presented as previously unpublished, in fact reproduced much material first used in his highly biased publication of thirty years earlier (1939.1). Other critics such as Solov’ev, whose study of Blok was printed several times (1965.6), continued to present a rather one-sided, negative portrait of Ivanov and Zinov’eva-Annibal.
Several publications that sought to develop a new approach to Ivanov in the context of symbolism still remained colored by the antireligious prejudices and
predominantly social orientation of Soviet criticism. Thus Mashbits-Verov (1966.10, 1969.11) finds that Ivanov’s poetry is only successful when it moves away from mysticism and does not pursue the investigation of his work after his emigration, referred to as a betrayal of Russia. Mints (1968.10) stresses the need to rescue Ivanov from the oblivion into which his name has fallen and yet places particular emphasis on his attitude to the revolution of 1905 and states that she will not “whitewash” him and ignore his monarchist views and idealist philosophy. Dolgopolov’s essay (1969.3) returns attention to Ivanov’s poetry as the heart of his legacy but still places particular emphasis on his cycle of poems on the revolution of 1905 as a turning point in his development and proof of his social awakening.
The desire to escape the strictures of a strongly ingrained inherited ideological bias was undoubtedly instrumental in determining certain characteristic trends of the scholarship of this period. Publications of archival materials were generally preferred to broader interpretative studies. One can also note a marked tendency to study Ivanov in relation to his more accepted “canonized” contemporaries, Blok and Briusov, rather than independently as a figure in his own right. The amount of literature devoted to aspects of Blok’s relations with Ivanov is, for example, disproportionately large in comparison with the limited number of investigations of his links with other less accepted but equally significant contemporaries.
Both these factors led to an emphasis on Ivanov’s role in the history of literature in preference to the elucidation of his own poetic world or to broad interpretative or analytical studies. Meticulously annotated editions of his correspondence, detailed reconstructions of his activities during certain periods of his life, and exhaustive accounts of his relations with publishing houses and journals were typical publications of this time. This trend can be noted in the pioneering investigation by Kotrelev of Ivanov’s years in Baku (1968.7), in the edition of Ivanov’s correspondence with Briusov by Grechishkin, Kotrelev, and Lavrov in Literaturnoe nasledstvo [Literary heritage] (1976.5), and in the publications of Lavrov, Timenchik, Kupchenko, Grechishkin, and Gerasimov in several issues of the yearbook of the Manuscripts Section of Pushkinskii dom (1978.7, 1978.8, 1979.7, 1984.11).
The appearance in 1976 of a small volume of Ivanov’s verse and translations in the Biblioteka poeta series was the first attempt to produce an edition of Ivanov’s works in the Soviet Union. Although the volume was inadequate in several respects, its publication marked a new stage in the acceptance of Ivanov into the official literary canon.
In the main, research in the West and in the Soviet Union moved along parallel tracks that rarely crossed. Russian scholars remained generally unaware of work done in the West; the surveys of Western scholarship on Russian literature that appeared in the Soviet Union typically only referred to a limited selection of works and often in critical terms (see Grigor’ev, 1968.4; Nebol’sin, 1975.10).
The fourth and final period covered in this introductory survey begins in 1986, the year in which the impact of the changes brought about by the onset of perestroika
and glasnost’ began to make itself felt in the sphere of cultural activity. From this year onward, the annual number of Ivanov-related publications also went up sharply. To some extent this was evidently the result of the factor mentioned earlier: the series of international symposia on Ivanov, initiated in 1981 and leading to the production of volumes of essays on his work, the first of which appeared in 1986. It must also, however, be seen as part of a more general trend in Ivanov’s posthumous fate, reflecting a steady increase since the mid-1970s in the number of critical publications devoted to him. While the chronological halfway mark in the span of time covered in the secondary bibliography (1903—1993) falls just before Ivanov’s death in 1948, the halfway mark in terms of the total number of publications surveyed comes nearly thirty years later in 1974. In other words, over the last twenty years more writing on Ivanov has been published than during the previous seventy-one years; half the volume of criticism has been produced in less than a quarter of the total span of time.
Among the many works that have appeared on Ivanov since 1986, there have been a significant number of books. Lidiia Ivanova’s remarkable volume of memoirs (1990.28), imbued with the gentle humor and restraint of its author’s personality, sheds much light on Ivanov’s life through its sparing choice of vivid, perceptive detail. Lena Szilard investigated the link between Ivanov’s concept of Dionysianism and Bakhtin’s theory of carnival (1989.55), and Pamela Davidson explored the poet’s thought and verse through the prism of his perception of Dante and the medieval tradition (1989.15). Studies of the symbolist theatre with substantial sections on Ivanov were published by Daniela Rizzi (1989.50) and Maria Cymborska-Leboda (1992.5), and Donata Mureddu produced a handsome edition of selected verse, tragedies, and essays by Ivanov in Italian translation (1993.39). The symposia held at the Universities of Yale, Pavia, and Heidelberg produced three volumes of stimulating essays in 1986, 1988, and 1993 respectively. Valuable archival materials have also been published by several scholars, including Nikolai Bogomolov, Nikolai Kotrelev, Ol’ga Kuznetsova, Konstantin Lappo-Danilevskii, Aleksandr Lavrov, Gennadii Obatnin, and Michael Wachtel.
Mention should also be made of a few works published in 1994 and 1995 that fall outside the chronological frame of this reference guide: the excellent volume of proceedings from the symposium on Ivanov held in Geneva in 1992 (Cahiers du monde russe 35 [1—2], 1994); a special issue of Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie (1994, no. 10), Viacheslav Ivanov: Materialy i publikatsii [Viacheslav Ivanov: Materials and publications], compiled by N. V. Kotrelev and including archival materials and memoirs related to Ivanov; Avril Pyman’s A History of Russian Symbolism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), the first large-scale and fully researched history of the movement to set Ivanov in his context; the publication of Ettore Lo Gatto’s Italian translation of Ivanov’s work on Dostoevskii, Dostoevskij: Tragedia. Mito. Mistica, with a detailed and informative introduction by Andrei Shishkin (Bologna: Il Mulino, 1994); Guido Carpi’s monograph on Ivanov as a theoretician of symbolism and proponent of mifotvorchestvo, Mitopoiesi e ideologia: Vjačeslav I. Ivanov teorico del simbolismo (Lucca: Maria Pacini Fazzi editore, 1994); Michael Wachtel’s Russian Symbolism and Literary Tradition: Goethe, Novalis, and the Poetics of Vyacheslav Ivanov (Madison: University of Wisconsin
Press, 1995), and his meticulously annotated edition of Ivanov’s correspondence with German writers, Dichtung und Briefwechsel aus dem deutschsprachigen Nachlass (Mainz: Liber Verlag Mainz, 1995); Grażyna Bobilewicz’s investigation of Ivanov’s links with painting, sculpture, architecture and music, Wyobraźnia poetycka — Wiaczesław Iwanow w kregu sztuk [The poetic imagination — Viacheslav Ivanov in the sphere of art] (Warsaw: Slawistyczny Ośrodek Wydawniczy, 1995).
The fifth and sixth volumes of Ivanov’s collected works are still awaited, as are a critical edition of selected essays by Ivanov, compiled by N. V. Kotrelev, edited by A. Dobrokhotov and with commentaries by G. V. Obatnin and A. L. Sobolev, a new three-volume edition of Ivanov’s verse edited by O. Kuznetsova, G. Obatnin, and A. Shishkin with an introduction by S. Averintsev, a volume of essays and archival materials prepared at IMLI RAN in Moscow, and Carol Anschuetz’s critical edition and translation of Ivanov’s work on the religion of Dionysus.
Although it will undoubtedly take a while for a new school of literary criticism, untrammeled by the ideological constraints of the past, to find its voice in Russia, a definite change can already be sensed. The disintegration of Soviet power has led to a welcome increase of movement and contact between Russian and Western scholars. Several new journals and publishing houses have come into being, and the work of Western Slavists is beginning to appear in Russian translation. Progress has, however, been severely impeded by the numerous practical difficulties that beset these enterprises at a time of persistent economic instability, and more generally by the overall shift in the focus of public interest from literature and culture to politics and history. A recent project to produce a new multivolume academic edition of Ivanov’s works in St. Petersburg with the cooperation of Western scholars had to be abandoned for financial reasons.
Other problems have also arisen. The current Russian sense of “rediscovery” of a lost heritage has led to a rush of publications that do not always take into account earlier studies by Western scholars. The wave of archival unearthing and republishing of old materials has not always been matched by an equal depth of interpretative analysis. Western scholars, on the other hand, frequently fail to keep abreast of new primary sources and archival materials published in Russia.
Certain subjects have been the focus of attention in several countries at the same time (Ivanov’s concept of the theatre, or his links with figures such as Dante, Scriabin, and Bakhtin are examples). These spontaneously generated magnetic fields have led to a series of studies by scholars working in isolation and apparently unaware of parallel or earlier work in the field. It is hoped that the present reference work will go some way toward eliminating unnecessary repetition and overlap.
Conversely, there are several areas in which scholarship on Ivanov is still severely underrepresented. His poetry remains a largely unexplored treasure trove, still awaiting detailed analysis. Certain aspects of his relationship to European culture have been investigated (such as his perception of Dante, Petrarch, Goethe, and Novalis), while others (such as his relation to French or English writers) have been almost entirely bypassed. Ivanov’s own place within the Russian tradition is in urgent need of a comprehensive assessment. His debt to eighteenth-century writers and to predecessors such as Pushkin, Baratynskii, and Tiutchev are key themes that have only just been touched on. Similarly, his all-important formative influence on
the poets of the next generation (the Acmeists and the Futurists are two obvious examples), although vital to an understanding of the development of Russian poetry, has not yet been studied in depth. An important but vital task would be the writing of a full and carefully researched biography of Ivanov, drawing on the rich archival sources in Russia and Rome, the surface of which has only just been skimmed.
A few further general points could be added to this provisional list of desiderata. Most scholarship looks at Ivanov either before or after his emigration and fails to tackle the key problem of continuity and change in his works and literary development viewed as a whole. The textual history of Ivanov’s works requires more detailed attention through the close comparative study of manuscript sources and different editions — extensive work is being done publishing archival materials while primary texts have not yet been properly assimilated and annotated. More emphasis is also needed on establishing a sound bibliographical base of works by Ivanov as well as about him. A collaborative attempt to provide a central catalogue and database of archival resources in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Rome would be extremely welcome. There is also a need to apply some of the literary critical methodology developed in the West to the source materials now coming to light in Russia.
At the present time, some ninety years after Ivanov made his first direct impact on the Russian literary scene, we are entering a new phase in which the weaving together of these diverse threads should become possible. In an article written to mark the one hundred and twenty-fifth anniversary of Ivanov’s birth (1991.19), Nikolai Kotrelev, one of the first Russian investigators of Ivanov’s work in the 1960s, pointed out the imbalance caused by the fact that Soviet Russian scholarship on Ivanov relies only on materials concerning the first two decades of this century and ignores Ivanov’s creative development in emigration. He argues the need for a more comprehensive vision as follows:
The art of Viacheslav Ivanov is not just one of the peaks of Russian culture. It represents a point of convergence and a centre for the dispersion of all the main lines of strength of our culture. In the makeup and structure of his personality, in his searches, achievements and defeats, and in his fate, one can and one must see a paradigm of Russian spiritual life from the second half of the last century through to the second half of this century, a paradigm — a full set of the significant elements of a whole in their logical interrelationships.
Ivanov was undoubtedly a figure who stood for the principle of “tsel’nost’” [wholeness]: his poetic output, literary essays, and scholarship are consistently dedicated to achieving a delicate balance through the reconciliation and harmonious synthesis of opposites. It is an irony of literary history that his posthumous fate has been one of such fragmentation. The opening epigraph from Mandel’shtam points the way forward. It is my hope that this reference guide, in its attempt to clarify the past by bringing together its various disparate strands, should restore Ivanov to the wholeness for which he stood and thereby pave the way for a fuller, more integrated vision of his place in both European and Russian culture.