Mandelstam Centre: 2016 Results
2016 marked 125 years since the birth of Osip Mandelstam. Pavel Polian (Nerler), Director of the Mandelstam Centre, summarized the results of its years’ work.
The HSE Academic Council resolved to open the Mandelstam Centre as part of the School of Philology in summer 2015. The Mandelstam Centre continues the activities performed by the Mandelstam Centre at the Russian State University for the Humanities until 2014. The Centre’s archives and library collections (over 2,300 volumes) have been moved to the HSE School of Philology, and today all these books are part of the HSE’s e-catalogue.
First steps at the new location
Before the anniversary year, we participated in a number of Mandelstam-related events. For example, a memorial plate to Osip and Nadezhda Mandlestam was unveiled in autumn 2015 in Tver, and an Osip and Nadezhda Mandlestam memorial was opened in Amsterdam. Our centre’s experts worked as advisors on Roman Liberov’s film ‘Preserve my words forever’, which was released in the same year. The film is still inspiring lively debates. We co-organized two exhibitions commemorating the anniversary of the poet’s death (December 27). One of them was at the State Museum of Literature (Osip Mandelstam: ‘I’ll tell you bluntly one last time…’), and an international version was exhibited in Heidelberg and Granada. The second was entitled ‘Osip Mandelstam. End of the way’, and took place at the Memorial Human Rights Centre.
In addition to this, the ‘Last Address’ memorial plate was unveiled on the side wall of the house at 1 Nashokinsky Pereulok, close to house 3-5 was located. This was where Osip Mandelstam had his first and last apartment in Moscow. There were also meetings near the Solovetsky Stone and the memorial to the poet, as well as the annual Mandelstam Lecture delivered at the Solyanka Gallery by Yury Freidin.
In 2015, the first Mandelstam Centre publication was published – this was my book ‘Osip Mandelstam and his campmates’.
2016 in review
The anniversary of Mandelstam’s birth determined the vector of all our activities. We decided to treat the anniversary as a kind of ‘genre’ and try to celebrate it suitably and on a large scale. And I believe we managed this. Together with the State Museum of Literature, we created an initiative group to prepare and organize the anniversary, which was coordinated by Dmitry Bak and me. Later we were joined by the state organizing committee headed by Mikhail Seslavinsky, head of the Russian State Press Committee. Thanks to these joint efforts, we were able to carry out a wide variety of events, such as an essay competition organized by the Novy Mir journal, the guitar poetry festival ‘Mandelstam’s poems set to music’, the virtual project ‘Unbreakable connection. Mandelstam 125’ by the Akhmatova Museum in St. Petersburg, and many others.
January 2016 saw the culmination of these events, since January 15th is the poet’s birthday. On this day, after the traditional meeting near the memorial plate on Herzen House, a roundtable discussion entitled ‘The poet and the memory: memorializing Osip Mandelstam’ took place at the Literature Institute, and there was a sold out anniversary concert at the Central House of Writers. On the following two days, a roundtable discussion ‘Mandelstam across the globe: translations and reception’ and a ‘Mandelstam’s Moscow’ excursion by Leonid Vidgof, one of the experts from our centre, were held by the Russian Heritage House.
We’ll continue pressing for a memorial plate on the house where Nadezhda Mandelstam lived in Moscow
In addition to that, in early November, a three-day symposium ‘Osip Mandelstam and the 21st Century’ was organized by the Mandelstam Centre together with the RAS Gorky Institute of World Literature and the State Museum of Literature and supported by the Russian Foundation for the Humanities.
Mandelstam Readings in Voronezh were dedicated primarily to the museumification of Mandelstam as part of Voronezh’s brand. Osip Mandelstam’s legacy and contribution to the world literature were also discussed as part of the annual ASEES (Association for Slavic, East European, & Eurasian Studies) convention in Washington, DC. The Mandelstam year finished with a theatre festival and a Mandelstam lecture conducted by Leonid Vidgof at the History Library.
About the new generation
We are cooperating with scholars from around the world, including the USA, England, France, Germany, the Netherlands, China, Korea, Israel, and Iran. Cooperation with Princeton University, which stores half of the Mandelstam heritage archive, is essential for us. A generational change is taking place in Mandelstam studies today, and believe that the young generation includes many talented individuals and experts with in-depth knowledge, and we will, of course, be trying to maintain communication with them.
HSE students are also expressing an interest in us. In autumn 2016, we enrolled 14 first-year students in various projects. Some of them are studying Manelstam’s prosaic works, while the others are looking at the periodicals that published his poems. This year, we are expecting to welcome five master’s students who will join us in investigating the Mandelstam Society’s audio archive and other materials for the ‘World of Mandelstam’ website. We’ve attracted Alexandra Bassel, a doctoral student at the School of Philology (academic supervisor: Elena Penskaja; her topic is Mandelstam’s translation of Max Barthel’s poetry), to work on the preparation of the Mandelstam Encyclopedia. We’ve also offered the HSE School of Philology to conduct literature excursions for philology students. We are going to formalize the schedule of such excursions in the near future.
About the Mandelstam Encyclopedia
We are currently finishing our work on the Mandelstam Encyclopedia. This is our main project at the moment, and has been supported by the Russian Foundation for the Humanities. The encyclopedia’s editors-in-chief are Oleg Lekmanov and me, and Dmitry Zuev is the academic secretary. This will be a comprehensive two-volume book. The first volume will include an introduction by Vladimir Mikushevich, a corpus of entries in alphabetic order, and an archive of images of the poet. The second volume will contain a consolidated Mandelstam’s multi-language bibliography; a short description of the poet’s key works; an abridged version of the concordance (word list) of his poems; a consolidated metric repertoire; inscriptions and marginalia; lists of songs, films, audio and radio archives, as well as some other materials, including a section about Nadezhda Mandelstam.
About the World of Mandelstam website
The World of Mandelstan website, which is currently being prepared by the Mandelstam Centre, will not only bring together three existing websites on the HSE servers, but will renew and restructure the poet’s representation on the internet. The core of the website will be the Reunited Digital Archive of Ossip Mandelstam. This is a joint project implemented by the Mandelstam Society and the University of Oxford, which will soon be joined by key publications about the poet and his legacy.
Resolutions for 2017: Mandelstam Museum at HSE and Mandelstam Garden
This year, we are planning to prepare an exhibition based on last year’s one at the State Museum of Literature and to present it on the second floor of our building on Staraya Basmannaya. This will be the first step towards a Mandelstam Museum at HSE. We, as well as HSE’s students of design and museum studies, are already working on the concept of the future museum. And while this project is in progress, we would also like to show last year’s ‘End of the way’ exhibition, which was prepared together with the Memorial Centre.
We are not planning any big conferences in 2017, but we will continue our traditional meetings and roundtable discussions. We’ll also continue working on certain projects, as started previously. For example, the anniversary organizing committee has asked the Mayor of Moscow to rename a currently nameless small garden near the Mandelstam Memorial on Zabelina Ulitsa in Moscow into the Mandelstam Garden, but we haven’t received a response yet. We’ll also continue pressing for a memorial plate on the house where Nadezhda Mandelstam lived in Moscow.
In terms of publications, the proceedings of the ‘Osip Mandelstam and the 21st Century’ symposium are going to be released very shortly. Our next book projects are a collection of Nadezhda Mandelstam’s letters and a Mandelstam’s almanac ‘Preserve my words’, which we are planning to publish at HSE. In 2018, we are going to start working on a new six-volume collected academic edition of Mandelstam’s writings.
The exposition ‘Osip Mandelstam – End of the Road’ located in the HSE building at 20 Myasnitskaya Street in Moscow reconstructs the final 11 weeks of the poet’s life and profiles many of his contemporaries.
This exhibition, located at the HSE building on Staraya Basmannaya Ulitsa, near the Mandelstam Centre, tells the story of all the important stages in the poet’s life and work. It features photos, announcements of poetry nights, and documents testifying to Mandelstam’s arrest and death, as well as comments by the poet’s contemporaries.