"The Sun of World Poetry": Pushkin As a Cold War Writer
The Spell of the Spectacle: The Pushkin Celebrations of 1949
The festivities dedicated to the 150th anniversary of Pushkin's birth, lasting from mid-April through early July 1949, were the second-greatest mass spectacle of the early Cold War after the Victory Parade. Echoing the sumptuous Pushkin Celebrations of 1937, the postwar jubilee was well rehearsed and artfully engineered. It included such preliminaries as an All-Union Pushkin Conference at the Institute of Russian Literature of the Academy of Sciences; a Joint Session of the Academy's Literature and Language, and History and Philosophy Departments; the reopening following the restoration of the Pushkin memorial apartment, and the laying of the foundation of the Pushkin monument in Leningrad; the post-renovation inauguration of the Pushkin estate in Mikhailovskoe, in the Pskov region; and the opening of a Pushkin obelisk in Zakharovo, near Moscow. In the course of three months, Pushkin scholars around the country reportedly delivered 219 public lectures, while Leningrad curators conducted 300 excursions around the Pushkin Museum. Twentyseven thousand people took part in these activities; 10,000 more gathered for a meeting at the Pushkin monument in Moscow a day before the poet's birthday. These statistical data were documented in the Proceedings of the Anniversary Celebrations published by the Academy of Sciences. According to Konstantin Simonov, then laureate of four Stalin Prizes and editor-in-chief of Novyi Mir, the scope of the jubilee underscored the greatness of the "Stalin era, which for the first time in the history of humanity made [...] Pushkin's oeuvre the common property of all the people." Although this was a common trope regarding other pre-revolutionary writers as well, Simonov's speech had distinctive political relevance. He delivered these words on 6 June 1949, at the Pushkin Session at the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow, with Stalin present. Sitting in the presidium, the Generalissimo again was the obvious other hero of the occasion. And yet there was a big difference between 1937 and 1949 concerning the nature of Stalin's "glory." After the war, Simonov and other speakers addressed their eulogies to Stalin the winner, laying words at his feet like the Victory Parade soldiers had laid the banners of the conquered enemy.
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