IN THE HEADING "BOOKSHELF" we ask the heroines about their literary preferences and publications, which occupy an important place in the bookcase. Today, the co-founder of "Do Kultura / DK", Master of Public History from the University of Manchester, Mariika Semenenko, talks about her favorite books.
INTERVIEW: Alisa Taezhnaya
PHOTOS: Alena Ermishina
MAKEUP: Lyubov Polyanok
co-founder of "Do Culture / DK"
For me, anarchy has never been a mess. Anarchy is a super order when you are self-sufficient, self-organized and reflective.
I was born in Moscow, but I, of course, have a pronounced Ukrainian identity: my dad gave me a Ukrainian name, taught me and my brother Ukrainian, and we had to communicate only in Ukrainian. Since childhood, I have tried to understand how to manifest my hybrid identity (I did not know then that it was called that) and what my Ukrainianness is in general. The environment in Moscow still reacts to me in different ways: someone says “Oh, cool!”, Someone does not understand; very often they send me with my name and surname to live in Ukraine, although I was born here. Books constantly help me think about all this. About who I am. How to do your thing against the rules in completely inappropriate conditions. About how not to contradict yourself in words and deeds.
In 2017, I entered the Faculty of Public History at Shaninka: I was fond of history for many years and, it seems, went to this study for a very long time. Dasha Fedotova and I have been creating an independent cultural space for several years, all this time we have been trying to create a quasianarchy in a commercial environment. We have our own place, market rent, we exist in tough Moscow, the FSB comes to our events - but we do not give up and try to live and work as we believe. The books and this experience helped me to ask questions of politics and relations between people. For me, anarchy has never been a mess. Anarchy is a super order where you are self-sufficient, self-disciplined, self-organized and reflective. You are all equal, you are partners. I have always wondered how it is possible, in the environment that you already have and in which you already live, to create something new that combines with this environment and at the same time works according to its own rules. Many of my favorite books are about this.
"Notes of a Revolutionary"
I think I was a revolutionary even before reading this book. And I read it when it accidentally got into our first recreation center - it was then called "Do it yourself / a" and was located on Pravdy Street. The way Kropotkin came to anarchism, in many respects coincided with my path and my experience of independent work. Our project was collapsing, the near-activist get-together made me very upset. And I decided that I had to read the true anarchist whom the whole world knows - the father of anarchy - in order to understand what was wrong at all. I observe many of the problems described by Kropotkin in the modern intellectual get-together in Russia: a person comes and says very correct and interesting things, but in life he behaves like a complete bourgeois. In general, theory and practice are very different, and I don't like that.
From the "Notes of a Revolutionary" it is clear that the Russia of the XIX century with today's Russia has a lot of parallels: starting with the figure of the emperor and ending with the degree of personal and social freedom. Kropotkin lived a very interesting fate: he resisted his noble origins, chose an incomprehensible regiment for service and went to Altai. And for the first time I saw there settlements of former prisoners who could no longer return to their homeland and created new villages together. Since these were difficult places, they needed to fully organize themselves.It was there that Kropotkin first thought about the ability of people to unite and live together without any state.
What I really liked about the "Notes" - Kropotkin admired women in the revolutionary movement, because his contemporaries were selflessly devoted to the cause, not chasing glory, doing difficult daily work. And it reminded me of my personal experience: we had the same division in our projects - women did the work, and men considered themselves geniuses who could come to anything ready without appreciating or supporting daily work. And Kropotkin admired the solidarity in the women's movement that was absent among the male revolutionaries. The first feminists who sought the opening of women's courses and entered into dialogue with men in the middle of the 19th century did not change their appearance or behavior. A new generation of female students already wanted to break the rules, had the opportunity to attend courses - and they denied corsets, social rules, accepted communication with men. But at the same time, older friends were respected, who were forced to abide by these rules in order to be available to officials and to protect common interests.
I read "Cynics" at the university and was very impressed. I like reading books about real people - that's how my interest in public history arose. In "Novel Without Lies" Mariengof talks about a get-together with Yesenin - and this is something just wonderful. After all, in the school they idolize poets: they, of course, did not do anything bad in life, but only sat and wrote their beautiful poems. In "Novel Without Lies" you are in a bohemian get-together, as in modern Moscow - everyone is drinking, drug addicts, they are inventing something in parallel.
"Cynics" is about people who tried to understand how they can exist in a terrible and exciting time and at the same time make art. After all, you often try to do what you are interested in, but you are not paid for it, and you need to exist somehow. The revolutionary government promised to be on the same wavelength with the younger generation, Lunacharsky became the Minister of Education - they wanted to come to an agreement with the authorities, and the heroes tried. There are a lot of funny and tragic things in "Cynics". For example, an episode about the fact that it was cold in the city and there was no firewood to heat the houses. The heroes hired a special woman who warmed the bed for them, and the woman was insulted that she was warming the bed, but they did not want anything more from her. Or Mariengof describes in detail the bohemian life of Petrograd, and then casually inserts: “I read in the newspaper that a peasant family ate their children” - these are the horrors through a small insert. And you understand - this is a super-heavy, strange, wonderful time in which you have to survive, create and not go crazy.
"Stowaway passenger", "The toasted one drinks to the bottom", "The cat is gone, but the smile remains"
Danelia helps me a lot in a sad state. He began collecting autobiography on the advice of friends: then the Soviet Union collapsed, and he, as a Soviet director, could not fit into modern filmmaking. What he says is consonant with how I describe the work of our recreation center. For example, a neighbor came and threatened to call the FSB just because people just sit in our chairs and talk - he just doesn't like it. Isn't it Danelia?
Danelia tells very funny stories about work. At first he was an architect, not a director. It seems that since then nothing has changed at all - neither in public policy, nor in relations between people. Let's say an architect is designing cities in Siberia. He plans in his office in Moscow, but the construction, of course, is far and not according to plan. As a result, he is sent on a business trip so that he can go and change the schemes in accordance with what has already been built. Or Danelia tells how at the very beginning of his career he wanted to work, tried and drew diligently in the General Plan, but in the end he was told: “You work too fast, you have to work slower. I have to go smoke, chat, go to lunch. "And he just realized that everyone is working not for the result, but for an incomprehensible process. That is, whether you plan or not, then put your work in some kind of archive, and life will build everything as it should and without your labor.
"Evenings on a Farm Near Dikanka"
Gogol always fascinated me with the combination of the magic and the real. This is a hybrid identity, when everything exists on a very contradictory basis and at the same time is part of the whole. This border between Russian and Ukrainian in language, narration, circumstances is very special. You have been within the framework of a foreign culture for a long time, it has become a part of you, it is not yours, but already yours - and you are always in a state between. The aggravated debate about whether the Russian writer Gogol or the Ukrainian one only emphasizes this: he lived in St. Petersburg, loved Italy, grew up in Little Russia. It seems to me that in St. Petersburg in the middle of the 19th century, people read "Evenings" as exotic in the colonial sense, only in their native language.
Groys's main thought about Stalin is the habitual and mistaken division of everything into black and white. There is an idealistic position that there is a wonderful positive avant-garde, and after the avant-garde, neoclassical Stalinism begins, which represses the avant-garde - and this is something dark. And then the thaw begins. In general, the historical series is lined up in stripes: good, bad, good again, bad again. But Groys's main hypothesis is that the avant-garde is the forerunner of Stalin's totalitarianism, one flows into the other, and Stalin's culture without the avant-garde would not have been possible at all. The avant-gardists were for scrapping everything old and building everything new. The artist is the organizer of life, who forces the masses to live right. When an artist subordinates the world to his ideas, it turns out a story about violence - and the artists needed a powerful resource to legalize violence and change everything the way they wanted. Temporarily they succeeded, only then this weapon was directed against themselves.
"All the Kremlin's men"
From this book, I learned a lot about how politics works behind closed doors. Again, everything is much more complicated than dividing into white and black. It was interesting to read Zygar's interpretation based on his interviews and historical facts. The book is divided into chapters - it turned out to be a real story, first of all, about how Putin changed from a man who wants to be a friend to all Western countries and, so to speak, a liberal, to who he eventually became. The book contains interesting chapters about Ukraine and Yeltsin's decision to transfer power to Putin. The figure of Lenin is also constantly appearing in the Mausoleum: if he were finally buried, it would now be impossible to appeal to Soviet identity and build on its basis the modern Russian Putin identity.
“Comet time. 1918: The World Breaks Through"
“Comet time. 1918 "is a book on public history, compiled on the basis of the testimony of contemporaries in 1918. The diaries of the end of the First World War: what one person wrote on that day, what another. Here's a man who signed the "shameful" Versailles Peace Treaty - it eventually led to Hitler coming to power. Here is a Kaiser who was in exile and wrote a diary from there. Marina Yurlova, the daughter of a Cossack and a future participant in the white movement, then fled to New York and became a famous dancer. Diary of a victorious Frenchman. Here is Truman, who was not yet the president of the United States, but fought, was an ordinary soldier. A History of African American Soldiers in the American Army and the French. The woman nurse who invented the red poppy, the worldwide symbol of the end of the First World War. "The Time of the Comet" is a book about a difficult and incredible year that has launched many important world processes.
Dovlatov is like Danelia. You can read it in any state, but it is best when you are sad.This is very funny and tragic - he packs a suitcase all over the book, but in fact, he has nothing to take away. It seems to me that I am in the same condition: I move all the time, my suitcases are shrinking, there are almost no things, and I will be taking something completely strange to my new life, like Dovlatov. Stories work like this: you tell things as they are - and it's very funny. But when this happens for the first time, you feel uneasy. And then you start retelling, everyone smiles and you yourself laugh it off so as not to burst into tears.
"What to do?"
"What to do?" - this is a school curriculum, but I read the book myself, it seems to me, a year and a half ago. Everything we do now at Do Kultura is non-commercial things in a completely commercial field. There have always been a lot of people around us who call themselves leftists - and I read different books to eliminate cognitive dissonance: people say one thing, but do things differently. The simplest example: intellectuals come, and when they litter in the yard and I give them a broom and ask them to clean up after themselves, they refuse - this is what I have to do. And all this is not left-handed, even once.
Then I deliberately read Chernyshevsky - I was very interested in how the Russian left thought during the empire. And there, for example, there is Vera Pavlovna, who launched a sewing workshop - for Russia at that time, of course, something very strange. That is, you can "blah blah blah" and then do nothing. Or you can be a person who does work, is responsible for his actions and takes responsibility. This is something new, unusual, and such people are a real rarity.
Zamyatin wrote his novel twenty years earlier than Orwell, and became much less famous - I think this is unfair. This is 1920, the Soviet Union has just been created, and Zamyatin has already foreseen and harshly described the avant-garde views that lead to society in "We". It was painful for me to read Zamyatin, because his thoughts resonate with my painful story: when it’s bad and you want to get relief from your condition, have an operation, and then a book comes to the rescue.
Our younger generation is still thinking about how to live in communes, create an alternative community, free relationships. And I no longer believe in the way of life in the commune. Because sooner or later such a way of life leads to Zamyatin: there is still someone who naively believes, while the other uses it. We often see people trying to create their own separate worlds. But, in fact, it ends with a commune, or rather, not a commune, but a sect, in a bad sense - when they begin to worship someone alone or an influential group. In general, "We" a hundred years later are more important than ever.