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2017 Season

Saturday 1st April 2017: Art and Revolution: The Early Years of the Russian Avant-Garde

Speaker: Dr Rosamund Bartlett

11:00 - 17:00

Before the overthrow of the Tsarist regime and the Bolshevik coup in 1917, the most daring members of the Russian avant-garde staged a revolution of their own by radically changing the language of art. Their new position as leaders of the European avant-garde continued in the new conditions of early Soviet Russia. This day of lectures will explore both the revolution in art, and art in revolution, by tracing developments from the cultural repercussions of the 1905 Revolution to the end of the Civil War in 1921. There will be a particular focus on the events of 1917.

We will first examine the early careers of Goncharova, Larionov, Rozanova, Malevich and Tatlin, and the relentless experimentation which led to the emergence in Russia of movements such as Neo-Primitivism, Futurism, Cubo-Futurism and Suprematism. This will lead to a discussion of the fundamental changes brought about in Russian artistic life as a result of the Revolution. These include the establishment of the People's Commissariat of Enlightenment (Narkompros), headed by Anatoly Lunacharsky, and the foundation of new institutions and organisations in Moscow, Petrograd and Vitebsk, in which members of the Russian avant-garde played leading roles. Key figures from the avant-garde in early Soviet Russia who were part of the utopian mission to create a revolutionary new art for the revolutionary new society include Chagall, Kandinsky, Malevich, El Lissitzky, Tatlin, Popova, Stepanova, Chekhonin, Rodchenko, Klutsis, Altman and Mayakovsky. We will study their various contributions to the emergence of new forms of public art, the activities of proletarian and other groups, and the birth of Constructivism

The Russian Revolution and After

Saturday 25th February 2017: The Russian Revolution and After

Speaker: Sir Tony Brenton (former Ambassador to Russia)

11:00 - 17:00

According to Marx, the progression of society from capitalism to communism was 'historically inevitable'. In Russia in 1917, it seemed that Marx's theory was born out in reality. But was the Russian Revolution really inevitable?

Sir Tony's lecture begins with a look at the key turning points of the revolution from the Russo-Japanese conflict of 1904-5 to the appropriation of church property in 1922, with particular focus on the incredible chain of events in 1917 which led to the October Revolution itself. The second part examines the aftermath of the revolution - Communism.

The final section of the day draws a parallel between the 1917 Revolution and the ultimate collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, and places the events of 1917 in the context of more recent events in Russia and the Crimea.

The Enduring Relevance of Dostoevsky

Saturday 14th January 2017: Russia Against the Rest

Speaker: Prof Richard Sakwa

11:00 – 17:00

When George Orwell coined the term ‘cold war’ in an article in Tribune in October 1945, he could hardly have imagined that 70 years later one of the most active debates would be whether the term ‘new cold war’ was the right one to describe the renewed hostile atmosphere between Russia and the West. Sakwa’s lecture is divided into three parts:
1) Crisis in world order up to 2014, leading to the confrontation over Ukraine.
2) Internal developments within Russia, Russian national identity and its place in the world.
3) The final session broadens the horizon and examines current debates over world order and civilisations, including the relationship between Russia and China, the ‘rise of the rest’, and dynamics of future development.

2016 Season

Russian Days Under The Tsars

Saturday 17 December 2016: Theatre in Imperial Russia: Drama, Opera and Ballet from Peter the Great to Nicholas II

Speaker: Dr Rosamund Bartlett

11:00 – 17:00

For a country which had no real professional troupes until the eighteenth century, Russia's impact on world theatre has been remarkable. Russia initially imported most aspects of theatre from the West, including the word teatr itself, but a native passion for the performing arts developed quickly. From its derivative beginnings, Russian theatrical life soon acquired distinctive attributes, and by the end of the 19th century was already displaying signs of genius in the work of Chekhov and Stanislavsky, Petipa and Nijinsky, Musorgsky and Chaliapin.

This day of illustrated lectures will trace the development of Russian theatrical life from its beginnings at the imperial court to the genuinely popular enterprises run by impresarios and entrepreneurs on the eve of the 1917 Revolution. We will look at Catherine the Great's profile as librettist and dramatist, the emergence of serf theatres, and the establishment of the Imperial Italian Opera and the impact of plays by Pushkin and Shakespeare, operas by Glinka and Bizet, and ballets by Boieldieu and Tchaikovsky.

The Enduring Relevance of Dostoevsky

Saturday 3 December 2016: The enduring relevance of Dostoevsky

Speaker: Irina Kirillova

11:00 – 17:00

This day, of two talks and a film showing, will assume basic knowledge of the work of Fyodor Dostoevsky (1821 - 1881), novelist, journalist and philosopher, whose exploration of the human soul made him one of the most influential writers of the 19th century. Speaker Irina Kirillova MBE says, "Dostoevsky is perceived in Russia as a very modern writer and invariably attracts great interest and discussion’’. Her opening talk, "Why Read Dostoevsky Today?" comprises an overview of his work and a look at the man himself. The second part of the day, entitled ‘The problem of portraying the utterly good man’ takes a close look at his 1869 novel, "The Idiot" in which the hero, Prince Myshkin, is so perfectly generous and innocent he is regarded as a fool. For the final part of the day, after tea, we will show the 1969, Soviet film by Kuliozhanov of ‘Crime & Punishment’ with a brief introduction by Marina Bogdanova. There will be plenty of time for Q&A throughout.

Prince Felix Yussoupov, Rasputin’s assassin, painted by Valentin Serov.

Saturday 26 November 2016: Rasputin and the role played by Oxford in his assassination

Speaker: Chris Danziger

11:00 – 17:00

Almost 100 years ago, on a night in December 1916, Prince Felix Yusupov arranged the assassination of the "Mad Monk", Rasputin, who had acquired a Svengali-like influence over the Russian royal family. The murder, one of the most celebrated in history, was a major, if unintended, step on the road to the Russian Revolution. And Oxford University played a vital but little-known role in the gestation of this event...

Saturday 12 November: Russian Art under the last Tsar

Speaker: Dr Rosamund Bartlett

11:00 – 17:00

Something exciting started to happen in the arts in Russia at the end of the 19th century. During the reign of Nicholas II, the last Romanov Tsar, there was an unprecedented cultural explosion in both St Petersburg and Moscow which saw the foundation of ground-breaking new theatre companies, the emergence of brilliant virtuosi from the conservatoires, the launch of lavish new arts journals, and the scaling of new heights of craftsmanship in the workshops of jewellers like Fabergé. This day of illustrated lectures will explore the many facets of cultural life in Russia as it developed between 1894 and 1917, from art-nouveau architecture to avant-garde exhibitions, looking at radical innovators such as Goncharova, Tatlin, Mayakovsky and Prokofiev alongside contemporaries with a greater commitment to cultural continuity, such as Rachmaninov, Chagall, Akhmatova and Kustodiev, and the many artistic movements which proliferated during the period, from Symbolism to Suprematism.

Saturday 4th June: The Art and Architecture of the Russian Orthodox Church

Speaker: Dr Rosamund Bartlett

11:00 – 17:30

Icon Musicians Soviet RussiaWhen the Emperor Constantine sought to establish a new Roman capital which would be free of pagan influence, he looked to the East. Constantinople, founded in 324, arose on the site of ancient Greek Byzantium, Along with its differing rites and doctrines, the Byzantine Church also gradually developed an approach to art which was different to that of Western Christianity, its chief form of visual expression being the icon.

This day of lectures is devoted to the religious art which evolved after Prince Vladimir brought Eastern Orthodox Christianity to Kiev in 988, by which time the Byzantine church had already weathered its great iconoclastic controversies. We will assess the architectural style of the early churches built in cities like Chernigov, Novgorod and Pskov, before the Mongol invasion in 1380, and of those built after the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453, when Moscow claimed the mantle of Byzantium and the title of the "third Rome".
It was in Russia, and particularly in Moscow, that the art of icon painting reached its greatest heights. We will explore the evolution of a national style through discussion of Theophanes the Greek, Andrey Rubylov, Dionisy, and the icon painters of the Stroganov school. We will also consider the theology of icons, and the materials and techniques involved in painting them.

The final part of the day Icon Musicians Soviet Russiawill be devoted to a discussion of the revival of the Byzantine style in Russian religious art which began in the middle of the 19th century, and a consideration of the influence of icons on the early 20th-century avant-garde.

Saturday 23rd April: Beyond the Pale: The Lives of Jewish Artists and Musicians in Imperial and Soviet Russia

Speaker: Dr Rosamund Bartlett

11:00 – 17:30

Beyond the Pale

Moisei Nappelbaum Mark Antokolsky
Isaak Babel Koussevitsky
David Oistrakh Maria Yudina
Mark Reizen Mark Chagall
El Lissitzsky Osip Mandelstam
Boris Pasternak Mieczyshaw Weinberg

Chagal - Beyond the Pale: The Lives of Jewish ArtistsBakst, Chagall, Heifetz and Koussevitsky are all well-known names in the history of the arts in the twentieth century. Less familiar are the difficulties each faced in pursuing a creative career in Tsarist Russia due to their Jewish background. Even after the reforms of the 1860s, most Jews were confined to the Pale of Settlement created by Catherine the Great when she enforced the partition of Poland at the end of the 18th century. Discriminatory policies continued until 1917, by which time Odessa had become an important centre of musical talent, thanks to its Jewish population.

This day of lectures will explore how Russia's Jewish artists and musicians dealt in their own ways with the restrictions placed on them while studying and working in St. Petersburg and Moscow, bearing in mind differing levels of commitment to their faith. Among those to be discussed are the sculptor Mark Antokolsky (the first Jewish artist to study at the Imperial Academy), the pianists Anton Rubinstein (founder of Russia's first conservatoire) and Maria Yudina, the painters Isaak Levitan, Lev Bakst, Robert Falk, Marc Chagall and El Lissitzsky, the photographer Moisei Nappelbaum, the violinists Yascha Heifetz and David Oistrakh, Chagal - Beyond the Pale: The Lives of Jewish Artistscomposers Veniamin Fleishman and Mieczysław Weinberg, singers Leonid Utyosov and Mark Reizen, and the musical educators Pyotr Stolyarsky and Mikhail Gnesin. Their important contribution to Russian cultural life will be assessed with reference to their contemporaries in the field of literature - figures such as Osip Mandelstam, Isaak Babel and Boris Pasternak, son of the noted painter Leonid Pasternak, whose last years were spent in Oxford.

2015 Season

Saturday 5th December: Mikhail Gorbachev, Modern Culture and The Collapse of the USSR

Time: 10:00 - 17:00



Sir Rodric Braithwaite, former British Ambassador to Moscow during the critical years of Gorbachev's tenure as General Secretary, talks about the man, the introduction of perestroika and his legacy.

Dr Vlad Strukov, Associate Professor in Digital Culture at Leeds University and expert on contemporary popular culture will discuss its impact on the USSR and its contribution to the final collapse of the old order.

Saturday 14th November: Nicholas II: Russian Culture and Society Under the Last Tsar, 1894-1917

Time: 11:00 - 17:00

Nicolas II Royal FamilyIt had been Alexander III's intention to postpone involving his eldest son in affairs of state until the tsarevich reached his thirtieth birthday, but after thirteen years on the throne, he unexpectedly died in 1894. Nicholas II was thus just twenty-six when he became Emperor and Autocrat of All the Russias, and completely unprepared for the role. Marrying Queen Victoria's grand-daughter Alix of Hesse and by Rhine in the same month as his father's death, it was to her that he turned for moral support as he embarked on his reign as the new Tsar. Set on preserving the principles of autocracy so assiduously maintained by his father, Nicholas committed one blunder after another, leading Russia into a disastrous war with Japan ten years after his accession. The repercussions were strikes, protests, assassinations, and, in 1917, Revolution.

There was also a revolution in the arts during the reign of the last Tsar, when painters, musicians and dancers such as Kandinsky, Malevich, Goncharova, Stravinsky and Nijinsky brought Russia to the forefront of the European Avant-Garde for the first time. Their groundbreaking innovations did not take place in a vacuum, but amidst an unprecedented cultural explosion which began soon after Nicholas II ascended to the throne, and saw distinction in everything from architecture to the applied arts. This was the era of Diaghilev and the Russian Cubo-Futurists, but also of Chagall and Rachmaninov.

suprematist composition kazimir malevichThis day of lectures will seek to interweave the most significant social and political developments of Nicholas II's reign, such as the excommunication of Tolstoy and the 1905 Revolution, with key cultural events, such as the Moscow Art Theatre's productions of Chekhov's late plays, the 'Jack of Diamonds' and 'Donkey's Tail' exhibitions, and the Ballets Russes premiere of The Rite of Spring. The culmination point artistically will be Malevich's Black Square, unveiled in wartime Petrograd in December 1915, nearly exactly a hundred years ago.

Nicolas II Poster

Saturday 17th October: Russian Culture and Society in the Reign of Alexander III, 1881-1894

Time: 11:00 - 17:00

Alexander III The Peacemaker Rosamund Bartlett continues her exploration of the lives of the Russian Tsars and the cultural and artistic developments which characterise their reigns:

Alexander Alexandrovich Romanov never expected to become Tsar. The second son of Alexander II, who reigned from 1855, he spent the first twenty years of his life in the shadow of his elder brother Nikolay. But when the Tsarevich died unexpectedly in 1865, he was suddenly thrown into the limelight. The following year, by now the heir apparent, he married Princess Dagmar of Denmark, to whom his brother had been betrothed. In 1881, his father was assassinated by revolutionaries, and Alexander suddenly found himself Emperor of all Russia. Alexander III reacted by bringing the wheels of reform to an abrupt halt. Until his own unanticipated death in 1894 at the age of forty nine, he pursued a policy of extreme conservatism.

And yet this was the Tsar who finally liberated the Russian performing arts from the stranglehold of the Imperial Theatres, allowing for the emergence of Chaliapin, and enabling Chekhov to make his debut as a dramatist. And it was Alexander who spurned giving commissions to Western European artists in favour of supporting home-grown talent.

Vasnetsov Flying CarpetThis day of lectures will explore the major developments in Russian culture and society during Alexander III's reign, beginning with the dazzling neo-Russian Church of the Saviour on the Spilt Blood. Built on the spot where Alexander II was assassinated in the middle of neo-classical St. Petersburg, its sumptuous mosaic interiors were some of Russia's leading artists. During his reign, Alexander also laid the foundations for the creation of the Russian Museum - the first national gallery of Russian art. Other topics to be discussed include the tradition of the annual Fabergé eggs inaugurated by Alexander III in 1885, and the Tsar's patronage of Tchaikovsky. This resulted in the commission of the ballets Sleeping Beauty and The Nutcracker, and the opera The Queen of Spades, as well as the highly successful Petersburg premiere of Eugene Onegin. It was during the reign of Alexander III that the Mariinsky Theatre truly began to enter its golden age. We will also follow Chekhov's unusual evolution from contributor to low-brow comic journals to celebrated author of stories and plays which flew in the face of convention.

Stonehill House Graden Party - Children of Palestine

Saturday 18th July: Shostakovich, Russia and World War II

Speaker: Stephen Walsh and Sir Rodric Braithwaite

10:30 – 17:30

< Click poster to open PDF >

Shostakovich's Seventh Symphony was first performed in Leningrad on 9 August, 1942. Almost a year earlier, the Germans had begun their blockade of the city. Many thousands had already died of injury, the cold and most of all, starvation and the members of the orchestra were so weakened, there were fears they wouldn’t be able to play.

Stonehill House presents a day of interwoven lectures, with musical scholar and biographer, Stephen Walsh, on Dmitri Shostakovich and Sir Rodric Braithwaite, former ambassador to Moscow, on Russia’s often over-looked role in the Second World War.

Saturday 2nd May: Russian Culture and Society in the Age of Anna Karenina: The Reign of Alexander II, 1855-1881

Speaker: Dr Rosamund Bartlett

11:00 – 17:00

Alexander II

Following directly on from her lecture on the Tsar Nicholas I, Rosamund Bartlett returns to Stonehill House to explore the reign of his son, Alexander II. A character very different to his father, who had kept Russia ice-bound for thirty years, Alexander soon earned his nickname of “Tsar-Liberator” by abolishing serfdom in 1861. The optimism unleashed by these Great Reforms heralded an unprecedented creative energy among artists, musicians and writers. However, it also led to the re-emergence of the revolutionary movement, whose extreme wing soon resorted to terrorist tactics. Frustration with the pace of reform led to the Tsar’s assassination in 1881.

Alexander II
Click to View PDF
This day of lectures will explore the many dimensions of Alexander II’s turbulent reign, from rapid industrialization, to the colonization of Central Asia. Alongside Alexander’s domestic and foreign policies, we will examine the flourishing cultural climate incl. the emergence of Tchaikovsky, Rubinstein and Mussorgsky. The visual arts flourished under Repin and literature reached a pinnacle with the publication of some of Russia’s greatest literature, including Anna Karenina, War and Peace and Crime and Punishment.

Saturday 18th April: Solzhenitsyn before and after Ivan Denisovich

Speaker: Dr Michael Nicholson

11:00 – 17:00

SolzhenitsynA day exploring the life and work of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, variously labelled in his lifetime zek, much-admired author of A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, gallant Soviet dissident and intractable exile in the West. Dr Nicholson, who knew the writer personally, looks at Solzhenitsyn’s orthodox Soviet beginnings, his brief official celebrity as a writer, sandwiched between eight years in the Gulag and twenty years' banishment by Stalin's successors, as well as his controversial return to post-Soviet Russia at the end of the century and his place in the canon of Russian literature.

2014 Season

Saturday 6th December: Russian Culture and Society in the Reign of Nicholas I, Emperor of All The Russias, 1825-1855

Speaker: Rosamund Bartlett

11:00 – 17:00

NicolasTo those who encountered him, Nicholas I seeemed the very personification of Russian autocracy. Over six foot tall, handsome, blue-eyed, with a majestic bearing, and the voice of one born to command - even implacable enemies were awestruck in the Tsar’s presence. Ladies-in-waiting might have swooned, but this regal composure masked a paranoid and violent streak.

Nicholas I did not expect to become Tsar when Alexander I suddenly died in 1825. In the interregnum before his elder brother renounced the throne, a group of liberal-minded officers staged a badly managed mutiny. Nicholas I dealt brutally with the leaders of the Decembrist Uprising, and for the thirty years of his reign ruled Russia with an iron fist. Petrified by the thought of further subversive activity and determined to crush it, he achieved notoriety as the ‘Gendarme of Europe’. Under his reactionary rule Russia stagnated, with dire consequences when it came to the Crimean War.

And yet this was an extraordinarily rich time from the point of view of Russian culture. During the reign of Nicholas I, Pushkin published some of his best-known work and Turgenev, Dostoevsky and Tolstoy all made their literary debuts. Glinka laid the cornerstone of Russian opera with "A Life for the Tsar", and Bryullov’s paintings achieved international renown. Nicholas himself built the neo-Byzantine Grand Kremlin Palace and commissioned the six volume Antiquities of the Russian State. He also established the lavishly funded Imperial Italian Opera in St. Petersburg, and opened the first public galleries of the Hermitage.

Pushkin Decembrist
Alexander Pushkin The Decembrist Uprising

Rosamund Bartlett returns to Stonehill with a day of illustrated lectures exploring the many dimensions of Nicholas I’s long and complex reign.

Saturday 15th November: The Russian Icon

Speaker: Sir Richard Temple

11:00 – 17:00

Icons Talk

Jesus IconAn illustrated lecture looking at the origin of icons, when Christianity first spread through the Late Roman Empire, their development and significance in Orthodox Christianity. Early Christian art was not a matter of decoration, or narrative or aesthetics, but a vehicle for understanding the universal ideas at the heart of all religion and philosophy: the meaning of human life on earth and in eternity.

Saturday 25th October: Crimea

Speaker: Neal Ascherson

11:00 – 17:00

Crimea Talk

CrimeaThe Crimean Peninsula, almost entirely encircled by the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, straddles a strategic boundary between the western and eastern worlds, between "civilisation" and "barbarism". Neal Ascherson's illustrated talks will travel though its Crimea2spectacular history, from colonization by Greeks, Romans and Ottomans, the arrival of Christianity and the Black Death, and the changing cast of eastern colonizers, including the Tatars, the Khanate and Russia. From there we look at the Crimean War, the growth of the wine industry, the transformation of the Black Sea coast into a Soviet tourist destination and the fate of the Tatars under Stalin before arriving at Crimea today.

Mary Dejevsky – a modern perspective on Crimea

We are delighted to announce that journalist, broadcaster and respected Russian expert, Mary Dejevsky, will be completing our look at Crimea with a summary of the situation there today and the background to recent events.

Friday 30th May to Thursday 5th June 2014

Oxford Artwork Thumbnail

We are pleased to announce a unique exhibition to be held in The Barn at Stonehill.

'Russian Extremes-from Icons to I-cats'.

This is a collection of work by two Russian artists:

Images of six contemporary icons by Archmandrite Zenon painted for the Feodorovsky Cathedral in St Petersburg will be displayed alongside Svetlana Petrova's I-cats.

The I-cats are images taken from The Russian Museum in St Petersburg integrated with images of Zarathustra, the cat.

The exhibition runs from 11am to 5pm daily. Free Entrance.

Further images of I-cats are available from: http://fatcatart.gallery

Saturday 5th April: The Shot that Changed the World – how the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand led to the end of the Romanovs and the birth of the Bolsheviks

Between Impressionism and Blast The Shot that Changed the World

Speaker: Christopher Danziger

11:00 – 17:30

The First World War took nobody by surprise, so how did Russia become embroiled in a war for which she was so inadequately prepared? Tsar Nicholas and his ministers effectively signed their own death warrants with their unrealistic foreign policies, diplomatic blunders and incompetent conduct of the war. Russia was made to pay an enormous price for her enforced withdrawal from the conflict but her miseries were by no means over. The end of the First World War merely ushered in three years of a terrible, destructive Civil War from which a splinter party emerged triumphant - to rule Russia for almost a century.

Christopher Danziger will talk us first through pre-war thinking and international relations in Russia and the series of flawed and fatal decisions which led to the overthrow of the Romanov dynasty. In the second half of the day, we look at the aftermath of the Tsar's abdication and how it took three years of brutal civil war before Lenin and the Bolsheviks were established as his successors.

The Russian Five: Musorgsky and the Balakirev Circle - one of the most intriguing and colourful stories in musical history.

The Russian Five: Musorgsky and the Balakirev Circle

Speaker: Stephen Walsh

The emergence of Russian classical music in the nineteenth century comprises one of the most remarkable and fascinating stories in all musical history. The five men who came together in St. Petersburg in the 1860s, all composers of talent, some of genius, would be—in spite of a virtual lack of technical training—responsible for some of the greatest and best-loved music ever written. Known in the West as the Five, and in Russia as moguchaya kuchka - the Mighty Little Heap - these friends, competitors, and creative intellectuals, Mily Balakirev, César Cui, Alexander Borodin, Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov and, most importantly, Modest Musorgsky, are brought to life in Stephen Walsh's illustrated lecture.


Exploring the Arts in Russia

A series of informal talks on Russian literature, music and film.

Russian Days

Creative Writing with Anne Aylor

2013 Season

MYSTICISM in early Soviet Russia

Speaker: Sergey Moskalev (author and editor of 'Science & Religion' magazine, Moscow)

Soviet Russia is viewed as a time of spiritual sterility, repression and an enforced atheism. But the country's rich and ancient spiritual heritage, while suppressed under communist rule, could not be entirely eradicated from the Russian psyche. The beginning of the 20th century in Russia, scene of war and Bolshevik activities, was also a time of growing interest in mysticism and esoteric phenomena.

Sergey Moskalev, author and editor of Moscow-based magazine, Science & Religion, takes us through the early Soviet era and traces the profound spirituality underpinning much Soviet art.

We begin with Tolstoy, a devoutly religious man who early on embraced pacifism, the immorality of property-ownership and vegetarianism. Still revered as the greatest Russian author of all time, he was held up by the emerging Communist movement as a hero of their principles and was lauded by the Bolsheviks after his death as a forerunner of socialism.

We then move on to look at spiritualism in other art forms, including Scriabin's Mysterium, Roerich's commitment to spiritual values and occult mysticism, Peter Ouspensky and the concept of eternal return, Dr Azarov and the origin of Zoizm and Mikhail Bulgakov's The Master & Margarita. The talk also embraces the concept of the noosphere (the effect of human cognition on Earth's evolution) developed by Vladimir Vernadsky in the 1900s , before we take a brief look at Barchenko and the Soviet Government's research on telepathy and telekinesis in the late 1920s.

Barn Sergey Moskalev Innovation and Mysticism in early Soviet Russia
Getting the barn ready Sergey Moskalev at Stonehill Mysticism in early Soviet Russia

LEON THEREMIN and the invention of electronic music in early Soviet Russia.

The hectic period of the 1910-30s was a time of complex and inconsistent social and political movements which define an epoch filled with revolutions, wars and totalitarian dictatorship. Despite the circumstances, early Soviet culture accumulated unprecedented levels of creative energy which led to amazing innovations at the beginning of the 20th Century. Living in famine, extreme cold and poverty, creative people were nonetheless dreaming about a future country where everything would be different: the perfect man, a universal language, real machines……Artists, poets, musicians and architects rushed enthusiastically into the new reality, studying physics and mathematics, embracing the scientific exploration of the nature of light and sound and developing theories about what became known as 'the Art of the Future'…….While the history of Russian post-revolutionary avant-garde art and music is fairly well documented, the inventions and discoveries, the researchers of sound, creators of musical machines and founders of new musical technologies have largely been forgotten, with the exception of Leon Theremin, inventor of the theremin-vox (1919).

As a physicist, musician and engineer Leon Theremin worked on innumerable projects at the cross roads of creative technology. His life story is a fascinating one, not least for his secret work for the NKVD (KGB). He realised the possibility of producing pitched sound while fixing a radio station during the Civil War. The theremin-vox (originally called an etherphone) consists of two metal antennae which sense the position of the player's hands and control oscillators for frequency with one hand, and amplitude with the other, so it can be played without being touched. After visiting America in the 1920s and patenting the instrument with RCA, Leon Theremin returned to Soviet Russia only to be banished to the Kolyma Prison camp in Siberia for several years by Stalin. Leon Theremin nevertheless lived to be 97, spending the rest of his life in Soviet Russia.

Robert Moog in America started his career by building theremins in the 1950s.

Talks by Andrey Smirnov (founder of the Theremin Centre in Moscow)

Followed by Demonstration & Performance of Theremin-Vox by Lydia Kavina (see photograph as a child with Leon Theremin at top of this page'), accompanied on piano by Elena Kiseleva (works by Prokofiev and Rachmaninov)


Russia in 1913 was poised on the brink of change, witnessing both growing political unrest and a vibrant flourishing of the arts. A dazzling list of composers, painters, dancers and poets - Stravinsky, Diaghilev, Rachmaninov, Pavlova, Chekhov, Kandinsky, Stanislavsky - was begining to emerge. In the centenary of this extraordinary year, pivotal in the history of Russia and its last year of peace before the dark clouds of war and revolution descended, Rosamund Bartlett returns to Stonehill House with a series of talks.

Kandinsky and the Russian North

Modernist Moscow, Art Nouveau and Scriabin

Diaghilev's 'World of Art': Modernist St Petersburg: the Bohemians

'The Rite of Spring' and 'Victory Over the Sun'

2012 Season

Film-maker, Andrei Tarkovsky - his spiritual journey, including a screening of "Mirror"

Speakers: Mark Le Fanu (more info)

Writer, journalist and lecturer on film, Mark le Fanu explores some of the facets of Tarkovsky's artistic enterprise: his sense of history, his celebration of family, his struggles with faith, his patriotism and his lyrical openness to the beauty of the world. (more info)

Stravinsky & Diaghilev

Speaker: Rosamund Bartlett (more info)

Born in 1882 near St Petersburg, Igor Stravinsky died an émigré in 1971, his productive and often turbulent life spanning the key Russian events of the last century. His masterworks such as The Firebird and The Rite of Spring fixed his reputation as a leading composer.

After Tchaikovsky had made it into a serious genre in its own right, Russian ballet was at its prime, with Nijinsky and Pavlova amongst its greatest stars. In 1910 began Diaghilev's famous collaboration with Stravinsky, the enfant terrible of 20th-century music. After The Firebird came Petrushka, and then in 1913 the Parisian haute monde was shocked to its core by the epoch-making The Rite of Spring, one of the key works which catapulted Russian artists and musicians into the forefront of the European avant-garde.

Boris Pasternak - a glimpse into family correspondence
Speaker: Nicholas Pasternak Slater (more info)

"Boris Pasternak's nephew, Nicolas, is our host for the day. Serene and eloquent, wise and welcoming, he leads us through the compelling story of his family....." read full review

"Nicolas Pasternak Slater grew up in a household where his absent uncle was a constant presence, a figure he felt he knew intimately despite never directly communicating with him." (read full article)

Chekhov & Tolstoy - their lives and their prose
Speaker: Rosamund Bartlett (more info)

Author and translator Rosamund Bartlett discusses the lives of two very different writers who had an abiding affection for each other. Her illustrated talks provide a political and cultural background to these literary colossi.

"Such a hugely enjoyable day on Tolstoy and Chekhov. A combination of input by an authoritative and engaging lecturer, Dr Rosemary Bartlett with a historic and beautiful setting. And a gifted chef! Thank you." - Anne Dodd

20th Century Russian Poetry in an age of repression
Speaker: Robert Chandler & Masha Karp (more info)

Translators Chandler and Karp read a selection of poetry, some in translation, some in the original by Russian poets Fet, Ahkmatova, Tsevetaeva, Mandlestam and others. Together they discussed the lives of creative people living under Stalinism.



- Mark Le Fanu

Anyone interested in attending this Tarkovsky day who might like to read a little more about the director in advance, is encouraged to visit the excellent Tarkovsky website www.nostalghia.com. Mark Le Fanu's book "The Cinema of Andrei Tarkovsky" (British Film Institute, 1987, second edition 1990) is unfortunately out of print, though perhaps available in good libraries. A sound current short introduction to Tarkovsky's films is by Sean Martin ("Andrei Tarkovsky", Kamera Books, second edition 2011). In addition, all seven of Tarkovsky's films are currently available on DVD, either individually or in a DVD box set. (more info)

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- Nicolas Pasternak Slater

Nicolas Slater is the son of Boris Pasternak's sister Lydia. He has divided much of his life between working as a medical specialist in haematology and as a translator, publishing both scientific and literary translations, including Boris Pasternak's autobiographical essay People and Propositions and more recently the poet's correspondence with his family. He has also translated works by Lermontov and Pushkin, which will be published in the near future. The weekend includes a rare opportunity to visit the Pasternak Museum in Oxford.

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- Rosamund Bartlett

Rosamund Bartlett works as a writer, translator and lecturer, and specialises in Russian and European cultural history. Her latest book, Tolstoy: A Russian Life (Profile, 2010), was published last November to mark the centenary of Tolstoy's death, and was longlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize. Her previous books include Wagner and Russia (Cambridge UP), Chekhov: Scenes from a Life (Free Press), Literary Russia: A Guide (co-authored with Anna Benn), and the edited volume Shostakovich in Context (Oxford UP, 2000). Rosamund also recently completed a new translation of "Anna Karenina."

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- Robert Chandler and Masha Karp

Robert Chandler has published poems in the TLS and other journals. His translations of Sappho and Apollinaire are published in the series "Everyman's Poetry", and his translations of Vasily Grossman and Andrey Platonov have won prizes both in the UK and the USA. His "Russian short stories from Pushkin to Buida" is published by Penguin Classics. This December, Penguin Classics will be publishing his anthology of Russian folk tales, and in 2014 they will publish the anthology of Russian poetry in translation that he is working on now.

Masha Karp is a translator of English and German poetry and prose into Russian and has published translations of many writers, including Virginia Woolf, George Orwell, Dylan Thomas and W.H. Auden. She is a member of the St Petersburg Writers' Union and the Literary Translators Guild in Russia. As Chair of the Pushkin Club in London, Masha runs regular Translators' evenings, for the discussion of translations of Russian poetry and prose.

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St Petersburg Children's Circus

Supported by: http://www.upsala-zirk-ru

Anne Aylor's Creative Writing Courses presents

- From Chekhov to Carver
17 - 19 May 2013 @ Stonehill House, near Abingdon, Oxfordshire, UK

Click here for more information and booking form.
Review of Anne Aylor's Creative Writing Courses:

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Our Speakers

Rodric Braithwaite was born in London and educated at Bedales and Cambridge where he studied French and Russian. He served as a sergeant in military intelligence in Vienna before joining the Diplomatic Service in 1955 and had postings in Jakarta, Warsaw, Moscow, Rome, Brussels (EU) and Washington. He was on the Sherpa team for the G7 Summits (1984-8), ambassador in Moscow (1988-1992), Foreign Policy Adviser to Prime Minister Major and Chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee (1992-3). Since 1994, he has been among other things a Governor of the English National Opera, Chairman of the Royal Academy of Music, and Senior Adviser to Deutsche Bank. He was a Visiting Fellow at All Souls College, Oxford (1972-3) and at the Wilson Center in Washington (2005). He published "Across the Moscow River” (2002), about the collapse of the Soviet Union; “Moscow 1941: A City and its People at War” (2006), which appeared in eighteen languages; and “Afgantsy: The Russians in Afghanistan 1979-1989” (2011), which has been translated into Russian, Polish, Ukrainian and Japanese. “Coming of Age in Warsaw: A Cold War Story” was published privately in 2014. He is now working on a book about Russian and Western perceptions of the nuclear confrontation. He regularly speaks and writes on Russia and other matters.

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Mike Nicholson is an Emeritus Fellow of University College Oxford. The bulk of his publications have been on unofficial Russian literature and especially the Gulag theme. His work on Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn ranges from the phenomenology of his reception in East and West to textological and bibliographical aspects of his work, and he has translated several of Solzhenitsyn's writings over the years. His current project is a study of Solzhenitsyn's writing in the 1940s and 1950s (provisional title: Solzhenitsyn's Road to 'Ivan Denisovich'). The other twentieth-century writer on whom he has published is Varlam Shalamov, author of Tales of Kolyma (Kolymskie rasskazy). He is an Honorary Professor of Henan University, China.

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Stephen Walsh is an experienced and widely skilled musical scholar and biographer, exceptionally well placed to tell this story. He was for many years deputy music critic of The Observer and a frequent reviewer also for The Times and Financial Times and has broadcast regularly on musical topics for the BBC. He joined Cardiff University as a Senior Lecturer in Music in 1976, where he held a personal chair in the School. The first volume of his major biography of Stravinsky - Stravinsky: A Creative Spring - won the Royal Philharmonic Society Prize for the best music book published in the UK in the year 2000. Volume Two - Stravinsky: The Second Exile - was published in 2006. His latest book, Musorgsky and his Circle: A Russian Musical Adventure, was published in November 2013.

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Christopher Danziger is a tutor in the Oxford University Department of Continuing Education. He teaches modern European history with a special interest in Napoleon and Imperial Russia. With a Russian grandmother and a father who was born a subject of Tsar Nicholas II, Russian history is in his blood. He has lectured on Russian history on several Oxford University programmes, at the University of Cape Town, at the Marlborough College Summer School, and Gilman College in Baltimore. He has led tours to the Crimea, Moscow and St Petersburg, and the Trans-Siberian Railway.

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