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Maximilian Voloshin (1877—1932)
And on the cliff, enclosed by the ripples of the bay, wind and fate together have carved my profile Koktebel 1918
Poet, philosopher and painter, Maximillian Voloshin (1877-1932) lived in Koktebel near Feodosia, permanently from 1916 until his death in 1932.
His spiritual philosophy based on love for each unique individual led him to refuse to take sides during the Russian civil war of 1918–21, when he gave humanitarian assistance to both Red and White soldiers.
He adopted Koktebel as his spiritual home and became widely respected as a man of wisdom and perception. Koktebel, in turn, adopted him, and when local people pointed out to him that the rocky profile of a bearded man, clearly visible on the nearby Kok-Kaya headland above the sea looked very like him, he saw it as a symbol of his identification with the area and referred to it in his poem “Koktebel.”
After his death it became known as `Voloshin’s profile.”
Born in Kyiv, he grew up in Moscow with his mother (his father, a lawyer, died when he was 4), and when he was 16 years old they moved to Crimea. He went to school in Feodosia and, against his own inclination to study history and languages was sent to Moscow to follow in his father’s footsteps and study law.
Three years later he was expelled from the university after taking part in radical student actions and demonstrations, and went abroad—to Berlin, where he attended lectures in philosophy at the university, and to Paris, where he began to paint, under the influence of the Russian painter Yelizaveta Kruglikova, whose studio in Paris was magnet for young poets and artists of what was later called the Silver Age. He was strongly attracted to the work of classic Japanese painters like Hokusai and Utamaro with their attention to detail, and later painted many watercolors of Crimean landscapes.
During the period up to the revolution Voloshin continued to live abroad, writing poetry — often with anti-war themes during the period of the 1st World War—and exploring ideas—Buddhism, Catholicism, freemasonry and the occult. But in 1916, aware of the looming crisis in Russia, he returned to Crimea, saying “when a mother is sick, the children don’t leave her.” While he sympathized with many of the social objectives of the revolution, he was appalled by the human cost of the civil war which followed it, and was actively involved in providing humanitarian assistance to both sides.
After the establishment of the Soviet Union, Voloshin’s house in Koktebel became a meeting place for writers and artists from all over Russia. Poetess Marina Tsvetayevna regarded him as her mentor and met her future husband while staying at Voloshin’s house. She described Voloshin at that time as having “a lion’s mane of hair around classic Greek features, often barefoot, wearing a loose overall instead of a tunic…” Others who spent time there include the poet Osip Mandelshtam and writers Maxim Gorky and Ilya Ehrenburg.
Mikhail Bulgakov, best known as the author of “The Master and Margerita,” was invited to come and stay in the house in Koktebel by Voloshin after his first novel ‘The White Guard’ began to be serialized in the journal “Russia” in 1925. Voloshin was one of the first to recognize his talent and continued to encourage him after his return to Moscow to face a barrage of criticism for his sympathetic portrayal of a group of White Army officers during the civil war, and the book’s lack of a communist hero.
The ground floor of the house on the Koktebel seafront is a formal exhibition of watercolors by the artist, along with a collection of memorabilia, including ‘Order no. 44’ of 1920—an instruction to revolutionary soldiers not to touch the house (Lenin is said to have taken a personal interest in ensuring Voloshin’s safety). Upstairs, the library has a pleasantly untidy ‘lived-in’ feel, with a cozy alcove lined with Japanese paintings he had collected.
Maximilian Voloshin' House - Museum near Feodosiya:
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