Ivan Bunin

While reading the weekly roundup of Imperial Russia-related news over at Royal Russia News this weekend, I found this great quote about Russian author Ivan Bunin, a White émigré, fervent anti-Bolshevik—and the first Russian to win the Nobel Prize in Literature.

[Cursed Days] is regarded as one of the very few anti-Bolshevik diaries to be preserved from the time of the Russian Revolution and civil war.

His scathing account of his last days in Russia recreates events with graphic and gripping intimacy. His criticism of Bolshevik leaders is unparalleled, referring to them as “pitiful, dull, mangy-looking creatures”.

On hearing of the death of the Bolshevik leader, Vladimir Lenin, in January 1924, Bunin gave an emotional speech in Paris, in which he dubbed Lenin a degenerate by birth, who committed the monstrous crime of crashing the world’s most powerful nation and killing several million people


Bunin was the first Russian writer to win the Nobel Prize for Literature (1933). He was revered among White emigres for his anti-Bolshevik views, and regarded him as a true heir to the tradition of realism in Russian literature established by Tolstoy and Chekhov.

Ivan Alekseyevich Bunin died in Paris on 8 November 1953.

I’ve wanted to read Cursed Days for years, but still haven’t got around to it. However, that little excerpt I quoted above makes me want to read it even more. I have so many Russian books on my to-read list, it’s ridiculous. And I take forever to read in Russian, so I often avoid doing it. Meanwhile, the list grows and grows and grows… That’s just the Russian to-read list, by the way. I have a to-read list of English books, too.

Sigh. So many books, so little time.


A Rainy Weekend

It’s been a dreadfully rainy weekend here u Natashi (at Natasha’s), which means outside activity (i.e. walking) has been impossible. Therefore, I’ve mainly been inside reading, writing, and making macaroni and cheese.

The reading material has consisted mainly of nonfiction. In fact, I’ve read nonfiction almost exclusively this year thus far, but more on that in a later post. The most recent book I finished was Albert Speer’s Spandau: The Secret Diaries.

I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve read that book. I think I read it a few in high school, but it’s been over ten years since I read it. I think I remembered the book as better than it actually is. Don’t be me wrong, it’s fascinating as a historical document, but I’d forgotten how miserable and depressed Speer was at times, which makes those sections difficult to read.

As for writing, I didn’t write at all yesterday, but I’ve done 2,000 words so far today. My book is rapidly approaching the end, so things are getting very exciting and dramatic. I love writing epic confrontation scenes between characters and my poor protagonist is about to have the biggest confrontation of her life. (Granted, she’s only seventeen, so she hasn’t exactly had that many confrontations before, but there are some nasty surprises awaiting her.)

I have to work tomorrow, but I wish I had another day off to write fiction and write more blog entries… and to spend some time walking since I couldn’t go on a walk this weekend. Too bad I couldn’t have worked today during all the rain so that I could have tomorrow, which is supposed to be nice and sunny, off!


Fear not, dear readers, I am still here! The past couple of weeks have been busy for me—we’re trying to wrap up the first stage of a project at work—and so I’ve been working and reading and working on a bit of fiction writing.

I’ve also been decluttering. Now, I don’t think I have that much stuff. Compared to a lot of my friends, I’m very decluttered indeed. But there are a fair amount of things I have that I’m not so sure I need anymore. (Did I ever need them in the first place? That is a good question.) As of late, my focus has been on decluttering papers. My papers are stacked in various places throughout my apartment. There are the financial papers on a shelf I use for office supplies and other stuff. There are the old notes I have in a cabinet. And there are the completely old and random papers in my closet.

A couple weeks ago, I found a bunch of old papers from high school in my closet. High school, you guys! I didn’t like high school and so I have no idea why I was even hanging onto these. I put them in the stack to be disposed of, along with some other things from my college graduation (I’ve saved some materials from that event, but I didn’t need three copies of the same exact document). I also found old sheet music I never play anymore, along with a few old music articles that I have no use for.

The biggest thing I decided to declutter, though, are my class notes. Longtime readers will know I was a history major back in the day. I loved my major. In fact, I think you would be hard-pressed to find a person who loved that major more than I did. I planned on teaching history and ended up saving a lot of my notes from various history classes.

Except then I left the field and found something else to do. Don’t get me wrong—I still love history. I read history books, both nonfiction and fiction, and would like to write some historical fiction of my own someday. But it’s been over five years since I last took a formal history class. Did I really need a bunch of old history class notes hanging around? For ages, I’ve thought the answer to that was yes, but today I realized the answer is probably no, so the old notes are in the to-be-disposed-of pile right now. I saved a few papers I wrote that made me happy, but that’s it. There’s no point in keeping some notes around that I haven’t read in nearly ten years.

This goes for electronic version of notes as well. During my freshman year in college, I typed all my notes. I switched to handwritten notes during sophomore year, but I still had old Word documents from freshman year sitting on my hard drive. Those are now in the trash on my computer. I hadn’t opened those since 2008 or 2009. Did I really need that? Obviously, the answer is no.

What I didn’t expect is how good I feel after deciding to get rid of all these papers (and computer files). I feel like a great weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I didn’t even realize how much they were dragging me down until they, well, weren’t anymore. Seriously, the cathartic and therapeutic value of decluttering is seriously underrated. If you want a quick pick-me-up, go declutter something. It doesn’t have to take hours. I do it in fifteen to thirty minute spurts and I always feel great afterwards.

99 Years / 99 лет

The tsar with his family / Царь с семьей

Dear readers! 99 years ago today, Nicholas II, Emperor of all the Russias, along with his family and faithful servants, was cruelly murdered by the Bolsheviks. Let us take a moment to remember the last tsar.

Дорогие читатели! В этот день 99 лет назад, жестко убили императора Всероссийского Николая II с семьей и верными слугами большевиками. Давайте запомним последнего царя.

Вечная память.

The Coolest Video on YouTube

You guys, I’ve discovered what just may be the coolest video on YouTube.

That’s quite a claim to make, so let me explain. My readers probably know I’m very interested in the Russian Empire. (Obsessed may be a better word!) While browsing the blog of a person I’ve talked to on Goodreads who, judging by her reading choices, seems to share the obsession, I found this amazing video embedded in a post. It’s a recording the voice of Tsar Nicholas II.

Tsar Nicholas II died in July 1918 (which means I need to prepare a post in commemoration of him since that’s coming up next month), so recording technology was in its infancy back then. The quality of the recording is horrible, but you can clearly hear his voice. First, here is the video:

Here’s a transcription of what’s going on, For reference, a person named Lieutenant-General Baron von Eck Eduard Vladimirovich is commanding the parade in honor of the tsar’s birthday. Also, I am unsure what year this recording was made.

0:01 – 0:04: Lt. Gen. Edward V. Eck:
“Listen to (inaudible)! Brothers! I drink to the health of our dear Sovereign Leader Emperor Nicholas Alexandrovich [i.e. Tsar Nicholas II]! Hurrah!”

0:39 – 0:41: Children’s voices, probably the tsar’s son Aleksei:
“Hurrah Hurrah!”

0:05 – 1:02: The orchestra plays the national anthem of the Russia Empire.

1:03 – 1:12: Lt. Gen. Edward V. Eck:
“To the ceremonial march – rifle on his shoulder! Quick march!”

1:13 – 1:48: The orchestra plays military march, “Homesickness.”

1:49 – 1:53: Tsar Nicholas II:
“Brothers! Thank you for the nice parade!”

2:08 – 2:13: Tsar Nicholas II:
“Thank you, brothers, for a excellent apprenticeship!”

If that isn’t cool, I don’t know what is. Now you know what the last tsar’s voice sounded like. You may not have been wondering… but I was! It’s the prerogative of a historian to wonder such things.

This Day In History, 1941: Operation Barbarossa Commences

On June 22, 1941, Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union. It was a decision from which Hitler would never recover, though he was too dumb to know it at the time.

German soldiers in the Soviet Union, June 1941. Source.

In Hitler’s defense (I never thought I’d write those words!), maybe the Soviet Union didn’t look so strong. I know the Germans thought it would collapse like a house of cards. Plus, Stalin had purged many of the competent officers in the Red Army, so I suppose it may not have been so farfetched to think this. Still, Hitler must have thought himself immune to the problems Napoleon experienced when he attempted to invade Russia. (If you need a refresher, things didn’t go so well for Napoleon, either. His failure in Russia contributed to his eventual defeat.)

Most importantly, Operation Barbarossa opened up the Eastern Front of the war, which ensured Nazi Germany would be fighting a war on two fronts. Obviously, this didn’t work out so well for them.

In addition to a military operation, the Nazis also sent the Einsatzgruppen into the Soviet Union as well. The Einsatzgruppen were death squads who shot people—specifically, unarmed civilians—in cold blood. There have been many academic works on the Einsatzgruppen and they make for grim reading. Richard Rhodes’ Masters of Death is the one that immediately comes to mind for me.

This post wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Hitler’s notorious Commissar Order, which ordered the immediate execution of any Soviet political commissars captured. The order also called for any prisoners who were “thoroughly bolshevized” to be shot as well. This actually made the Soviets fight harder—often to the death—because they knew they faced certain death if they surrendered.

I’ll leave you with a recording of an old Soviet song called Двадцать второго июня, ровно в 4 часа [On the 22 of June at 4 in the morning]. This song is about the Nazi invasion of the USSR. The song is basically about the Germans invading and the Soviet arising to defend their homeland. Despite my love for all things imperial Russia-related, I quite like this song.

Russian Political Party Sponsors Bill To Revive Tsarist National Anthem

I read this amazing bit of news a couple of weeks ago and have been meaning to blog about it ever since: Law introduced in the State Duma to replace Russian National Anthem with “God Save the Tsar.” The link is in Russian.

Basically, Vladimir Zhirinovsky’s Liberal-Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) has introduced a bill in the Russian parliament (Duma) to replace the current national anthem with the tsarist-era anthem, “God Save the Tsar.” (Zhirinovsky famously declared war on a letter in the Cyrillic alphabet years ago, so he’s no stranger to very random pronouncements.) Now, I do like the current anthem, I really do. I think it’s quite beautiful. But I like the tsarist anthem even more, so as you can imagine, I was delighted to hear this news.

I doubt the bill will pass, to be honest. I don’t think there’s popular support for it. I don’t think United Russia, the most powerful party in the Duma, supports it, and support from United Russia would be crucial for it to pass. Nor would I want it to pass in the form it was introduced: apparently, according to other sources I read, the bill also proposes changing the calendar back to the Julian version, which would be very confusing since the entire world uses the Gregorian calendar right now. As such, I do think reverting to the Julian calendar would be rather stupid.

But I digress. With all this talk of the two different anthems, you’re probably wondering what they sound like. Wonder no further, dear readers. I have embedded below videos of each so you can listen.

First, the current anthem—here is a direct link to YouTube, in case the embedded version isn’t working. It has the lyrics in both Russian and English.

And here is the tsarist era anthem. Again, here’s a direct link in case the embedded version doesn’t work. I managed to find a version that had the lyrics in English, which was not easy. There are better musical versions out there, but I wanted to have the lyrics in English for all of you to read.

Russian flags by the Kremlin. Source

Really, I do think they are both nice anthems. But I’d love to see a change back to the tsarist version. It’s all part of the plan, you see. First, the tsarist anthem. Then the tsarist flag—oh wait, that’s already happened. The current flag in use in Russia was also used during the late period of the Russian Empire (though there were other flags in use in earlier years). The next, and final step is to restore the monarchy to Russia. I rather like that idea—as long as Putin is not the tsar… 😉