What is, arguably, wrong about the assertion, made below, by the stunningly courageous Russian tennis player Daria Kasatkina? The first reader to supply the correct answer gets a Russian Reader t-shirt—if and when I come up with a design for one, which I’ll be more determined than ever to do if someone sends me the right answer.
Kasatkina’s comments about her sexuality and Russia’s views on homosexuality will undoubtedly cause shock waves in her country. She criticized the country for forcing L.G.B.T.Q. people into having to live secret lives.
“Living in the closet is the hardest thing, it’s impossible,” she said. Asked whether two women would ever be able to walk down the street holding hands, she said, “Never.”
The windows shattered the city’s colossal hell
Into minuscule light-sucking hellets
The cars cavorted like rust-colored devils
Horns exploding in the ear like rockets
And under the sign for herring from Kerch
An oldster, run over, groped for his glasses
And wept when amid the evening’s lurch
A tram threw up its pupils at a dash
While in the holes of skyscrapers where ore blazed
And tunnels were piled by the iron of trains
The aeroplane yelled crashing into the place
Where the injured sun’s eye drained
And finally balling up the blankets of gaslights
Loved out the night was drunken and a mess
While somewhere beyond the suns of streets
Hobbled the moon flabby and utterly useless
Photo and translation by the Russian Reader. Thanks to Comrades Stas and Lena for the heads-up. Originally published in the Futurist anthology Milk of Mares(Moscow: Gileya, 1914), the poem was later republished in a slightly different rendering, featuring punctuation marks, as “The City’s Colossal Hell.”
Politics begins where there are millions, not where there are thousands; not where there are thousands, but only where there are millions does serious politics begin.
—Vladimir Lenin, “Speech at Russian Communist Party Congress,” March 7, 1918
We can identify something similar in rhetorical repetitions. They can act to unfold the “plot,” move the presentation along, develop and refine the arguments. In a word, they can serve the progressive or narrative movement of oratorical discourse. They also generate a kind of “dam” by provoking and intensifying expectation, since the “denouement,” explanation or conclusion at which the speaker drives, and with it the fulcrum bearing the main weight of the speech, is propelled forward. Building a phrase or passage can also be achieved by different means, with the same goal of transferring the main weight to the end. These progressive repetitions can be distinguished from others, which, on the contrary, suspend movement, not by building up its pressure, but by turning it inside itself, as it were, forming a kind of motionless whirlpool, whose funnel, figuratively speaking, swallows and absorbs all our attention. Obscuring the horizon, they cut off our sight lines, thus cancelling the aspect of motion. Precisely this type of repetition prevails in Lenin’s discourse and is characteristic of it, as we have seen in the examples cited. As I indicated in my analysis of these examples, Lenin’s preference for this kind of repetition has to do with the very essence of his discourse. He appeals neither to feelings nor imagination, but to will and determination. His discourse does not deploy a panorama for passive contemplation. It does not serve as a guide, leading the indifferent tourist along. It fights the listener, forcing him to make an active decision, and, to this end, it pins him against the wall. “Don’t move! Hands up! Surrender!” That is the nature of Lenin’s discourse. It does not allow for a choice. I would argue this is the specific essence of oratorical discourse, in particular, of the political speech.
—Boris Kazansky, “Lenin’s Discourse: An Attempt at Rhetorical Analysis,” LEF 1 (5), 1924: 124
Photos and translations by the Russian Reader. Texts excerpted from a special 1924 issue of LEF entitled “Lenin’s Language,” featuring essays by Viktor Shklovsky, Boris Eichenbaum, Lev Yakubinsky, Yuri Tynyanov, Boris Kazansky, and Boris Tomashevsky, and edited by Vladimir Mayakovsky. The English translations of the essays and Mayakovsky’s introduction, “Don’t Merchandise Lenin,” which was excised by censors from the original magazine, will be published in a special edition of a print journal later this summer. Watch this space for more details as they become available.
Russia Has Surpassed the Soviet Union: I Would Only Learn German Because Putin Spoke It
Liana Turpakova Vechorka
February 24, 2017
Russian TV channels were dominated by the February 23 holiday yesterday. The topic of war and patriotism was off the scale at a concert held to mark the holiday, as broacast on Channel One.
One girl recited a poem in the style of Mayakovsky, which ended as follows: “And though I were an old man getting on in years, really, in fact, basically, I would learn to speak German only because Putin had spoken it.”
The audience applauded, of course, and the camera switched to a shot of VVP and Defense Minister Shoigu, seated in the first row. They didn’t smile, but looked on seriously. Shoigu said something to Putin.
I was a Young Pioneer during the Brezhnev era. We recited lots of poems with a patriotic filling, and if they mentioned the names of Soviet leaders, those leaders were dead. I am talking about Lenin. At the time, there were no panegyric verses about the then-General Secretary of the Soviet Communist Party. Words of gratitude were spoken, and there were slogans, but children, at least at my school, did not memorize anything of the sort. Odes to the living leader of the country were composed and declaimed only under Stalin. The parallels are obvious. And they say that insanity flourished in the Soviet Union.
I’ll take another potshot at this ecstatic orgy. How do you like the idea of building a mock-up of the Reichstag, in Patriot Park in Kubinka, for the Yunarmiya kids to storm? As Shoigu noted, they would thus have “a specific location to storm, not just any old place.” We’re talking about the same Yunarmiya kids who performed the doggerel about Putin. I am sure they fought it amongst themselves over how who would get to recite the punchline about the country’s biggest VIP. It was the girl who gets straight A’s at school and whose comportment is impeccable.
I’m not against promoting love for one’s country. But this business about German and Putin is clearly overkill. By the way, it used to be a joke. Now it’s a patriotic poem. The times have changed.
Holiday Concert in Celebration of Defender of the Fatherland Day, 23 February 2017, in its entirety. Originally broadcast on Channel One in Russia