Columbia Library columns (v.33(1983Nov-1984May))

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  v.33,no.2(1984:Feb): Page 3  

The Poet of St. Petersburg



OSCOW has been hailed the "Third Rome" and Len¬
ingrad (formerly St. Petersburg) the "Venice of the
North," yet the city most clearly associated with the
arts, civilization and spirituality of Old Russia is Novgorod. Push¬
kin wrote of Great Novgorod with its "famous tower from the
days of old." Spanning the banks of the Volkhov River, Novgo¬
rod was a vital trade link between Constantinople and the Baltic.
The first onion domes appeared there, and today the age-old city
preserves some of Russia's most awesome churches and most an¬
cient icons.

It was in Novgorod that Mstislav Valerianovich Dobuzhinsky
was born in 1875. Named for an eleventh century descendant of
the Rurik dynasty—St. Mstislav the Brave, Prince of Tmutorokan
and Chernigov—young Mstislav grew up in a house steeped in
Russian music, painting and letters. The daughter of an Orthodox
priest, his mother was a celebrated contralto who inspired his pas¬
sion for the magic of the stage. Dobuzhinsky senior, a Lithuanian
general and a man of great culture, introduced his son to the world
of painters, writers and poets and developed his whole sense of

Following his parents' separation, Dobuzhinsky divided his time
between his mother's home amidst the country gentry of Tambov
and his father's house in St. Petersburg, that city of "glory and
sorrow," where from his window he gazed out at the "silhouette
of the Smolny and the silver glitter of the Neva." He roamed St.
Petersburg's wide boulevards and its lattice-work of canals while

Opposite: Mstislav Dobuzhinsky, Russian artist and scenic designer, drew
this illustration for an edition of Pushkin's Eugene Ovegin, 1938.
  v.33,no.2(1984:Feb): Page 3