Varlam Shalamov

Josefina Lundblad-Janjic

Poetry and Politics: An Allegorical Reading of Varlam Shalamov’s Poem «Аввакум в Пустозерске»

«Мне нужно сжечь себя...»[1]
Shalamov, 1966.
«Ох, да только огонь да мука!» [2]
Avvakum, 1670-1672.

Shalamov considered his 1955 poem «Аввакум в Пустозерске»,[3] composed two years after his return from the camps of Kolyma, one of his most important poems.[4] He also considered the poem, written in amphibrachic dimeter and composed of thirty seven four-line stanzas, to unite the “historical figure” of the seventeenth-century schismatic archpriest Avvakum with elements of “the author’s biography.”[5] Read as an allegory, the poem appears to deal with the violent oppression in the twentieth century which Shalamov personally experienced: the terror under Stalin. A self-proclaimed atheist, Shalamov endows the historical figure of Avvakum not solely with religious but also with political significance: the archpriest of his poem becomes a prominent representative of Russian resistance to the abuse of power. Through the use of allegory, “a place where the political can meet the aesthetic,”[6] Shalamov creates a lyric which, as Avvakum did through his Autobiography three hundred years prior, presents not only a challenge to contemporary society but also an alternative perspective on its most recent past.

While explicitly evoking a religious dispute in the seventeenth century, the poem is implicitly directed at one of the most urgent artistic questions in the second half of the twentieth century: Is poetry allowed after Auschwitz?[7] Constituting a literary monument to the victims of the Soviet camps, the majority of Shalamov’s works can be read as a multifaceted and creative response to Adorno’s contemporaneous assessment of art and culture as having failed.[8] Although Shalamov agreed that literature cannot remain unaltered after the death camps of Nazi Germany and the concentration camps of the Soviet Union,[9] his own literary production after Kolyma displays unrelenting belief in fiction and enduring trust in the importance of poetry.[10] After Auschwitz, some scholars suggest, poetic expression is permitted to live on in allegory;[11] “[t]he only poems possible are those that are concerned with commemorating that suffering, that have absorbed it and have thereby transcended the aesthetic.”[12] Read as a lyric on the verge of ‘transcending the aesthetic,’ and thus located between ‘the aesthetic’ and ‘the political,’ «Аввакум в Пустозерске» appears a historical allegory with several dimensions. In a poem where seventeenth-century religious resistance mirrors twentieth-century political opposition, the focus on the civic aspects of a social conflict not only demonstrates reverence of the traditional significance of Avvakum in Russian culture but also evokes Shalamov’s own characterization of the “soul of poetry” as an instantaneous response to events in contemporary society.[13]

Poetical reflections concerned with the traditional significance of Avvakum in Russian culture can be found in the preceding Russian poetic tradition.[14] In addition to «Аввакум в Пустозерске», two of the poems first written by Shalamov upon his release from the camps of Kolyma, «Утро стрелецкой казни» (1949)[15] and «Боярыня Морозова» (1951),[16] explore other essential aspects of opposition in seventeenth-century Russia, political in the former poem and religious in the latter. In his own notes to «Боярыня Морозова», Shalamov connected it with «Утро стрелецкой казни» and his poem about Avvakum through the three poems’ shared concerns with poetically representing well-known figures of religious and political opposition in Russian history.[17] As a vital cultural symbol, Avvakum figures in poems by other Russian poets, most important of which for Shalamov is the reference to him in N. A. Klyuev’s 1918 narrative poem «Ленин».[18] The poetry collection containing Klyuev’s narrative poem about Lenin, Песнослов, made a lasting impression on the young Shalamov.[19] Apart from Klyuev, the seventeenth-century schismatic priest Avvakum appears to have been ‘in the air’ among the Russian intelligentsia during the first quarter of the twentieth century.[20] This was the historical epoch in which Shalamov matured both as an individual and as a writer; the intellectual explorations, artistic experiments, and political turmoil of the 1920s helped shape him as poet with views on poetic form as well as a citizen with opinions about contemporary politics.

In his capacity as a citizen in a recently founded state, the Soviet Union, Shalamov came to position himself politically early in his 20s as an opponent of Stalin.[21] It was as an active member of the left opposition that he was first sentenced in 1929 to three years of labor camps in the northern Urals.[22] This initial sentence became the cause of his second arrest in 1937.

The political consciousness of Shalamov developed in his 20s, while he actively explored his poetic voice. In his capacity as a nascent Russian poet with a rich and dynamic poetic tradition behind him in the nineteenth century and around him in the twentieth century, Shalamov’s disappointment with the literary circle of O. M. Brik eventually led him on a quest for the roots of the contemporary Russian poetry that surrounded him.[23] Shalamov’s many essays about poetry written in the 1960s and 1970s show traces of a formative youth spent in the literary debates of 1920s Moscow; their predominant focus is on the formal aspects of poetic production. In this regard it should be noted that Shalamov’s notes to the poem «Аввакум в Пустозерске» contain an element of polemics with the view expressed by Mayakovsky in his 1926 essay «Как делать стихи».[24] In his notes, Shalamov contends that the meter chosen for the poem, amphibraic dimeter, invalidates Mayakovsky’s view that the short line in Russian poetry is inappropriate for “heroic or great communications.”[25] The figure of Mayakovsky contained political connotations for Shalamov as well, particularly his suicide in 1930.[26] Shalamov especially remembered the accusation by Stalin that implicated Trotskyists in Mayakovsky’s death.[27]

Shalamov’s notes to the poem illuminate his position as a poet still aware of the literary debates of the 1920s as well as the image of Avvakum it offers to the reader: «Формула Аввакума здесь отличается от канонической».[28] Through its title, «Аввакум в Пустозерске», the poem is situated in the same geographical location where Avvakum composed his autobiography in anticipation of his execution by burning at the stake.[29] The first sixteen stanzas of the poem present an alternative view on the ‘canonical’ understanding of the archpriest’s conflict with the Russian-Orthodox Church. The schism within the Russian-Orthodox Church resulted from incompatible evaluations of the three central religious reforms instigated by Patriarch Nikon: “...a new way of making the sign of the cross, new liturgical vestments for the clergy, and – most importantly – revised liturgical books.”[30] Motivated by the authority of the Greek-Orthodox Church and the amplified political prominence of the Russian state, the reforms were an attempt to bring the Russian church in alignment with what was perceived as an older, and thus more authentic and authoritative, Orthodox religious tradition.

The lyric hero of Shalamov’s poem makes the iconic sign of defiance to religious authority employed by the Old Believers by crossing himself with two fingers instead of three:[31] “Сложеньем двуперстным / Поднялся мой крест, / Горя в Пустозерске, / Блистая окрест.”[32] The following stanzas of the poem, however, diminish the importance of the older ritual in the conflict. The Avvakum of Shalamov’s poem does not sacrifice himself solely for the old features of religious rituals, “Сердит и безумен / Я был, говорят, / Страдал-де и умер / За старый обряд”,[33] but considers this understanding to be but an ‘old legend.’ The difference between the canonical interpretation of Avvakum’s opposition to the reforms of Nikon and Shalamov’s ‘formula’ of Avvakum in the poem is expressed in stanza six: “Ведь суть не в обрядах, / Не в этом – вражда. / Для Божьего взгляда / Обряд – ерунда.”[34] Through a shift from first person singular to first person plural, the lyric hero unites his individual ‘I’ with the larger social context of a ‘we’ to introduce a contrastive perspective on the religious conflict: “Наш спор – не духовный / О возрасте книг. / Наш спор – не церковный / О пользе вериг.”[35] Emphasized as neither a spiritual nor an ecclesiastical dispute, the renowned schism becomes endowed with a dimension beyond the immediate importance of reformed sacred attributes. This dimension seems to have political rather than religious implications: “Наш спор – о свободе, / О праве дышать, / О воле Господней / Вязать и решать.”[36] This interpretation of the seventeenth-century schism thus underscores its implicit consequences for contemporary civic society; the lyric hero argues here for a fundamental right to freedom and makes an appeal to the ultimate authority of a higher, and consequently otherworldly, power. Through its extensive as well as alternate elucidation of the religious conflict, Shalamov’s poem brings the abuse of power to the forefront of its content. This provides one possible explanation for its preoccupation with images of physical violence.

Depictions of physical violence dominate several episodes in Avvakum’s autobiography. The meticulous attention paid by Avvakum to the violence he endured from representatives of church authority can be explained by the genre of his work; Avvakum compiled his autobiography within the medieval tradition of hagiography. Though undoubtedly more complex than previous works in the tradition,[37] Житие протопопа Аввакума is oriented toward the religious concept of martyrdom.[38] In Shalamov’s poem, the traditional concept of the martyrs’ tortured bodies is evoked through a paradoxical image: “Целитель душевный / Карал телеса. / От происков гневных / Мы скрылись в леса.”[39] The overarching importance of the body, tortured in the process of a potential spiritual healing, and also of the lyric hero who emulates this corporeal witness of faith throughout the poem, is emphasized already in the poem’s first two lines: “Не в брёвнах, а в рёбрах / Церковь моя.”[40] This last quoted line, the only irregular line in a poem defined by complete metrical regularity, underlines the central significance of the church as body, a social institution confined within human ribs rather than built of wooden logs. The opening lines present a striking image of the preference for the martyred body over any other material manifestation of the church. Marks upon the tortured body of the lyric hero become a way of documenting violence similar to the meticulous recollection of physical abuse from representatives of religious authority abounding in Avvakum’s autobiography: “Мне выжгли морозом / Клеймо на щеке, / Мне вырвали ноздри / На горной реке.”[41] This stanza can also be seen to connote the marks left on Shalamov’s body during his time in the camps of Kolyma.

Whereas God actively aids Avvakum with the endurance of his body and thus secures his survival, Shalamov leaves his lyric hero in the hands of a more subtle and rather passive God. He does not act; his words provide the only comfort: “Сурового Бога / Гремели слова: / Страдания много, / Но церковь – жива.”[42] Within the context of the poem, the second reference to the church suggests neither a material building nor a social institution resisting exterior rupture; rather, it underscores that what remains alive despite violence is the body of the martyr. Emphasized as the only tangible embodiment of the church, the body of the lyric hero becomes the premise not only for sustained life but also for continued community. This stanza, stanza sixteen, marks the end of the poem’s prolonged unification of the lyric hero’s ‘I’ with the larger social entity of ‘we’ for whom he appears to be speaking. The declaration of the surviving body of the martyr, which is viewed as the foundation for an oppositional church as well as the symbol of its continued resistance to oppression, gives way to several stanzas devoted to a narration of events from Avvakum’s life.

The historical facts narrated by the poem can be verified against episodes from Avvakum’s autobiography. The poem names several geographical locations familiar from Avvakum’s depiction of Siberian exile, such as Andronevsky Monastery[43] (“И аз, непокорный, / Читая Псалтырь, / В Андроньевский чёрный / Пришел монастырь.”),[44] the remote area of Dauria,[45] (“Я, подвиг приемля, / Шагнул за порог, / В Даурскую землю / Ушёл на восток.”),[46] and the river Amur[47] (“На синем Амуре / Молебен служил...”).[48] The poem does not merely incorporate geographical locations and historical circumstances known from Avvakum’s autobiography – it also presents a continuous as well as conscious combination of the legendary fate of the archpriest with biographical details which could have been taken from the Northern exile experienced by Shalamov. One such combination of the biographical poet’s fate with the fate of the poem’s historical figure can be illustrated by stanza eighteen: “Я был ещё молод / И всё перенёс: / Побои, и голод, / И светский допрос.”[49] As Avvakum was still a young man when he first suffered the consequences of his religious dissidence, so Shalamov had not yet turned twenty-two the first time he endured “beatings, and hunger, and secular interrogation” as a member of the left opposition. The similarities of experience which the lyric hero shares with both Avvakum and Shalamov are further complicated in stanza twenty-four by the employment of the reformed spelling of Jesus in Russian, Иисус, rather than Исус, which is used by the archpriest throughout his autobiography: “И вытерпеть Бога / Пронзительный взор / Немногие могут / С Иисусовых пор” [emphasis added – J. L.].[50] This use of reformed, and thus foreign to Avvakum, orthography in a poem which otherwise imitates elements of his discourse fatefully – for example, in stanza seventeen, “И аз, непокорный, / Читая Псалтырь...”[51] [emphasis added – J. L.] – indicates that the poem is not merely about the historical figure of Avvakum.[52]

The lyric hero, who in stanza twenty-three asserts a martyr-like approach to salvation as attainable through penal servitude – “Но к Богу дорога / Извечно одна: / По дальним острогам / Проходит она”[53] – should be equated neither with Avvakum speaking through Shalamov’s pen nor with Shalamov writing in Avvakum’s voice. Rather than becoming one or the other, the emphasis of the poem on the striking similarities between these two representatives of Russian resistance creates a lyric hero whose identity requires ambivalence. The lyric hero speaks from a position which ultimately blends two historical moments and connects two individual experiences of oppression; the lyric hero both suffers as a schismatic priest in seventeenth-century Russia and endures as a political convict in twentieth-century Soviet Union. It is this continuous combination and conscious contamination of the dramatic fates of two temporally removed individuals that affords the lyric hero the possibility to speak of a larger civic concern. Through an ambivalent rather than decisive poetic voice, Shalamov’s poem attempts to address the conflict in its political dimensions.

In addition to the lyric hero, his ‘I’ united in a ‘we’ against ‘them,’ represented as the clergy of darkness (“Служители тьми. // В святительском платье, / В больших клобуках…”),[54] the poem contains two other lyric objects: Nastasia and a female representative of Hell in the form of a snake. In Avvakum’s autobiography, his wife Anastasia is already dead at the time of his writing.[55] Though deceased, Anastasia occupies a prominent place in both Avvakum’s secular life and his priestly work: she shares the exile of her husband and supports him through his travails. Four stanzas, twenty-five to twenty-eight, are devoted to Nastasia, who here becomes the female beloved of the lyric hero. Although these stanzas may initially seem out of place in Shalamov’s poem, they provide another opportunity for distinction and differentiation between the fate of the historical Avvakum and that of Shalamov’s lyric hero. In the poem, Nastasia appears to outlive her husband; she is encouraged to continue the road begun by him and thus also to continue his struggle against agents of evil: “Бреди по дороге, / Не бойся змеи, / Которая ноги / Кусает твои.”[56] The appeal of the lyric hero to a female counterpart invites the second appearance of evil in the poem through a feminized snake. In her encounter with this demonic force, Nastasia seems more than simply a poetic representation of the historical wife of Avvakum. Through this Biblical parallel she is identified with the prototypical feminine in the Judeo-Christian tradition: Eve. Yet in the poem she also encompasses a third dimension, as is indicated by her presumed journey to the distant location where the lyric hero is imprisoned: “Здесь птичьего пенья / Никто не слыхал, / Здесь учат терпенью / И мудрости скал.”[57] Through this concluding stanza devoted to the figure of Nastasia, she appears as a symbol for the many women in Russian history who willingly followed their husbands into Siberian exile.[58]

The last seven stanzas of the poem narrate the final moment of the condemned lyric hero through the multifaceted features contained in his execution by burning at the stake.[59] His execution is represented not by death but by disappearance: his demise is illustrated by snow covering his tracks on the ground (“Серебряной пылью / Мой след занесён...”)[60] and fiery wings taking him up toward heaven (“На огненных крыльях / Я в небо внесён.”).[61] The metaphysical dimensions of his disappearance are presented through the reversal of an image familiar from the New Testament: “Сквозь голод и холод, / Сквозь горе и страх / Я к Богу, как голубь, / Поднялся с костра.”[62] Rather than a bird descending to Earth, the ascension of the lyric hero in the symbolic shape traditionally reserved for the Holy Spirit demonstrates that he has acquired a different kind of power. Beyond religious and political authority, his inverted baptism through fire constitutes a ritual of initiation: transformed into the worldly form of the Holy Spirit, the lyric hero is also transfigured into a prophet. His execution becomes his transfiguration; it is his disappearance in flames that bestows upon him the right to prophesize about the past as well as about the future: “Тебе обещаю, / Далекая Русь, / Врагам не прощая, / Я с неба вернусь.”[63] By addressing Rus’ as ‘you,’ his prophetic promise seems to take on epic proportions.[64] Whether “Далекая Русь” is read as Avvakum’s appeal to a distant future, perhaps that of Shalamov, or as Shalamov engaging with the remote Russia of Avvakum (or even a future Russia yet unknown), the stanza remains a prophesy of revenge.

Such a prophesy demands preservation of the lyric hero in collective memory; without it, continued influence appears impossible. The termination of the body of Avvakum in Shalamov’s poem – the surviving vessel of a thus enduring church – generates a material trace in the form of ashes rather than a grave: “Пускай я осмеян / И предан костру, / Пусть прах мой развеян / На горном ветру.”[65] Burned but never buried, fragments of this embodied church are seen as living on in his ashes that are spread with the wind. The foundation for Avvakum’s continued influence thus appears to be contained in the air. As the reader remembers from the alternative view of the religious dispute offered by stanza twelve (“На спор — о свободе, / О праве дышать...”),[66] air was implicit in what the poem establishes as the civic essence of the seventeenth-century conflict: the right to breathe.

The final stanza, stanza thirty-seven, suggests not only that the Avvakum of the poem was breathed in by his contemporaries, “Нет участи слаще, / Желанней конца, / Чем пепел, стучащий / В людские сердца,”[67] but also indicates a perpetual process of inhalation through its use of the present tense. The last two stanzas, in which the lyric hero is denied a grave as his body evaporates, can be read as an allegorical representation of the mass graves in which those who perished in the camps were buried. As the bodies of millions of anonymous victims were denied a traditional burial ritual and an individual grave, so the lyric hero finds himself without. In its concluding stanzas, the poem reveals its allegorical complexity as it ultimately rewrites the cultural implications of the historical person of Avvakum. As his execution necessitates a transformation from priest to prophet, his cultural legacy also undergoes a reevaluation: his fate becomes felicitous rather than fatal. Thus, Shalamov does not merely appropriate the culturally significant image of Avvakum – he “confiscates” it so as to make it speak both for and to a new historical context.[68]

Read as ‘confiscated imagery,’ Avvakum’s potent promise of revenge offered in the two final stanzas allows the reader to go back and read the poem not only against the autobiography of Avvakum and the biography of Shalamov. As an allegory, «Аввакум в Пустозерске» also requires a reading against the fates of those who perished under the terror of Stalin. Both through its content and through its form – thirty-seven stanzas suggest the year 1937, the year of the most intense political purges in the Soviet Union – the poem demands a reading beyond the limited historic personalities of Avvakum and Shalamov. The ‘we’ for which the lyric hero speaks should be viewed as constituting his contemporaries forced into silence; in this way, the Siberia of exile he describes is neither personal nor solely that of Avvakum in seventeenth-century Russia. Rather, the landscape is also the geographically remote area through which millions of convicts passed on their way to Siberian camps during Stalin. The delicate boundaries between the ‘I’ of the lyric subject and the larger social entity of a ‘we’, between Avvakum and Shalamov, between seventeenth-century religious resistance and twentieth-century political opposition, articulate a complex communion. This communion promises unity through painful experiences endured, as well as shared, over centuries.

The necessity of such a temporally removed connection, premised as it is on allegory as the only possible outlet for poetic expression, indicates a challenge facing poets in the Soviet Union: how to represent instances of violence and oppression in the recent past? Stanzas like number seven, “Что в детстве любили, / Что славили мы, / Внезапно разбили / Служители тьмы,”[69] or number nine, “Нас гнали на плаху, / Тащили в тюрьму, / Покорствуя страху / В душе своему,”[70] could be read either as explicit representations of the persecution of Old Believers in the seventeenth century or as implicit depictions of juridical abuse during the Stalin period. To find an analogous instance of cruelty from representatives of power, a historical parallel equally violent in its oppression of oppositional forces, the lyric hero must go back three hundred years in Russian history. This appears, however, not to be the only reason for the choice of such a temporally remote conflict. The remoteness of its explicit content, the well-known religious schism within the Russian-Orthodox Church, could have allowed «Аввакум в Пустозерске» to be published in the Soviet Union during Shalamov’s lifetime.[71]

Through Shalamov’s poem, the fate of the Old Believers resounds in the fate of the victims of the twentieth-century terror. As Avvakum became a spokesman for the religious resistance of his contemporaries, so Shalamov constructs a lyric hero who can articulate the agonizing experience of those who perished as part of an actual or perceived opposition in his own epoch. One possible reading of the poem, namely as a historical, and perhaps even political, allegory, illuminates its implicit meaning as well as its powerful statement.[72] Although the poem cannot be said to have ‘transcended the aesthetic,’ for it remains foremost a deeply moving, carefully crafted, and beautifully narrated lyric, it undoubtedly contains political dimensions. Shaped in the form of metrically regular verse, the steady rhythm of which echoes religious incantations, it creates Shalamov himself and his epoch by recreating Avvakum and his epoch. Such a poetic revitalization of the cultural significance of Avvakum and the civic implications of the schism in the Russian-Orthodox Church (most recently for the context of the poem in the 1920s – Avvakum’s symbolic power was to be renewed within the context of Russian poetry in the 1960s)[73] serves as a reminder that silent submission to the violence of authority is not the only option. This poem illustrates that for Shalamov poetic expression remains a viable alternative through which to articulate persistent resistance as well as to commemorate immense suffering – even after Auschwitz and Kolyma.


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  • 1. Citation from one of Shalamov’s 1966 notebooks. Шаламов, В. Т. Несколько моих жизней. Воспоминания. Записные книжки. Переписка. Следственные дела (М.: Эксмо, 2009), 307.
  • 2. Аввакум. Житие протопопа Аввакума, им самим написанное. This paper cites from its publication in original orthography in Робинсон, А. Н. Жизнеописание Аввакума и Епифания. Исследование и тексты (М.: Издательство Академии наук СССР, 1963), 173.
  • 3. The poem first appeared in an abridged version in «Дорога и судьба», Shalamov’s third collection of poetry published in the Soviet Union in 1967 (Шаламов В.Т. Дорога и судьба. М.: Советский писатель, 1967, 80-84). In «Колымские тетради», his collection of six poetry cycles corresponding to the six cycles of prose entitled «Колымские рассказы», however, it is the last poem in the fourth volume «Златые горы» (Шаламов В. Т. Собрание сочинений. В 6 тт. / Сост., подготовка текста, вступ. ст. и примеч. И. П. Сиротинской. М.: ТЕРРА-Книжный клуб, 2004, vol. III, 183-187).
  • 4. «Одно из моих главных стихотворений». Ibid., 458.
  • 5. «Стихотворение мне особенно дорого, ибо исторический образ соединен и с пейзажем и с особенностями авторской биографии». Ibid.
  • 6. ”[D]et är sålunda inte att undra på att allegorin alltid har varit en central del av politiska motsättningar och strider. Det enskilda litterära verket blir, genom allegorins försorg, en plats där det politiska kan möta det estetiska.” (“[T]here is thus no wonder that allegory has always been a central part of political tensions and conflicts. The individual literary work becomes, through the agency of allegory, a place where the political can meet the aesthetic.” Translation: J. L.). Olsson, Ulf, and Wiktorsson, Per Anders, eds. Allegori, estetik, politik: texter om litteratur (Eslöv: B. Östlings bokförlag Symposion, 2003), 10.
  • 7. “To write poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric. And this corrodes even the knowledge of why it has become impossible to write poetry today.” Adorno, Theodor W. “Cultural Criticism and Society” // Can One Live after Auschwitz? A Philosophical Reader. Edited by Rolf Tiedeman (Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 2003), 162.
  • 8. Adorno’s essay “Cultural Criticism and Society” was written in 1949 and published in 1951.
  • 9. See the following argument in Shalamov’s sketch to his 1965 essay «О прозе» (the untitled sketch is often referred to as «О “новой прозе”»): «...после самообслуживания в Освенциме и Серпантинной на Колыме, после войн и революции все дидактическое отвергается. Искусство лишено права на проповедь. Никто никого учить не может, не имеет права учить». Шаламов В.Т., Собрание сочинений. Vol. V, 157.
  • 10. Poetry proved a vital form of personal expression for many Gulag convicts, both while in the camps and upon their release: «Именно лирика – эта форма искусства, столь часто замыкающаяся в башню из слоновой кости, была в сталинское время основным жанром писательского творчества в ГУЛАГе и о ГУЛАГе.» Хартманн, Анне. «“Окно в прошлое.” Прочесть лагерь заново» // Osteuropa, year 57, vol. 6 (June 2007), 55-80. Cited from the Russian translation made for (date accessed: 5/30/2012).
  • 11. “But we no longer have recourse, after Auschwitz, to either the analogy of beauty or to the symbolic mode as a means of imagining human freedom. Allegory, however, remains a viable choice.” Siebers, Tobin. “Allegory and the Aesthetic Ideology” // Interpretation and Allegory. Antiquity to the Modern Period. Withman, Jon, ed. (Leiden: Brill, 2000), 479.
  • 12. Adorno, Can One Live after Auschwitz?, xvii.
  • 13. From the essay «Поэт изнутри»: «Душа поэзии – современность, абсолютная и сиюминутная. В этом-то и есть гражданственность – в отклике на все события эпохи и страны, на сиюминутности, сейсмичности.» Шаламов В. Т. Собрание сочинений. Vol. V, 171.
  • 14. See, for example, the recent compilation Протопоп Аввакум в русской поэзии. Сборник стихов. Сост. К. Я. Кожурин (М.: Археодоксiя, 2011). The collection contains the following poems ordered chronologically: «Протопоп Аввакум» (1887) by D. Merezhkovsky, «Аввакум и семья в изгнании» by P. Shmakov, «Где рай финифтяный и Сирин...» and «Псалтырь царя Алексея...» by N. Kluyev, «Протопоп Аввакум» (1918) by M. Voloshin, «Протопица» (1939) by A. Nesmelov, «Аввакум в Пустозерске» (1955) by V. Shalamov, «Аввакум» (1964) by V. Fyodorov, and «Словно по воде круги от камня...» by Yu. Drugina.
  • 15. The poem was first published in Шаламлов, В. Т. Дорога и судьба (M.: Советский писатель, 1967, 78-79). In the poetry cycle «Колымские тетради», it is included in the second volume entitled «Сумка почтальона» (Шаламов В. Т. Собрание сочинений. Vol. III, 77-78).
  • 16. I am grateful to Dr. Laura Kline, who directed my attention to «Боярыня Морозова» in this context. The poem was first published in Шаламлов, В. Т. Огниво (M.: Советский писатель, 1961). In the poetry cycle «Колымские тетради», it is included in the second volume entitled «Сумка почтальона» (Шаламов В. Т. Собрание сочинений. Vol. III, 78-79).
  • 17. See Shalamov’s commentary: «Кроме северных пейзажей, кроме многоцветного и многоформенного разнообразия камня, серебристых русских рек, багровых болот, внимание автора моей биографии обращается на русскую историю. В русской истории наибольшую твердость, наибольший героизм показали старообрядцы, раскольники. Вот о них-то и написана “Боярыня Морозова”, о них-то и написано “Утро стрелецкой казни” и моя маленькая поэма “Аввакум в Пустозерске”». Шаламов, Собрание сочинений. Vol. III, 450.
  • 18. In Yurii Rozanov’s article about Avvakum in the works of Remizov and Shalamov, three reasons for the increased interest in Avvakum at the beginning of the twentieth century are given. The third reason appears predominantly political and is illustrated by Klyuev’s narrative poem of 1918: «Присутствие Аввакума в революционных святцах в статусе одного из первых борцов за освобождение трудового народа. <...> В этой связи не такой уж странной и надуманной выглядит ода «Ленин» Н. А. Клюева (1918), в которой крестьянский поэт представляет большевистского вождя как последователя Аввакума и братьев Денисовых: “Есть в Ленине керженский дух, / Игуменский окрик в декретах, / Как будто истоки разрух / Он ищет в “Поморских ответах”.» Розанов, Юрий. Протопоп Аввакум в творческом сознании А. М. Ремизова и В. Т. Шаламова // К столетию со дня рождения Варлама Шаламова: материалы Международной научной конференции (М.: 2007), 301–315 (date accessed: 5/25/2012).
  • 19. From the essay «Кое-что о моих стихах»: «Встреча с есенинскими сборниками, “Песнословом” Клюева, с “Поэзоантрактом” Северянина – самое сильное впечатление от столкновения с поезией тех лет» [most likely, Shalamov is speaking about his school years in Vologda – J. L.]. (Шаламов В. Т. Собрание сочинений. Vol. V, 96).
  • 20. «В литературе первой половины XX века к образу и творчеству Аввакума также обращались Д. С. Мережковский, М. А. Волошин, А. И. Несмелое, М. М. Пришвин, М. А. Кузьмин, A. M. Ремизов и В. Т. Шаламов.» Розанов, «Протопоп Аввакум в творческом сознании А. М. Ремизова и В. Т. Шаламова».
  • 21. See, for example, the following comment about Shalamov’s continuous dedication to political resistance in the Soviet Union: «Когда в декабре 1965 г. состоялась первая (после почти сорокалетнего перерыва) политическая демонстрация в защиту Синявского и Даниэля, Шаламов, двадцатилетним юношей участвовавший в предыдущей демонстрации оппозиции в ноябре 1927 г. под лозунгом «Долой Сталина!», пришел к Пушкинской площади». Иванов, Вячеслав. «Аввакумова доля» (date accessed: 4/19/2012).
  • 22. At the end of his interrogation before being sentenced as a Trotskyist on February 29 1929, Shalamov added to the protocol: «Я считаю, что руководство ВКП(б) сползает вправо, тем самым способствует усилению капиталистических элементов в городе и деревне и тем самым служит делу реставрации капитализма в СССР. Я разделяю взгляды оппозиции. <...> На всякие вопросы, относящиеся к моей оппозиционной деятельности я отвечать отказываюсь». Шаламов, Несколько моих жизней, 949.
  • 23. From the essay «Маяковский мой и всеобщий»:«Я искал не современные маски давнишних литературных сражений, а истинные истоки футуризма, истинные истоки ЛЕФа, моего современника, моего сверстника.» Шаламов В. Т. Собрание сочинений. Vol. V, 175.
  • 24. «Стихотворение это, маленькая поэма, дорого мне и тем, что в нем убедительно опровергнута необязательность взгляда Маяковского («Как делать стихи») на короткую строку в русской поэзии». Ibid., vol. III, 458.
  • 25. «Из размеров я не знаю ни одного. Я просто убежден для себя, что для героических или величественных передач надо брать длинные размеры с большим количеством слогов, а для веселых – короткие». Маяковский, В. В. Полное собрание сочинений. В 30-и тт. (М.: Издательство Академии наук СССР, 1959), vol. XII, 102.
  • 26. From the essay «Русские поэты XX столетия и десталинизация»: «Творчество раннего Маяковского Сталина, очевидно, не смущало. Самоубийство – тоже не смущало. В нем можно было обвинить очередных троцкистов.» Шаламов В. Т. Собрание сочинений. Vol. V, 67.
  • 27. From the essay «Маяковский мой и всеобщий»:«В 1930 году Маяковский покончил с собой, но не из-за разочарований в Рапе, а из-за крайней, удивительной неустроенности личного быта. Ровно через два года после смерти Маяковского правительство закрыло РАПП, но, конечно, не из-за смерти автора поэмы «Во весь голос». РАПП закрыли бы и без самоубийства Маяковского. РАПП, в общем-то, ничего, кроме добра, Маяковскому не сделал. Никаких троцкистов в Рапе, конечно, не было, сторонники Троцкого скорее ориентировались на «Перевал» и тоже очень усердно.» Ibid., 181.
  • 28. Ibid., vol. III, 458.
  • 29. «Житие протопопа Аввакума, им самим написанное» was written 1672-1673 by Avvakum while imprisoned in the northern Russian town of Pustozersk. He was executed together with other representatives of the Old Believers by being burned alive on April 1 1682 in the same town.
  • 30. Michels, Georg Bernhard. At War with the Church. Religious Dissent in Seventeenth Century Russia. (Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 1999), 23.
  • 31. The two-fingered sign of cross is a culturally recognizable symbol of Russian religious resistance in the seventeenth-century. See, for example, Vasily Surikov’s famous 1887 painting with the same name as Shalamov’s 1951 poem, «Боярыня Морозова»: «...ее везут под конвоем по Москве в простых крестьянских санях, закованную в цепи, а она, обратившись к толпе воспаленными очами, возвела к небу руку с двуперстным крестом.» Синявский, А. Д. Иван-дурак: Очерк русской народной веры (М.: Аграф, 2001), 346. Compare this description with the image in the second stanza of Shalamov’s poem: «И широкым знаменьем двуперстным / Осеняет шапки и платки / Впереди – несчитанные версты, / И снега – светлы и глубоки.» Шаламов, Собрание сочинений, vol. III, 78.
  • 32. Ibid., 183.
  • 33. Ibid.
  • 34. Ibid.
  • 35. Ibid., 184.
  • 36. Ibid.
  • 37. «Традиционный жанр жития осложняется в результате исповедью Аввакума. Его книга – исповедь, но исповедь особого рода.» Синявский, Иван-дурак, 340.
  • 38. «В целом Житие Аввакума и строится на подробном исчеслении всевозможных мук и казней, которые он претерпел. Ибо Аввакум собственную жизнь измеряет суммой полученных им и тщательно вычитанных и описанных побоев, ран, лишений, которые исходят от врагов Бога и благочестия. Сама конкретность нарисованной картины во многом продиктована необходимостью точно изобразить все хождения Аввакума по мукам и представить их как своего рода послужной список.» Ibid., 333.
  • 39. Шаламов, Собрание сочинений, vol. III, 184. This stanza is omitted from the version published in 1967. Its two last lines could refer to a folksong in the tradition of the Old Believers: «Я сокроюся в лесах темных, / Водворюся со зверями, / Там я стану жить». Плеханов, Г. В. Раскол как одно из выражений общественной мысли. Соч., т. XX. М.-Л., 1925, 353. Cited in Базанов, В. Г. «Гремел мой прадед Аввакум»: (Аввакум, Клюев, Блок) // Культурное наследие Древней Руси: Истоки. Становление. Традиции (М.: Наука, 1976), 334-348 (date accessed 5/25/2012).
  • 40. Шаламов, Собрание сочинений, vol. III, 184.
  • 41. Ibid., 185.
  • 42. Ibid. This stanza is omitted from the version published in 1967.
  • 43. «Егда ж россветало в день недельный, посадили меня на телегу, и ростянули руки, и везли от патриархова двора до Андроньева монастыря и тут на чепи кинули в темную полатку, ушла в землю, и сидел три дни, ни ел, ни пил; во тьме сидя, кланялся на чепи, не знаю – на восток, не знаю – на запад.» Аввакум, Житие протопопа Аввакума in Робинсон, Жизнеописание Аввакума и Епифания, 147.
  • 44. Шаламов, Собрание сочинений, vol. III, 185.
  • 45. «Таже сел опять на корабль свой, еже и показан ми, что выше сего рекох, – поехал на Лену. А как приехал в Енисейской, другой указ пришел: велено в Дауры вести – двадцеть тысящ и больши будет от Москвы.» Аввакум, Житие протопопа Аввакума in Робинсон, Жизнеописание Аввакума и Епифания, 149.
  • 46. Шаламов, Собрание сочинений, vol. III, 185.
  • 47. Though the river Amur as such is lacking from Avvakum’s many mentions of Siberian rivers, it could be a reference to Nercha River, the left tributary of the Shilka River which is Amur’s basin, and thus perhaps referring to the following episode from the autobiography: «...и мы год-другой тянулися, на Нерче реке живучи, с травою перебиваючися. Все люди с голоду поморил, никуды не отпускал промышлять, – осталось небольшое место; по степям скитающеся и по полям, траву и корение копали, а мы – с ними же; а зимою – сосну; а иное кобылятины бог даст, и кости находили от волков пораженных зверей, и что волк не доест, мы то доедим.» Аввакум, Житие протопопа Аввакума in Робинсон, Жизнеописание Аввакума и Епифания, 151.
  • 48. Шаламов, Собрание сочинений, vol. III, 185.
  • 49. Ibid.
  • 50. Ibid. This stanza is omitted from the version published in 1967.
  • 51. Ibid., 185.
  • 52. The manuscript version of «Аввакум в Пустозерске» found in one of his notebooks of poetry from 1954-1958, however, complicates this reading of the adjectival form as it shows that Shalamov originally spelled it «Исусових» and thus in accordance with the orthography of Avvakum. Шаламов, В. Т. Тетради с записями стихотворений 1954-1958. Российский государственный архив литературы и искусства [РГАЛИ], фонд 2596, опись 3, единица хранения 16, 44-47 and 21 (the page enumeration within the separate notebooks of poetry appears cursory and in need of vigilant reorganization).
  • 53. Ibid. This stanza is omitted from the version published in 1967. It also seems to contain an allusion to a song from the folkloric tradition of the Old Believers: «В каторгу дорожка, / Пострадает молодец / За тебя немножко...». Cited in Базанов, «Гремел мой прадед Аввакум».
  • 54. Шаламов, Собрание сочинений, 184. This stanza is omitted from the version published in 1967.
  • 55. See the first reference by Avvakum in his autobiography to the death of his wife: «В то же время родился сын мой Прокопей, которой сидит с матерью в земле закопан.» Аввакум, Житие протопопа Аввакума in Робинсон, Жизнеописание Аввакума и Епифания, 144.
  • 56. Шаламов, Собрание сочинений, vol. III, 186. This stanza is omitted from the version published in 1967.
  • 57. Ibid.
  • 58. In this context, the wives of the Decembrists are the first to come to mind. Within Shalamov’s own historical period, however, Nastasia of the poem can also be suggested to embody the fate of the wives who undertook the dangerous journey to visit their husbands in remote camps during the Stalin era: “Shalamov told me [Nadezhda Mandel’shtam – J. L.] that women sometimes came to see their husbands in Kolyma to try to cheer them up. It was a journey entailing unbelievable hardship; they were beaten and raped... But they came nonetheless, and they stayed. But Shalamov said he never once heard of a man coming to see a wife or a sweetheart.” Polivanov, Konstantin, ed., Beriozkina, Patricia, trans. Anna Akhmatova and Her Circle (Fayetteville: The University of Arkansas Press, 1994), 102. Avvakum and the fate of his wife appears also in Nadezhda Mandel’shtams memoirs: «А меня, когда я осталась одна, все поддерживала фраза О. М.: “Почему ты думаешь, что должна быть счастливой?”, да еще слова протопопа Аввакума: “Сколько нам еще идти, протопоп?” – спросила изнемогающая жена. “До самой могилы, попадья”, - ответил муж, и она встала и пошла дальше.» Мандельштам, Надежда. Воспоминания (М.: Согласие, 1999, 69). Cited from an electronic version: (date accessed: 7/9/2012).
  • 59. The burning of Avvakum became emblematic for the resistance of the Old Believers: «На то, как далеко зашел раскол, указывают случаи массовых самосожений, к которым порой прибегали старообрядцы. Эту идею сформулировал еще Аввакум, советуя не бояться огня и в случае необходимости прибегать к этому способу, как он красочно выражался, “огнепальных истребительных смертей”.» Синявский, Иван-дурак, 352. It is perhaps in the light of this tradition Shalamov’s powerful statement in a notebook from 1966, «Мне нужно сжечь себя, чтобы привлечь внимание», should be understood. Шаламов, В. Т. Несколько моих жизней, 307.
  • 60. Шаламов, Собрание сочинений, vol. III, 186.
  • 61. Ibid.
  • 62. Ibid., 187. This stanza is omitted from the version published in 1967.
  • 63. Ibid.
  • 64. Compare with, for example, Blok’s exclamation «О Русь моя, жена моя!» in the poem «На поле Куликовом».
  • 65. Шаламов, Собрание сочинений, vol. III, 187.
  • 66. Ibid., 184.
  • 67. Ibid., 187.
  • 68. “Allegorical imagery is appropriated imagery; the allegorist does not invent images but confiscates them. He lays claim to the culturally significant, poses as its interpreter. And in his hands the image becomes something other (allos = other + agoreuei = to speak). He does not restore original meaning that may have been lost or obscured; allegory is not hermeneutics. Rather, he adds another meaning to the image. If he adds, however, he does so only to replace: the allegorical meaning supplants an antecedent one; it is a supplement.” Owens, Craig. “The Allegorical Impulse: Toward a Theory of Postmodernism” // October, Vol. 12 (Spring 1980), 69.
  • 69. Шаламов, Собрание сочинений, vol. III, 184. This stanza is omitted from the version published in 1967.
  • 70. Ibid. In the version published in 1967, this first line of this stanza reads «И гнали на плаху...».
  • 71. «Аввакум в Пустозерске» was published in the 1967 poetry collection Дорога и судьба in an abridged version made by the editor Viktor Fogelson. In a private conversation on the topic, V. V. Esipov suggested this was not due to ‘politics’ but because of the large size of the poem. A comparison of the poem published in 1967 and the 1955 version, however, seems to indicate that politics could have been at stake in diminishing it from thirty-seven to twenty-six stanzas: several potent stanzas referenced in this paper are omitted from the published version.
  • 72. “If for some allegory remains a means of interpretive ‘closure,’ for others it is a way of opening texts which would otherwise remain inscrutably closed, developing the conditions in which readers can encounter them. While it is still argued that allegory is a form of ‘dehistorization,’ some have suggested that ‘historization’ has its own allegorical tendencies, correlating texts with the ‘spirit’ of the age or the ideology of the critic.” Whitman, Jon. “A Retrospect Forward: Interpretation, Allegory, and Historical Change” // Interpretation and Allegory. Antiquity to the Modern Period, 15-16.
  • 73. «Ахматова однажды назвала нас “аввакумовцами” – за наше нежелание идти ни на какие уступки ради возможности опубликовать стихи и получать признание Союза писателей.» Найман, А. Рассказы о Анне Ахматовой. М.: 1999. Cited in Тименчик, Р. Д. Анна Ахматова в 1960-е годы (Москва & Toronto: Водолей Publishers, The University of Toronto, 2005), 587.