Holy Russia and Her Tribulations

“Holy Russia” by Maxmillian Voloshin was written during the Russian Revolution and expressed feelings of hope and love for Russia at a time when most people felt neither.  Before analyzing the poem, it would help to learn about the author of the poem to fully appreciate and understand this fine piece of literature.
Maxmillian Voloshin was a famous poet during the Russian Civil War period who was well known for his compassion and optimistic outlook in a seemingly dark world.  Voloshin (1877-1932) was born in Kiev and lived in Crimea during the Civil War.  He refused to participate in the war or even choose a side in it.  Voloshin helped house refugees from both sides and refused to hate anyone.  He cited love as the motivating factor for his actions because he believed that eventually love would be the basis of human society.  He was a religious man who believed in God and love.  Voloshin would go to great lengths to love and help anyone that he could; a prime example would be his story of helping a man out by the name of Marx.  Marx was a neighbor of his who was falsely accused of being a revolutionary and Voloshin stood by him–even though he did not know him very much–and refused to leave his side until his death sentence was repealed.  What is amazing about this story is that the official in charge of sentencing Marx was so adamant about killing him yet the love spewed by Voloshin won out.  The hate and anger evoked from the official I feel is very indicative of the time.  As a country divided over ideologies, hate and anger must have been present–but just a little love can go a long way, as seen in the man Marx’s case.  It was actions like these that defined Voloshin–a man guided by compassion and love.
Now that Voloshin has been introduced, “Holy Russia” can be properly analyzed.  Voloshin writes in first person addressing Russia as if she is a person.  In the poem he describes all the positive characteristics that Russia has given her people and vice versa. It even explains how the hardships endured by the Russian people have given birth to good things.  The poem begins with Voloshin explaining how the people of Russia have built beautiful cities (Moscow and Suzdal) which basically reflect the love the Russians have for their country.  It continues on to say how the Emperor’s palace was built so beautifully for Russia: “It was for your sake, was it not,/That the carpenter Emperor/Built his house both broad and long/With casements opening on the earth’s five seas?”  He draws a picture of the beauties that Russia provides including the peaceful monasteries and beautiful forests in which they are found.  The poem escalates towards the end where Voloshin explains how Russia “gave herself” to be robbed, plundered, and burned. However, he says that these things were all a part of Russia’s “unbridled flame” and passion.  Condemning these parts of Russia, says Voloshin, would be to go against her passion and her history.  He ends the poem by saying that he would rather kiss the feet of Russia than to “cast a stone” and condemn her.
This poem has very positive vibes to it–something I was not expecting I would find in a poem about the Russian civil war.  It was very romantic and optimistic– after all, it is Voloshin.  His positive and loving outlook on life is reflected in this poem.  For example, in the third stanza Voloshin begins to talk about the beautiful monasteries that make up the wilderness of Russia and then continues on to share about the people that make up Russia.  In this grouping of people he speaks of monks and robbers in the same sentence–two completely opposite groups of people–yet they both share one common bond, their Russian heritage.
Voloshin’s nationalism, hope, and love all come together in this poem to provide a sense of hope in a time when Russia there seemed to be none of those emotions evoked from the people of Russia.  Once again, I have been impressed by Russia literature after originally being turned off.  Voloshin is a prolific poet who writes with true passion and love.  As a man who preached love and peace, it was made very evident through this poem what his message was.
Sources: The Life of Maximilian Voloshin • Poet of the Inner Revolution
Voloshin: Holy Russia http://soviethistory.msu.edu/1917-2/culture-and-revolution/culture-and-revolution-texts/holy-russia/

One thought on “Holy Russia and Her Tribulations

  1. This is such an amazing poem! I’m thinking back to our discussion of Scythians in class last week, and marveling at the resonances between Voloshin’s and Blok’s imaginings over their homeland’s traumatic transformation. Thanks so much for writing about this. I am reminded that this translation (by Bernard Meares) is especially good — I’m copying the last stanza in its entirety:
    “Shall I be first to cast a stone,
    Condemn your passion, your unbridled flame?
    I’d rather kiss the mud before you
    And bless the imprint of your naked feet:
    My Russia, besotted. wandering, roofless,
    Blessed fool in Christ.”
    What does it mean for Russia to be a “Blessed fool in Christ”?

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