From the Stacks: “Officers” by Anton Denikin

After the Russian Revolution, 1917-1921, many protesters of the new Soviet government left Russia, hoping for its fall. France was one of the more popular places for officers of the fallen anti-bolshevik White army, writers, artists, gentry, and intellectuals. Two of them I find especially remarkable because of their drastically different background and historical function.

Ivan Bunin (1870-1953), a remarkable Russian poet and novelist was one of the truest followers of the classical Russian literary tradition of Tolstoy and Chekhov. His rich language was revered among other writers and admirers for its classical realism and texture, often referred to as “Bunin brocade.” Because he opposed bolshevism during the revolution, he had to flee Russia and came to France. Although already in exile, he was the first Russian writer to receive the Nobel Prize in literature in 1933.

Anton Denikin (1872-1947) was a general in the Russian Imperial army and was one of the generals of the White Army during the Civil War. After Kornilov was killed in 1918, Denikin assumed command of the anti-bolshevik Volunteer Army. After an unsuccessful attempt to capture Moscow in 1919, his forces retreated until Denikin resigned in 1920 and fled to Europe. He finally settled in France in 1926 and became a prolific writer of memoirs and military observations.

Two very different people, who are never put in the same context or even thought of as acquaintances are nevertheless tied to each other by the common political cause, time, and place. I was very excited to find a book by Anton Denikin on the life of officers under his command. The book’s inscription roughly translates: “To greatly respected Iv. Al. Bunin from the author. A. Denikin. January 25, 1928, Vannes.” This inscription is remarkable because it unifies two very different and equally important historical figures. This very book was at one point a token of respect held by Denikin for Bunin and consequently in Bunin’s personal library. In a very exciting and sentimental way, exiled Russian officers still rub shoulders with refined poets in Walter Havighurst Special Collections.

Masha Stepanova
Catalog & Slavic Librarian

Tagged with: ,