“Any quarantine may result in a Boldino Autumn”

“Any quarantine may result in a Boldino Autumn”
02 May 2020

This Russian quote refers to Pushkin’s probably most productive time of his life, which is also the time he spent in quarantine when cholera broke out in Russia in 1830. To give us a little bit of motivation during this strange period, let’s look at which wonders Russian discipline and creativity brought to life during quarantine times.

  • Pushkin, the lazy genius

How many of your plans had to be cancelled because of quarantine? Don’t start counting, it will only make things worse…but don’t worry, you’re not alone. Pushkin actually had to get married with his beloved Natalia Goncharova in May 1830, but because of the Cholera outbreak, this happy event had to be postponed until January the next year. If this condition made the poet extremely nervous and upset in the first place, understandably, it ended up being the most productive time of his life. Indeed, if he was also a born procrastinator, boredom and solitude inspired him enough to write two chapters of “Eugene Onegin”, “Belkin’s Tales”, “The little tragedies”, as well as countless poems. But don’t feel guilty if you did not achieve as much as he did. Reading back letters he wrote friends and to his girlfriend at the time, it shows us that people and times might seem to be completely different, we are still humans. Indeed, he describes his quarantine as being the following: “I wake up at seven o’clock, drink coffee and lie till three o’clock. I have been writing a lot recently and have already written a heap of things. At three o’clock I go riding, at five I take a bath and then dine on potatoes and buckwheat porridge. Then I read till nine o’clock.”. And we are even more productive: we can’t lay in bed from 9h-13h30 if we have online classes 🙂

  • Vladimir Lenin’s exile in Siberia, or how to “отдыхать на даче”

After creating the “‘League of Struggle for the Emancipation of the Working Class’”, Lenin got arrested and had to spend three years in exile in Siberia. If he wasn’t allowed to work, the 8 roubles and 17 kopeks he received were enough to rent a 17 meters large room in a house. Soon, he received the authorization to be “supervised” by the owner of the house, which didn’t supervise him at all and let him be free like air, and spent his time hunting. He even had some further company when his future wife Nadezhda Krupskaya, also sent in exile, joined him. Having twice as much money, plus further financial help from her parents, the couple could even afford to engage a maid. Spending their days reading, hunting and even partying, Nadezhda even notes the great tain her husband suddenly had, when living in Petersburg he often “looked ill”. After this great period of rest, love, and intellectual exchange in the countryside, the couple were twice as strong to go back to their revolutionary activities once they were “free” again.

  • Joseph Brodsky having “the best time of my life”

As he was sent to a small village called Norinskaya for five years of exile, the poet will recall this time as being the most productive and best time of his life. Indeed, if he first showed absolutely no talent in his assigned work, notably farm work, he later found a new job as a travelling photographer. Being supported by his friends and family, he was provided with books, food and even a bicycle. He spent most of his time in exile writing, and will later refer to it as a “poetic breakthrough”. His muse and ex-girlfriend Marina Basmanova even came to visit him once. After 18 months of exile, the poet was released thanks to the help of French socialist Jean-Paul Sartre. 

Therefore, if you don’t find yourself as inspired as these great Russian men, and if you will not recall this time as being the “best of your life”, then we highly recommend you to take online Russian classes which will transform these long days into productive and fun times 😉

Posted by Kim Schierke

My name is Kim, I’m 21 years old and I just graduated from International Relations at the University of Geneva. I have always been fascinated by Russia, because of its language and its culture. During my studies, this interest has kept on growing and I even ended up writing my thesis about it. Learning the language, therefore, comes as an evidence.

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