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Your Moscow

Marina Tsvetaeva’s house
Text and photos by Marina Kashpar

orisoglebssky lane once stretched from the Church of Boris and Gleb on Povarskaya street all the way to the famous Sobachiya Ploschad, among Arbat’s side streets. In 1862 a four-apartment private residence was built there, which exemplifies the Moscow classicism style. Half of a century later it became the heart of Tsvetayeva’s Moscow.

Marina Tsvetayeva was born in Moscow in 1892. Her father Ivan Vladimirovich Tsvetayev, professor of Moscow University, was an established philologist and art critic, the director of Rumyantsev’s library and the founder of the Museum of Fine Arts. Her mother Maria Mein was a brilliant pianist, a student of Anton Rubinshtein.

Marina spent her childhood in Moscow and Tarusa. Due to her mother’s illness they travelled a lot, and spent many years in Italy, Switzerland and Germany. Marina started to write poetry not only in Russian, but also in French and German, when she was six. She was brought up under the strong influence of her mother, who dreamed of her daughter as a musician.

In 1901 Marina paid by herself for the publication of her first book of poetry, The Evening Album. Her first poems were highly appreciated by the famous poets Valeri Brusov, Maksimilian Voloshin and Nikolai Gumilev. In two years the second book was published: Magic Lantern.

In 1911 Tsvetayeva met with Sergei Efron and married him in January 1912. Their first child Ariadna (Alya) was born at the same year. In 1913, Marina’s third book, Out of Two Books, was published.

In September 1914 Marina Tsvetayeva, her husband Sergei Efron and their little daughter Ariadna rented a flat number 3 in the house number 6 at Borisoglebsky lane. Located on the second floor, the apartment has three inner levels and the attic. From a large hall one walks into a dining room with a window-lantern ceiling, then into a living room-musical box. From there a guest can walk into Tsvetayeva’s study and a huge children’s room. The flat was visited often by a whole generation of writers and musicians.

After 1917 revolution, Tsvetaeva was trapped in Moscow for five years. Sergei Efron joined the White Guard volunteers and never came back to Borisoglebsky. There were really hard years: struggling through constant cold, sleep and food deprivation, fear for husband’s life, night searches. Marina filled numerous notebooks as well as the walls of the house with verses, notes and sketches. The poems composed between 1917 and 1921 appeared only in 1957 under the title The Demesne of the Swans.

Marina finally heard from her husband who had escaped to Berlin, and she and her daughter Ariadna joined him there in 1922. During their exile, the family lived in increasing poverty in Germany, Prague, and finally Paris, remaining there until 1939.

Marina continued to write both poetry and prose, and through letters developed a lasting friendship with Russian author, Boris Pasternak. But her husband became a Soviet spy and eventually had to flee France to escape indictment for the murder of another Soviet agent. Although by all accounts Marina had no idea that her husband was a spy, the Paris intelligentsia blamed her for his actions and turned their backs on her. She joined her husband and daughter in Moscow in 1939, at the height of the Stalin terror. Her husband was arrested and executed (his attempt to gain Communist acceptance with his spying activities had failed), her daughter was sent to a labour camp. Tsvetaeva was officially ostracized and unable to publish. When Germany attacked the Soviet Union, Marina’s son, who was born in Paris and returned to Russia together with his mother, joined the army and was lost at the front. Marina was evacuated from Moscow to the Tatar Autonomous Republic where, penniless, alone, and unknown, she hanged herself in 1941.

In 1922 she wrote in The Tsar-Maiden: “I am nowhere. I’ve vanished in no land. Nobody catches up with me. Nothing will bring me back.”

According to Boris Pasternak, her suicide might have been prevented if the literary bureaucrats had not behaved with

Address: Borisoglebsky Pereylok., 6
Tel.: 8 (495) 695-35-43,
Mode of operation:
Open: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday
and Friday from 12:00-18:00
Thursday from 12:00-20:00
Sunday from 12:00-17:00

such appalling heartlessness to her. Nobody attended her funeral. The exact location of her grave is unknown.

After Marina Tsvetayeva left Moscow in 1922, her house on Borisoglebsky lane was turned into a typical Soviet communal house. It gradually decayed and seemed likely to disappear. Only thanks to the enthusiasm and efforts of famous scientists and writers this historical and cultural monument was preserved. Marina’s house, restored to its original form, is open to anyone, who loves and remembers the poet.

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