Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Averbakh 8: Thus it has been done before, so it will be in the future.

On page 127 of the English translation the title reads: In the Lenin Goldfields. Lenin should be Lena, an infelicity that is repeated throughout the English text. For instance, on page 128 there is: ... the Lenin goldfields are proud of their revolutionary traditions ... The Russian reads: Ведь Ленские прииски славны своими революционными традициями ...

This was the site of an infamous massacre in 1912, which every Russian schoolboy, to take a liberty with the words of the late David Bronstein, would know. Striking workers were slaughtered by the armed representatives of the Czarist autocracy. Minister of the Interior Alexander Aleksandrovich Makarov notoriously remarked of this callousness: Thus it has been done before, so it will be in the future. Many strikes broke out throughout the Russian Empire following this event.

Averbakh goes on to describe the disgusting state of the lavatories in Bodaibo (where the goldfields are), it reminded me of my trip many summers ago to Lake Sevan, in Armenia. At least my experience was not purchased at forty below freezing! Many visitors to the former Soviet Union will have similar stories. Barry Withius, who organised the tournaments at Wijk aan Zee in the Netherlands, supposedly declined an offer from Mikhail Botvinnik to visit the Moscow Central Chess Club. The Netherlander had been once before. He would consider a trip if the Patriarch of Soviet chess could do something about the vile condition of the lavatories at Gogol’ Boulevard. Not even Mikhail Moiseyevich was able to offer any such assurance.

Expanding upon Averbakh's remarks, which are to be found lower down the same page, about Joseph Brodsky, who was recognised as an outstanding talent by the great Anna Akhmatova herself. The poet Joseph Aleksandrovich Brodsky (1940 – 1996) was born in Leningrad. He was not evacuated in 1941 when the Nazis blockaded that city, and had to endure hunger and privation. He left school at the age of fifteen, ending up in a variety of menial jobs. Considered the brightest star in the pantheon of Leningrad poets who emerged in the 1950s, he was published in several underground periodicals, which gave him an immense following. As Averbakh records, the poet was sentenced to internal exile for parasitism, it was in 1964. He was released following the intervention of several influential cultural figures, inside and outside the USSR. He emigrated, having been dumped on a plane by the Soviet authorities, to the USA in 1972. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1987. There is a biography available here.

Reverting to the name Makarov, which is relatively common (and therefore important not to get mixed up, for instance there is a player from the 1950s and a grandmaster); it crops up again, more directly, in Averbakh's account. On page 246 he discusses Kasparov's ally, Andrey Mikhailovich Makarov (born 1954, Moscow).  A. M. Makarov was to become a powerful figure in Russian politics after the collapse of the Soviet Union, eventually  ending up as a deputy for United Russia, a Kremlin controlled party. Which is worth noting, given that Kasparov, certainly, is known for his opposition to the Kremlin, at least while Putin runs Russia. An international master of chess since 1992, when A. M. Makarov's right to the title was challenged the case was investigated by the colourful president of FIDE Florencio Campomanes in person, who cleared him of any impropriety. Selected articles mentioning A. M. Makarov are available here, here and here.


Simon Spivack said...

Apparently the first of the links retailing further information about Makarov is not accessible to all. There is a more comprehensive, Russian language, article available at .

Dan Scoones said...

Just a note to say that I like your blog very much and hope that it continues.