Sunday, 7 October 2012

Aleksandr Dovzhenko’s diaries

Recently a presentation of the book Oleksandr Dovzhenko. Notes from the diary. 1939-1956 (published by Kharkiv publishing house “Folio”) took place at the Central State Archive of Literature and Art. This is the joint work of Russian and Ukrainian cinema critics and archivists. The initial data of publication include Federal Archival Agency of the Russian Federation, the Russian State Archive of Literature and Art, State Committee of Archives of Ukraine, and Central State Archive of Literature and Arts of Ukraine. The book was compiled by Volodymyr Zabrodin and Yevhenii Marholit. Text was prepared by Zabrodin, Yevstyhnieieva (Russian text), Chuhunova, and Trymbach (Ukrainian text).The book also includes introductory articles by Horiaieva, Yevstyhnieieva, Marholit, and Trymbach.

The Day asked Ukrainian cinema critic Serhii Trymbach, who participated in the process of the creation of this book, to comment on the peculiarities of the new book.

As you know, Dovzhenko’s diaries were first published in the mid 1960s – at first they were published in Ukrainian, and later in Russian as a part of the collection of his writing. In Ukraine they became a cultural sensation, especially for the generation of the “Sixtiers” and those, who made their appearance afterwards. My generation had to learn about Dovzhenko and start liking him first from his diaries and only later we could watch his films and the rest.

Later there were new editions with minor changes and additions in the 1970s and in the 1980s. And all the entries were divided into two parts: one – a part of a notebook, and the other – the diary itself. In 1990 writer Oleksandr Pidsukha (editor of the fifth volume of Ukrainian five-volume edition published in 1966) published the diary without such division (Oleksandr Dovzhenko. Ukraina v Ohni. Kinopovist. Shchodennyk. Kyiv, Radiansky Pysmennyk, 1990). He declared then that this was the “full text of the diary (1941-56)” and explained the main principle of compilation: entries are published “in chronological order and are united in one book with the general title Shchodennyk.”

Pidsukha considered that publication to be full, because he was told so by Yulia Solntseva, Dovzhenko’s widow. It is well-known that she trusted very few people with the archives of Dovzhenko’s works. Among the lucky ones were the brilliant film critic from Kyiv Yukhym Levin, who worked in the Art of Cinema magazine for many years. Among the Ukrainians who had the access to the archive were Tetiana Derevianko and Pidsukha, who was favored by Dovzhenko himself.

It is known that all the materials that were not filed into the Central State Archive of Literature and Art and now Russian State Archive of Literature and Art (RSALA), Solntseva kept in a safe in her apartment on Kutuzov Avenue. I learned about it from Derevianko, director of the Dovzhenko Film Studio Museum. Many times together with Solntseva she codified what was in the safe. In particular, they sorted entries according to personalities. After this they had files on different names, of which I especially well remembered two: “Stalin” and “Beria.” After the death of Solntseva (in late 1989) all of her possessions, including the archives, ended up in the hands of her successor Irina Petrova. Together with Derevianko and Levin we tried to find out about what happened to those files. It turned out that there was nothing left. Despite the fact that there are three storage unites associated with Stalin in the fund No. 2081 of RSALA, two of which are still classified. According to Solntseva’s will the complete text of the diary was also classified. She did not want anyone to use the large part of archive materials for 50 years (starting from 1959). The diary entries that were published were agreed personally with Solntseva or appeared in print solely according to her instructions. Therefore, after her death there was no way diaries could be published until 2009-10.

Previous publications began with entries dated by 1943 or 1941 (this was the case of the 1990s edition). It is not clear whether the great film maker made any diary entries in the 1920s and 1930s. Only once, in the texts I am familiar with Solntseva mentioned it. Talking about the work on the film Land, she suddenly said: “I have his (Dovzhenko’s) diary notes on the film. However, I do not want to publish them yet, just like many other things.” (Solntseva. O. Dovzhenko, o Vremeni, o Sebe. Raduha, 1997 No.2 p. 149).

Derevianko published the same notes regarding the work on Land made by Dovzhenko. Several pages of Dovzhenko’s diary rewritten by Derevianko are stored in funds of the Dovzhenko Film Studio Museum. In the process of preparing the diary for print the workers of RSALA did not find anything like this in the fund No. 2081, as well as any other records from the 1920s and the 1930s (except for a few pre-war records dated by 1939-41, which were published for the first time in this book).

What concerns the records of the 1940s, Pidsukha, in particular, says that after the meeting of the Central Committee of the CPSU (b) with Stalin, where the film Ukraine in Flames was subjected to severe criticism “according to the artist’s wife, he destroyed three notebooks.” Other diaries could have gone through the same. There were different threatening situations for Dovzhenko in early 1930s and in 1937. It is not hard to imagine that in such cases, evidence of unreliability could be thrown into the fire. Probably something was destroyed in the apartment in Kyiv abandoned by Dovzhenko and Solntseva during German occupation in 1941-43.

The work on the book was not easy. First of all, because Dovzhenko did not have a chronologically coherent system of records. He took notes in parallel in different notebooks and often used separate sheets of paper to write down some thoughts and sketches without specifying dates. It is a big question how it all should be published. Should it be presented the way author had it? Or should we sort the entries according to the principle of chronological order?

More here.

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