Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Russian Music since 1917Reappraisal and Rediscovery$

Patrick Zuk and Marina Frolova-Walker

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780197266151

Published to British Academy Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.5871/bacad/9780197266151.001.0001

Show Summary Details
Page of

PRINTED FROM BRITISH ACADEMY SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.britishacademy.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright British Academy, 2020. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in BASO for personal use.date: 03 June 2020

Defining Diaspora through Culture: Russian Émigré Composers in a Globalising World

Defining Diaspora through Culture: Russian Émigré Composers in a Globalising World

(p.330) Chapter 15 Defining Diaspora through Culture: Russian Émigré Composers in a Globalising World
Russian Music since 1917

Elena Dubinets

British Academy

Abstract and Keywords

This article explores how the Russian émigré composers, no longer required to nurture the nation-constituting loyalties, forge, negotiate and sustain multi-stranded individual relationships both with the transnational powers and with their native country, reclaiming cultural rather than territorial attachments which grow from psychological constructs rather than social conditions. It is revealing to observe that most of them continue to remain culturally tied to their country of origin and to long for its aesthetic values, while at the same time building civic attachments and hybrid identities in the globalised world. Based on empirical studies, this chapter considers how the reflections of post-Soviet identity shape these composers’ creative output and how the composers form relationships with their old and new neighbours.

Keywords:   Russian new music, Russian musical diaspora, Russian émigré musicians, post-Soviet culture

Amid the seeming confusion of our mysterious world, individuals are so nicely adjusted to a system, and systems to one another and to a whole, that, by stepping aside for a moment, a man exposes himself to a fearful risk of losing his place forever.

Nathaniel Hawthorne, Wakefield

WHEN SOME OF THE MOST notable composers of the last Soviet generation—those who came to prominence during Brezhnev’s ‘post-Thaw’ decades—began leaving the newly reorganised nation-state of the Russian Federation, their Russia-based colleagues accused them of defecting for economic reasons at a time when all things were becoming possible in their own country. Many émigrés, though, were more concerned with finding easier ways to provide for their families than with maintaining patriotic, dissident or other national-belonging allegiances that remaining in post-Imperial Russia would presume. However, abjuring one’s commitment to the motherland does not necessarily mean breaking with one’s cultural roots. Most Russian émigré composers remain tied artistically to their country of origin and its cultural values, while at the same time building new civic attachments in the globalised world.

Drawing on personal interviews conducted with over a dozen established middle-generation USSR-born composers living outside their native country,1 this chapter considers how reflections of their post-Soviet diasporic identity shape their creative outputs and how they form relationships with their old and new neighbours. It is an enquiry into the self-identification of these artists who must negotiate a difficult path, striking complex balances between their native traditions and those of their adopted countries, or of the world as a whole. The history of these creative individuals, who stand on the margins of (p.331) both their home and their host communities, is an important addition to our understanding of modern times.

‘Other’ Russians

The composers interviewed for this chapter are members of a rather narrow artistic cohort. They all received a solid musical education, they identify with Russian culture, they have all left the same native land and found themselves living in a different country, they all are united by experiences of upbringing, displacement and rupture, and they share the ‘general’ occupational lines of business associated with music commissioning, performance and education. Despite all this, it may be more accurate to call this group a ‘guild’ rather than a ‘community’, even in the absence of isomorphic geographical unity and internal hierarchy, because it does not constitute a coherent, autonomous or homogeneous society: it lacks political agency and a shared framework that would represent these composers’ interests. Most of the composers maintain informal friendly relationships, but the very idea of formalising their social bonds under an institutional umbrella would undermine the anarchistic nature of friendship that permits acceptance of help and advice based on shared knowledge and sentiments. In the words of Alexander Raskatov,

I consider myself a Russian musician but I don’t belong to any group. For me, it’s very important not to be in a group because in music everyone is responsible for themselves. … I believe only in actual people, in the contacts between personalities, in people’s friendship, ultimately.2

These composers are generally very well educated, middle class and from urban backgrounds; they are no longer young and most have families. Each is a prominent exponent of their field as they had helped to define their original state and its culture through their music. Even though the individual experiences of this highly skilled elite cannot be viewed as representative of émigrés as a whole, they share in many of the general trajectories of emigration. Since there was no labour demand for their skill sets, they had to prove themselves. For instance, Iosif Bardanashvili had a high-level position in his native country (as Deputy Minister of Culture in Ajaria) and ultimately managed to establish himself as an important composer in his new homeland (Israel), but had to take a low-paying job in a food store after emigrating. Alexander Rabinovitch-Barakovsky, who has had a rather successful career as a (p.332) composer, conductor and pianist after leaving the USSR, when asked about his first years in emigration, summarised the experiences of virtually every emigrant: ‘It’s better not to remember these years. … There was total hopelessness, and I was terribly depressed.’

Despite these initial difficulties and the fact that their names were generally unknown in their new environments (unlike, say, Schnittke and Gubaidulina), most of the émigré composers eventually continued to work in the music profession. While struggling to gain artistic success and economic independence outside the familiar frameworks of their native country, they have often found personal and professional satisfaction in their diasporic incarnation that unleashed their creativity and allowed them to reinvent themselves to reach new audiences. As Victor Kissine remarked, ‘One might have expected a [creative] slump or stress from emigration, but it didn’t happen that way. In spite of all the difficulties associated with these new circumstances, from the very first day I began working, and with a productivity I hadn’t expected.’

Their careers began to be forged thanks to professional connections, personal relationships with musicians in their adopted countries and online social networks. Digital communication and information technologies have transformed the way in which diasporic identities are shaped. Digital connectivity has enabled people to venture beyond face-to-face relationships and reliance on state-circulated media into an even more egalitarian society. Composers who maintain an online presence can now publicise their own works and achievements and be heard by broad communities both in their native country and elsewhere. For émigré composers, the ability to upload recordings of their music onto the internet, to self-publish (as Dmitri Smirnov and Elena Firsova, who organised their own publishing house, Meladina Press, have done) and to send their scores electronically to any orchestra in the world has created unprecedented opportunities both for employment and for the satisfaction of being heard and appreciated.

Moreover, many musicians are constantly on the move, fulfilling professional obligations in different places in rapid succession. In each new concert location, they embrace the surrounding cultural experiences and influences, weaving them into their social practices. The music that they bring with them—their means of communication—connects the different spatial, temporal and cultural places, and allows them and their audiences to evoke compelling memories, unite or dissolve communities, and transcend boundaries. Music helps to construct and rearticulate their identities in this new transnational world, where the legitimacy and superiority of national elites is weakened by open borders, and social consensus and bonding can develop outside an explicitly nationalist agenda.

(p.333) The Era of Idiolects

Émigré composers, like everyone else, have to learn how to inhabit the local and the global space simultaneously, in times when previously strong alliances based on territory, religion or social class are becoming weaker. The embrace of difference is a predominant feature of our times. The binary concepts of inclusion versus exclusion, belonging versus otherness, acceptance versus intolerance and, with particular relevance to this project, mainland versus diaspora, are becoming outdated and unrepresentative. Often, a hyphenated self-awareness emerges at the intersection of broader existential and aesthetic experiences that form, in the words of Nina Glick Schiller, transnational social fields—‘networks of unequal power that link individuals to one or more institutions that organise and regulate the daily economic, political, cultural, social and religious activities of social life’.3 A social field perspective allows scholars to conceptualise ‘ways of being’ (when ‘individuals can be embedded in a social field but not identify with any label or cultural politics associated with that field’) over ‘ways of belonging’ (when individuals ‘combine action and an awareness of the kind of identity that action signifies’).4

With their ability to shape multiple reference frames and forms of allegiance, émigré composers nurture their individualism: in the words of Elena Firsova, ‘I am an individualist and do what I like, and it doesn’t matter where I am situated.’ In the new land, composers gradually gain in confidence, targeting prosperity through independent business opportunities and constructing unprecedented scenarios and life trajectories. The deterritorialised cohort of Russian émigré composers had to establish itself by creating independent individual identities that embraced both its members’ past experiences and their new situations in different parts of the world, while making their way through the same global music infrastructure that their foreign and Russia-based colleagues strive to exploit—getting their works accepted by international publishing houses, seeking commissions from orchestras worldwide and being represented by Western agents.

However, while operating in a global context, musicians often bring the omnipresent musical bedrock of their native culture to the forefront of the (p.334) fight against the anonymous and non-personal traits of globalised processes, thus trying to distinguish themselves from their surroundings.

Musical Interlude I: Nikolai Korndorf’s String Quartet

Korndorf’s String Quartet was written in 1992 (a year after his emigration) and was conceived as a piece of instrumental theatre: in addition to playing their own instruments, the performers are required to ring various types of bells and sing texts from the Russian Orthodox Requiem. Two Orthodox chant melodies are used in the piece. The notes of the first, Opekalovsky rospev, are distributed hocket fashion between two violins and viola and lengthened to create both the harmony and the melody simultaneously. Another chant melody is heard in its entirety in the coda. The initial incentive for writing this piece was representative of what émigré composers often experience upon situating in a new country when they try to incorporate musical traditions of their neighbours. Korndorf explained:

I had decided to write a Requiem Quartet and to use a canonical Gregorian Requiem chant. … I felt very uncomfortable, though, until I realised that I was working with the wrong material. When I changed the Latin text to Church Slavonic, and instead of a Gregorian melody I used Opekalovsky rospev, the piece really took off. … This is part of me: this vocabulary, this language, this culture.5

Better Bang for the Buck: the Commodification of Ethnicity

In her recent study of theatre in exile, Yana Meerzon noted that, in their existential need for public significance, ‘artists find it necessary to adapt their original poetic, dramatic or performative language of expression to the needs and the tastes of their new audiences’.6 Composers, too, target their works at a specific market of potential listeners and donors. Their creative output becomes defined by a constant self-referential reconciliation of their past and their present, which is impregnated with the unresolvable tension between their idiosyncratic history and their appeal to a worldwide audience. Like Korndorf, these composers translate their quotidian conditions filtered through their imaginations into the self-fashioned sound worlds often grounded in nothing less than their original ethnic roots.

(p.335) In emigration, most of the composers continue to use their previously established compositional language. As Leonid Hrabovsky explained, ‘I think that my outlook on the fundamentals of the creative art hasn’t changed, because I came here as a fully-formed person, certainly not a young man.’ Raskatov explicitly linked his current style to his national origins: ‘I think and I hope that I have kept my Russian approach to making musical sounds.’7 Kissine elaborated on his own experience:

From the standpoint of my method, stylistic changes are obvious, and they are deep ones. This isn’t the same thing, though, as the internal aesthetic axis, which for me is the foundation of my style—this has remained unchanged, I believe. … I think that in the end I have continued to be a Russian composer who was brought up under the influence of Russian music.8

As Anton Batagov astutely noted, ‘we try to “be ourselves”, that is to be a Russian who offers as a product to the market his Russianness, irrationality and other qualities that don’t exist in the West but are in demand there if they are packaged correctly’.9 Émigré composers often employ two of the most obvious musical ‘super-icons’ that ‘affirm’ the fact of Russian nationality in everyday life—folk tunes and religious chants—and complement them with oral signifiers that conventionally signal ‘Russianness’ for Western listeners: sounds of Russian bells, Russian lyrics in vocal works, orchestral sonorities reminiscent of Shostakovich.10 These elements inevitably trigger the branding mechanics of the composers’ identity.

In attempting to promote their work globally, these composers simultaneously address their work to their compatriots in Russia, those in the diaspora and to their international listenership. For instance, when composing his opera A Dog’s Heart, which is based on a novel by Bulgakov, Alexander Raskatov simultaneously set two versions of the libretto—one in Russian, the other in English. The opera was co-commissioned and premiered in 2010 by the Netherlands National Opera (where it was revived in 2017 and performed both times in Russian with Dutch surtitles) and by the English National Opera (in English). It has since been performed at La Scala in Russian with Italian surtitles in 2013 and in 2014 at the Opéra National de Lyon in Russian (p.336) with French surtitles. Although it has not yet been staged in Russia, its dual-language libretto makes possible its dissemination in the composer’s native country and in a foreign-language environment. Thus, while maintaining a strong connection to his ethnic roots, Raskatov also looks to the broader world.

Ethnicity as a social boundary shapes an individual’s actions and interactions with others, and in the context of migration is frequently used as a means to seek recognition in the framework of the equal rights and social justice movements. However, even the very right to emigrate is often granted only to representatives of certain ethnicities rather than based on the discourse of equality. When Andrey Volkonsky decided to leave the Soviet Union in 1973, he had to marry a Jewish woman in order to be able to leave the country, because exit privileges were only granted at that time to people of Jewish nationality and their immediate family members. He divorced her as soon as he reached Europe since he had no intention of living in Israel.

As migrants settle into a new country and gain access to the same social, political and economic advantages as its citizens, society is reconstituted, since the state is forced to accept and sustain these ethnic communities while maintaining its national cohesion. Even the concept of assimilation in a host country has become contested as ‘an ethnocentric and patronising imposition on minority peoples struggling to retain their cultural and ethnic integrity’.11 Ultimately, the migrants are now generally able to utilise their human-social capital to their advantage and to control to what degree they need to assimilate. Often, they create ethno-cultural and economic niches—similar to the Russian-Jewish enclave in Brighton Beach in New York or the Russian Old Believers’ village near Woodburn, Oregon—that offer better opportunities for members of their ethnic group. These members do not need to assimilate or acculturate at all: their group norms, language and customs, frequently fortified by ideology and religion, help them navigate the challenges of emigration even without learning the language and customs of the host country.

An ability to utilise ethnic belonging to one’s advantage can play out in curious ways when a person can choose from among various areas of inclusion. Tara Zahra’s illuminating essay on ‘imagined noncommunities’ includes an interesting example from the history of the Bohemian lands, where ‘nationalist competition engendered a virtual bidding war for the souls of children. Both Czech and German schools and welfare institutions offered parents free lunches, textbooks, clothing, and even Christmas gifts to attract higher enrolments and expand the ranks of the nation. It is hardly surprising (p.337) that when questioned about his national loyalties in 1948, one bilingual factory worker frankly replied, “It is a matter of who is giving more.”’12

In a similarly opportunistic fashion, many Russian-speaking Jews, who can identify both as Russians and Jewish, routinely chose to prefer one of these ethnicities depending on the benefits for which they would be eligible. Finding themselves in Israel, they would habitually self-identify as Russians because they could not compete with the native Israelis on the ground of ethnic legitimacy, but would be visible both politically and socially as Russians. On the other hand, in New York Russian identity would not be much of an advantage, but in partnership with the American Jews, Russian-speaking Jews could become members of a respected and economically powerful community and even have political influence. As David D. Laitin noted, ‘what this perspective underlines is that diasporas do not necessarily emphasise the most cherished elements in their identity repertoires; rather, after “counting comrades”—potential allies—they choose that aspect of their identities that allows them to maximise electoral influence’.13

It is often possible to parse composers’ behaviour as these artists change their loyalties upon emigrating, drawing on dormant elements of their multi-ethnic identities in an effort to become more eligible for the social benefits offered by their adoptive communities. They play out the pragmatic, market-driven commodification of ethnicity and conversely its rejection, each for the purpose of welfare-maximising expediency.

For example, David Finko’s Soviet output included a number of works on Russian subjects—a symphonic poem Russia and an opera This Song based on a patriotic story by Boris Polevoy. After he emigrated to the United States in 1979, not only his compositions, but even their titles began to sound Jewish: he wrote a liturgical work for Sabbath Eve Service, Hear, O Israel, and a tone poem, The Wailing Wall; and renamed his early symphonic work, originally titled A Heroic Ballade, as Holocaust: Ghetto Uprising. He also wrote several operas on Jewish topics: The Klezmers, The Kabbalists, The Enchanted Tailor and Abraham and Hanna. Finko proclaimed that he had been deprived of the possibility to write anything related to his ethnicity while living in the USSR and now wanted to create ‘Jewish music based on the Jewish melodic elements and on the mentality of the Jews. … I dreamt of doing for Jewish music what Glinka did for Russian music.’14

(p.338) It is fully understandable why Finko, having left the country where celebrating his ethnicity had been unwelcome and even subject to prosecution, would want to compensate for his negative memories (which included the killing of his grandparents by the Nazis) by dedicating his art to his ethnic identity. But would he have striven to do the same if he had ended up living not in a wealthy Jewish community in Philadelphia but rather in a different ethnic setting? Would he perhaps do what another composer of Russian Jewish descent, Aaron Avshalomov (1894–1964), did when he ended up in China, and decided to become the first composer to combine musical elements of Chinese traditional culture and Western classical music? Or, would he, like Alexander Raskatov, produce works that belong to different ethnic canons (Russian or Jewish) depending on the preferences of the funders and recipients? Or, perhaps, would he have produced his American passport in order to convince potential sponsors that he could write American music if he was given a chance—just as Russian émigré composer Dmitri Smirnov affirmed his status as a British subject when he realised it could help him to receive a commission from the London Symphony Orchestra, an opportunity open only to British composers?

Musical Interlude II: Dmitri Smirnov’s Triple Concerto

The result of this commission, Smirnov’s Triple Concerto No. 2 for double bass, harp and violin (2004) had nothing to do with the composer’s current nationality. Instead, Smirnov reflected upon his native country and used musical material that he had created for a BBC2 television documentary about the Gulag. This material is divided into two categories, based respectively on dodecaphonic techniques and on popular songs. These interact and converge in the work’s musical language that features multiple elements of ‘Russianness’: bell-like chords, a sarcastic theme à la Shostakovich in the first movement and quotations from Russian folk songs.

The last movement, Presto, is based on an episode from the Gulag documentary in which a new contingent of prisoners arrives at the camps by train. The almost unrecognisable folk tunes from the first movement return in a furious frenzy of a train rattle spinning out tango rhythms (tango was an extremely popular genre in the Soviet Union before the Second World War). Then yet another Russian-type element appears: a very popular song by Jerzy Petersburski, ‘Siniy platochek’ [The Blue Headscarf] (1939) which, during the Second World War, was adjusted to reflect wartime realities and became widely popular thanks to a heart-warming interpretation by the famous popular singer Klavdiya Shul’zhenko. For a Russian ear, the moment at which this song is introduced suddenly turns the listening experience into a wrenching agony of nostalgia, compassion and grief. Paradoxically, having (p.339) left Russia, where Smirnov was known as an avant-garde composer of European orientation, he is increasingly returning to his native roots.

Diaspora: Homesick or Sick of Home?

Even after obtaining new citizenship, some composers still do not consider themselves emigrants, especially when it comes to their creative process. Raskatov called into question the entire concept of the word ‘emigrant’ in the conditions of globalisation:

In general, ‘emigrant’ is an absurd notion. If a British man moves to Switzerland, he is not considered an emigrant in his native country. I don’t know any American or Japanese émigré composers. This word sounds humiliating and outdated. One’s thoughts might migrate, but it shouldn’t matter where the body is located. I don’t consider myself an emigrant. Perhaps, I am a lesser emigrant than somebody in Moscow or St. Petersburg writing in the style of American minimalism. He or she is simply located in Russia, and I am not.15

Similarly, Franghiz Ali-Zadeh remarked: ‘The process of composition is not in any way related to place or to situation. Each person has a certain internal tempo of work and an inner life that is not dependent on any external circumstances.’16

However, when external circumstances change, people often come to be considered outcasts; when their country of residence changes, they are labelled emigrants. Emigrants used to be perceived as unfaithful, ‘excluded’ from the rights and benefits structure of state and citizenship and a nation’s ‘waste’ rather than a ‘useful product’. Nowadays diasporic cosmopolitanism has acquired positive status as an attribute of political and cultural legitimacy in the larger world. The term ‘diaspora’ is no longer applied to a scattered community that shares idealised memories about past sufferings related to the homeland; and the traditional subordination between metropolis and diaspora is dwindling as diasporas lose some of their defining characteristics: diasporans are now much less marginalised and much better integrated with the host society; they do not necessarily want to return to their homeland and they are not entirely preoccupied with the preservation of their native culture. If nation-state implies a congruency between society, culture and territory, diaspora contests the idea that a nation-state is coterminous with its inhabitants. Through its abilities to conduct a productive extraterritorial dialogue, diaspora exposes the nation-state’s values to a broader world.

(p.340) The understanding of diaspora as a metaphor of solitude and isolation is giving way to understanding it as something naturally exposed and easily susceptible to cultural interconnectedness. No longer do diasporas exclusively use resources of their ethnic dominions and horizontal community: their public spheres are much broader and more exposed to new ways of mobilising and advancing claims and products. Diasporas no longer entertain a static and constrained narrative of emplacement; instead, they incorporate a newly developed paradigm of mobility and intermediacy, viewing it as a liberating and empowering creative condition of contemporary life. To put Mikhail Bakhtin’s famous concept of vnenakhodimost’, ‘outsideness’ or ‘seeing from the outside’,17 in a more literal, geographical, context, the most creative and meaningful act can indeed happen between the borders or at their crossing, when it becomes possible for people to see both their own and their newly acquired cultures from a novel point of view.

At the same time, diasporic settlements assume an intellectual and often political importance specifically owing to their initial rootedness and kinship with another part of the world and the conservation of the characteristic values and mores previously cultivated in their native country. Although established in a new territory, émigrés often continue to operate within the framework of the cultural rituals and civic routines of their motherland’s recent past, which have travelled with them in their minds and imaginations to the new place. In the meantime, in the original ‘native’ place these same routines and rituals may be undergoing alteration or demolition by new power structures and forms of government as both people and their relationships inevitably change over time. This temporal disconnect between the no-longer-existing stereotypes of the geographically irrelevant past, which the émigrés bring with them to another country, and the differently shaped present in a new territorial and cultural space signifies the most revealing trait of the diasporic phenomenon. Diaspora anachronistically animates and mobilises a long-gone period of time, while striving to adapt to another reality.

A simultaneous sense of deep nostalgia and resentment of one’s past is often enhanced in the Russian émigrés with the very special feeling of so-called ‘post-Soviet nostalgia’, or a longing for some of the real values that were embedded in people’s lives during the socialist period. Among them were friendships, educational advantages, creative possibilities, the ability to assist others without ulterior motives and the relative unimportance of financial success (towards which it was possible to feel contempt).

(p.341) Musical Interlude III: Valery Arzoumanov’s Quintet in Memory of My Fatherland

A post-Soviet nostalgia inseparably intertwined with a loathing of the Soviet regime is an essential component of the art of Valery Arzoumanov, who, having spent almost forty years outside Russian borders, has the most cogent right to hate his native country but continues to love it in a very peculiar way. He avers: ‘From the West, from the outside, one can see everything differently, and it appears that, in spite of the Gulag camps and other Soviet perversions, there was something different and original in that civilisation.’18

Arzoumanov was born in 1944 in Vorkuta into a family of former political prisoners who had been sent to the Gulag in 1937. They were released in 1943 and allowed to live in a settlement near their former forced labour camp. Valery showed musical talent at an early age and was sent to Leningrad to study at a special musical boarding school. After graduating from the Leningrad Conservatoire as violinist and composer, he deviated from a rather successful academic career and immersed himself in the study of Russian folklore, Eastern traditional music and rock culture. As with some of his contemporaries (including the composers Boris Tishchenko and Alexander Rabinovitch-Barakovsky), he began practising Buddhism and then trained himself in Indian music. In 1973, Arzoumanov married a French citizen who was learning Russian in Belarus and was immediately expelled from the Union of Composers in consequence. This situation forced him to leave the country with his young family. For four years he studied in Paris with Olivier Messiaen, simultaneously mastering Russian Orthodox singing and other church practices. Thereafter, he moved to Normandy, where he was isolated from mainstream musical life: for a decade, Arzoumanov composed only bard songs to his own poetry (in Russian),19 but in the mid-1980s he gradually returned to composing ‘serious’ music.

In 1994, to mark the twentieth anniversary of his departure from the Soviet Union, Arzoumanov created Quintet in Memory of My Fatherland, which summarised his relationship with his native country. Written in a tonal, highly accessible language, the Quintet breaks a number of boundaries while at the same time establishing an unmistakable continuity. Its movements, all in minor keys, are connected attacca by instrumental cadenzas. One of its most beautiful features is the flawless textural fluidity of expression deriving (p.342) from Indian rhythmic techniques and Arzoumanov’s studies with Messiaen. In the absence of a regular beat, his music breathes freely and pulsates unexpectedly, conveying unrestrained emotions and rising to paroxysms of tragic intensity.

After a slow funereal introduction, the piano enters with a martial theme evoking the genre of Soviet Young Pioneer songs. This march—with its short foursquare motifs developed in a restlessly pliant rhythmic manner—coils around tonic-dominant harmonies, quivering with asymmetrical embellishments. The second section—‘A memory of a dance’—is a wrenching waltz in A minor that again sounds like a quotation from a Soviet song. The slow movement bathes the listener in nostalgic melancholy and heart-sinking anguish. A shrill, nervously agitated scherzo leads to a passionate outpouring of sound dominated by Rachmaninoffian piano writing. Then—as if to introduce a missing element reminiscent of Soviet classical music—a grotesque, breathless dance in triple time culminates in a Shostakovich-style funeral march, with mournful trumpet-like fanfares in violins presented against a quivering cello and viola bourdon. The final section presents the insistently advancing and then receding Pioneer march song, a symbol of an epoch gone forever but still deeply missed.

The Quintet in Memory of My Fatherland is simultaneously an attempt to forget and an urge to return to the long-lost—a sorrowful threnody and ode of relief. The composer longs for the positive values of the past separated from their geographical location, looking at them from abroad—from the zagranitsa.20

‘Kolbasa Emigration’: a New Cultural Mythology?

As Alexei Yurchak observed, the zagranitsa was something imaginary and absolutely unreachable for Soviet citizens. ‘There’ (u nikh, literally ‘where “they” lived’) did not have a specific location and could mean virtually any place outside the Soviet Union’s borders.21 People who were able to get ‘there’ and come back were exceptional and were regarded almost as prophets by their friends.22 At some point, an exilic departure from Russia came to be seen (p.343) as something of a heroic stance and almost a privilege, one that was offered only to intellectuals of a certain stature—Solzhenitsyn, for example, or Rostropovich. When, after perestroika, the zagranitsa grew to be more accessible, it became clear that the real West, as opposed to the imaginary one, was rather ordinary. The artists’ former dream-world appeared to be not much better than their current one. But it did not stop them from leaving Russia.

People rarely migrate for a single reason; many factors have to accumulate to prompt the very serious decision to leave one’s country. The most commonly cited reasons include financial difficulties, social discomfort, worries about the future of one’s children, the search for a safe shelter and longing for better surroundings. John Glad elaborated about the post-Thaw and post-perestroika waves of Russian emigration: ‘Most of the émigrés left because they “couldn’t stand it anymore” or because they were given such unpalatable alternatives to emigration as imprisonment or harassment. Most of them could have stayed, perhaps with disastrous consequences, and this makes their departure semi-voluntary, thus clouding the question of their “exile” status.’23 ‘Real’ exiles—those who had been expelled from their country by the authorities—cannot go back, and the impossibility of return is what makes a person an outcast and sufferer.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn, who was put on a plane and flown to West Germany, never considered himself an émigré and maintained that

the people who emigrate are generally those who run away to save themselves from our horrible conditions. Much braver people, steadfast and devoted to their country, stay behind to improve the situation.24

In 1974, when receiving his Nobel Prize in Switzerland, he enthusiastically praised himself for not being a deserter unlike ‘the Third emigration that chased easy life in America and Europe, farther from the Russian sorrows’.25 Another dissident, Igor’ Shafarevich, was even harsher on his former compatriots:

Those activists of Russian culture who left voluntarily were simply unable to withstand the pressure, the same way that, for instance, millions of the religious believers had been withstanding for decades. In other words, they lacked personal values that could outweigh the danger of ordeals—difficult ones, undoubtedly, but fairly endurable by human stamina, as multiple examples have (p.344) demonstrated. And if so, how can we speak about their considerable contribution to culture?26

One of the most talented and respected Russian composers still living in Russia, Vladimir Tarnopolski (b. 1955), brought this issue squarely into the realm of music composition. In contrast to the two writers mentioned, he acquitted the third wave of emigrants wave castigated by Solzhenitsyn, but accused the fourth, post-perestroika wave of the same failing that Solzhenitsyn had ascribed to his own counterparts in the 1970s. Tarnopolski declared:

Perhaps I will express here a primitive point of view of a Soviet ‘hurrah-patriot’, even though not only have I never been a Communist party member, I was never even allowed to travel abroad. The generation to which Pärt and Volkonsky belonged left because it indeed couldn’t work here. And I understand this. However, I don’t respect the emigration of the 90s, to be honest. … At the beginning of the 90s everything became possible here. … I also had opportunities to leave, more than many others did, but I didn’t do it. … Perhaps a certain genetic fear of our intelligentsia took hold, a Stalin fear.27

A fear, indeed. Andrei Sinyavsky explained where this fear came from and what could happen to these people in emigration: ‘That is, they had been through the mill. That is, they were pushed to the wall. Someone loses his mind when breaking free. Another suffers in misery and looks for something Russian to snuggle against in this spacious, airless, outlandish sea. But everybody still runs, still runs.’28 As Jeffrey Cohen and Ibrahim Sirkeci have pointed out:

migration is about security and escaping dangerous situations. … We must look beyond the present and the person to understand the history and sociocultural setting of the mover. … Migrants … want an opportunity to survive and thrive and to practice their culture in a safe environment.29

This much is clear. But why then did Tarnopolski and his many colleagues decide to stay in Russia—a country that is still struggling to offer a safe environment to its citizens? Or, following Cynthia J. Buckley’s questions, ‘Are nonmovers employing a different calculus when estimating the costs and benefits of migration? Do nonmovers differ from migrants in their susceptibility to familial or community-level influences?’30

(p.345) Cohen and Sirkeci argue that

while some decisions concerning immobility are based on assumptions about the value of the hometown as an ideal place to exercise cultural identity with little or no disputes, many nonmovers are making choices about their futures that give little regard to immediate issues of security and insecurity. They stay put and challenge removal; … they ensure that past and place are not abandoned but instead remain integral to the definition of identity and belonging.31

Those composers who, unlike Tarnopolski, do decide to migrate, explore other integral ideas of belonging to their native country even if they are no longer directly associated with their place of birth, bringing along many elements of cultural memory and identity, from songs to food items.

In the Soviet context, the concept of migration as we know it today first became possible in the 1970s, when the Soviet borders opened up ever so slightly. Richard Taruskin characterised the escape of the émigré musicologists Alexandra Orlova and Solomon Volkov as ‘détente-inspired’,32 but the wave of emigration to which they belonged was generally described as ‘Jewish emigration’. It was predicated by a new understanding of emigration by the international community: in 1974, the United States Congress declared the ability to emigrate to be an inalienable human right and began granting refugee status to Soviet Jews.

The post-perestroika wave received the more derogatory label of ‘kolbasa emigration’ (a term used by Tarnopolski in the article cited previously),33 that became popular ‘partly out of envy on the part of Russians who stayed behind and partly out of a sense of superiority within the Third Wave’.34

But why kolbasa? In Soviet society, no single food item was so imbued with meaning as kolbasa. As Mikhail Bulgakov remarked, ‘there are forty thousand dogs in Moscow and I’ll bet there’s not one of them who’s so dumb he can’t spell out the word “kolbasa”’.35 Kolbasa’s popularity was dictated by several useful qualities. First, its smoked variety could be stored for long months without refrigeration, which was a rare facility (apart from the natural refrigeration provided by the winter cold) until the late Socialist period; kolbasa thus supplemented an inconsistent stock of fresh meat. Second, as the (p.346) magazine Myasnaya industriya [The Meat Industry]36 reports, the kolbasa business was mostly an urban phenomenon related to industrialisation, when there developed a substantial need to feed workers. Kolbasa in the Soviet Union was typically made from high-quality meat products but was still fairly cheap: it symbolised both the idea of equality and the secondary role of the peasantry. Whenever the country sank into yet another period of hunger or food deficit, kolbasa would always become the most desirable product, and people would stand in line for hours and hours in order to get their cherished allocation. Kolbasnïye elektrichki (‘salami commuter trains’) of the early 1990s would bring the afflicted to the luckier centres of civilisation where kolbasa would be on sale that day; these trains would then take the proud owners of a kolbasa back home, spreading a strong smoky smell in the train cars.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, when no food was seen in any stores for months, kolbasa became a symbol of something ephemeral that could only be obtained through good connections (po blatu, as Russians say) or outside the country. Since the borders were now open, those who were able to pay for their trip abroad were often thought to have gone to get some kolbasa (that is, the most popular food item), hence the term ‘kolbasa emigration’. But by the time émigrés in their new countries were able to afford kolbasa in the quantities they wanted, they would suddenly realise that the newly found paradise was not the same as the old harbour, and yet another expression, ‘kolbasa nostalgia’, came into circulation. A special kind of dark bread (which was enjoyable only for a few days before it would become stale) became one of the most prized gifts an émigré could receive from Russia, as did the most popular varieties of smoked kolbasa familiar from Soviet times—Servelat (a hard mixture of beef and pork packed into intestines), Salami (a fermented and air-dried spiced variety) and Krakovskaya (or ‘Crakower’, a thick, straight variety hot-smoked with pepper and garlic).

Perhaps Homer’s famous image of the smoke leaping upwards from the homeland that Odysseus yearned to see, when converted into the even more famous Russian proverb that enjoyed a folk status despite being used by several poets including Derzhavin, Vyazemsky and Griboyedov—‘Sweet and dear is the smoke of our Fatherland’—is in fact the image of the smoke rising from a smoking box with kolbasa inside, as the smell of the subject is no less dear to the Russian heart than its taste.

Is it not the same smell that brought Bulgakov’s Sharik to the surgery room of Professor Filipp Filippovich Preobrazhensky? (p.347)

‘The mere smell has rejuvenated me, gotten me up off my belly, sent scorching waves through my stomach, which’s been empty for two days. … I know—there’s a sausage in his right-hand coat pocket. He’s standing over me. Oh, master! Look at me. I’m dying. I’m so wretched, I’ll be your slave forever!’

… In a moment the dog had ripped off the sausage-skin. Mouth watering, he bit into the Cracower and gobbled it down in two swallows. Tears started to his eyes as he nearly choked on the string, which in his greed he almost swallowed. Let me lick your hand again. I’ll kiss your boots—you’ve saved my life.37

Indeed, it was the smell of the Krakovskaya kolbasa that made Sharik a human being. ‘It smells, it smells; my strength is coming back from this smell’—Sharik sings in the first scene of Alexander Raskatov’s opera A Dog’s Heart, inventively staged by Simon McBurney in a Soviet New Economic Policy (NEP)/Stalin-era setting that recreates the phantasmagorical atmosphere of Bulgakov’s surreal satire.

Musical Interlude IV: Alexander Raskatov’s Opera A Dog’s Heart

The combination of Bulgakov and Raskatov was a perfect fit. The opera turned out to be captivating and extremely relevant. Unlike the novel, the opera does not have a happy ending: Sharik does not disappear, but spawns hundreds of clones that take over the entire world.

From the very opening, it is apparent that the intonations and rhythms of Raskatov’s score allude extensively to the Russian operatic tradition. The influences of Mussorgsky, Shostakovich, Schnittke and even Tchaikovsky are fused together with folk and Soviet songs in a rich stylistic cocktail. Sharik’s role is performed by not just one, but two different voices that vocalise either consecutively or simultaneously. The first one, the Pleasant Voice, comes from the image of Mussorgsky’s Holy Fool, and is heard at the beginning of the opera when Sharik wails about a cook who doused him with boiling water. The Pleasant Voice is performed by an antiseptically clear countertenor without vibrato; it personates dogs’ very best qualities of love and sympathy.

The same voice depicts Sharik’s misgivings and his self-pity—‘and the street sweepers will throw my body on a cart’—accompanied by a pseudo-liturgical dirge in a Russian church style and joined by the Unpleasant Voice. The latter should be performed by a dramatic soprano with a strong low register; however she does not sing so much as growls into a megaphone which distorts her voice even more. The splitting of one image into two different vocal lines helps to concretise the idea of this strange character of a talking dog.

(p.348) Suddenly—‘What is it, visions before death? From hunger, from pain?’—a cascade of flute, clarinet and piano twittering is heard, embellished with quasi-baroque figurations. The Pleasant Voice begins to sing gorgeous melodic lines placed against the tremulous baroque-type texture, evoking ‘warmth, grass, summer in Sokol’niki’. And then, right after the slowly savoured words ‘Fragrant paper, bites of kolbasa’, brass calls marked ‘quasi “idillico”’ resound. An idyllic orchestral passage duly follows, prompted not even by a real kolbasa but wrapping paper impregnated with its smell.

A few bars later, the Pleasant and Unpleasant Voices scream together ‘I smell it! I smell it!’ and woodwind cascades introduce the real thing: ‘Kolbasa krakovskaia spetsial’naya!’ (‘Special Cracower kolbasa!’).

Thus, from the old Russian funeral chant embodying hunger and suffering in the freezing cold we have arrived at the most beautiful Western baroque-inflected and celeste-embroidered peaceful summer landscape redolent of… kolbasa. The same kolbasa that has drawn thousands upon thousands of Russian émigrés to the mysterious and tempting zagranitsa for which they left everything behind, including their dearly beloved, ugly, dark and unfriendly motherland.

So many questions arise from this kolbasa-inspired meditation. Do people who are seeking to improve their living conditions automatically become defectors? Do the conditions of national leave-taking make a moral difference? Does being a political exile guarantee higher principles and more progressive attitudes than being an economic renegade? And, most importantly, who would presume to judge?

Apparently, Tarnopolski would. Often, interactions with ethnically similar people have a greater impact than interchanges with those of different ethnicities. Exclusionary philosophies based on identity traits still predominate, and one of them is evidently Tarnopolski’s disrespect for his counterparts from Russia Abroad.38 Where did this come from? Richard Taruskin’s observation is unassailable: ‘The politics of identification, of subjective bonding, like the politics of certainty, can be a pretty hairy politics. It underwrites all tribalisms, every mindless group identity, every petty or bloody nationalism. Its essence is intolerance.’39

Despite the well-substantiated efforts by many scholars to avoid the troublesome tropes of homogenising the Russian mentality into a single type of consciousness it has often been suggested, including by such important (p.349) Russian writers as Andrei Sinyavsky, that intolerance and ‘suspiciousness of other people’ on the part of many Russian people lead to nationwide insularity and xenophobia. As Sinyavsky observes, ‘Notions such as svoy (one’s own) and chuzhoy (alien), nashi (ours) and ne nashi (not ours) are profoundly ingrained in the Russian psychology. This must go back to the patriarchal and familial structure, in which relations hinged on kinship. Is he from our clan? From our village? From our province? In short, is he one of ours?’40 Anton Batagov arrived at an unsettling conclusion which deserves quotation here despite its unfortunate characterisation of a uniform Russian self-awareness and barbarity: ‘Alas, the idea of the enemy from without is firmly grounded in the Russian consciousness; this idea has penetrated so deeply and “works” so actively that we see, hear, read and feel its fruits in the air.’

In the newly chauvinistic Russia, the enemy could be a person with a different ethnicity or sexual orientation, a foreigner, an emigrant or simply anybody with a different point of view. And while Russia is becoming ever more xenophobic and reactionary, its émigré composers have been seen as even more alien, without any hope for being integrated or tolerated.

Homecoming: Invoking ‘Other Russianness’

Emigrants often experience emotional pressure from their social kin in their native countries who almost invariably have ambiguous and disparaging attitudes towards ‘their’ diasporas. The clash becomes public when diasporans come back home. Some of them come back permanently; others go for a short family visit, a political activity, a pilgrimage trip in search of their roots, on a work contract or to receive cheaper and more familiar medical treatment. Another homecoming context can be conceived as a diasporic return to the home of one’s ancestors. Thousands of first-wave Russian émigrés came to the Soviet Union after the Second World War at the urging of the Soviet government, which promised them heavenly pastures but often consigned them to Gulag camps instead. The Soviets thought that the émigrés were dangerous for the USSR because they might undermine its ideology. Thus, the Soviets were methodically trying to convince the diasporans to return—to a country very different from the one they had left around the time of the 1917 Revolution. Among these returnees were parents of one of the most important Soviet composers, Andrey Volkonsky; he was brought to the country of his ancestors for the first time as a teenager.

(p.350) Returning home after a long period of absence is not easy psychologically and usually—as in Odysseus’ case, 3,000 years ago—leads to feelings of marginalisation, often intensified by experiences of resentment, antagonism and discrimination from those who stayed behind, and who tend to accuse the returnees of cowardice and treason. They believe that those who stayed put and survived have a ‘monopoly on suffering’ that makes them morally superior.41 They disregard the difficulties that the emigrants had to overcome along the way: poverty, isolation, moral and cultural losses and impediments.

Virtually all émigré composers have returned to the new Russia in the last decades for at least a brief visit and then expressed very similar frustrations, echoing each other almost in unison: ‘The country is not the same, it’s absolutely foreign. Too much negativity is coming out of people’ (Rabinovitch-Barakovsky).42 ‘In the new Russia I feel as if I was abroad, in an unknown country of which I am a native speaker. I don’t understand people’s motivations. Worse than that, I don’t understand my own friends. We talk only about our past, our youth’ (Arzoumanov).43

The notion of otherness and non-belonging develops in these situations in relation to one’s own ethnic and territorial kin. Apparently, ethnic or national unity cannot guarantee welcome, toleration or even basic acceptance; instead, it often brings antagonism or conflict to people with similar backgrounds who have had opposite experiences in difficult situations.44

Russians are not unique in this regard. The contradictory feelings that flare up upon confrontation with one’s homeland have been expressed by returnees from Germany to Sarajevo, from Mexico to Guatemala, from Brazil to Japan, from South Korea to China, from the USA to Hungary, and virtually from any diaspora to any homeland. Returnees are excluded from the homeland’s favour and are treated as social and cultural foreigners and national defectors. As Anders Stefansson observes, relationships between emigrants and those who stayed behind often provoke the strongest outbursts of frustration and anger, rather than their memories of violence or the stigma of refugee life.45

(p.351) There is an exacerbated sensitivity among Russian returnees about the antagonism that they perceive directed towards them. An emigrant to Israel reported after a visit to Russia: ‘They always feel that we are traitors and that we left the nest instead of helping them with building whatever they were building there. This is not just a feeling of distance, this is hostility.’46 It does not help that returnees themselves are usually predisposed against those who stayed, whom they often describe as corrupt and disrespectful, hot-tempered and drunk, dishonest and lazy. Having spent years in the more ‘civilised’ West and now seeing the destructive and delinquent society in the former Soviet Union—the society they had left behind and tried to forget—the returnees feel more at ease in the now more familiar environments of their host countries, where they can sustain their livelihoods and develop relationships even if they still retain the feeling of being an outsider. The transnational identifications of returnees with multiple states can intensify tensions and resentful sentiments on the part of the stay-at-homes who have not distanced themselves from their native country’s reality.

The negative emotional effect of their homecoming experiences, along with social alienation from their previous compatriots, diminishes the longing of the émigrés for home and makes the concept of homeland less meaningful, challenging its previously idealised image. Their now forever-absent primordial home remains only in their imagination, and this sense of the unrealised dream of return ingrains itself into their identities.47 Often, after visiting the place they had left in the Soviet Union, emigrants never want to come back again and they abandon the old hope of returning to their past.

This, however, does not necessarily mean that they break with their cultural roots. Many Russian emigrants still tend to value and preserve their cultural ancestry, now divorcing it from the originating geographical territory. They bring their easily relocatable Russian culture back to the West and continue to nurture it in their new habitats, while their political and ideological identification with Russia withers and vanishes. At the present time, when the diaspora’s mission of opposing Soviet Russia and preserving old Russia’s values has become irrelevant, diasporans enjoy their cultural background and whatever comes with it that brings them the pleasure of consumption or business benefits. They manifest their ‘other’ Russianness through their lifestyles, social communications and artworks, broaching new discussions on the fundamental issues of territory and nation in the post-Soviet Russian space.

(p.352) Overall, it may be more appropriate to define diaspora through culture rather than through place and ethnic solidarity, demoting its geographical and national connections. When immigrants obtain new citizenship and begin both formally and civically to belong to another state, they can still be rooted in their previous social experiences and cultural attachments while being totally independent from their old country’s governing and societal structures. Their linkages with other Russians (or former Soviets) are more likely to be based on cultural and social rather than on territorial or ideological principles. As Anne de Tinguy suggests, Russian migrants in principle tend to keep their cultural identity and consciousness, and it is this identity that plays the decisive role in their lives and careers—to an even greater extent than class and other distinctions.48

Musical Interlude V: the Songs of Ivan Sokolov

One of the most obvious elements of native culture, Russian poetry has become a primary reference point in the work of many émigré composers. Ivan Sokolov declared that only after he had emigrated did he turn to composing songs to Russian texts. Most of his music is written for piano or for chamber ensembles including piano, and he usually performs it himself, in the manner of a theatrical presentation. His experimental innovations are rooted not only in John Cage’s legacy but also in the art of such Soviet poets of the early twentieth century as Daniil Kharms and Alexander Vvedensky, with their humorous, sardonic and philosophical approach to reality. After decades of working in all kinds of non-traditional genres including cryptic encodings and graphic notation, since emigrating Sokolov has arrived at a stylistically different postmodern concept: an ‘outdated’ Romantic music which he calls ‘pure music’. For Sokolov, the path from experimentalism to this pure music lay through composing song settings of the Russian poetry that he read as he strove to anchor himself after leaving Russia: ‘I tried to stimulate, preserve, and feel a native, home spirit in myself.’49 Recently he has been writing large chamber works in classical forms with beautiful melodies and extremes of emotional expression, finding stylistic inspiration in works of, among others, Shostakovich, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff and Glazunov.

(p.353) Escaping Again?

In twentieth-century Russia, citizens typically began to escape after wars or the collapse of state structures: the first wave of emigration marked the dissolution of the tsarist Russian empire; the second wave followed the Second World War; the third emerged after the peak of Cold War tensions; and the last wave signalled the end of the Soviet empire. Will there be another, fifth, wave, perhaps to mark the end of the ‘new’ Russia? As the eminent American journalist Thomas Friedman has noted: ‘Putin may look like a strongman, but his policies are making Russia weaker. He needs to be careful. The good news for Russians today is that they can leave. The bad news for Russia is that they will.’50

Indeed, after several relatively quiet years in the early 2000s, during which artists and scholars were able to experience a measure of stability, the West might be justified in expecting a new outpouring of Russian emigrants. People now escape from Russia not because they cannot live there well enough in material terms, but because the thriving criminal activities and corruption have paralysed and undermined all the political and economic achievements of the post-Soviet period. The sociologist Lev Gudkov, the director of Moscow’s Levada Center, the most respected and independent pollster in Russia, summarised: ‘I would say that the growth of the emigratory dispositions—and it’s very strong—is really perceptible. Because, as opposed to the 1990s when there was mostly either ethnic or economic emigration, now the most well-to-do groups are leaving—the young, better educated, those who have been abroad and established connections there. I would call it a civilisational incompatibility with the current regime.’51

Most of these people remain well rooted in Russia and come back regularly, including several important younger composers such as Boris Filanovsky (b. 1968) and Sergej Newski (b. 1972); both divide their time between Russia and Germany. These composers are truly global citizens: they feel at home everywhere and know how to succeed anywhere. Since the idea of diaspora is based on the difficulties of cross-border travel and, in fact, upon the existence of actual boundaries themselves, it is not inconceivable that the very notion of diaspora may disappear with the further advance of globalisation.

Two and a half decades into the new Russia, its composers who have homes outside its borders experience a double marginalisation. Contemporary Russian music is no longer as popular generally as it was during the intense (p.354) political interest in post-Soviet Russia of the early perestroika years, and Russian émigré composers no longer receive regular commissions or performance opportunities in their host countries. However, music by émigré composers continues to be performed in Russia, albeit to a limited extent. In recent years, there have been festivals devoted to Schnittke and Sofia Gubaidulina. In 2012, Alexander Raskatov was composer-in-residence at Valery Gergiev’s White Nights festival in St Petersburg, during which five of his works were performed. Isolated performances also take place in other contexts: Dmitri Smirnov’s Space Odyssey was performed by the Chicago Symphony under Ricardo Muti in Moscow and St Petersburg in 2012, and Victor Kissine’s Post-scriptum was given by the St Petersburg Philharmonic in St Petersburg in 2013 under Vladimir Feltsman’s baton.

However, the attitudes of Russian-based composers towards émigré composers remain rather negative and hostile—perhaps on account of the stiff competition for resources that prevails in the small market of classical music presenters in Russia at a time when state financing is virtually non-existent, commissioning funds are scarcer than ever, many publishing houses are closed and performance opportunities are limited. Moreover, the psychological stereotype of non-belonging so brilliantly described by Kafka—‘You’re not from the Castle, you’re not from the village, you’re nothing’—also persists.52

Those who suffer exclusion are often tagged with labels tinged with negative undertones that impose a certain confining characterisation; in our case study, the label ‘emigrant’ used as an adjective to describe ‘composer’ immediately brings with it a whiff of something inferior and marginal in relation to the ‘mainland’ (non-emigrant) music. This notion carries with it the unfortunate connotation that emigrant music is provincial, of interest only for a limited time and to a limited group. However, to label the music of Russian composers abroad as ‘emigrant music’ would imply that it is the product of ghettoised minority with a narrow world view. Yet it would be difficult to find composers with a broader outlook than Stravinsky or Schnittke. The émigré composers’ best works are certainly no less relevant, professional and exciting than the best compositions of their ‘mainland’-based counterparts. These people simply live in different places.

At the end of his monumental study Russia Abroad (1999), John Glad declared: ‘Russian literature has now truly been reunited—the two “streams” have finally flowed into one, as predicted, and the “mission” of the emigration—an artefact of the Soviet period—has been accomplished.’53 Unfortunately, it is impossible to say the same about Russian music, as the two camps still exist. (p.355) With the rare exceptions (such as Vladimir Nabokov), émigré literary figures either have to write for Russian-speaking readers or depend on being translated. Because of the lack of language-specific barriers, music can be more readily acculturated to a new environment. The divide between Russia-based and diasporic composers consequently seems to be an issue for the composers themselves; performers and music lovers do not seem to be troubled by their conflicts and enjoy work produced by both camps. Reflecting on the adversarial position between the ‘true’ Russia and the Russian diaspora, Natalie Zelensky noted that ‘music prompted this integration of seemingly incongruent “Russias” by providing a medium that was at once emotionally salient yet removed from direct human contact—allowing one access to the “Russian soul” without actually dealing with an Other Russian’.54 In other words, for listeners, composers’ citizenship is essentially irrelevant. (p.356)


Proceedings of the British Academy, 209, 330–355. © The British Academy 2017.

(1) Some of these composers are not Russian: they represent different ethnicities or were born outside the borders of the present Russian Federation. All belong to the russophone diaspora, however, as they use Russian as their lingua franca.

(2) The transcripts of the interviews quoted in this article have been published in: Elena Dubinets, Motsart otechestva ne vïbirayet: O muzïke sovremennogo russkogo zarubezh’ya (Moscow, Muzizdat, 2016). The interviews with Alexander Raskatov took place between 2005 and 2013 in Paris, Amsterdam and Toury (France).

(3) Nina Glick Schiller, ‘Transnationality, Migrants and Cities: A Comparative Approach’, in Anna Amelina, Devrimsel D. Nergiz, Thomas Faist and Nina Glick Schiller (eds.), Beyond Methodological Nationalism: Research Methodologies for Cross-Border Studies (New York, Routledge, 2012), p. 24.

(4) Peggy Levitt and Nina Glick Schiller, ‘Conceptualizing Simultaneity: A Transnational Social Field Perspective on Society’, in Sanjeev Khagram and Peggy Levitt (eds.), The Transnational Studies: Reader. Intersections and Innovations (New York, Routledge, 2008), p. 287.

(5) Interview with author, Vancouver, 2000.

(6) Yana Meerzon, Performing Exile, Performing Self: Drama, Theatre, Film (New York, Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), p. 11.

(7) See fn2.

(8) Interview with author, Court-Saint-Etienne (Belgium), 2005.

(9) This statement was written by Batagov in 2009. It is important to note that sometimes composers package and promote other, non-ethnic-components such as certain compositional techniques or religious beliefs, as in the case of Batagov himself and his mentor Alexander Rabinovitch-Barakovsky, both of whom have been included in certain music communities thanks to their minimalistic style and Buddhist approach.

(10) Marina Ritzarev, ‘“A Singing Peasant”: An Historical Look at National Identity in Russian Music’, Min-AD: Israel Studies in Musicology Online, 6 (2007–2008), http://www.biu.ac.il/HU/mu/min-ad/07-08/Ritzarev-A_Singing.pdf, 5. Accessed 10 February 2016.

(11) Richard Alba and Victor Nee, Remaking the American Mainstream: Assimilation and Contemporary Immigration (Cambridge MA and London, Harvard University Press, 2003), p. 1.

(12) Tara Zahra, ‘Imagined Noncommunities: National Indifference as a Category of Analysis’, Slavic Review, 1 (2010), 93–119 at 100.

(13) David D. Laitin, ‘The De-Cosmopolitanization of the Russian Diaspora: A View from Brooklyn in the “Far Abroad”’, Diaspora: A Journal of Transnational Studies, 1 (2004), 5–35 at 6.

(14) Rufina Leytes, ‘Vdokhnovennïy khudozhnik. O tvorchestve kompozitora Davida Finko’, The Coast (2003), 256.

(15) See fn2.

(16) Interview with author, Seattle, 2003.

(17) Mikhail Bakhtin, ‘Response to a Question from “Novy Mir”’, in Speech Genres and Other Late Essays, ed. Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist, trans. Vern W. McGee (Austin, University of Texas Press, 1986), p. 7.

(18) Interviews with author conducted between 2005 and 2009 in Eu (France) and San Francisco.

(19) In the Soviet Union, the term bardovskaya muzïka (‘bard music’) gained currency in the 1960s to describe a genre of popular song composed and performed by solo singer-songwriters, mostly to simple guitar accompaniment. Bard songs typically dealt with themes relating to everyday life in the USSR. Some were satirical or even overtly anti-Soviet, which led to their authors being harassed by the authorities.

(20) See the discussion of the origins and meaning of this term in Olga Manulkina’s and Richard Taruskin’s chapters in the present volume.

(21) Alexei Yurchak, Everything Was Forever, Until It Was No More: The Last Soviet Generation (Princeton NJ, Princeton University Press, 2005), p. 159.

(22) Among the most important musical links between the Soviet Union and the West were Andrey Volkonsky (or, to be more precise, his grandmother and other relatives who would supply him with the newest scores and recordings from Western Europe), Ivan Ivanovich Martynov (father of composer Vladimir Martynov, who was allowed to attend conferences and other musical events abroad and would bring music back to the Soviet Union for his son to share with his friends), and, later, the composer Edison Denisov.

(23) John Glad, Russia Abroad: Writers, History, Politics (Tenafly NJ, Hermitage & Birchbark Press, 1999), p. 24.

(24) Quoted in ibid., p. 422.

(25) P.I. Saraskina, Aleksandr Solzhenitsïn (Moscow, Molodaya gvardiya, 2008), p. 715.

(26) Igor’ Shafarevich ‘Fenomen ėmigratsii’, Literaturnaya Rossiya, 8 September 1989.

(27) Vladmir Tarnopol’skiy, ‘Chelovek iz rasshchelinï’, http://www.chaskor.ru/article/vladimir_tarnopolskij_chelovek_iz_rasshcheliny_20933. Accessed 10 February 2016.

(28) Andrey Sinyavskiy, ‘Liternaturnïy protsess v Rossii’, Kontinent, 1 (1974), 183.

(29) Jeffrey H. Cohen and Ibrahim Sirkeci, Cultures of Migration: The Global Nature of Contemporary Mobility (Austin, University of Texas Press, 2011), p. 2.

(30) Cynthia J. Buckley, ‘Introduction: New Approaches to Migration and Belonging in Eurasia’, in Cynthia J. Buckley and Blair A. Ruble with Erin Trouth Hofmann (eds.), Migration, Homeland and Belonging in Eurasia (Washington, DC, Woodrow Wilson Center Press and Baltimore, The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008), p. 13.

(32) Richard Taruskin, On Russian Music (Berkeley, University of California Press, 2009), p. 14.

(33) Tarnopol’skiy, ‘Chelovek iz rasshchelinï’. Kolbasa is the Russian version of salami. The literal meaning of Tarnopolski’s phrase ėmigratsiya za kolbasoy is ‘emigration for salami’.

(35) Mikhail Bulgakov, The Heart of a Dog, trans. Michael Glenny (New York, Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc., 1969), p. 14. Translation adapted.

(36) Ol’ga Lisova, ‘Myasnaya industriya’, http://www.atlantis-pak.ru/ru/about/M_Delo/detail.php?ID=1414. Accessed 10 February 2016.

(38) David-Emil Wickström noticed a similar situation with popular (non-classical) Russian émigré music in Germany: while music created in Russia is widespread in émigré circles, music by émigré artists never gets performed in Russia. David-Emil Wickström, ‘Okna Otkroi’—‘Open the Windows!’ Transcultural Flows and Identity Politics in the St. Petersburg Popular Music Scene (Stuttgart, Ibidem-Verlag, 2011), p. 245, n183.

(39) Richard Taruskin, Text and Act (Oxford and New York, Oxford University Press, 1995), p. 29.

(40) Andrei Sinyavsky, Soviet Civilization: A Cultural History (New York, Arcade Publishing, 1990), p. 260.

(41) Andres H. Stefansson, ‘Refugee Returns to Sarajevo and their Challenge to Contemporary Narratives of Mobility’, in Lynellyn D. Long and Ellen Oxfeld (eds.), Coming Home? Refugees, Migrants, and Those Who Stayed Behind (Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004), p. 179.

(42) The conversation with the composer took place in 2010 in Geneva.

(43) See fn 16.

(44) Takeyuki Tsuda, ‘Introduction: Diasporic Return and Migration Studies’, in Takeyuki Tsuda (ed.), Diasporic Homecoming: Ethnic Return Migration in Comparative Perspective (Stanford CA, Stanford University Press, 2009), p. 7.

(45) Anders H. Stefansson, ‘Sarajevo Suffering: Homecoming and the Hierarchy of Homeland Hardship’, in Fran Markowitz and Anders H. Stefansson (eds.), Homecoming: Unsettling Paths of Return (Lanham MD, Lexington Books, 2004), p. 56.

(46) Ludmila Isurin, Russian Diaspora: Culture, Identity, and Language Change (Berlin, De Gruyter Mouton, 2011), p. 194.

(47) Howard Adelman and Elazar Barkan (eds.), No Return, No Refuge: Rites and Rights in Minority Repatriation (New York, Columbia University Press, 2011), p. 249.

(48) Ann de Tangi, Velikaya migratsiya: Rossiya i rossiyane posle padeniya zheleznogo zanavesa (Moscow, Rosspen, 2012), p. 458.

(49) Interviews conducted between 2002 and 2008 in Bellevue (USA) and Aix-en-Provence (France).

(50) Thomas L. Friedman, ‘Pussy Riot, Tupac and Putin’, New York Times, 18 December 2012.

(51) Lev Gudkov, ‘“Rossiya dlya russkikh?” Uzhe ne stïdno’, Radio Svoboda, 19 November 2013, http://www.svoboda.org/content/transcript/25172654.html. Accessed 10 February 2016.

(52) Franz Kafka, The Castle, trans. Anthea Bell (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2009), p. 46.

(54) Natalie Zelensky, ‘Music in Exile: Constructing the Russian Diaspora in New York through Russian Popular and Sacred Music’, PhD thesis (Northwestern University, 2009), p. 155.