Issue #14/69, July 15 - 29, 1999
By Edward Limonov
I have arrived in Moscow on September 30, 1967. With a huge wooden trunk (made in Poland) which contained all my belongings--things necessary for concurring Moscow, few notebooks, contained my poems among them. Train from Kharkov to Moscow have transpierced the night and in the morning I found myself on the platform of Kurski Station of Russian capital. I was dressed in black.
My girlfriend Anna, six years older than me, was sent to Moscow a week before in order to prepare a platz d'arm for concurring Moscow. Anna have met me at Kurski Station. She supposed to rent a room, but she hadn't rented one. So, from Kurski Station we went to meet our Kharkov friends living in Moscow, to put my trunk in their rented room at Kazarmenni Pereulok. Trunk will sleep there. Where will we sleep, we didn't know yet. That's how I started my bohemian life in Moscow. Seven years after, exactly on September 30, but 1974, I left Moscow from Sheremetyevo Airport. Destination: Vienna, Austria.
Those seven years from 1967 until 1974 were for me the years of stormy, creative, very poor life of underground artist. All my days were devoted to writing poetry. I used to write for ten hours per day. Strangely enough, I never tried to publish my poetry in those years...
Finally we have managed to rent a room at Belyaevo region of Moscow. Very restricted amount of money that I brought from Kharkov was carefully divided on monthly allowances. If I remember well, we let ourselves to spend sixty rubles per month. Thirty rubles we paid rent for room, and 30 miserable rubles we would spend on nutrition. SO, we were constantly hungry. For the first year of my Moscow life I have lost eleven kilograms of my weight. In the evenings we would go to visit friends. Our friends were mostly painters.
Moscow of those days was populated by enormous bohemian crowd, divided into dozens of groups. Counter-culture life had flourished. Painters were privileged people in comparison with poets and writers. By Russian law, if members of Union, they were eligible for receiving artistic studios for their works. Very often they made their studio (or "atelier" as we called those places in the basement or in the attics of the old houses) also a place of living. So, almost every evening we went, me and Anna, to studios of our friends. Everybody was poor, so ceremonies of socializing were simple. If you have had money, you would buy a bottle of alcohol. If you don't have any, you went without bottle. Drinking, reciting poetry, discussing art, gossiping, flirting with girls, showing new paintings: that how usual evening in Moscow studio was spent. I frequented studios of painters Anatoly Brussilovsky, Ilya Kabakov, Yevgeny Bachurin, Ulo Suster, Yuri Kuperman. Just recently sculptor Klikov reminded me that my first night in Moscow I have slept in his basement studio on the corner of Sadovoye Koltso and Olympisky Prospekt. I have forgotten that.
Some painters were already known, on their way up, have work as illustrators for famous magazine of that epoch, "Knowledge Is Power" (Znanie--Sila). Some frequented foreigners and sell their pictures to foreigners, as Brussilovsky did. So Brussilovsky's "evenings" in his studio were "chic", girls were prettier, booze was foreign, sometimes even foreigners were present.
Some painters of that epoch are now famous and wealthy people as Ilya Kabakov or Yuri Kuperman, living in the West. Klikov is famous in Russia, his Zhukov sitting on horse near Red Square. Homeless was and is now Vladimir Yakovlev, short-sighted, gnome-like man, naive, original painter, traveling from one psychiatric asylum to another. Homeless were Zverev and Igor Voroshilov, close friends of mine, both dead now. Nowadays Zverev's pictures sold for a big money. When he was alive, back in the time, he would sell a picture for a bottle of vodka.
Restaurants were out of my reach of course, clubs didn't exist. High class entertainment was considered to visit foreigners' apartments, to be invited to "John" or "Walter". When in 1972 to the post of Ambassador of Venezuela was appointed Mr. Burelli, bohemia life in Moscow became a paradise. Poet himself, wealthy man, Burelli modernized his embassy life. In a short time he was a friend with many underground poets and painters, and most important, he invited underground crowd to all parties at his embassy.
With my new wife beautiful Elena we were preferred guests of Venezuelan Embassy. Once, I remember I left embassy so drunk that I fell to the boots of guarding militia officer. Late in October 1973 I paid dearly for my insolence, for a courage to frequent foreign embassy, but for a year me and Elena enjoyed embassy's parties: flowers, silver candlestick, exotical music, exotical food and drinks. Once, among the guests at hospitable building on Proezd Ermalova, we met an American Indian- looking student of Lumumba University. With him and his friend we started a heated political discussion at embassy, then, when party was over, we walked Moscow streets and talked until sunrise. Some years later, living in the West, I have recognized my one night's friend American Indian-looking student by photo in newspaper. First page photo, because his name was "Carlos" or Ilych Ramirez Sanchez.
Moscow of 1967-1974 deserves many books, not a few pages Limonov's memoir. Just few more lines. In 1972 I was translating with a help of Austrian friend a poetry of Trakl, Austrian mystical poet-expressionist of First World War period. My friend Gunter introduced me to another Austrian living in Moscow, to Liza Yvary, secretary of embassy, member of Socialist Party. With a language of socialist ideas I inherited from Liza when she left Russia in 1973, I inherited also a huge chunk of hashish. Liza brought me that chunk from the voyage to Afghanistan. So we smoked it, Elena, and our friends.