Vladimir Putin’s announcement this 7 days that “we have to have to place aside political and other differences” in “the transition to carbon neutrality” might have been characteristically double-edged (both of those a dig at the G7 nations and an advert for Russian gasoline) but it also highlights how significant nature, land and landscape are to the self-id of lots of Russian persons. “Russia has colossal probable in our forests, tundra, agricultural lands and swamps,” Putin ongoing, though his authorities cracks down on these who find to defend this kind of ecosystems from having their “potential” extracted for wide gains.
It was for the duration of the 19th century that Russian writers (Chekhov, Tolstoy, Turgenev) and artists (this sort of as Levitan, Nesterov, Savrasov and Shishkin) solid enduring back links among mother nature and country. But, although some this kind of as Turgenev and Shishkin ventured into the deep backwoods, a lot of used considerably of their time on place estates that experienced now been landscaped according to prevailing (European) preferences. Russian Parks and Gardens by garden historian Peter Hayden is a prosperous and intriguing overview of these attractive, challenging locations and the men and women who shaped them – from squabbling Russian aristocrats to deceitful Scottish architects.
At the identical time, landscape painters of the late 19th century sought to elevate the mundane in get to establish a exclusive and genuine Russian character (birch trees, puddles) in contrast to the far more proven and superficially extraordinary points of interest of European landscapes. This gradual shift is at the centre of Christopher Ely’s superb analyze This Meager Character. The book’s title is a line by Russian poet Fyodor Tyutchev (“Long struggling land, / Land of the Russian men and women!” it proceeds). This mixture of humility and grandeur has ongoing to influence Russian conceptions of character – from the “village prose” writers of the 1950s this kind of as Vladimir Soloukhin correct up to significant landscaping jobs these types of as the new Zaryadye Park in Moscow.
It echoes Putin’s emphasis on the variety of Russia’s many landscapes and ecosystems. Between these, it is the steppe and the forest that are the two most powerful archetypes: the steppe a boundless area of infinite independence the forest, a primal place where by all the things is at as soon as apparent and fearfully complicated. Freshly translated by Arch Tait, Vladimir Bibikhin’s The Woods usually takes us into the dim psychological corners of this self-taught Soviet-era philosopher.
Bibikhin’s impact can be traced in Ivan Novikov’s brilliantly counterintuitive essay “I Want to Be Scared of the Forest”, printed in Cosmic Shift, a vast-ranging compendium of modern day Russian art writing edited by Elena Zaytseva and Alex Anikina. “Trying to uncover the Other in the entire world of crops is the only way to make a new kind of artwork,” writes Novikov, sweepingly. With contributions from Boris Groys, Maria Kapajeva, Alexander Brener and Oxana Timofeeva, this is complete of gems. Pavel Pepperstein’s sci-fi quick tale “The Skyscraper-Cleaner Pine Marten” is rather amazing in its lingering weirdness.