The Museum of Mikhail Mikhailovich Prishvin in the village of Dunino has been a branch of the State Literary Museum since 1980. The museum was founded upon the death of Prishvin in 1954 through the efforts of his wife Valeria Dmitrievna Prishvina, who preserved the writer’s country house and its surroundings. People flocked to Dunino, and Valeria Dmitrievna received them.
The exhibition displays the real furniture and library of the writer, as well as his personal belongings, car, hunting and photographic equipment, and photographs.
Everything changed, however, in 1991 with the publication of the secret diary that Prishvin had been writing for fifty years (1905–1954). The image of the “singer of nature” disappeared and was replaced by the tragic duality of his personality and creativity, which for many was completely unexpected and that was characteristic of the personal destiny and the times in which he lived.
Prishvin always took binoculars while hunting and in all his travels
24 March 1936. Kabardino-Balkaria. Suddenly there were snow-capped mountains, and it seemed as if each one, even the great Kazbek, was paying attention to us. We dismounted and began to look at some shiny silver spots with our binoculars. These were glaciers amid the snowy wilderness.
In his years at Dunino, Prishvin did not hunt, but he did train dogs. All his hunting equipment was kept in good condition. In the 1920s and 30s, hunting occupied an important place in his life as a writer.
14 May 1926. You cannot go into nature with nothing, because it will immediately take the weak one and decompose it. Nature loves the plowman, the singer, and the hunter. My current hunting is closely intertwined with the art of writing.
Prishvin was an avid hunter: he would take his gun, game bag, and dog and on some days covered up to twenty or more kilometers of peatland and forest. But he always carried his notebook. The hunt gave him the opportunity to enjoy nature from the inside, and to live in, observe, and study it actively.
No date. I continue to hunt, considering this murder nothing to that which people do to each other on a daily basis… the hunter will unburden his heart on the fowl or the beast… most hunters are gentle, kind, and often even emotionally attentive people. A sense of the new times lives within me. And not only that: I hope to leave this a great feeling of life—disguised as hunting—in my books.
Prishvin used these boxes to store film cut into frames and placed in paper envelopes. One of the boxes has a note pasted on with the inscription: “When they struck the bells…” It contains photographs of the first month of 1930: the destruction of the bells of the Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius.
16 January 1930. So much effort was expended over twelve years in the struggle to protect historical monuments, and suddenly it all flew away: throughout the country people are destroying precious cultural items, monuments, and living personalities.
From the photo accessories table in the writer’s study.
8 September 1930. At the beginning it seems that everything can be photographed, and the photographer clicks the shutter. Then you realize that you can shoot everything, but only with great difficulty, and it’s dependent not on the device, but on your mind. When things are going badly, I turn to photography.
16 June 1930. Yesterday afternoon I photographed some dandelions; there was a whole field of them, each one identical to the next. And the dandelions were so pleasant that in them I recognized my whole human life, which is just as ephemeral! I took many pictures, as if in anticipation of their imminent end. In the evening there was a whirlwind that raged all night. The next morning there was not a dandelion left. How good is it that I preserved them, otherwise I should have had to wait an entire year, and who knows? Would I have survived this long year myself?
No date. The image appears on the film, and if often happens that your eyes seem to open wider and wider… Miraculous! It turns out very different from how I took it. Where did it come from? Since I did not notice when I shot the picture, that means that it exists by itself in the “nature of things”… and it seems then that if one could uncover some veil, then one would see that there is beauty in this world and that there is a meaning in it.
The diary preserved here thus gives the house a universal value and provides a glimpse into the internal life of the writer. The exhibition becomes deeper; the impression of comfort and peace is deceptive and collapses under the pressure of the newly discovered internal tension of the environment. The exhibits are like funnels, drawing the viewer into deeper and newer meanings… Everything has become ambiguous, controversial, and complex. This is a strange museum—nothing has been frozen in memorial immobility; instead, there are still more questions than answers: Why did Prishvin not suffer in the Soviet period? Why does he always write about himself? Why does he write so much about nature? Why are there no people, no characters in his works?
Подготовка материала Яны Гришиной, сотрудника музея ММ Пришвина (отдел ГЛМ)