Museum-estate of M.M Prishvin

Russian State Literature Museums

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.

The exhibition displays the real furniture and library of the writer, as well as his personal belongings, car, hunting and photographic equipment, and photographs. Over the years, the memorial exhibition at the museum has continued to preserve the memory of Prishvin’s life and work, of the visitors who came to the house, of the books that he read, of the works that he wrote here, and of his creative experiments and plans. In the past it seemed enough to tell about the life and work of the writer, using various exhibits to illustrate and confirm conceptions about his career.

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.

Dunino house artifacts
11 April 1941. Her Majesty the Fashion. The rulers of fashion have been replaced, but Fashion itself remains and one cannot live without it: what would it be like if there were no laws of fashion. You can show personal taste within basic precepts: skirts, trousers, jackets, coats.

Binoculars.
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 the Dunino house these were used as keychains: the duck opened the cellar and well; the fish operated the motor that pumped water; the bear “protected” the car in the garage; the girl opened the gate; and the cat opened the ice cellar with the milk and cream.

Small sharpened pencils to be used with a notebook during the day, in a round metal Montpensier box; pencil holders.

From a desk drawer in the writer’s study.

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.

From a desk drawer in the writer’s study.

Prishvin always took these with him into the forest, both when he was gathering mushrooms, and just in case.

31 July 1949. The wild mushroom is an architectural creation, and there are some toadstools that look just like mosques…

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.

From the writer’s study.

1 September 1929. I want to prove my visions of the real world through photography. To my imperfect verbal art I shall add photographic invention.

No date. Of course, a real photographer would have taken better pictures, but the real specialist would never think of looking at what I photograph: he would not see it.

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.

No date. The mountains of flying golden sounds are the delightful abstraction of our human sorrows and joys. I think that the genius of man stole from heaven not fire, but music… We live in nature and among people for harmony… for what harmony? For the musical transfiguration of the world.

3–5 September 1930. I became so interested in hunting with a camera that while sleeping I am always waiting expectantly for the radiant morning to arrive. Now I even do spiders; I photograph their webs on bushes on clear dewy mornings.

Diary
1937. Through the empty days of the revolution, I saw the sacred days of the world and with these sacred sticky leaves I join my poetry together… to grope through the thickness of disaster for any messengers of the world that I desire.

Prishvin’s diary revives the vision of an era when the world was being forcibly transformed and in which the existence and creative activity of the individual involved inevitable tragedy. The writer felt the need to express what for him was the essential content of this era.

1947. What I want to do and what I need to do—this has been with me since I became conscious; between these two rocks my life has flowed. The publication of the diary not only deepens our understanding of the writer, but also changes the established image of the house in Dunino, which now appears as a cultural object of the Soviet era with all its paradoxes and complexity.

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?

Still more questions arise: What did the house mean to Prishvin? Does it really have universal significance? How does all this relate to the unified conception of his home present in Prishvin’s own words, when he dismissed chance, coincidence, and luck, and recognized only the ultimate meaning of life: 1946. The creativity of the Home is the creativity of immortality.

The Prishvin memorial home responds to the challenges of new times and testifies to the writer’s unique attempt to keep his internal freedom in an unfree world. It constitutes a modern remake or re-interpretation of the long-standing memorial museum in Dunino.

Museum-estate of M.M Prishvin
Credits: Story

Подготовка материала Яны Гришиной, сотрудника музея ММ Пришвина (отдел ГЛМ)

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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