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Project 1917 is a series of events that took place a hundred years ago as described by those involved. It is composed only of diaries, letters, memoirs, newspapers and other documents

Our women, lead by my Akitsia, are in some state of ecstasy over Kerensky, seeing in him almost an angel that have descended from the sky—and specifically an angel of peace. This enthusiasm is shared by our kitchen staff. See more


Burials were held in St Petersburg for the “martyrs of the revolution”. Many of us at the time were attending an exhibition at Dobychina’s Artistic Bureau, and saw through the windows the event unfolding on the Field of Mars. Gorky did not long remain an observer; he was called upon to bless the graves, and he dragged me behind him. They even photographed us in front of an open grave. See more

I found myself gripped by an acute apprehension regarding the future of the Tsarkoye Selo palace. More generally, the future of any monuments with “links to tsarism” was a source of particular concern.

It turned out that the Union of Artists exhibition being held in the foyer of the Intimate Theater on the Kryukov Canal, and for which we had naively set out, was closed:  the premises had been requisitioned for military use. Given the general mood of good cheer, the ferocious appearance of the sentry guarding the entrance struck us as strange.

Everyone is extremely worked up and no one has any illusions concerning the success of the revolutionary movement. It seems more likely to imagine that the insurrection will be supressed by the usual combination of police and bayonets. The insurrection itself, at the very least, can already be spoken of as a done deal.

Something is awry! Large-scale rioting happened on the Vyborg side due to bread difficulties (it is surprising that this has not happened earlier!).

Сегодня в редакции после мрачного политического разговора с Гессеном я, уходя, придержал его, куда-то спешащего, и говорю (разумеется, без надежды на то, что мои слова могут иметь какое-либо действие): "Умоляю вас - откажитесь от Константинополя", иначе говоря, от войны до победного конца. В ответ получаю нечто очень симптоматическое; сначала он с унылым видом отвернулся, затем улыбнулся грустной усмешкой и наконец произнес: "Это теперь все равно бесполезно, все равно все летит к черту!" Выходит, что они, вояки, это как будто наконец осознали. Зачем же тогда путать и морочить общественное мнение и продолжать в газете ратовать за продолжение бойни? Что гонит их к собственной гибели? В чем сила их вождя, их главного искусителя - Милюкова? Неужели только в том, что он такой ученый книжник, что он и сам написал немало очень ученых (да и дельных) книжек? Или он их пленит своей действительно неподкупной честностью? Но тогда зачем соваться в дела, в которых властвует не обывательская честность, а требуется прежде всего змииная мудрость и учитывание момента? Не спорю, "порядочным" людям приятнее сознавать себя чистыми, беленькими, но что от этого произойдет для целой страны, для целого народа? Ведь несомненно, что не сегодня-завтра им достанется власть, полнота власти, и вот единственное, в чем они ее проявят, будет заключаться в такой благородной (но, увы, бессмысленной, безумной) "честности" и в напрасной погоне за чем-то несбыточным (и ненужным). Какой ужас!

CokaBenois' son. is interested in home cinema and spends his savings on the purchase of second-hand films.

Yet another idiotic banquet. Patriotic speeches. Utterings of “Constantinople, Constantinople”. Bloody foolishness! We hear rumours from the kitchen staff that a general strike is in the offing. Most likely the “comrades” are really planning something big this time, but nothing of any decisive significance is likely to come of it; the “hydra” will be easily grinded down by the regularity of our policing methods. Unless, as some are now saying, the police themselves are in a state of collapse. If such is the case, our brother the bourgeoisie ought to watch out…

In the evening a big group of us went to a picture show and we were punished for such self-indulgence; the film was awful.

A biting frost, and not only outside, but indoors as well. My nose has started running and I can feel the beginnings of that particular fatigue which heralds the approach of influenza (or, as it is fashionable to say, “la grippe”).

Macaroni sellers. Naples, Italy. Between ca. 1890 and ca. 1900

Had dinner at seven with Benois. Gorky, who I found most agreeable, was also there. He told us the most engaging stories of Naples, Capri and Pompei, and of the morals, traditions and celebrations of the people there.

Ahh, why is it that Tolstoy is no longer among us these days?!

An “intimate” lunch at the GorchakovsMikhail Gorchakov, aristocrat and public advocate of the monarchy.’. Delicious food, first-rate wine, a highly well-mannered maitre d’hotel such as are found in the best bonnes maisons, and an ecstatic (if sometimes exhausting) host. Akitsa and I are both terribly fond of these feasts, which extend long into the evening, are executed with great taste and accompanied by countless comforts (such as the oh-so delicious chocolates we enjoy after the meal). Not a word, thank God, was mentioned of the war; most of the time we spoke of friends and acquaintances.

Bernstein, the publisher of my monograph, brought round an acquaintance of his today – the Swiss Arthur Hessen, who once purchased one of my watercolours. The poor foreigner was horrified by local mores, and in particular by the attitude of the Russian authorities to the allies, and especially to the French. Concessions are denied; despite pre-existing arrangements, bread isn’t given out in the stipulated quantities; in a real blow to a number of French companies, a ridiculous law banning the import of luxury goods has been enacted; and so on and so forth.

This evening I attended a concert at the Musical Drama Theatre. The symphony by Myaskovsky, who has legions of admirers, struck me as rather run-of-the-mill. When heard side by side with Myaskovsky’s music, the Prokofiev concerto is pure genius!  Petrushka, which I’ve not heard in a while, disappoints me somewhat (although I concealed this from my friend), perhaps because of the incomprehensible “shift” that occurs when the “mummers” music comes in. Diaghilev and I have both pointed this out to Igor, but he refused to make any changes whatsoever.

Shura showed us the painting he has begun for the Moscow Kazanskaya Railway Station. I was not impressed with his sketches, which appear boring and banal. The overall impression is one of heaviness: muddy colours and wilting subjects. But his work is sincere. Of course I kept my opinion to myself, but I will need to tell him when the work begins in earnest.   

I tried to induce him (Nabokov) to give me some decisive answers on the question of war and peace. But in vain. Nabokov is in thrall to the idea of pacifism while simultaneously believing it “necessary to see the war through to the end”. As if this “end” were not also the end of everyone of his own ilk, and more generally speaking, the end of a culture which, berate it though we might, we ultimately love. At any rate, we cannot expect that the madman propelled by fate to the country’s very zenith will heed the voice of reason, or even simply the imperative of self-preservation – his own no less than that of the entire country with which he has been entrusted!

Age: 47
Lives in: Petrograd, Russian Empire
Occupation: artist, illustrator, art critic, editor, publisher


in Petrograd
in Moscow