Libmonster ID: KZ-1566
Author(s) of the publication: Olga BAZANOVA

by Olga BAZANOVA, Science in Russia observer

Pyatigorsk, a major administrative center of North Caucasia, is also famous as a spa health resort, and by its mud baths. Its foundation date harks back to the year 1780 when a fort was built out there. In 1803 Emperor Alexander I signed an edict that stressed the great significance of Caucasian mineral springs and mapped out plans for establishing a spa resort over there. Pyatigorsk is a meaningful name. First and foremost, because this town is a mecca for those who worship the great Russian poet and novelist Mikhail Yurievich Lermontov (1814-1841) and who are all set to celebrate his birth bicentennial in 2014. As Professor Boris Eichenbaum, a literary critic, says, Pyatigorsk is a historic place intimately linked with Lermontov's life and creativity, his tragic and untimely death.

Pyatigorsk, or a "Town of Five Mounts", cuddles at the foot of a five-domed mountain, Beshtau. Much credit is due to Johann Anton Hildenstedt, a member of the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences, who between 1769 and 1775 explored the plant and animal kingdom of the locality, its lakes and mineral springs. In 1793 another explorer, Peter Simon Pallas, went thither too. An eminent German naturalist, geographer and traveler, Palas was in the Russian service. Soldiers of the fort's garrison (the name of that fort was Konstantingorsk) told him about the curative baths found to be good for skin diseases and rheumatism. Getting down to brass tacks, Palas found out those were thermal baths carved in rock long ago, in times out of mind, at the foot of Mount Mashuk, now within the Pyatigorsk city limits. The German made a chemical test of the warm water gushing forth from subterranean mineral springs.

The news of the salutary Caucasian waters spread like wildfire, and sick sufferers trekked in doves to "Warm Waters" (Goryachevodsk) for relief. Feodor Gaaz, a Moscow physician, visited these parts in 1809 to look around. He made a close study of the springs and struck new ones. He confirmed the curative properties of the waters and was the first among medica to recommend them for treatment. Alexander Nelyubin, a St. Petersburg doctor, teacher and writer, kept up this work, and he summed up his findings in a capital description of Caucasian mineral waters that holds even in our days.

And so it came to pass that in the selfsame year of 1825 a Penza landlady, Elizaveta Arsenieva, brought her ten-

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year grandson Michel Lermontov to her sister, Ekaterina, staying at Goryachegorsk--frail in health, Michel had to recuperate. [Mikhail Yurievich Lermontov was born in Moscow to Captain Yuri Petrovich Lermontov and Maria Mikhailovna, nee Arsenieva. His parents moved to the Tarkhanov estate at Penza and soon after that separated. When Lermontov's mother died, little Michel became the ward of his grandmother Elizaveta Alexeyevna Arsenieva.] Although Michel had been to the Caucasian mineral springs before that, this time Caucasia kindled poetic sentiments in his young tender soul and three or four years after, he tested his quill and put down his first spirited verses. Euterpe, the Poetic Muse, fired his heart. Thus from the tender nail Michel Lermontov showed a lyrical bent. The Muse got a mighty hold of his imagination in the university days, in 1830 to 1832 (in 1830 Lermontov entered Moscow University). The Caucasus and its snow-mantled peaks, these "thrones of Nature" beckoned to him, and inspired a great many lyrical poems like The Cross on a Cliff, The Caucasus, The Chain of Mountains Blue I Love...

Meanwhile the health resort kept growing and developing apace largely thanks to the active efforts of General Alexei Yermolov serving at that time as governor of the "Caucasian Province". At his request two master architects came from St. Petersburg, the Swiss-born brothers, Giuseppe and Giovanni Bernardazzi. In 1828 they finished the construction of the first town hotel, the Restauratia, that evolved into a community center (housing the Research Institute of Kurortology today). In 1831 the Bernardazzis built the Nicholas Baths, the oldest mud-treatment facility in Russia (changing its name to the Lermontov Baths: in 1837 the poet was there for a course of cure sessions)*. The two builders took care of a natural cave on the western slope of Mount Mashuk-- they made it deeper and cosier; known today as the Lermontov Grotto, it is one of the most spectacular sights in Pyatigorsk.

Landscape architecture and gardening was also an important part of this activity. A large orchard and a linden-lined boulevard were laid out; the boulevard became a popular flower garden, The Parterre. This work proceeded alongside with road building. Furthermore, the health resort hired Feodor Conradi as head doctor who, in 1831, published his Inquisitions About Mineral Waters and the Latest Tidings on Caucasian Mineral Springs. General Georgi Emanuel, who succeeded General Yermolov in the capacity of the "Caucasian proconsul", went on with further urban development projects. Giuseppe Bernardazzi was taking an active part: in 1830 the government endorsed his plan for town renewal, and Goryachevodsk ("Hot Waters") was elevated to a provincial town status and changed its name to Pyatigorsk ("Town of Five Mounts"). Going on with the work of beautifying the Parterre Garden, the Swiss architects built a superb grotto there named for Diana, the Roman goddess of the moon, the woods and of hunting (Artemis in Greek mythology), a symbol of womanly grace and fertility. This creation was dedicated to the members of the first research expedition to Mount Elbrus, the tallest peak in Russia, organized by Emanuel in 1829.

In 1831 Giuseppe Bernardazzi built a stone rotunda with eight columns dubbed Aeolian Harp (after Aeolus, the Greek god of the winds) and modeled after the Aeolinan Temple put up by William Chambers near London. The floor of this grotto was furnished with strings that played music when blown by the wind. An esplanade, offering a breath-taking view of Mount Elbrus, Pyatigorsk and its outskirts, was built around the grotto.

Convenient roads and walkways were cut across to the mud baths and springs, and to the places of entertainment, for one, to the Pit, a sink of karst origin (called so

* Both houses were built to the design of Joseph Charlemagne of St. Petersburg.--Ed.

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by Anton Hildenstedt in 1773): this cave, 41 meters deep, is a conical depression getting narrow toward the bottom; its vault took form as a result of stripping and rock washouts. The grotto's bottom has a warm mineral lake (t°=25-42° centigrade); it is 11 m deep, 15 m across, and of bright greenish-blue color due to the presence of hydrogen sulphide and sulpur bacteria.

In 1793 Pallas measured the cave in-depth and described it. Decades after, in 1857, local researchers got down to exploring this wonderous natural phenomenon. The following year a 60 m tunnel was cut through to the lake shore to enable the inquisitive lot to come closer and take a look. But there was no tunnel in the Lermontov days--one could peep into the "blue lake" only from above, standing on a platform erected by the Bernardazzi brothers; those who had the guts to get down were able to do so by getting into the basket fixed within and have a go.

This spectacular natural monument, together with pavilions put up in the 1820s and 1830s, are silent witnesses of the great poet staying there. He stepped into the buildings known to us, trod the paths of the place, took in the lovely natural scenes. And he did a bit of socializing by mixing with the "water springs beau monde"-- guests from St. Petersburg and local nobles. He immortalized his experiences in the novel The Hero of Our Time. Visiting Pyatigorsk is always a nourishing trip down the Lermontov memory lane.

Lermontov was destined to come back and end his days out there, in the Caucasus. He had to: on the twenty-ninth of January, 1837, the great Russian poet Alexander Pushkin died after the duel he lost to Dantes. Lermontov worshiped Pushkin as his idol. He responded with scathing, acrimonious lines in the poem Death of the Poet:

The Poet's dead--in bond of honor-

He fell, by rumour vilified...

Lermontov blamed the powers that be and the St.

Petersburg beau monde for this tragic duel.

... But you, the arrogant descendants

Of fathers for their churlish villainly renowned...

... You who surround the throne in eager droves, you vandals... ...

Who would have Freedom,

Genius and Glory hung!...

All your black blood can't wash away nor shall it ever Redeem the Poet's righteous blood!

Riled, the authorities started criminal investigations. Lermontov was arrested and sent in the rank of ensign to the Dragoons Regiment on active duty in the Caucasus where a war was on against the rebellious highlanders.

This poem made Lermontov famous overnight, it was distributed in manuscripts in St. Petersburg. And it outraged the government. Lermontov fell ill on the way to his regiment and spent some time taking a cure in the Pyatigorsk spa. "I came crippled by rheumatism all over," he wrote to his friend Svyatoslav Rayevsky. "The men carried me out of the vehicle, I was unable to walk; but within a month the waters set me right, and now I am

стр. 67

as sound as ever..." Thereupon Lermontov went to Tiflis (Tbilisi today) as an ensign of the Nizhni Novgorod Dragoons regiment. The routes of the poet's wanderings are often hard to trace. Here's what we read in the letter:

"Since I left Russia I have been in continual peregrination, traveling now on post-chaise, now on horseback; I rode all over the Line*, from Kizlyar down to Taman; I have crossed the mountains, I have been to Shusha, Kuban, Shemakha, and Kakhetia wearing Circassian-style clothes, with a rifle slung over the shoulders... Nights I slept in the open field to the howling of jackals; I ate of the churek bread, and even drank of the Kakhetian wine..."

The poet's sensitive soul imbibed avidly the striking impressions of the mountain wonderland. The Caucasian folk songs, tales and legends captured his mind and came to be transmuted into many poems and writings of his. First and foremost, that was the novel The Hero of Our Time. Such poems as The Captive, Mtsyri, Haji Abrek, Tamara, The Dagger, As Haste I Northwards, Gifts of the Terek, A Cossack Lullaby, Clouds, Forgiveness among many, many others were conceived over there, in

* With reference to the Caucasian Defense Line comprising border fortifications and put up in the 18th and 19th centuries. It furnished protection to Russian troops during the Caucasian War of 1817-1864 waged by Russia against local tribes.--Ed.

the Caucasus. A superb master of the brush, Lermontov made quite a few pictorial sketches.

Early in 1838 Czar Nicholas I pardoned the "inditerof unorthodox verses" and let him come back to St. Petersburg (true, with his grandmother Arsenieva, who carried weight, interceding for him). Two years later, in 1840, Lermontov published his first (and the only one in his lifetime) collection of poetry with twenty-eight poems, and then also The Hero of Our Time (first in installments appearing in The Otechestvennye zapiski*) and afterwards, in a separate edition. This novel laid the beginning of Russian psychological prose.

In 1840 Lermontov was arrested again, this time for a duel with the son of the French Ambassador Barante. Upon the investigation he was sent in the rank of lieutenant to the Tenginsky Infantry Regiment in the Caucasus, where he acquitted himself in military operations. Here's what we read in the military review journal, "This officer, braving danger, fulfilled his mission with extraordinary gallantry and in cold blood..." As commander of a "Flying Hundertschaft" recruited from volunteers--daredevils and superb swordsmen, mostly army officers reduced to the ranks, Cossacks and Kabarda mountaineers,-- Lermontov was in many skirmishes and, as one of his comrades-in-arms recalled, he was always "the first target of predatory fire and, heading the task force, was beyond any praise in his selfless bravery".

In May of 1841 Lermontov is back in Pyatigorsk again after a two-month furlough in Petersburg. While over there, at the end of 1840, he tried to resign from the army in order to devote himself to literary pursuits, but his application for discharge was refused. Back in Pyatigorsk, he and Captain Alexei Stolypin (nicknamed "Mongo"**), his kinsman and old buddy of the Cadet School, rented a thatched adobe cabin which stood near the mansion of General Verzilin a Cossack ataman (war lord), a haunt of young army officers. On one such soiree, on the thirteenth of July, 1841, a dramatic quarrel broke out which, as Emperor Nicholas I put it, stole from Russia "one, who could stand in good stead of Pushkin to us".

Lermontov was larger than life--multidimensional, full of contradictions. Small wonder that most different opinions are uttered concerning his ego, his creations and his early death. Writers and literaty critics--those who lived in the 19th century and our contemporaries, too--are not at one on that. According to Emma Herstein, a literary critic, the Lermontov biography and creativity need a good deal of research. "Thorough and systematic studies of archival treasures... may yield many

* A literary journal that impacted Russia's public thought in 1818 to 1884.-Ed.

** Mongo is one of the two characters at the jolly short poem Mongo--Tr.

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fresh findings and discoveries" (Lermontov's Destiny, 1964).

We do not know all there is to the tragic duel between the poet and Nikolai Martynov, a retired army major once enrolled in the same Cadet School as Lermontov. There is a mix of fact and fancy on this score. So we had better hear what eyewitnesses had to say.

Brother officers recalled: Martynov was "a very handsome young officer of the Guards... always courteous and merry, he sang romances rather well and wrote fairly good verses. He was eager for promotion... up to the rank of general." But in 1841 he tendered his resignation all of a sudden (possibly caught red-handed in foul play at the cards). Martynov changed greatly: he "let immense sideburns grow, would wear a simple Circassian dress, furnished with a long dagger, and had a white papakha [Caucasian tall hat of sheepskin] on; always morose and taciturn..." As Nikolai Lorer, an exiled Decembrist (implicated in the conspiracy of December 1825 as a group of army officers refused to swear fealty to the new emperor, Nicholas I), recalled, Martynov became the butt of jeers and derision among the comrades, with Lermontov being most caustic..."

It was at Verzilov's that Lermontov and Martynov clashed in a bitter quarrel; As Martynov testified in his evidence after the fact, "Ever since his arrival at Pyatigorsk Lermontov would seize every opportunity to say something foul to me... At the evening party in a private home... he made me lose all patience... I told him to cut it out and stop those jeers intolerable to me... He cut me short and, to cap it all, told me, 'Instead of empty threats, you'd better act. I never refuse from duels, you know, and so you shall never scare me on this point'... in fact, I'm not one who challenges, but I'm challenged."

The duel fixed on the fifteenth of July, on a patch of ground picked out at the foot of Mount Mashuk (we cannot tell the exact place though). Lermontov rode thither with Mikhail Glebov, his second and bud serving in the same regiment. On the way the poet let his second into his creative plans, "I have conceived the plan of two novels, one dealing with the deadly battle of the two great nations [Napoleonic France and Russia], with the plot beginning in Petersburg, actions in the heart of Russia [Moscow] and at Paris, and the denouement in Vienna; the other novel will be from Caucasian life, the scene laid in Tiflis under Yermolov... It will do with the Persian war and the catastrophe as Griboyedov* was killed in Teheran... Meanwhile I have to bide my time before getting down to the work of laying the foundation for these novels... In a fortnight or so I will have to join my detach-

* Griboyedov, Alexander Sergeevich (1795-1829), an eminent Russian poet and playwright, author of the famous comedy Wit Works Woe.-- Tr.

ment, by the autumn we shall sally forth, and who knows when we are back!" Lermontov had no thought of death. Yet on July 15, 1841, between 18 and 19 hours, a fatal short rang out, under a thunderstorm and torrential rain.

Lermontov had yet another second, Prince Alexander Vasilchikov; he said he wondered at the merry expression of the poet's face during the duel. And at the signal "You now meet!", Prince Vasilchikov recalled, Lermontov "stayed motionless and, raising the cock, held his pistol with the muzzle up shielding himself, like an experienced duelist, with his hand and elbow... Martynov stepped quickly to the barrier and fired. Lermontov fell as if mowed off... We rushed to him. A wound steamed in his right side, and his left side bled--the bullet pierced the heart and lungs..."

Late in the evening the poet's body was brought to his home, and his blood-soaked service coat was cut up and burned. Two days later, his fellow officers carried the coffin on their shoulders to the local graveyard at the foot of Mashuk. His kinsfolks and friends as well as local officials and many holiday-makers came to the grave to throw a pinch of soil on it. In eight months his grandmother Arsenieva obtained permission to bury the poet's ashes within the family vault at the hereditary estate Tarhany near Penza. And so on March 27, 1842, the

стр. 69

sealed coffin of lead set forth on its long journey, and on April 21 "the son of sufferings" found peace on his ancestral estate.

A memorial tombstone was put up in 1901 at the supposed place of the duel (the exact spot still unknown!). St. Petersburg sculptors lent a hand in setting up a Lermontov memorial--large enough, what with the expected influx of devotees. It included a stele of Kislovodsk sandstone (architect Boris Mikeshin, 1915); built around the complex was a decorative fence made of pillars imitating pistol cartridges linked by a chain (architects, Vassily Kozlov and Leopold Augustus Dietrich). Giant griffins were installed at the four coiners of the obelisk, with their heads inclined and turned away--an ambivalent symbol like many other things related to Lermontov.

Meanwhile Pyatigorsk kept growing as a national spa resort. Semyon Smirnov, a local doctor and a man of many parts, talked other medics as well as druggists, chemists and geologists into joining a Russian Balneological Society (1863). It was the nation's first body to study mineral waters, muds and adequate treatment procedures. It became the base for the Pyatigorsk Kurortology Institute established in 1920.

From among the many architectural objects added to Pyatigorsk in the latter half of the 19th century we should single out the elegant Elizabethan Drinking Gallery of white stone erected in 1850 in place of the old Elizabethan Springs famous in Lermontov's lifetime and mentioned in The Hew of Our Time. Made of wood, that wellspring fell into decay. The new spa gallery was built by Samuel Upton, also the architect of the Michael Gallery (1848-1854) and Warm Sulphur Baths (1861).

Yet another attraction--the Yermolov baths built in 1880 by Vladimir Grozmani of Vladikavkaz in the Parterre garden. This is an imposing structure of local sandstone, one of Pyatigorsk's best. It is composed of two crosses joined together, with a small cylindrical tower crowned by a dome in the center of each cross. The towers are furnished with window slits all around. The facade of the building is adorned with decorative masonry and iron-clad pieces. The main entrance is of two doors surmounted by a round rosette window.

Pyatigorsk, the last refuge of the great poet, was Russia's first town to commemorate him. His bronze monument on a granite pedestal was dedicated in 1889. Alexander Opekushin of St. Petersburg depicted the singer of the Caucasus sitting on a cliff ledge, his glance traveling towards the snow-capped peaks; a bronze lyre cum wreath is at the foot of the memorial. A large square, named for Lermontov, surrounds it.

New spectacular monumental structures appeared in Pyatigorsk is the early 20th century as well. One of them was built in 1901 on Mount Goryachaya ("Hot Mountain") next to Mashuk. This sculptural composition shows an eagle wrestling with a snake, an allegory of the potent strength of salubrious springs vanquishing disease. It has become an official symbol of the Caucasian spas. Ludwig Shodky, a local architect, had it built of cement, a short-lived material that had to be renovated time and again. So in 1973 it was replaced by bronze, and that's

стр. 70

what we can see today. Shodky came up with his design of a large "Fairy-Tale" Fountain that displays a round water pool with a hill and grotto in the middle; the entries to the grotto are guarded by bearded gnomes.

Posh buildings in different architectural styles rose here and there. Here are just a few: the Lermontov Gallery; Town Hall (1902); the Classic School (Gymnasium) for boys (1903); architect Klepinin's house (1905); the Hermitage and Bristol hotels; the exchequer; the printing-house (1908); the mud baths... Some of the most imposing structures were built in the moderne style, such as Gukasov's coffee-house and his tenement house looking like a smallish castle and dubbed Elsa Cottage after his wife, Elsa; a community center (now the Small Opera House), a mansion built by Kuznetsov, an architect...

There were other welcome additions, in particular, the Lermontov Cabin, which opened its door to guests in 1912. This is one of the nation's oldest literary-memorial museums and the only one dedicated to the great poet to have survived whole as it was. In 1973 it expanded into a State Memorial Museum that took in the nearest historical town block.

The cabin, whose owner was a Chilyaev, comprised a passage, antechamber, pantry and four chambers; the poet roomed with his kinsman, Stolypin. It was there, in that cabin, that Lermontov penned his last lyrical masterpieces-- The Cliff, The Dream, Tamara, Lone's the Mist-cloaked Road Before Me Lying.., The Sea Princess, The Prophet... Pechorin, the protagonist of The Hero of Our Time, lived in such lodgings. "Yesterday I... rented a flat on the edge of the town, at the foot of Mashuk: in a thunderstorm the clouds will get down right to my roof. Today at five o'clock in the morning I opened the window, and my room was filled with the scent of flowers growing in the modest front garden. The branches of blossoming cherry-trees are looking into my windows, and now and then the wind will blow in their white petals onto my desk. The view on three sides is just fantastic..."

The cabin is filled with so many memorabilia: pictures and lithographs of Caucasian scenes, furniture and items related to the camp life of army officers of the early eighteen-hundreds,--say, a full-dress coat of the Tenginsky Infantry Regiment. The drawing room of the Lermontov lodgings was a meeting-place of his friends. It has a card-table, and a sofa with a Caucasian gun, German pistol and Cossack dagger hung from a Turkoman carpet above. But the sleeping-room furniture is gone, unfortunately. It exhibits things brought in from the poet's Petersburg apartment, a gift from Eugenia Shan-Girei, Lermontov's second niece: an armchair of black leather and a desk with sheets of paper, a quill and books on top. Fixed on the wall is a nice Caucasian scene by Leo Lagorio, a master landscape-painter.

стр. 71

Peter Martynov, a journalist who stayed in Pyatigorsk in the 1870s, described Lermontov's mode of life there as told by Chilyaev, the owner of the cabin. "He kept open house.., and should anyone turn with a request for help or favor, he never said 'No!' and did his best. He got up now at an early hour, and now rather late, at nine o'clock or after... He would go out to drink waters or take baths, and then he had his cup of tea. Thereafter he would leave and come back around two o'clock for dinner, always in company of his buds... After dinner they would take coffee, smoke and chew the rag on the little balcony. Tea was brought in about six o'clock in the evening, and then everybody left. There were strolls in the evening, dances, flirting with ladies, and the cards... Lermontov did play occasionally, but within bounds, and did not stake high... Sometimes in the morning Lermontov mounted his fiery Circassian steed and rode out of town... He adored mad fancy riding--lost to everything, he raced like wind about the steppe..."

The literary section of the Lermontov museum is in the Verzilin house where young officers were socializing. Put on display are manuscripts, letters and Lermontov works published in this and other countries. There are numerous photographs, portraits and pictures--A View of the Cross Mountain painted by Lermontov and copies of his pictures made by other artists. The water colors of Grigori Gagarin, his buddy, depict Cossacks and highlanders, and views of Goryachevodsk and neighboring mountains.

Mihály Zichy, a Hungarian artist and a great admirer of Lermontov, contributed some drawings after his visit to Pyatigorsk in 1881, in particular, Pyatigorsk views, illustrations to The Hero of Our Time and The Demon. And we can also see the water color A Clash in the Caucasian Mountains, and The Daryal, a turbulent mountain river mentioned in Lermontov's works (landscape by Lagorio).

A fine arts section is housed in the building owned by collegiate assessor Umanov, where Alexander Arnoldi, a fellow who served in the same regiment as Lermontov, lived. It exhibits a gallery of Lermontov portraits, pictures and sculptures by Vassily Kozlov, Leopold Augustus Dietrich, Anna Golubkina... There are quite a few battle and genre scenes as well illustrations to Lermontov works by Valentin Serov, Mikhail Vrubel, Ilya Repin, Boris Kustodiev, Ivan Bilibin...

Vissarion Belinsky, a famous literary critic of that time, called the Caucasus a cradle of the Lermontov poetry. "After Pushkin no one was able to thank the Caucasus so poetically for its wondrous scenes, august and vestal in their beauty."

Lone's the mist-cloaked road before me lying;

On and on it winds and draws me far.

Night is still, all earthly sounds dying;

Nature lists to God, and star speaks to star* ...

(Lermontov, Pyatigorsk, 1841).

* Translated by Irina Zheleznova, Raduga Publishers, Moscow, 1983.


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