Opening address by the Minister for Multicultural Affairs the Hon. Michael Atkinson MP during the Inauguration Ceremony of the Pushkin Literary Society held at the Burnside Town Hall Ballroom on June 11, 2006
I would like first to acknowledge the President Nick Derkatch, Emeritus Professor Eric Mills the Secretary, Natalya Mills, the Theatre Manager, members of the Pushkin Literary Society, performers, recitalists, presenters, ladies and gentlemen.
I have the honour to represent the Premier of South Australia, the Hon. Mike Rann, who asked me to bring you his greetings and best wishes to the Pushkin Literary Society’s concert. A society dedicated to the appreciation and study of such a master as Alexander Pushkin is especially welcome.
Alexander Sergeevich Pushkin is Russia’s greatest poet and the founder of modern Russian literature. The times had profound effect on him and on his thinking, especially on subjects such as political freedom and emancipation of the serfs. As a member of the Green Lamp Society, which sympathized with Decembrist revolutionaries of 1825, he came under police scrutiny and was internally exiled. But this did not deter him from writing more and more masterpieces.
He was brought up in the embrace of French culture and the French language as it was the habit of the Russian nobility at that time. He was also steeped in the Russian literary and folk traditions. Having read widely he heard stories about his ancestors in Russian from his maternal grandmother and Russian folk tales from his nurse Arina Rodionovna Yakovleva. He lovingly immortalized his nurse as Tatiana’s nurse in his epic work “Eugene Onegin”. During the summers he spent at his grandmother’s estate he devoured his father’s library and had his precocious imagination stimulated by the literary guests who came to the house and by many hours he spent talking to peasants.
Pushkin’s poetry often flouted accepted contemporary rules and genres. And it brought him wrath of critics and older poets upon him, but it also brought him great fame and recognition. After publication of “Ruslan and Lyudmila” the old poet V.A. Zhukovsky presented his portrait to Pushkin with the inscription “to the victorious pupil from the defeated master”. Great prize indeed.
Pushkin was acclaimed as a leader of the romantic liberty loving generation of the 1820-s. Yet he himself was never fully satisfied with some of his work. He pushed himself to greater and higher levels of literary achievements. He presented typical figures of his own age but in a wider setting and with new artistic methods and techniques. “Eugene Onegin”, for example, is a novel in verse. He showed his characters in relationship to the social and environmental forces that shaped him and he rejected Lord Byron’s subjective romanticised treatment in favour of objective descriptions that put his heroes and his heroines not in exotic surroundings but firmly at the heart of the Russian way of life.
Pushkin used the Russian language with astonishing simplicity and he influenced succeeding generations of writers, especially Ivan Turgenev, Ivan Goncharov and the great Leo Tolstoy to do the same. Pushkin gave Russia a powerful authoritative and respective literary voice and established a demanding tradition.
The Pushkin Literary Society is doing a great favour to the South Australian public by bringing the treasury of Alexander Pushkin’s creativity and genius to us to learn, enjoy and celebrate. The concert tonight also shows Pushkin’s influence on arts beside his own.
I wish you every success in the future and I am delighted that the South Australian Government can contribute to the success of the society through a grant from the multicultural grants scheme.
The Minister concludes his speech by proposing a toast...
Успехов! For Pushkin and Pushkin Literary Society!
The Minister concludes his speech by proposing a toast