Sergei Eisenstein was born and raised in Riga and later studied in St. Petersburg. It is in Moscow, however, that he found his true calling. Here, Eisenstein became one of the world’s best film directors, a pioneer in the theory of montage and was widely noted for his famous works, The Battleship PotemkinRussian: bronenosets "Potyomkin" or броненосец "Потёмкин", Alexander Nevskya key figure of medieval Rus' known for his military victories over German and Swedish invaders in the 13th century and Ivan the Terribleruled from 1533 to 1584.
ARRIVAL IN MOSCOW
Sergei Eisenstein arrived in Moscow in late October 1920, right after the end of the Soviet-Polish warmilitary conflict between Soviet Russia and Poland, which sought to seize Ukraine. Successful as a propagandist, the soldier Eisenstein got off the train at the Belorussky railroad stationRussian: Belorusskiy vokzal or Белорусский вокзал with the intention of enrolling into the Moscow General Staff AcademyRussian: Akademiya Generalnogo shtaba or Академия Генерального штаба.
At the time, the Belorussky railway station (7, Tverskaya Zastava SquareRussian: ploschad Tverskaya zastava or площадь Тверская застава) was known as the Brestsky railway stationRussian: Brestskiy vokzal or Брестский вокзал. The familiar building, built by architect Ivan Strukov between 1907 and 1912, was the most modern railway station of the time, with its armoured concrete floors, spacious halls and ticket selling machines.
EISENSTEIN’S FIRST APARTMENT IN MOSCOW
This was a communal apartment – almost every city dweller throughout the Soviet Union was familiar life in these shared spaces. Few communal apartments exist today, but most people could afford only this kind of accommodation in Moscow and other metropolitan areas back in the 1920 through to the 1950s. Communal apartments emerged when the authorities settled other people with the owners of large multi-room apartments, and from then on, one family had its own room, but all the residents of the apartment shared the use of the kitchen and bathroom.
It is in this kind of apartment that Sergei Eisenstein lived in the room of a friend of his, actor Maksim Shtraukh, at 23, Chistoprudny BoulevardRussian: Chistoprudnyi bulvar or Чистопрудный бульвар. In 1925, when his classic masterpiece The Battleship Potemkin became a resounding success, this building’s tenants’ committee assigned Eisenstein a separate room in the same communal apartment where he lived until 1934.
Before the Russian Revolutionin 1917, the building on Chistoprudny Boulevard was a tenement apartment building owned by N. D. Teleshova Russian and Soviet writer. Built by S. V. Barkov in 1900, this building, with its pseudo-Baroque and pseudo-Classical features was extended with another three floors between 1945 and 1947. Today, it is a typical residential house that accommodates the well-known Dostoyevsky Public LibraryRussian: biblioteka imeni Dostoevskogo or библиотека имени Достоевского on its first floor.
THE CENTRAL ARENA OF THE PROLETKULT THEATRE
Eisenstein is known worldwide as a film director, however few people know that his career took off in the theatre.
Significant developments took place in Moscow’s theatrical life in the 1920s. The theatres that had gained reputation in the pre-revolutionary period – the Bolshoy TheatreRussian: Bolshoy teatr or Большой театр, the Maly TheatreRussian: Malyi teatr or Малый театр, the MATRussian: MHAT or МХАТ – moved on with their life, but the new concept of experimental theatre also began to emerge. The Proletkult TheatreRussian: teatr Proletkulta or театр Пролеткульта belonged to the far left and was aimed at promoting Soviet ideologies. The central stage of the Proletkult Theatre was located in the HermitageRussian: Эрмитаж, a well-known garden in Moscow, in the building of the former Hermitage TheatreRussian: teatr «Ermitazh» or театр «Эрмитаж». On 10 March, 1921, it featured the premiere of The MexicanRussian: Meksikanets or Мексиканец, a play for which Eisenstein, who preferred a theatre career to a military one, prepared the sets and costumes.
THE FIRST WORKERS’ PROLETKULT THEATRE
In the spring of 1923, Sergei Eisenstein put on his best-known theatrical performance, The SageRussian: Mudrets or Мудрец, on the stage of the First Workers’ Proletkult TheatreRussian: Pervyi rabochiy teatr Proletkulta or Первый рабочий театр Пролеткульта located on Vozdvizhenka StreetRussian: ulitsa Vozdvizhenka or улица Воздвиженка.
The Sage was Eisenstein’s interpretation of Enough Stupidity in Every Wise ManRussian: Na vsyakogo mudretsa dovolno prostoty or На всякого мудреца довольно простоты, a play by Aleksandr Ostrovskya Russian playwright, generally considered the greatest representative of the Russian realistic period. As a matter of fact, this performance, complete with “choral propaganda stanzas”, dances and circus tricks was nothing less than a cruel parody of the classical drama. The show’s signature moment is Glumov’s DiaryRussian: Dnevnik Glumova or Дневник Глумова, a short film that Eisenstein introduced into the stage performance. Most likely, it was The Sage that served as an antecedent to The MarriageRussian: Zhenitba or Женитьба, a play staged in the Columbus TheatreRussian: teatr Kolumba or театр Колумба, which was described in the satirical novel by Ilf and Petrovthe brilliant literary tandem of two Soviet prose authors of the 1920s and 1930s, The Twelve ChairsRussian: Dvenadtsat stulev or Двенадцать стульев.
The Proletkult Theatre on Vozdvizhenka Street was located in merchant Arseniy Morozov’s mansion (Block 1, 16, Vozdvizhenka Street), one of the most distinctive buildings in Moscow. Morozov commissioned architect V. A. Mazyrin to construct a mansion that would resemble the Pena Palace in Sintra, Portugal, hence the twisted columns and the ornate pattern embellishing the main entrance arch and the turrets on either side. This mansion is indeed very different to all the other buildings in Moscow. When Arseniy’s mother Varvara Morozova saw this house, according to legend, she told her son: “Before, I was the only one to know you’re a fool, and now everyone in Moscow will know that you are!” Today, this building accommodates the Reception House of the Government of RussiaRussian: Dom priemov Pravitelstva Rossiyskoy Federatsii or Дом приемов Правительства Российской Федерации.
The BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN
After The Battleship Potemkin came out, Eisenstein rose to fame overnight. Even those who struggled against communism acknowledged the film’s artistic merit, and The Battleship Potemkin has since been ranked among the world’s greatest films.
In Moscow, the film’s premiere took place on 18 January, 1926 in the First State CinemaRussian: Pervyi Goskinoteatr or Первый Госкинотеатр on Arbat SquareRussian: Arbatskaya ploschad or Арбатская площадь, now known as Khudozhestvenny CinemaRussian: kinoteatr «Hudozhestvennyi» or кинотеатр «Художественный» located at 14, Arbat Square. It was Eisenstein’s idea to set up a miniature version of the battleship along the cinema’s façade and to dress cinema personnel as sailors. The premiere was an instant hit.
The Khudozhestvenny Cinema still exists today. Built by the renowned architect Fyodor Shekhtelthe most influential and prolific master of Russian Art Nouveau and late Russian Revival, it is one of Moscow’s oldest cinemas. The building features some classical elements such as the semi-columns at the main entrance and the now lost antique-style moldings in the arches above the entrance. As of May 2016, the cinema is undergoing renovation.
Every Soviet film director would visit a small mansion at the corner of Bolshoy and Maly Gnezdikovsky LanesRussian: Bolshoy i Malyi Gnezdnikovskie pereulki or Большой и Малый Гнездниковские переулки. The reason for this is that between 1922 and 2008, the headquarters of GoskinoRussian: Госкино (7, Maly Gnezdikovsky LaneRussian: Malyi Gnezdnikovskiy pereulok or Малый Гнездниковский переулок) were here, otherwise known as the USSR State Committee for CinematographyRussian: Gosudarstvennyi Komitet po kinematografii or Государственный Комитет по кинематографии, which coordinated the work of all filmmakers throughout the Soviet Union.
Although Eisenstein was a committed supporter of the Soviet Union, his relationship with Goskino was uneasy. His first films (StrikeRussian: Stachka or Стачка , The Battleship Potemkin and OctoberRussian: Oktyabr or Октябрь: Ten Days That Shook the WorldRussian: Desyat dney, kotoryie potryasli mir or Десять дней, которые потрясли мир) were an overwhelming success, but Bezhin MeadowRussian: Bezhin lug or Бежин луг (1935) was highly criticized and practically annihilated by critics. A second wave of success came with the release of Alexander Nevsky and the first part of Ivan the Terrible. However, the second instalment was criticized by Stalin, and Eisenstein died without filming the third part.
Before the Russian Revolution of 1917, the mansion which later accommodated Goskino belonged to the industrialist family of Lianozov. Interestingly, Stepan Georgiyevich Lianozov wanted to set up a film studio in his mansion, but he never carried out the project. Today, Lianozov’s mansion houses the Ministry for Culture of RussiaRussian: Ministerstvo kultury Rossiyskoy Federatsii or Министерство культуры Российской Федерации.
The world famous Mosfilm studioRussian: kinostudiya «Mosfilm» or киностудия «Мосфильм» (1, Mosfilmovskaya StreetRussian: ulitsa Mosfilmovskaya or улица Мосфильмовская) was established in 1931. A full-scale cinema precinct emerged on the outskirts of Moscow, behind the Kiyevsky railroad stationRussian: Kievskiy vokzal or Киевский вокзал, where there was enough room for numerous film settings, and several films could be shot at the same time in different pavilions. Sergei Eisenstein headed this film studio in 1940 and 1941, and it is here that he shot Alexander Nevsky and the first part of Ivan the Terrible.
Mosfilm remains the leading Russian film studio. Guided excursions are offered at the site, and a museum is open to visitors, displaying sets, items which belonged to various film characters and a collection of specialized technical equipment.
EISENSTEIN’S LAST YEARS
Sergei Eisenstein had cardiac problems throughout his life. He had two heart attacks between 1946 and 1948, and the third one on the night of 11 February, 1948 was fatal. Eisenstein died in his Moscow apartment on Potylikha StreetRussian: ulitsa Potyiliha or улица Потылиха, not far from Mosfilm. Unfortunately, the building where Eisenstein lived (54, Potylikha Street) has not survived. Eisenstein was buried in the Novodevichy CemeteryRussian: Novodeviche kladbische or Новодевичье кладбище, which holds the tombs of some of the most noted personalities of Russia’s political and cultural milieus. The tombstone was executed by sculptor Georgy Neroda and architect Aleksey Dushkin. Eisenstein’s tomb is located at Division 4, Row 37.
After Eisenstein’s death, his widow Pera Atasheva kept her deceased husband’s belongings and documents in perfect order. The apartment at 10, Smolenskaya StreetRussian: Smolenskaya ulitsa or Смоленская улица, where Atasheva spent the last years of her life, then passed to the Union of CinematographersRussian: Soyuz kinematografistov or Союз кинематографистов. Today, it accommodates Eisenstein’s study, which has become a one-bedroom depository of various materials associated with Eisenstein. Unfortunately, Eisenstein’s memorial apartment is now closed to visitors, since it is impossible to both create comfortable conditions for its visitors and ensure the safety of the collection. Items from the depository are sometimes on exhibition at the Moscow State Central Cinema MuseumRussian: Tsentralnyi muzey kino or Центральный музей кино located at Block 3, 1, Mosfilmovskaya Street.© 2016-2018 moscovery.com