Artistic Conceptual Framework Of The Russian Constantinople Literature: Ways Of Formation


The article considers the formation problems of artistic conceptual framework of Russian literature abroad on the example of understudied and undeservedly forgotten today literary phenomenon of Russian Constantinople. It has long remained on the periphery of attention of Russian and foreign researchers, who still have great problems in studying it, because of certain ideological and historical reasons. First of all, they are related to the lack of a holistic view of the scope and nature of the literary phenomena of Russian Constantinople, to the availability of only a few well-known literary sources, and to the Russian refugees' sojourn in the Turkish capital (1920-1923). However, already public works testify to the fact that they have become a specific foundation for the formation of the emigrant's language personality, a special conceptual framework of Russian literature abroad. Based on the example of unfamed Constantinople collections of Olga Yaroslavna, G. Finn and A. Allin, the article proves that the leading role in its formation was played by young poets whose biographies are still unknown. In their works the dominance of "spatial" concepts is noted: path/road, vast/field, distance, will, wind, sea, which reflect the endless movement of the Russian exile on the scope not only of the world, but also of the universe. The concept of "war" is discussed separately in this paper. The ideas about this concept are also formed in the young poets' poetry of Constantinople who had gone through the Civil War in Russia.

Keywords: Artistic conceptual framework, Literature of Russian Abroad, Russian Constantinople


Constantinople became one of the first major centres of Russian literature abroad in the early 1920s. However, today the literature of Russian Constantinople remains almost unknown phenomenon both for science and for readers. The notion that it did not exist at all still dominates, because too little time was given to the mass stays of Russian emigrants in Turkey and Constantinople (1920-1923). It is argued that the necessary conditions for the full development of Constantinople literature could not be created in a few years

Essential publications of the Russian Constantinople are difficult to access for domestic scientists and are in foreign funds, some of them have been deliberately destroyed as a result of complex socio-political processes in Turkey. In this regard, Russian Constantinople has now been the subject of study mainly by a minority of foreign researchers (Oldzhay, 2016, 2019; Sigirdzhi, 2018). The works of Russian scientists are also isolated (Chelyshev, 2013; Ledenev & Romanova, 2019; Zheltova, 2017, 2018).

Problem Statement

Nevertheless, the sources discovered recently, including those by the author of the article (Zheltova, 2017, 2018), such as those considered lost, as well as other ample evidence of intensive literary life in the Turkish capital, allow us to say that in the very beginning of the 1920s, literally within a few months, dozens of Russian newspapers, magazines, almanacs and publishing houses appeared in Constantinople, prose books and poetry collections were being published.

From 1920 to 1923, a full-fledged culture was created here in the shortest possible time, allowing us to focus on the special literary and linguistic phenomenon of Russian Constantinople. The works were created here mainly by young Russian poets - Allin (1922), Finn (1921), Olga Yaroslavna (1921). They reflected not only national socio-political cataclysms, but also helped to create a new linguistic and aesthetic reality.

Research Questions

It seems that during this period an original artistic conceptual framework was formed here, which later became the basis for all Russian emigre literature. At present, its language peculiarity is often the subject of special study by both linguists and literary scholars (Megrelishvili, 2019; Serebriakova & Borovitskaya, 2019; Stepanova, 2014; Volodina, 2019).

The early period of Russian emigration, the beginning of the 1920s, which was marked by a short-time cultural and literary explosion of Russian Constantinople, is of particular interest in this regard.

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of the study is to review the basic concepts of the language personality of a Russian emigrant in Constantinople collections of young poets such as Olga Yaroslavna, Allin and Finn.

The other purpose of the study is to prove that it was at the beginning of the 1920s that an original artistic conceptual framework was formed in the Turkish capital, which later became widespread in all Russian literature abroad

Research Methods

There is no doubt that the complex of concepts of emigre literature is closely linked to the national conceptual framework, but the hierarchical correlations in it are organised somewhat differently, because, as Likhachev rightly noted, the concept "is the result of the collision of the dictionary meaning of a word with personal and folk experience" (Likhachev, 1997, p. 281). It is obvious that in the beginning of the 1920s, as a result of the defeat of the White Army in the Civil War, a new spiritual experience was gained by a great part of the Russian nation - the experience of a mass exodus from their country and a long existence in a foreign language and foreign cultural conditions in different countries of the world. Russian foreign literature has developed a new concept of the individual, who has to go through their life in a foreign country. The work of Stepanova, which considers the conceptual framework "path of life" in the autobiographical prose of the first wave of Russian emigration, is very relevant in this regard (Stepanova, 2014). The researcher distinguishes a set of artistic concepts that defines the specific personality of an emigrant, including such concepts as "path" <...>, "life", "fate", "image of the world", "home", "family", "father", "mother", "childhood", "memory", "motherland", "freedom", "space", "time", "exile", "creativity", "choice", etc. (Stepanova, 2014).

It seems that these concepts can be found not only in the autobiographical prose of emigrant writers, but also in the very first experiments of Russian foreign literature, which include collections of poems by Olga Yaroslavna, Allin and Finn published in Constantinople in 1921-1922. It is no coincidence that as early as 1992, Karaulov suggested rightly that the language of Russian abroad be singled out as a separate sphere of Russian language existence (Karaulov, 1992).


Therefore, based on the analysis of the language personality of the emigrant in the poetry of Olga Yaroslavna, Allin, and Finn's general features of pragmaticon can be distinguished, which is characterized by correlation with the special psychological state of the exile, his perception of time and space: path/road, crossroads, vast/field, distance, land, shore, sky, wind, sea, sunset, night, death, silence/mute, sadness, twilight, gloom, wounds/ mangled, grief/bitterness, tears, sorrow, disbelief, song, heart, sleep, hunger, etc. All these lexical tokens are often found in the works of all three poets, and have predominantly negative connotations.

The main constant that unites the work of all Constantinople writers is the concept of "path/road". It has the richest palette of figurative-emotional connotations, which, however, can be reduced to one semantic vector - the continuous movement from homeland to a foreign country on the background of global expanses. The latter take on a negative, hostile meaning. All these notions of life as an infinite path will find their development in further emigrant literature.

The image of the endless Russian expanse that has been abandoned is often embodied and takes on the features of loneliness and inability to express what is happening: for example, the "silence of the steppes" (Finn), the "silence of the fields" (Allin), the " mute fields". (Olga Yaroslavna). In this case, the concepts of mute and silence reinforce a state of uncertainty, rejection, remoteness and anxiety about an unknown future.

Another spatial concept that unites the works of the three poets is the concept of "distance", which in the context of the first experiences of young emigrant literature is perceived as a symbol of a new, unknown, uninhabited, often hostile - "alien" - space. The distance is filled with the semantics of the near future, it is already close at hand, acts as a measure of some dangerous distance, a boundary that cannot be crossed without losing one's own. All three poets have the image of a bird soul aspiring to the will, but not finding it in exile, which is often identified with the concept of "death". In the collections of Olga Yaroslavna, Allin and Finn, the concept of "sea" is spread, through which the very path to a foreign country is made and which is associated with the Russian concept of "will".

The concept of "longing" is found in the collections of all three poets, but it is not widely used in them, unlike later works of the first wave of Russian literature abroad. Also, there are almost no "past" and "native" lexical items inherent in it, and the concept of "own-alien " is rarely encountered. These facts show that the language identity of the emigrant in Constantinople was just beginning to grow, that Russian refugees have not yet lost hope of returning to Russia and realized their stay in the Turkish capital as temporary.

One of the main components of the conceptual framework of Russian Constantinople poetry was the concept of "war", which later found an extremely wide amplification in Russian literature abroad. It can be clearly seen in the poetry of Finn, Allin and Olga Yaroslavna, whose biographies were directly related to the Civil War. The work of Finn, author of the collection "Dull Birds" (Constantinople, 1921), is very representative. According to indirect evidence in the book itself, it is possible to establish that he was most likely a member of the White Movement. The collection includes 21 poems written by Finn from April, 1918 to December, 1920, which cover the active period of the Civil War, its end and the first post-war period.

Despite the fact that the collection "Dull Birds" is filled with the symbols of war, it lacks the lexical item 'war' itself. But at the same time, we can state that this concept is vividly represented in accompanying images and motifs. The title of the book - "Dull Birds" - is essentially a metaphorical image of the Civil War. The Dull Birds are both its ambassadors (knocking on the window) and its sign. They are accompanied by the twilight motif, which symbolises the unknown and the mourning ('twilight' dress of death). The poet introduces the image of "mortician birds" into the poems. Opposite to the war is a flock of snow-white birds, which symbolise the lyrical hero's dream of peace. In Finn's emigrant poems, this image is transformed into an image of a "swan flock", reflecting his longing for the homeland.

In the book, the image of birds embodies the fragility of the war-peace border. The state of the borderline, in which the lyrical hero is constantly found, is also expressed in the description of the transitional spaces of the bridge, crossroads, border, etc. ("I will ascend the shakey bridge"), which is also characteristic of the poetry of Allin, Olga Yaroslavna and all emigrant literature

  • In the first poems of the collection, the poet gets nostalgic for his first love, noting its "exsanguinity". The following works contrast this peaceful harmony of nature with a stable blood motif that often acquires temporal, spatial and quantitative content ("a bloody term", "how much blood", "the world got tight with blood-red wine"). The blood motif often corresponds to images of wine, hangovers and "bloody drinking". At the end of the war, this "wine" theme intensifies, and the lyrical hero notes that he is drunk with war "like fire wine". The blood motif is closely related to the wound motif, which refers exclusively to the image of the native "mangled land", and the death motif, expressed in the painful pictures of those killed in battle, the hero's games with fate. The motifs of death in the collection are accompanied by images of leaden sleep and disturbing prophecies.
  • In addition, the poet pays great attention to the consequences of war, physical and moral suffering of people: it is "hunger, cold, groans, pestilence", the lyrical hero clearly states that war deprives him of any spiritual bonds, he "will not have to rest", "there is no strength to get up", he inhales "vile smoke", passionately waits for a "white day", but does not believe in the coming world.
  • It is important to note that Finn describes the suffering in the war, explicitly saying that all the people are accomplices to the "tragic action". The civil war is shown by the poet exclusively from an ethical point of view; the battlefield is perceived by the poet as an arena for the struggle between good and evil, as 'unquenchable evil', as a natural course of things. The collection traces the idea that it takes huge spaces for war. And wartime is understood by the poet through "the infinity of the snowy night".
  • The war is described by the poet in other spatial and temporal categories as well. Its beginning and height are shown by Finn as a long path with an unknown end ("endless path", "grey path" in the fog, "my path is severe", "remote path" which is accompanied by "swirling" and "frowning" distance). But the closer the end of the war (autumn 1920), the inevitable defeat, the greater the turning point in the poet's understanding of the essence of war: moods begin to prevail that the road does have an earthly end. Gradually, the poems form Christian ideas about the upcoming martyric path in a foreign country.
  • The poem dated December 1920 brings together almost all of the images scattered throughout the preceding poems: path, field, blood, death, bird, sorrow. They show that time "after the war" is also tragic for a Russian exile: "there is no hope". Russia is compared to the "stern eagle", its image is extremely personalised, it is called by the lyrical hero "the most painful of my beloved", which will become a "commonplace" for Russian literature abroad.
  • Unlike the lexical item "war", the word "peace" is often used in the collection, always in conjunction with the concept of "love", which is both an attribute of peace and its salvation, but it faces the indifference of the heart that is hardened by war. In emigration, the dusk of war is replaced by the dusk of a hopeless everyday life. The road also foreshadows the unknown, and the path of the exile in a foreign country takes on the universal level. This representation of the concept of the "road" will later become the main one in Russian foreign literature.


Thus, the emerging language personality of the emigrant, reflected in the Constantinople lyrics of Olga Yaroslavna, Allin, Finn, is characterized by an orientation towards national "spatial" concepts of "path"/"road", "vast"/"field", "distance", "will", "wind", "sea". They are accompanied by motifs of death, end, sorrow, and gloomy uncertainty.

The concept of "war" gets a new meaning in the work of young poets, which is represented in spatial categories, motifs of blood and death. Finn's work shows that in the minds of Russian exiles the condition "after emigration" does not correspond to the concept of "peace". Post-war existence is often assessed as more serious and desperate than wartime itself. The inevitability of a new and even more terrible collision with the "foreign" world is fixed in the works of the poets of Russian Constantinople.


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Cite this article as:

Natalya Yu., Z. (2021). Artistic Conceptual Framework Of The Russian Constantinople Literature: Ways Of Formation. In V. M. Shaklein (Ed.), The Russian Language in Modern Scientific and Educational Environment, vol 115. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 609-615). European Publisher.