Mstislav Dobuzhinsky: From the life of Petrograd, 1920
photograph of Nikolay Gumilyev

Yuletide 1920


At Yuletide of 1920 a ball was held at the Institute of the History of Arts. The memory is still fresh in my mind: the enormous frozen reception rooms of the Zubov mansion on St Isaac's Square were dingily lit and clouded with freezing steam. Moist logs smoked and smouldered in the fireplaces. All of literary and artistic Petersburg was in attendance. To a crashing of music, people moved through the demi-gloom and crowded around the fireplaces. But, my God, how this crowd was got up! In valenki [felt boots], sweaters, fur coats that had seen better days and without which to remain in the ballroom would have been impossible. And now, fittingly late, Gumilyev came in, arm in arm with a lady who was trembling with cold in a black dress with a plunging neckline. Upright and supercilious in evening dress, he passed through the rooms. He was trembling with cold, but courteously and majestically he bowed right and left and talked society small-talk to his friends and acquaintances. He was playing at being at a ball. His entire appearance said, "Nothing has happened. Revolution? Haven't heard of one."

From: Vladislav Khodasevich (1886-1939), Petropolis: Memoirs
(originally published in Brussels, 1939)
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