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How to Cite
Markov, A. (2020). The Sense of Homeland: The Iconological Program of Illustrations for The Town of Muses by Erich Gollerbakh. Heritage of Centuries, (4), 28-36.
The Feeling of the Motherland: on the 150th Birthday Anniversary of Ivan

The Sense of Homeland: The Iconological Program of Illustrations for The Town of Muses by Erich Gollerbakh

  • © Markov Alexander V. Dr. Sci. (Theory of Literature, Textology), Prof., Russian State University for the Humanities, Moscow, Russian Federation


The article deals with Erich Gollerbakh’s book The Town of Muses, one of the monuments of Russian book culture. This book is formally a guide, but in practice it is a holistic artifact that combines an art album, an artist’s book, and a notebook. The author uses the iconological method, which proves that such a complex structure allows the book to analytically consider the cultural myths of the Russian intelligentsia, the Pushkin myth, the myth of Tsarskoye Selo, and the myth of aristocratic Russian culture, turning them into a resource of national identity. It is determined that Gollerbakh’s book is a “novel with a key”, comparable to the novels of Konstantin Vaginov, and fits well into the traditions of perception of Tsarskoye Selo, created by Innokenty Annensky, Nikolai Gumilyov, and Anna Akhmatova. Gollerbakh does not follow the poets he looks up to, but, on the contrary, seeks to fit them into the overall picture of Tsarskoye Selo. The graphics in the book serve to understand some of the hidden plots, plots of personal relationships of poets and the actions of the royal authorities in different eras, which add up into a novel about culture. Such a novel tells how the successful actions of the authorities formed the public’s emotional reactions, which turned out to be the inspiration for poets from Pushkin for Akhmatova. Thus, Gollerbakh seeks to overcome the reduction of Tsarskoye Selo only to aristocratic customs or views of the intelligentsia and presents it as the property of the entire Russian culture, as an object of public attitude to culture. Tsarskoye Selo turns out to be not just a place of delight, but a laboratory of Russian culture, and Gollerbakh’s iconological decisions are comparable to experiments. In the initial letters, Gollerbakh conveyed a symbolic reading of various eras: Catherine’s, Alexander’s, Nicholas’s; the position that allows one to feel the unity of Tsarskoye Selo as a place of memories becomes important. Images of a tripod and a swan turn out to be an iconological cipher of poetic topics and philosophy of life and death, in connection with the aesthetics of symbolism; and individual real landscapes of the park and sculptures acquire symbolic meanings that indicate not only a different world, like in symbolism, but also modes of culture existence. Thus, Gollerbakh acts both as a guide and as an interpreter of Tsarskoye Selo, and requires interactivity from the reader: the reader must decipher the secret writing of the book the way they decipher the characters of the heroes of the novel, though these characters are represented by the design of illustrations rather than by literary descriptions.

Keywords: Gollerbakh, Tsarskoye Selo, iconology, Pushkin, Akhmatova, novel with a key, artistic secret writing