The essays gathered in this volume are presented to Vladimir Fedorovich Markov, one of America’s preeminent specialists in the field of twentieth-century Russian literature, on the occasion of his seventy-third birthday and thirty-seventh year of service to the Academy. We, his colleagues and former students, honor a scholar whose pioneering studies in Russian poetry, particularly that of the twentieth-century, have influenced a generation of Slavists and helped to shape the agenda in Russian literary studies for more than twenty years.
Vladimir Fedorovich was born in 1920 and spent the first two decades of his life in Leningrad. He belongs to the generation which bore the fullest brunt of the Stalinist terror. He lost both his father and grandfather to the great purges of 1937. His mother was arrested and sent to a labor camp, from which she was released only after the war. In the midst of these horrors he matriculated at Leningrad State University, where he majored in Germanic Languages. His instructors included some of the most illustrious figures in Russian literary scholarship, among them Viktor Zhirmunsky (who was head of the German Department at the time), Igor’ Eremin, Grigory Gukovsky, Stefan Mokul’sky, Aleksandr Smirnov and Ivan Tolstoy.
When Germany invaded the Soviet Union in the summer of 1941 Vladimir Fedorovich volunteered for military service and was assigned to an infantry artillery battalion in the Leningrad home guard. Only three months into the war, while serving as a courier between infantry units positioned around Novyi Peterhof, he was severely wounded by enemy fire and taken prisoner. He survived, thanks largely to the conscientiousness of a Russian doctor named Godunov who cared for him at the German POW hospital where he was taken. Eventually he was removed to Germany, where he remained a prisoner of war until 1945.
Following the conclusion of hostilities Vladimir Fedorovich settled in Regensburg, where he married Lydia Ivanovna Yakovleva, a well-known actress at the “Aleksandrinka” (now the Pushkin Theater) in Leningrad. While serving as a supply officer in the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration he launched his career as a poet and critic. During his four years in Regensburg he published his first book of verse (Stikhi, 1948), a translated anthology of American novellas and an article on Emily Dickinson, the latter particularly remarkable for its translations of her verse, the first to appear in Russian.
The unsettled situation in Europe — in particular the tensions surrounding the Berlin blockade — prompted him to explore the possibilities of emigration to the New World. An unlikely opportunity arose in the form of sponsorship by the Lutheran Church, whose relief efforts in the post-war period included settling displaced persons in the United States. Under their aegis Vladimir Fedorovich and Lydia Ivanovna sailed to America in 1949. Lutheran relief services found employment for them in the citrus groves of Ventura County, California, picking lemons with migrant workers from Mexico.
The job lasted approximately eight months. A letter from Vladimir Fedorovich to Mikhail Karpovich, Editor-in-Chief of Novyj zhurnal, explaining that he did not have enough money to continue subscribing to the journal, initiated a chain of events that brought the Russian field hand into contact with Gleb Struve at the University of California, Berkeley. On the latter’s advice Vladimir Fedorovich applied for a position as instructor of Russian at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey. He was hired by the Institute and taught there for six years. During this period he was also admitted to graduate study at Berkeley, where he received his doctorate in Slavic Languages and Literatures in 1957. His dissertation, a study of Velimir Khlebnikov’s poemy that was eventually published in the University of California’s Publications in Modern Philology, established him as a leading authority on twentieth-century Russian modernism. Upon receiving his degree Vladimir Fedorovich was invited to join the faculty at the University of California, Los Angeles, where he worked until his retirement in 1990.
This Festschrift launches a new series in UCLA Slavic Studies, to be issued in collaboration with the Publishing House of the Academy of Sciences of the Russian Federation. It is particularly gratifying that the inaugural volume of the series, published in Russia, should bring a celebration of the life’s work of Vladimir Fedorovich back to the land of his birth. We offer this collection to him as a mark of our gratitude and esteem.
A note on transliteration: most of the English essays in the volume follow the system adopted by the journal Oxford Slavonic Papers. Where absolute precision is required in conveying phonological and lexical data, standard scholarly transcription is used. The publication of this volume was made possible through the generous assistance of UCLA’s Chancellor’s Office for Research Programs, the Division of the Humanities and the Center for Russian and East European Studies. The editors would like to express their particular gratitude to Lina Mikhelson for her expert assistance in editing and proof-reading the contributions to this collection, and to Henryk Baran, who contributed generously of his time as courier, on-site editor and consultant in Moscow.