Journey's End: An exhibition on Osip Mandelstam at Memorial. Report and photos from

posted 11 Jan 2016, 05:26 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 11 Jan 2016, 06:44 ]
29 December 2015

By Vera Vasilieva 

International Memorial Society in Moscow has organized an exhibition, Osip Mandelstam. Journey's End, to mark the 77th anniversary of the death of the poet on 27th December 1938.

The opening of the exhibition took place on 26th December. Taking part were the curator of the exhibition, writer and historian Pavel Nerler; historian, member of Memorial Society, Irina Shcherbakova; Memorial staff member Aleksei Makarov, and others.

Apart from Pavel Nerler, those working on the exhibition were Alena Kozlova, Aleksei Makarov, Svetlana Fadeyeva and Irina Galkova.

The exhibition was assembled with materials from the International Memorial Society’s museum, the Mandelstam Society, the Russian State Archive for Literature and Art, the FSB Central Archive, the the Archive of the Magadan Region Ministry of the Interior, private and other collections.

Osip Mandelstam died in the hospital of Vladivostok transit point, Dalstroi. His exact burial place is unknown.

“Denunciations of Mandelstam at the hands of Stavsky and Pavlenko, the arrest in Samatikha, those four and a bit weeks of the transfer of Mandelstam from Moscow to Vladivostok, and the eleven weeks in the camp on the Second River make up the basic fabric of the exhibition,” said Pavel Nerler, giving the opening presentation.

The exhibition also includes letters from prisoners who at about this time, autumn 1938, were imprisoned in the same transit camp and who wrote to their families.

Pavel Nerler told us that even live witnesses had been found. Essentially this was the physics teacher Konstantin Evgenevich Khitrov. “A person whom Nadezhda Yakovlevna Mandelstam considered the main witness and disguised by the pseudonym “Physicist L”, the writer explained. The opening was also attended by Natalya Konstantinovna, the daughter of Konstantin Khitrov.

At the exhibition it is even possible to see a stone from the quarry where Mandelstam worked.

The great poet ‘shared the fate of millions’, became ‘camp dust’. This is the crossroads, Pavel Nerler said, to which the exhibition is dedicated, where Mandelstam and the country met their fate, ‘with the masses,’ as he himself put it.

Irina Shcherbakova expressed her opinion that, ‘Mandelstam really did share the fate of millions. Probably, it is symbolic that it was him in particular. The greatest poet of the 20th century ended up in the very place with the people who, to their misfortune, were there too. If it were possible to imagine a real hell on earth, then he found himself in it and that includes the last weeks of his life.’

The historian shared her memories. “When we were quite young, an unbelievably tormenting question for those people older than us, for our parents, grandmothers and grandfathers was what happened to our relatives? What happened in their last days, how their lives ended, where to find their remains? Very often the answer went along the lines of: it’s better you don’t know; better not to imagine what this was. But that made the desire to know all the more intense, all the more agonizing. I remember well the endless conversations to which Nadezhda Yakovlevna returned: all the same, whom do you trust, whose evidence do you consider as reality? Even up till now I take this as some kind of miracle – the fact that traces were found, that not everything just disappeared, that from somewhere or other lists have come to light and the archives have been opened.’ 

She added, “For Memorial it is very important that we end the year with this exhibition.”

In his turn, Aleksei Makarov focussed especially on the display window of the exhibition which held samizdat publications of the poetry of Osip Mandelstam. whom Pavel Nerler called ‘the king of samizdat’, because of the huge number of collections of his work published by that means. 

For photos about the exhibition by Vera Vasilieva, see HERE

‘We see how over the decades the biography of Mandelstam has flourished and broken through. But that has been not just his fate, but also the fate of his poetry. These were emigre publications, samizdat”

He remarked that a few poems exist in a number of versions by the poet because Nadezhda Mandelstam gave various editors different manuscript versions she had in her possession. All this is very important for researchers and simply those who value the poet’s work.

The exhibition ‘Osip Mandelstam. Journey’s End’ is open at International Memorial Society (5/1 Karetny Lane) from 11.00 till 19.00 daily, except for weekends and public holidays.

Translated by Frances Robson