Alexander Riukhin

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Context

The poet Alexander Riukhin is a member of Massolit. He's one of the three persons in Griboedov who transported Ivan Bezdomny - who was swaddled like a doll, dissolved in tears, and who was spatting aiming precisely at Riukhin - to the hospital of doctor Stravinsky. He's the one who describes Ivan's symptoms to the doctor, but suddenly doubts whether Ivan is really crazy.

Ivan doesn't like Riukhin. He says that «that giftless goof Sashka Riukhin is the first of the idiots». Riukhin breaths heavily, turns red, and thinks of just one thing, that he had warmed a serpent on his breast, that he had shown concern for a man who turned out to be a vicious enemy. And, above all, there is nothing to be done: «there's no arguing with the mentally ill!»

On his way back to Moscow the words of Ivan Bezdomny remain dwelling in Riukhin's head. And the trouble is not that they were insulting, but that there was truth in them. When he passes «a metal man, standing on a pedestal, his head inclined slightly, gazing at the boulevard with indifference» - it's the statue of the most famous Russian poet Alexander Sergeevich Pushkin (1799-1837) - strange thoughts flood the head of the ailing poet. «There's an example of real luck...», Riukhin thinks raising his arm to the cast-iron man. «Whatever step he made in life, it all turned to his benefit».


Prototype

Through the conversation with the statue of Aleksandr Pushkin, Bulgakov makes clear who's the prototype for Riukhin. It's Vladimir Vladimirovich Mayakovsky (1893-1930) who, in 1924, at the occasion of the celebration of the 125th anniversary of Pushkin's birth, had written the poem Jubilee in which, at night, he lifts up Pushkin from his plinth at Tverskaya bulvar and introduces him into his thoughts on a walk through the streets. Jubilee was quite resounding, as you can judge from the first verse:

«Александр Сергеевич, разрешите представиться. Маяковский.»
«Aleksandr Sergeevich, let me introduce myself. Mayakovsky.»

Click here to listen to Jubilee in Russian


This expressive nature of the poetry of Mayakovsky may be the reason of the choice of the name Riukhin. The family name Рюхин [Ryukhin] is derived from the nickname Рюха [Ryukha]. This comes from the dialect verb рюхать [ryukhat], which means «growling - or screaming - like a pig», but also «popping, clapping, throwing, striking». Probably the nickname Ryukha was given to someone with a loud voice or, in general, to a hot-tempered man.

Bulgakov and Mayakovsky often played billiards together. Mayakovsky was better and the games were regularly characterised by tormenting dialogues between the two writers. But, irrespective of who won, they always said goodbye to each other in a friendly way. Bulgakov's second wife, Lyubov Evgenyeva Belozerskaya (1894-1987), thought that Mayakovsky was «closed as a rock». In 1928, Vladimir Mayakovsky would incite to ban Bulgakov's The Days of the Turbins and he would call him an enemy of the class.

Vladimir Mayakovsky was one of the most important representatives of the so-called poetic futurism. Even before the Russian Revolution, Mayakovsky developed a passion for Marxist literature and participated in the activities of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party. Later he would join the party as a member. He was imprisoned three times for subversive political activities, but because he was a minor, he was not deported. During a period of solitary confinement in the Butyrka prison in 1909, he started writing poetry, but his poems were confiscated.

After the Revolution, Mayakovsky worked for the Российское телеграфное агентство (РОСТА) [Rossiskoe telegrafnoe agentsvo (ROSTA) or the Russian State Agency for Telegraphy (ROSTA) as a creator of both graphic and textual satirical agitprop. In 1919 he published his first poetry collection and he quickly became popular in the cultural climate of the young Soviet Union.

His political activism as a propagandist agitator, however, was not always well understood, as a result of which he occasionally fell into disgrace not only with contemporaries but also with good friends like Boris Leonidovich Pasternak (1890-1960).

Towards the end of the 1920s, Mayakovsky became more and more disillusioned in Bolshevism and frustrated in his artistic urge to innovate. Because of this, but also under the constant pressure of his controversial triangular relationship with the poet and critic Osip Maksimovich Brik (1988-1945) and his wife Lilya (Lili) Yurievna Kagan (1891-1978), he got so stuck that he committed suicide on April 14, 1930.

The quarrel between Riukhin and Ivan Bezdomny in the novel is a parody of the always changing relation between Mayakovsky and another poet, Alexander Ilich Bezymensky (1898-1973). Bezymensky - this was not a psuedonym, it was his real surname - means the Nameless, which feeds the theory that Bezymensky could have been the real prototype of Ivan Bezdomny, the Homeless.

At first, Vladimir Mayakovsky was Bezymensky's idol, but the feeling was not reciprocated at all. Mayakovsky compared Alexander Bezymensky's work to «coffee made of carrots». With «carrots» he meant chicory. Chicory is often used as a substitute for coffee, so Mayakovsky considered Bezymensky as ersatz, not as a real literary man.



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