ITAR-TASS: the celebration of Lermontov’s Bicentennial at the Library of Congress

WASHINGTON, the 25th of April. ITAR-TASS correspondent Andrey Surzhanskiy.

No matter how long the current confrontation between the US and Russia might last, sooner or later sensible people will put an end to it. This conviction was voiced in his interview with ITAR-TASS by Mikhail Yuryevich Lermontov – an 11th generation descendant of the great Russian poet, Counselor to the Russian Minister of Culture, Doctor of Cultural Studies, the patriarch of the Lermontov family and the head of the “Lermontov’s Legacy” Association.

Last Thursday he participated in the celebration of Lermontov’s Bicentennial. The event took place at the Library of Congress and was organized by Washington’s American-Russian Cultural Cooperation Foundation.

The entire capital’s beau monde gathered at the event venue in spite of the recently cooled down, thanks to the developments in the Ukraine, political relations between the two countries. Sergey Kislyak, the Ambassador of the Russian Federation to the US, laid a special emphasis on the fact that culture remains an important instrument of dialogue and mutual cooperation between people.

“Having such an event in Washington is kind of a detour from this confrontation space,” – commented Lermontov in a conversation. “We understand it very well, that no matter how long this confrontation might last, all the same there will come a moment when sensible people will unite and put an end to it.”

He speculated with regret that in the present time “there is a tendency for cultural exchanges, visits, and joint projects to go sideways.” “As far as I can see this is not publicly announced, but I know that this is the case,” – noted a descendant of the great poet. The fact that tensions between Russia and the US are increasing, in Lermontov’s words, is definitely unpleasant, but “at the same time it forces us to think about the necessity to continue” cultural exchanges. The Chairman of the American-Russian Cultural Cooperation Foundation, the former Congressman James Symington also believes that the relationship crisis between the two nations sooner or later will be overcome. “My personal perspective on Russia did not change after the events in Crimea,” – emphasized he.

The Librarian of Congress James Billington, who is a recognized authority on and supporter of Russian culture, as well as the author of several books about Russia, confided to the ITAR-TASS correspondent that he bows to Lermontov’s talent. “I began studying the Russian language not with a grammar book, but by reading the works of Russian poets; Mikhail Yuryevich Lermontov amongst them is a unique and outstanding figure,” – said he. “To the present day people are fascinated with to what heights he could have risen if he had lived longer.”

Billington reminded us that one of his duties as the Librarian of Congress was the selection of candidates for the title “Poet Laureate”. This title was established by an Act of Congress in 1985. The main duties of the American Poet Laureate include popularizing the love for the written word, making public appearances with lectures and readings and consulting the Library of Congress on their literature programs and general poetry acquisitions for their permanent collection. In this regard the celebration of Lermontov’s Bicentennial at the Library of Congress is not at all incidental. That evening the Library was filled with Lermontov’s poems, and Romances written on his lyrics could leave anyone indifferent.



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