Rus­sian call on US to hand over Rach­mani­nov

The China Post - - ARTS -

Rus­sia’s cul­tural author­i­ties want to re­claim the re­mains of com­poser Sergei Rach­mani­nov from the United States, in a move seen as aimed at stok­ing pa­tri­o­tism but has made his de­scen­dants fume.

Rach­mani­nov, one of the great­est com­posers and pi­anists of the 20th cen­tury, left Rus­sia in the wake of the 1917 Bol­she­vik revo­lu­tion and lived in Europe and the United States be­fore dy­ing of can­cer in Bev­erly Hills, Cal­i­for­nia.

De­spite spend­ing decades abroad and ac­quir­ing U.S. cit­i­zen­ship shortly be­fore his death in 1943, his mu­sic is steeped in Rus­sian cul­ture and nos­tal­gia and Rus­sia con­sid­ers him firmly as its own.

Peo­ple in the United States “wrongly” con­sider Rach­mani­nov Amer­i­can and have ne­glected his grave, cul­ture min­is­ter Vladimir Medin­sky said re­cently, call­ing for the re­mains to be repa­tri­ated.

“Rus­sia’s great­est ge­nius Sergei Rach­mani­nov is cur­rently pre­sented in the West ab­so­lutely wrongly,” Medin­sky, an out­spo­ken of­fi­cial who firmly backs Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin’s con­ser­va­tive and anti-Western drive.

“If you look at Amer­i­can web­sites and read Amer­i­can Wikipedia, you will learn that Sergei Rach­mani­nov is a great Amer­i­can com­poser of Rus­sian ori­gin,” he added.

Medin­sky said that judg­ing by some pic­tures he saw, the com­poser’s grave at the Ken­sico ceme­tery in New York state — which in­cludes re­mains of his wife and old­est daugh­ter — is in “poor con­di­tion.”

In­stead, the re­mains should be moved to Rus­sia’s Nov­gorod re­gion north of Moscow, where the com­poser grew up, he said.

Rus­sian state tele­vi­sion lauded the idea Mon­day evening in a spe­cial pro­gram that listed other no­ta­bles whose re­mains were moved back to the mother­land, in­clud­ing fa­mous singer Fy­o­dor Shalyapin, whose grave was elab­o­rately re­lo­cated from Paris in the 1980s.

The idea, which came out of nowhere, seems to be driven more by po­lit­i­cal ex­pe­di­ency rather than in­ter­est in the com­poser’s per­son­al­ity in par­tic­u­lar, said cul­ture critic Sergei Khod­nev, who writes for Kom­m­er­sant daily.

“Maybe the in­tent is to take Rach­mani­nov away from the United States, since in the Amer­i­can men­tal­ity he is also one of their own” and was in­flu­enced by Amer­i­can jazz, he told AFP.

“With­out ques­tion, this is a po­lit­i­cal need for yet another pa­tri­otic spec­ta­cle, for a sad yet tri­umphant event to boost the na­tional spirit,” he said.

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