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Today I am glad to notice that many writers and poets help to form compassionate and humane attitude toward nature by their creative activity, they contribute to the development of people’s interest and love for Baikal and its nature. On the other hand, literature sometimes tends to emphasize the eternal conflict between Nature and Man, showing with the help of literary means that it is on the side of a man. J. Orwell, analyzing the stories of Jack London, gives a remarkable statement: "It is not that he justified the ruthless Nature – he had just mystically came to believe that it really ruthless. ature is "bloody, fanged and sharp-clawed." Probably to be violent is bad, but this is the price that must pay in order to survive ... The man is fighting against the elements, or against people just like him, and in this fight he has no one to rely upon, except himself".

If we look at how many literary plots of this kind were used in the descriptions of people’s adaptation to harsh Siberian conditions, of his "heroic" transformations of the environment in the time of industrialization, of his hunting and other experiences of confronting nature, it is becoming clear that the contribution of literature into environmental problems is ambiguious. In any case, today the most valuable and most significant are compositions, which reflect the creative transformative power of nature influencing humans, although it does not happen very often.

If to recall Chekhov, through the words of Dr. Astrov he tells the truth, which, actually, means a true discovery: the plant  kingdom not only makes the land beautiful, but also teaches a person to understand the beautiful and to make him high-spirited. Many stories of the author are devoted to the burning topic of human happiness, and nature is an important element of it. The author tells us about this with the help of Astrov: "...When I am walking past the peasant forests that I saved from cutting, or  when I hear the sound of my new forest planted by myself, I realize that the climate is a little but in my power, and if a man is happy in a thousand years, then it will be also because of me".

Very differently Chekhov looks at the problem of the same  forest, when he finds himself in the "endless" Siberian taiga at the end of the XIX century. Let us quote some of his memories about the trip to the island of Sakhalin. "Here, among the pines you can see a runaway convict walking with his sack and and a pot on his back. How small and insignificant his evil deeds and his misery seem in comparison to the boundless taiga!  He can be lost for good here, and there will be nothing special or terrible in this death, as well as in the death of a gnat. Unless there are no dense population, taiga is strong  and invincible, and the phrase "Man is the tsar of nature" nowhere but here sounds timid and false. If, say, all the people who now live along the Siberian route decided to destroy taiga with cutting and fire, the story of the tomtit that wanted to set fire on the sea would have been repeated. It happens that the fire  ”eats” the forest within five versts, but upon the total mass the burned area is barely noticed, and after several decades on this site one can see a new forest, thicker and darker than ever. A scientist accidentally set fire to the forest, within a moment all visible green mass was seized by fire. Shocked by the extraordinary view, the scientist described himself as "the cause of a terrible disaster". Most probably, impassable forest is growing now at this site, and the writings of the scientist left in nature more trace than the terrible disaster that scared him so much. To approach taiga with our usual measurements is impossible. 

Most likely, typical for a Russian person thought "we have a lot, everybody can have enough" makes it possible for many people to treat Mother nature on the territory of Russia in a careless, rapacious and even criminal way. A Khabarovsk journalist who was travelling around Lake Baikal and came across with some of the environmental problems of the region, said: "As for our long-suffering Far Eastern taiga, it ruthlessly punishes those who rudely breaks into her domain , even if, at the first sight, there were no bad intentions. For example, the woodcutters of the famous at some time Dallesprom felled million square meters of cedar that fed all the living beings in taiga. They were cutting it aimlessly, just for… firewood. In the upper reach of the Durmin river one can still see rotting piles of such "firewood" stretching for many cilometres. Everybody who was engaged in this mess in the not so distant Soviet period, had his life go head over heels in the end. Many died in agony from cancer, although it could seem that they were breathing in fresh air in the woods.

Modern moneymakers who send to taiga 'wild' groups of woodcutters with the only purpose – to enrich themselves, should know that all of them are destined to receive their punishment, the inescapable retribution of Nature, which is God in itself. These people are unaware of what they are doing and what they are destroying in their wish to get their money. Being cruelly punished, some of them only on their deathbed will understand that their life was far from human. The majority of them, however, will never understand nothing - they were nothing on this earth, they will leave it being nothing ... ".

The first novel about the Baikal region belongs to the pen of the first Siberian novelist I. T. Kalashnikov. In the novel "Daughter of merchant Zholobov", the title of which is accompanied with the postscript "a novel made up of Irkutsk legends", the author creates a vivid picture illustrating life on the Siberian land in the early nineteenth century. He describes the sacred sea itself , the mountain ranges round it and peculiar Transbaikalia steppes... I. Kalashnikov makes interesting sketches of everyday day life of Russian old residents and indigenous Siberian population: Buryat, Mongolian, Tungus, Yakut, Koryak, Yukagirs and Chukchi. A great number of places and people described in the novel, interesting plot involving original Siberian characters made the book, published in 1832, very interesting. A. S. Pushkin, in his letter to a writer gives the opinion of the fable writer I. Krylov: "It is the only Russian novel which I have read with great pleasure". The descriptions of this novel made the Russian “intelligent audience” learn a lot about Siberian life.

One of the most famous musical compositions about Baikal both in Russia and in the whole world is undoubtedly the song starting with the words "Glorious Sea - Holy Baikal”. A poem consisting of 11 stanzas, six of which would become a song, was written by D. Davidov and published in 1858 in one of the issuies of a little-known city newspaper "Golden Fleece". At that time it was called "Thoughts of a fugitive at Baikal. The song is likely to have appeared during Davydov’s travel to Barguzin together with the Buryat educator Sakhar Hamnaev. N. Damdinov in his non-fiction novel "Barguzin – Tukum" describes this trip as follows: "On their way to Barguzin, when they were riding along the shore of Lake Baikal, Hamnaev made stops at very picturesgue places. Dmitriy Pavlovich was gazing at the expanses of Lake Baikal in admiration, and occasionally wrote something down in his notebook. He asked once: "So, the wind blowing from the mouth of your river is called here “barguzine” (113, 16)?

A few words should be said about D. Davydov (1811 - 1888) who was a Siberian poet, historian studying regional issues and educator of the XIX century. He comes from Siberia, born in the city of Kansk, Tomsk province. Having finished Irkutsk gymnasium and gotten the qualification of a teacher in 1830, he was appointed to work at Troitskosavsk (Kyakhta). His teaching career lasted nearly thirty years. Davydov knew many famous people of Siberia in person. So, his friendship with the professor of Kazan and Warsaw Universities, O. M. Kovalevsky, became the stimulus for Dmitri Pavlovich to get very interested in Buryat and Mongolian ethnography and folklore. He was constantly collecting fairytales, legends and stories, proverbs and sayings of indigenous population, and it was characteristic of him to show deep understanding of local people’s psychology, their way of life, to respect their traditions, customs and rites.

"Knowing Buryat traditions,

I strictly observed them” -

he wrote in one of his poems. However, his actions spoke louder than words: being a supervisor of educational institutions, he did much to open a Buryat college in Barguzin and many other Russian and Buryat schools on the territory of present Buryatia and the Irkutsk region. Under his guidance the number of parish schools in the rural areas doubled which at that time was a very significant event for the region of Siberia.

Dmitry Davydov also showed himself as the person who is interested in the history of Siberia and is preserving its cultural heritage. He was one of the first people who discovered Ivolginsk "deer stone" - a slab with carved images of deer on it, following one another. These stones had been put by the ancient people at the sites of religious ceremonies, sacrifice, or burials and bore ritual and symbolic significance. Despite the fact that the stone had significant proportions (length - 3,5 m) and weight, Davydov tried his best to have it brought along dirt roads and the ice of Lake Baikal to Irkutsk. Now the stone is located at the entrance to Irkutsk regional museum.

The authorship of the song about Glorious Baikal has long been forgotten, but the song itself, like its hero, strong and courageous runaway convict, broke free and started to curculate in Russian cities and villages. The song strikingly showed the national character and the soul, people’s intimate hopes for a better life, a protest against social injustices and sufferings, their love for their native land.

If to review literary compositions about the lake chronologically, it should be noted that there was a “burst” of its descriptions at the beginning of the nineteenth century, which was to a great extent due to the exile and penal servitude of the Decembrists. These forced "eyewitnesses" created a bright picture of Baikal in their memoirs, recollections and letters. Here is one of them: "I was swimming across the waters of Baikal, traversing great expanses, observing nature in all its grandeur... In the distant blue I could see white-haired giants girdled with thick fog, smooth, like a mirror, water surface when Baikal is quiet, and frightening black waves during a storm, the waves that seem to be going to overthrow mossy rocks fighting with their rage into the abyss with deafening roar - this is what Baikal is like on a summer day.

It is very quiet – and your heart is filled with some special delight at the sight of the lake. Everything makes you thoughtful and wakes up some special, ineffable feelings in you: being extraordinarily remote from the centre of our fatherland, very few permanent residents, wild nature, fishermen’s huts scattered everywhere, white sails of ships seen in the distance - and the thought that somewhere behind the waters, behind the high mountains ridges, the land starts which differs from everything we have seen before, differs by the way of life and the people’s way of thinking.

But winter, the new monster of the night, soon brings its shackles. The struggle against her is long, but her victory is inevitable. She will dispel the darkness, thicken the waves and make them smooth - Baikal will appear to us again quiet and obedient, accessible to everyone, but with new, majestic qualities. On a clear day the surface of this water body, smooth as crystal, will brightly reflect the rays of the sun, the wind, like a keeper of cleanness, will sweep away everything from it, take away snow to the shore and, making strong whirls in the ravines, take it up to the tops of the mountains so as to adorn their dark clothes with diamonds and emeralds.

This description belongs to G. S. Batenkov, Decembrist and co-author of M. M. Speranskii who wrote the Charter of native Siberian people. Similar and opposite “compliments” to the lake were given by Decembrists N. V. Basargin, V. Rajewski, M. Kyuhelbekker and others. Baikal inspired such writers as N.I. Polevoy (long story "Elk"- 1830), I. Kalashnikov, mentioned above, and several other authors to decicate their lines to it.

Naturally, there were some stories and poems among them which did not characterize Baikal in such a "refined" manner. There are many reasons for it, yet two of them, in my opinion, are the most significant. First of all, those who were sent here as exiles, found themselves in a very difficult situation, and they actually did not have any time for the Muse. Secondly, Baikal, without any doubt, in any season shocked people by its harsh, wild and insidious nature, especially due to weather conditions. in In 1888 "Eastern Review" magazine published the poem of M. R-ov "At Baikal ", which clearly reflected such impressions:

I was on a rock. In front of me

The splendorous slumbering lake.  

Seagulls over the sea were flying and screaming

And a float with fishermen was lazily swaying

Being a fearful row, mighty,

It thundered wildly over the plain;

With a stilly rolling of waves,  

Was spreading the sacred sea –

In the sky-blue drowsy waters. 

A wash was coming. Wind dreadfully raved

And closed with leaden thunderclouds the star of the day:

Lake Baikal and his waters awakened.

A furious wave when he boomed and he roared

With splashing foam ran to the shore front

Covering it with the water, muddy.

The thunderstorm came, pattered the rain.

A flash of lightning fulminated. 

The sea was drowning in twilight,

I saw then a float, upside-down – 

It was on a rock among storming sea,

With slivers around it ….

I couldn’t forget that moment. 

Smooth surface of the sea,   

I couldn’t have trust in you ever since, 

Feeling the natural force in your recess!  

The beauty of Lake Baikal and its shores evoke in a sensitive person the feeling of sternnnes along with the thoughts about something primeval, timeless, eternal. Here is the impression of A.M. Stanilovskiy who had a boat trip around Lake Baikal in June 1905: "In clear weather one can see huge mountains with snowy tops round the sea. On the tops, clouds are rising, as smoke from the burning incense. From top to bottom they are covered with stripes of snow, as if they are dressed in beautiful patterned clothes. A traveler cannot but look up at those distinct peaks. You can climb those unattanable heights only with your thought; everything is clear, clean and calm there. They are so far from our petty fussy lives. Broad and huge, they are separated from our world, and they stand in the divine silence, as if personifying eternity, and involuntarily make a man turn back to look at them, refreshing his soul, as contemplating pure ideals refreshes man’s mind and will ".

However, the man who wrote these lines, pointed out more than a century ago that Russian people of that time did not dedicate to Baikal any of their poems because the prevalence of economic interests in the psychology of migrants did not allow them to develop their creative inclinations. In his opinion, praising Baikal is going to be the basis of our descendents’ creative work. "Poetry about nature, of course, will appear, but it will happen only much later, when people get used to “new” nature. When exclusively economic attitude toward nature has weakened, the offsprings of the migrants who were born here, of course, will come back to those tender filial relationship with the mother nature and they will begin to look at nature and at Lake Baikal as their "host" – and this attitude will become the basis of a poetic attitude and poetry itself ".

It is possible to disagree with Stanilovskiy because he is too categoric when he says that there is no artistic reflection of Baikal in his predecessors’ and his contemporaries’ works. If we turn to legends and stories about Baikal compiled by the well-known folklorist L. Eliasov, we will see how much Baikal meant for the people living on its shores. Yet, Stanilovskiy predicted rightly that the sacred sea is going to be praised in lyrical poems, songs and stories in the future. One of the first collections of literary works about the lake, "Glorious Sea", was published in Irkutsk in 1957. It included stories, extracts from novels and long stories, essays and poems about Irkutsk and Lake Baikal, that have been written by Siberian writers and poets since the nineteenth century. Prose about Baikal has been written by G. Kungurov, V. Marina, N. Volkov, and some others. The poems were contributed by A. Olkhon, Yu. Levitansky, E. Polyansky, I.Molchanov-Siberian, I. Lougovoy, L. Tatyanicheva, P. Reutsky and others. It is interesting that foreigners P. Neruda, A. Pierrar, D. Kershek, St. Stanchev also shared their thoughts about the Siberian land... and artist B. I. Lebedinsky made very memorable illustrations for the book.

In the middle of 20th century people got acquainted with the novels about Baikal written my M.I. Zhigzhitov – a popular teacher and a renowned hunter of Barguzin taiga. The true story about a man who, having run into a bear, put his arm into the bear’s jaws and stabbed the animal with a knife, is about Zhigzhitov. For example, in his works he described how Barguzin hunters headed by Zenon Svatosh fought for the preservation of sable, so that it wouldn’t be extinct. In the short story "Crime in the taiga” the writer personifies its characters, Khawk the elk and Ekki the elk-cow, endows them with subtle feelings so as to show clearly and convincingly to the reader that a poacher is not just a predator who kills animals in the wrong time, secretly, and with prohibited methods, but he is also the enemy of everything that a person values in his environment. A. Balburov wrote about M. Zhigzhitov’s stories and novels: "They are filled with characters who stand alive before our eyes not only because he has rich imagination, but mainly because he puts a living soul into every phrase, the soul trembling and singing with delight at the beauty of nature; the soul crying and moaning when this beauty is made ugly and destroyed".

Today the images of Lake Baikal of any kind – severe or gentle - cause poetic feelings among many of our contemporaries. The most distinguished among them should be V. Rasputin. Creative activity of this most talented writer beholds the pearls of thought about nature, and the image of the sacred sea is vividly represented in the essay "Baikal". “It seems that Baikal must suppress a human being with its greatness and size – everything is big, wide, free and mysterious about it – by contrast, it elevates us. You feel at Baikal a rare sense of elation and spirituality – as if you were marked with the secret seal of eternity and perfection, as if you were touched by a close breath of all-powerful presence, and you were shared the magical secret of all things".

Many poets and writers here and abroad dedicated their lines to the nature of Baikal, its beauty and its people (See the titles of some books in bibliography): A. Baibo - motherland, K. Balkov, A. Balburov, L. Borodin, S. Vorobiev, N. Damdinov, V. Zhemchuzhnikov, K. Karnyshev, N. Ladeyschikov, B. Lapin, M. Malikov, N. Mitypov, V. Nefediev, O. Serova, F. Taourina, N. Huduguev, A. Yurkov and other masters. A large work "World of Baikal" by S. Golbfarb was published in 2010. It had a great number of illustrations and without any exaggeration, it can be called the encyclopedia of the Sacred Sea.

Very problematic and artistic Baikal monologue "Coast of sorrow" appears to us. It was written by Alexander Rumyantsev, who was born and raised in the near-to-Baikal village Sherashevo. Since his early childhood, filled with love for Baikal, A. Rumyantsev has dedicated quite a few lines in prose and verse to the lake. The poem "The Well of the Planet" is among them.

One of little-known but original authors writing about the lake, the life and deeds of its sailors and fishermen is V. Starikov, who published a collection of short stories "At Baikal” in Sverdlovsk in 1963. In the stories "Waves are Making Noise”, "Radio Operator from Albatross", “Sarma" and others the writer created the images of unique, strong-willed people who were in love with Lake Baikal with all their hearts and souls and fought with Baikal elements.

I. Shirobokov’s essay "My Baikal, our Baikal” should be named as one of the bright, original and polemical works about the Sacred
Sea in the second half of 20th century. His original perception of Baikal nature and Baikal’s soul, his excellent knowledge of Baikal’s “habits” and “eccentricities”, his belief in the fact that the lake-sea and the people living on its shores are of “the same blood", as well as other details have made his essay remarkable. Not accidentally the author was awarded the first prize of TACIS in 1999.

It should be noted that people of other professions were also good at poetic descriptions of Baikal beauties. This tradition dates back to the research of harsh and ambiguous charms of Siberia in ancient times. Here, for example, is the opinion of V. A. Obruchev standing on one of the cliffs of Olkhon island. "Before a tourist’s thrilled gaze incomparable lake Baikal extends very. Your eyes see, contemplate, they are in a state of bliss, and you can not avert them from this magical beauty. In the misty distance is the coast of my native land with its treacherous ravines, mysterious taiga, fast mountain springs, dangerous chasms and deathly abysses. The recollections of these terrible wanderings around the wilderness are still on my mind! Transparent blue Siberian sky is above my head, elaborate jagged lakeside cliffs of a remoted from the world lonely island are under my feet, and indescribably gorgeous, beautiful water surface of Lake Baikal around" (223, pp. 98). Similar thoughts are characteristic of our contemporaries – scientists, environmentalists, political activists, especially of those who were born here. "We lived on the shores of Lake Baikal, worshipping Him, lived enjoying nature, its gifts and its beauty, its life-giving force and its healing air. We addressed Baikal with "Vy"1, but in the moments of special openness of heart and soul, gratitude and respect, we addressed Him as "Ty"2 as if he is our own father! He replied to us with tenderness and severity, raising courage andnobleness, kind-heartedness and generosity. Yes, He is severe and at the same time tender, He is great and inapproachable, violent with his mighty winds, which he scatters suddenly and strangely, wildly and recklessly. He is majestically calm, transparent and pure like child's tears, the azure sky above it clear and transparent too. It was difficult, it was impossible to count the wealths of his mountains and valleys, to understand and to “decifer” his multi-sided beauty and the mystery of his emerald waters and the mysterious life enclosed there. It is impossible to find anything that can be compared to the incredible phantasmagoric Baikal dawns and sunsets, taiga wilderness, full of various living creatures: running and flying, talking and singing, fragrant and calling, surprising us with its biblical beauty and majesty, multi-sidedness and mystery.

These lines belong to the Buryat biologist and environmentalist M. Shargaev. They are written from the bottom of his heart, they are poetic and they cause an intense emotional response. One will definitely come across with such digressions in the works of Bryanskiy V.P., Vereshchagin G. Yu., Galaziy G. I., Golenkova A. I., Gurulev S.A., Gusev O., Dorzhiev Ts. Z., Demin E., Imitkhenov A.B., Lamakin V.V., MoskalenkoV.V., Mantatov V.V., Namzalov B.G., Rossolimo L.P., Tahteeva V.S., Tivanenko A.V., Ustinov S.K. and others.

To conclude the chapter about the literary descriptions of the lake and its "neighborhoods", let us present, as “the poetic credo” of all who are in love with Baikal, the poem by O.V. Bykov, Irkutsk journalist and writer, "Oh Baikal Cosmos!"

Source of fables,

of your incomparable clothes.   

They all are unusual –

scenic folds of the mountains.

Its delight,

Oh, Lake Baikal Cosmos

You are eternity, in which all is arcanum,

revelations of people and hopes. 

You are the wisdom of planet.

In you everything isn't occasional,

Like, say, decoration

*Goltsy are snow-white,

and patterns of shore fronts,

Siberian globeflowers blazing –

the breathing of gullies ...

You are perfection,

the child of kind-hearted gods.

Your purity is like a prayer.

The prayer of nature, amorous.

unlimited joy and its pain. 

When I touch you

I forget all my sorrows,

Because you exist,

Let me, Baikal, lower my head towards you...

1 Said in the Russian language to elder and respected people, also indicating more than one person (second person, plural)

2 “Ty” – more personal and intimate form of address (second person, singular) 

See also


  1. A.D. Karnyshev "The Many Faces of Multilingual and Mysterious Baikal"© BSU Publishing House, 2011


Выходные данные материала:

Жанр материала: English | Автор(ы): Karnyshev A.D. | Источник(и): The Many Faces of Multilingual and Mysterious Baikal. Ulan-Ude. 2012 | Дата публикации оригинала (хрестоматии): 2011 | Дата последней редакции в Иркипедии: 30 марта 2015

Примечание: "Авторский коллектив" означает совокупность всех сотрудников и нештатных авторов Иркипедии, которые создавали статью и вносили в неё правки и дополнения по мере необходимости.

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Тематический указатель: Irkipedia English