The State Memorial and Natural Preserve "Museum-estate of Leo Tolstoy "Yasnaya Polyana"
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Three Exhibitions as Part of the Project “Bringing a Draft to Light”
chernovikiMay 1 - June 16, 2015
Tula Historical and Architectural Museum
(Tula, Lenin Prospekt, 31)

The Yasnaya Polyana Museum opens three final exhibitions of the “Bringing a Draft to Light” project analyzing Leo Tolstoy’s manuscripts as documents that have an unusual emotional force and show the writer’s “creative laboratory,” and at the same time are beautiful objects to look at.

The project “Bringing a Draft to Light” (headed by Fyokla Tolstaya; coordinator – Youlia Vronskaya) is a winner of the “Changing Museum in the Changing World” contest of the V. Potanin Foundation. The project researches ways of exhibiting manuscripts and their perception by museum visitors.  

There are phrases that remain in our memory, for example, the beginning of “Anna Karenina:” “Happy families are all alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. Everything was in confusion in the Oblonskys’ house.” But there was a time when the novel had a different beginning, and even the Oblonsky family had a different name. How were the words we now consider canonical born?  When did they first appear on paper? To see that moment, come to see the exhibitions that open on April 30, 2015 at 18:00 at the Tula Historical and Architectural Museum.


Curators: Natalia Velikanova, Alexander Kartashov

Designer: Alexander Kartashov

Tolstoy’s talent is a divine light, which pours onto the pages of the novel and touches our souls. That light is a miracle, whose source we try to find and analyze. The exhibition is a search for the magical fusion, an attempt to understand how the light curls up into words, an attempt to compare the transformation of light, which physically takes place in the x-ray room, to the complicated transfiguration of the inner divine light in the manuscript.

Leo Tolstoy: “The life of the world appears to me like this: through countless and diverse pipes liquid, or gas, or light is flowing. This light is all the power of life – God. The pipes are we, all the beings. Some pipes are quite motionless, others a little mobile, still others more mobile, and at last, we are very mobile pipes. We can permit all the light to get through or shut it out for a while. What we call our life, our personal life, is the ability to stand in the way of light – not to permit it through, but the true life is the ability to stand in such a way so as to fully permit the light through, and not to impede it.”    

The closer we see the source, the greater impact the text produces on us. The printed text provokes a more formal perception of the information; manuscripts, on the contrary, bring forth additional associations, and inspire us to creativity, too. It is indirect and unedited information; its perception is interwoven with our thoughts, and provokes additional creative processes, which are the true miracle, indeed. Any attempt is not in vain, we just have to understand how to stand for the light to go through us.


Curators: Andrei Rymar, Alesya Atroshchenko

(Samara Literary Museum)

Designer: Maria Kiseleva

The exhibition shows Leo Tolstoy’s creative laboratory and helps one understand what and why he modified so thoroughly and laboriously. The novel was rewritten many times; from version to version, its title and names and appearances of characters would change, and various episodes and whole plotlines would appear and disappear. The plain, and too fat Anastasia Gagina with a low forehead turned into the ‘very beautiful’ elegant, modestly graceful Anna Karenina; the first episode of the novel moved to its middle; and Vronsky's eccentric friend Kostya Neradov became probably the main character – Konstantin Levin.    

 “The opportunity to look at Tolstoy’s manuscript lets us see the technology he developed for himself. Just the same method of working on a work of art is now taught at the State Institute of Cinematography: a short summary of the plot (synopsis), finding a place of each episode in the action (director’s scenario), at first a schematic writing, and then fleshing it out, filling it with details (the storyboard),” comments Fyokla Tolstaya.

The exhibition shows the logic of the author’s work as reconstructed by means of his drafts and follows the development of the novel’s plot, the changes in the main characters’ characteristics, and the work on individual scenes.

“Tolstoy himself used to say that it was impossible to explain what “Anna Karenina” was about, as the main thing in the novel was not individual thoughts, but their linkage. We hope that the exhibition permits one to see what the author ‘linked’ to what and to feel more deeply the work of this ‘linkage’,” say the curators of the exhibition, Andrey Rymar and Alesya Atroshchenko.


Curator: Fyokla Tolstaya

Designer: Maria Arshakyan

Over 500,000 (!) sheets of paper filled with Tolstoy’s writing have been preserved. We can say that writing was Tolstoy’s chief occupation – not only because he was a great author and created great texts, but also because he was writing during his whole life. Acceleration, push, height – these are both the main characteristics of hand-writing and a metaphorical description of the creative process: from inspiration, revelation, through the effort and concentration, and toward flight and freedom.

The exhibition space is like the author’s study, where nobody entered and from where nothing was taken: both the draft and the canonical text coexist there at the same time; as well as typographical proofs sent for the final approval before the publication and early plans of the future novel; different types of paper and writing implements; drawings and sketches; lists of books necessary to study the subject; and letters and drafts in many languages, as if written by different people.

 “This experimental exhibition shows how differently one can study manuscripts: to see how Tolstoy’s handwriting changed during his life and what it became like at the moments of emotional stress, to find written evidence of important events, and to follow the process of writing the text from the first idea up to submission for publication,” says the designer Maria Arshakyan.

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