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Sergei Varshavsky

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Sergei Varshavsky
Varshavsky in his study. Leningrad, 1970s
Varshavsky in his study. Leningrad, 1970s
Native name
Сергей Петрович Варшавский
Born(1906-09-27)September 27, 1906
Odessa, Russian Empire
DiedSeptember 17, 1980(1980-09-17) (aged 73)
Leningrad, USSR
Resting placePreobrazhenskoe Jewish Cemetery in St.Petersburg, Russia
OccupationWriter, art collector
GenreDocumentary prose
SubjectArt history, World War II
Notable worksOrdeal of the Hermitage (Подвиг Эрмитажа)
SpouseEvgenia Vergilis, Lili Varshavsky
ChildrenLev, Yuri, Dmitry

Sergei Petrovich Varshavsky (Russian: Сергéй Пeтрóвич Варшáвский, (27 September (O.S. 14 September) 1906, Odessa, the Russian Empire – 17 September 1980, Leningrad, USSR) was a Russian (Soviet) writer and art collector.

Early years

Varshavsky was born in 1906 in the southern port city of Odessa into an educated middle-class Jewish family. His father Pyotr Moiseevich Varshavsky was a physician, specialised in skin diseases and sexually transmitted infections. His mother Elza Filippovna Kalmeyer was descended from a large and prosperous family of textile merchants from the town of Grobiņa in Courland. In 1921, Varshavsky joined the Socialist Revolutionary Party. In 1921-22 he was arrested three times by the Odessa Government Extraordinary Commission (Cheka) and then moved to Moscow where he found a job as a proof-reader at several Komsomol-run publishers.

In 1923, after another arrest Varshavsky deserted the Socialist Revolutionary Party and moved to Yekaterinburg, where he worked as an editor at the Ural region publishing house Uralkniga. In October 1924 he returned to Moscow where he worked first as a secretary in the editor's office of the Moscow branch of the Leningrad publishing house Khudozhestvennaya Literaturа, then as a proof-reader at the publishing house Novaya Moskva and at the printers of the Der Emes publishers. Sergei Varshavsky also worked as a copyreader for the newspaper Vechernyaya Moskva until 1928.


From 1928 to 1930, Varshavsky was on active military duty in Leningrad, serving in the Baltic naval aviation. Varshavsky edited the first air force newspaper, Vozdushnik Baltiki, and joined the Russian Association of Proletarian Writers (RAPP). In 1930, after naval discharge, he became an executive editor of the magazines Zalp and Stroyka. From 1932 until 1937 Varshavsky was in charge of literature and drama broadcasting at the Leningrad radio committee whilst serving as head of Critics and Bibliography at the newspaper Leningradskaya Pravda. He was a member of the Union of Soviet Writers from its foundation in 1934. Sergei Varshavsky published a number of works on history and literature, as well as many art, literary and history of art criticism pieces in Moscow and Leningrad newspapers and magazines. From April 1937 to the start of World War Two he was editorial secretary of the Leningrad branch of the Union of Theatre Workers of the Russian Federation and an editor of the Leningrad film studio LenTechFilm.

From 1931 to the end of his life he collaborated with the writer B.Rest (which was the pen-name of Yuliy Isaakovich Shapiro) and published as co-authors. Their first major work — the book The Hermitage.[1] — was published by the Iskusstvo publishers in 1939. They then wrote a book about the history of the Russian Museum, but its publication was prevented by the start of the Great Patriotic War. During the war, Varshavsky and B. Rest worked as war correspondents and took part in the defence of Leningrad, Sevastopol and of the Arctic while publishing articles and books about heroic naval aviation pilots.[2][3][4][5][6]

However, one of their short stories An Incident Over Berlin,[7] along with the writings of Akhmatova and Zoshchenko, was subjected to stern criticism in the infamous Communist Party Central Committee Ordinance of August 14, 1946 On the magazines 'Zvezda' and 'Leningrad', also known as Zhdanov Decree,[8] after which the magazine Leningrad ceased to exist, while Varshavsky and B. Rest lost the opportunity to be published for five years and therefore could not make a living by writing.

After the hiatus, the first work of the co-writers was an essay On the Rafts published in magazine Zvezda in 1951.[9] In the following years S.Varshavsky and B.Rest wrote and published three documentary novels: Ordeal of the Hermitage - their most significant writing,[10][11][12][13][14][15] Near the Winter Palace[16] and A Ticket for the Entire Eternity.[17] Together with their first book The Hermitage this body of work tells readers the history of one of the largest art collections in the world from the time of its foundation by Catherine the Great in the 18th century until the end of the World War Two.

The text of the novel Ordeal of the Hermitage was used by the publishing house Aurora to compile three illustrated albums about the history of the Hermitage museums during the siege of Leningrad.[18][19][20]


Being banned from writing, Varshavsky started his art collection in 1946. It is likely that he was influenced by Julius Gens [2][3],[21] the famous art collector and bibliophile from Tallinn, Estonia.

In the following 34 years, Varshavsky became a persistent and enthusiastic collector. He created impressive collections of English and French lithography from the first half of the 19th century (including Paul Gavarni, Hippolyte Bellangé, Richard Parkes Bonington, James Duffield Harding, Nicolas Toussaint Charlet), of the Japanese ukiyo-e woodblock prints from the Edo period (Harunobu, Hokusai, Hiroshige, Toyokuni, Kunisada, Kuniyoshi and many others), as well as art and craft items, in particular Japanese (netsuke, tsuba, etc.) and Chinese ornaments (snuff bottles, ceramics, lacquer, carved ivory). Apart from that he assembled a large library which consists of art history, fiction and reference volumes. His entire collection and library were all based at his modest ground floor apartment in Leningrad.

Many said that visiting this flat was truly unforgettable.[22] The main objects from the collection were at different times either sold or given as gifts by Sergei Varshavsky or his descendants to the Hermitage and Pushkin Museum and were exhibited many times[23][24][25][26][27][28][29] Selected netsuke and Japanese woodblock prints from Sergei Varshavsky Collection are a part of the permanent exhibition of the Oriental Art Department at the State Hermitage.[30] The most profound account of Sergei Varshavsky collecting spirit and practice can be found in an extensive essay by Yuri Varshavsky A Collector's Joyful Toil, Notes on My Father[31] [32] with a foreword by Boris Piotrovsky, Director of The State Hermitage Museum.


  1. ^ С.Варшавский, Б.Рест. Эрмитаж. 1764-1939. Очерки по истории Государственного Эрмитажа под редакцией академика И.А.Орбели. //Искусство. — 1939. S.Varshavsky, B.Rest. Ermitazh. 1764-1939. [Essays on the history of the State Hermitage], ed. Academician I.A.Orbeli. //Iskusstvo. — 1939.
  2. ^ С.Варшавский. Б.Рест. Воины крылатой Балтики // Искусство. — Л. — 1941. S.Varshavsky, B.Rest. Voini Krilatoy Baltiki [Warriors of the Winged Baltics] //Iskusstvo. — Leningrad —1939.
  3. ^ С.Варшавский. Б.Рест. Герои и подвиги // Военмориздат. М. — 1942. S.Varshavsky, B.Rest. Geroi i podvigi [Heroes And Their Deeds] // Moscow: Voenmorizdat, 1942.
  4. ^ С.Варшавский. Б.Рест. Над Берлином // Библ. "Огонек" №7. — Правда. — М. — 1942. S.Varshavsky, B.Rest. Nad Berlinom [Over Berlin], No. 7 in the Ogonyok series Moscow: Pravda, 1942.
  5. ^ Варшавский. Б.Рест. Сын отечества // Военмориздат. — М. — 1942. S.Varshavsky, B.Rest. Syn otechestva [Son of the Motherland], Moscow: Voenmorizdat, 1942.
  6. ^ С.Варшавский. Б.Рест. Борис Сафонов // Краснофлотец. — 1942-1943. S.Varshavsky, B.Rest. Boris Safonov. Krasnoflotetz, 1942-1943.
  7. ^ С.Варшавский. Б.Рест. Случай над Берлином // Ленинград. — 1946. — № 3-4. — С. 23-25. S.Varshavsky, B.Rest. Sluchai nad Berlinom [An Incident Over Berlin], Leningrad: Issues 3 and 4, pages 23-25, 1946.
  8. ^ Постановление ЦК ВКП(б) от 14 августа 1946 г. "О журналах «Звезда» и «Ленинград»". All-Russian Bolshevik Communist Party Central Committee Ordinance of August 14, 1946 «O zhurnalakh 'Zvezda' i 'Leningrad'» [On the magazines 'Zvezda' and 'Leningrad'].
  9. ^ С.Варшавский, Б.Рест. На плотах // Звезда. — 1951. — №12. — С. 103-116. S.Varshavsky, B.Rest. Na plotakh [On the rafts], Zvezda, Issue 12, p. 103-116, 1951.
  10. ^ С.Варшавский, Б.Рест. Подвиг Эрмитажа // Сов. художник. — Л., М. — 1965. — С. 192. S.Varshavsky, B.Rest. Podvig Ermitazha [The Ordeal of the Hermitage], Leningrad, Moscow. Sovetsky Khudozhnik, 1965.
  11. ^ Е.Луцкая. Книга о военных днях Эрмитажа // Искусство. — 1967. — №2. — С. 69-70. E. Lutskaya. Kniga o voennikh dnyakh Ermitazha [A Book About a Wartime Hermitage], Isskustvo: Issue 2, p. 69-70, 1967.
  12. ^ Harrison E. Salisbury. The 900 Days: The Siege Of Leningrad. Harper & Row, 1969. LCCN 68028215.
  13. ^ Michael Jones. Leningrad: State of Siege. Basic Books, 2008. ISBN 0465011535.
  14. ^ Anna Reid. LENINGRAD: The Epic Siege of World War II, 1941–1944. Bloomsbury, 2011. ISBN 9780747599524.
  15. ^ Jonathan Petropoulos. Art as politics in the Third Reich. University of North Carolina Press, 1996. ISBN 080782240X.
  16. ^ С.Варшавский, Б.Рест. Рядом с Зимним // Сов. художник. — 1969. S.Varshavsky, B.Rest. Ryadom s Zimnim [Near the Winter Palace]. Sovetsky Khudozhnik, 1969.
  17. ^ С.Варшавский, Б.Рест. Билет на всю вечность // Лениздат. — 1978. S.Varshavsky, B.Rest. Bilet na vsyu vechnost [A Ticket for the Entire Eternity]. Lenizdat Publishing, 1978.
  18. ^ S.Varshavsky, B.Rest. Saved for humanity: the Hermitage during the siege of Leningrad, 1941-1944 // Aurora Art Publishers. - Leningrad. — 1985.
  19. ^ S.Varshavsky, B.Rest. The ordeal of the Hermitage: the siege of Leningrad, 1941-1944 // Aurora Art Publishers, Leningrad and Harry N.Abrams, Inc. Publishers, New York. — 1985. — ISBN 0-8109-1406-9.
  20. ^ Подвиг Эрмитажа. // Аврора. — Л. — 1987. Podvig Ermitazha [Ordeal of the Hermitage]. Leningrad: Aurora Publishing, 1987.
  21. ^ Инна Генс-Катанян. Дома и миражи // Н.Новгород. — Деком. — 2005. — 312 с. Inna Gens-Katanyan. Doma I mirazhi [Houses and mirages]. Nizhniy Novgorod: Dekom, 2005. ISBN 5-89533-147-5.
  22. ^ "It was very difficult to find his apartment. I had to make my way through courtyards, passing rubbish bins and the picturesque back streets of St. Petersburg. I remember that visit as a trip to Aladdin’s cave. The tiny ground floor apartment was stuffed with closets and cabinets which contained — from floor to ceiling — antique Chinese vases, sculptures of different dynasties, Japanese woodblock prints, netsuke, porcelain, Thai majolica, terracotta from Inner Mongolia… Apart from being packed in closets, all these treasures were piled up on the sofa, on the floor, on the chairs — all over the house. It was impossible to comprehend how the owner of the house managed to find a place to live in this museum storeroom." [1]
  23. ^ Французская и английская литография первой половины XIX века. Избранные листы из коллекции С.П.Варшавского. // М. — Сов. художник. — 1985. French and English Lithography of the first half of the 19th century. Selected sheets from Sergei Varshavsky’s collection. Moscow: Sovetskiy Khudozhnik, 1985.
  24. ^ М.В.Успенский, Е.Ю.Варшавская. Нэцкэ и японская гравюра из собрания С.П.Варшавского. Каталог выставки. // Л. — Искусство. — 1983. M. Uspensky, E. Varshavskaya. Netsuke and Japanese woodblock prints from S. Varshavsky’s Collection. Exhibition catalogue. Leningrad: Iskusstvo Publishing. — 1983.
  25. ^ Каталог выставки декоративно-прикладного искусства из частных собраний Ленинграда и Москвы. // Л. — Художник РСФСР. — 1984. Catalogue of the arts and crafts exhibition from the private collections of Leningrad and Moscow. Leningrad: Khudozhnik RSFSR. — 1984.
  26. ^ М.Успенский. Нэцкэ и японская гравюра из коллекции С.П.Варшавского // Сообщения Государственного Эрмитажа LII. — Искусство. — Л. — 1987. — С. 71-72. M. Uspensky Netsuke and Japanese woodblock prints for S. Varshavsky’s collection. Leningrad: Reports of the State Hermitage Museum LII. Iskusstvo. —P.71-72. — 1987.
  27. ^ Государственному Эрмитажу 225 лет. Дары Эрмитажу. Каталог выставки // ГЭ. — Л. — 1989. — С.96-97. 225 Years of the State Hermitage. Gifts for the Hermitage. Exhibition catalogue. Leningrad: The State Hermitage, P.96-97. — 1987.
  28. ^ М.Л.Меньшикова, А.М.Боголюбов. Восточная коллекция С.П.Варшавского // Сообщения Государственного Эрмитажа LXIX. — ГЭ. — СПб. — 2011. — С. 183-191. M. Menshikov, A. Bogolubov. The Oriental Collection of S. Varshavsky. Reports of the State Hermitage Museum LXIX. St. Petersburg: The State Hermitage. — P.183-191. — 2011 . — ISBN 978-5-93572-430-6.
  29. ^ М.В.Успенский. Нэцкэ и японская гравюра из собрания С.П.Варшавского // Панорама искусств. — 1988 — №11. — С. 363-368. M. Uspensky. Netsuke and Japanese woodblock prints from the collection of S. Varshavsky. Panorama Iskusstv. — 1988. — #11. — P.363-368.
  30. ^
  31. ^ Ю.С.Варшавский. Радостный труд коллекционера. Из заметок об отце. Предисловие Б.Б.Пиотровского // Панорама искусств. — 1988 — №11. — С. 349-363. Yu. Varshavsky. Radostniy trud kollekzionera. Iz zapisok ob otze [A Collector's Joyful Toil, Notes on My Father]. With a Foreword by Boris Piotrovsky. Panorama Iskusstv. — 1988. — #11. — P.349-363. — ISBN 5-269-00075-X.
  32. ^
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