(Anatolii M. Smelianskii)
PERSONAL: Male. Education: USSR Academy of Sciences All-Union, Ph.D.
ADDRESSES: Office—A.R.T./MXAT Institute, Loeb Drama Center, 64 Brattle St., Cambridge, MA 02138.
CAREER: Russian theater scholar, lecturer, and critic. Moscow Art Theatre, 1980—, began as literary director, became associate artistic director, 1996; Moscow Art Theatre School for Academic Studies, became dean, 1986, became head, 2000; Institute for Advanced Theatre Training, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, associate director. Russian Union of Theatremakers, board secretary; American-Soviet Theatre Initiative, founding member. Lecturer at universities, including, Yale, Carnegie Mellon, Columbia, Princeton, and Georgetown in the United States; the Sorbonne in France, and Oxford and Cambridge in England.
AWARDS, HONORS: National awards for artistic excellence, including Distinguished Artsmaker of Russia.
Mikhail Bulgakov v Khudozhestvennom teatre, Iskusstvo (Moscow, Russia), 1986, translation by Arch Tait published as Is Comrade Bulgakov Dead?: Mikhail Bulgakov at the Moscow Art Theatre, Routledge (New York, NY), 1993.
The Russian Theatre after Stalin ("Cambridge Studies in Modern Theatre" series), revised edition, translation from the Russian by Patrick Miles, Cambridge University Press (Cambridge, England), 1999.
Also author of Our Collocutors: Russian Classics on Stage; editor-in-chief of a seven-volume revised Complete Works of Konstantin Stanislavsky, Iskusstvo, 1988-1995, and The Moscow Art Theatre Encyclopedia. Columnist for the Moscow New Weekly (all Russian-language writings).
SIDELIGHTS: Anatoly Smeliansky is a scholar of Russian theater and a leader of its institutions, as well as an international lecturer. He is the author of many Russian-language books, several of which have been translated for English-speaking readers. Among these is Is Comrade Bulgakov Dead?: Mikhail Bulgakov at the Moscow Art Theatre, called a "soulful book . . . a labor of love, respect, and empathy for its subject," by Choice reviewer S. Golub. Bulgakov died on March 10, 1940. The next morning a call came directly from Stalin's office asking for confirmation of his death. Vera Gottlieb noted in Theatre Research International that this anecdote, "and hence the title . . . exemplifies both the significance of Bulgakov in his contemporary Russia—and his vulnerability."
By 1930, Bulgakov's plays were banned, and he wrote to Stalin asking for any theatrical employment, even as a stagehand. Stalin told him to apply to the Moscow Art Theatre (MAT), and by May of that year, Bulgakov found himself in the position of assistant director in the same theater that had previously censored his work under political pressure. Stalin supported MAT, its directors, and its actors, but on condition that his policies be legitimized in their creative works. Stalin approved some of Bulgakov's plays and ordered others, such as Molière (also known as A Cabal of Hypocrites), to be withdrawn. Bulgakov's later satire The Master and the Margarita, which was published posthumously, about a writer who receives favors from the devil, seems obviously inspired by his relationship with Stalin.
In Slavic Review, Nicholas Rzhevsky commented on a chapter "dealing with Batum. Bulgakov's play about the young Stalin has long been a puzzle and a challenge to Bulgakov readers for its apparent capitulation of his most cherished principles. Smelianskii convincingly argues in terms of text and context that the play was ultimately subversive and evoked themes of history, Antichrist, the Devil and repression quite different from the usual hagiography of the times."
Smeliansky completed the volume before 1985 and needed only to add newly archived material. Gottlieb said that the integrity of Smeliansky "as critic, theatre historian, biographer, and analyst has not required an ungainly scramble to 'rewrite' in the face of the radical changes in Russia since 1986." Smeliansky documents Bulgakov's writing career, his relationships with the Moscow Art Theatre, Stanislavsky, Nemirovich-Danchenko, Stalin and the Party, and the performances, critics, and audiences of the time.
"Like Bulgakov's own writing, Smeliansky's discourse is rich in comic discoveries and the intellectual freedom of inquiry that have outlasted countless censors," wrote Joel Schechter in American Theatre. "Theatre historians, and superb historians like Smeliansky, now vindicate Bulgakov's determination to write about Soviet life as he saw it and suffer the consequences."
The Russian Theatre after Stalin is Smeliansky's study of Russian theatre since 1953, and Smeliansky personally knows most of the artists he discusses. The book is divided into time periods. "The Thaw" is the Kruschev era, during which artists, sometimes incorrectly, felt that were working in a more open environment. "The Frosts" is the period from Brezhnev to Chernenko, and "The Black Box" refers to the period from 1985 to 1997. Smeliansky concentrates on four directors—Yury Lyubimov, Oleg Yefremov, Georgy Tovstonogov, and Anatoly Efros. Writing in American Theatre, Daniel Mufson called this "an engaging and useful account of Russia's most important directors for the last half century."
Mufson wrote that "it's hard not to notice some nostalgia for the elevated status that 'spiritual activity' once had in Soviet Russia and for the sense that artists were playing a role vital to society. Smeliansky reiterates the conventional wisdom that theatre under Soviet rule occupied a privileged place as one of the few spheres where public gatherings were permitted; the government tolerated a degree of dissent and criticism in the theatre so long as it confined itself within given parameters and employed an 'Aesopian' technique of suggesting veiled parallels between contemporary society and the allegedly discrete world depicted on stage." Mufson said "the breadth of [Smeliansky's] knowledge and his intimacy with the material manifests itself throughout the book." Golub called the study "a 'must read' for those in the field, offered by one of the few people with the opportunity, intelligence, maturity, and good sense to write it."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Theatre, July, 1994, Joel Schechter, "Save a Seat for Comrade Stalin," pp. 68-69; December, 1999, Daniel Mufson, "From Russia with Love," p. 77.
Choice, September, 1994, S. Golub, review of Is Comrade Bulgakov Dead?: Mikhail Bulgakov at the Moscow Art Theatre, p. 125; January, 2000, S. Golub, review of The Russian Theatre after Stalin, pp. 947-948.
Library Journal, December, 1993, review of Is Comrade Bulgakov Dead?, p. 129.
New Theatre Quarterly, February, 1995, Edward Braun, review of Is Comrade Bulgakov Dead?, p. 94.
Slavic Review, summer, 1995, Nicholas Rzhevsky, review of Is Comrade Bulgakov Dead?, pp. 442-443.
Theatre Research International, summer, 1995, Vera Gottlieb, review of Is Comrade Bulgakov Dead?, p. 167.
Theatre Survey, November, 2000, Felicia Hardison Londre, review of The Russian Theatre after Stalin, p. 120.
Times Literary Supplement, March 24, 2000, Donald Rayfield, review of The Russian Theatre after Stalin, p. 23.*