Symbolic assets include a host of features associated with this region: names and toponyms, facts and myths, values and relations. These all help to inspire successful creative strategies that are economically viable. As we move from the figure of Voloshin to the figure of a contemporary Russian artist, we can refer to the poet’s own methods - a combination and synergy of creative forces.
1.Maximilian Voloshin: poet, visionary, producer
The name of Maximilian Voloshin deserves serious reinterpretation. Voloshin is so much more than a great poet. He was a key figure of the Silver Age, and the main representative of that epoch in Crimea. His role as a passionate spiritual activist places him alongside the internationally-renowned figures such as Sergei Diaghilev, Nikolai Roerich and Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko.
Voloshin created a unique residence for art in Koktebel, a laboratory, which nurtured a whole galaxy of stars including Marina Tsvetaeva, Osip Mandelshtam, Mikhail Bulgakov, Aleksei Tolstoy and Elizaveta Dmitrieva. In 1923 alone, he welcomed 60 guests; the following year it was 300 and in 1925 there were 400. Thanks to his various talents, wide expertise and boundless energy, Voloshin discovered and nurtured talent through diverse creative practices.
Voloshin’s experience is the crux of the Koktebel Park project development. It aims at recreating this Mecca of old, while making it a modern-day flagship for Russia’s creative industries, ready to nurture a new generation of artists, writers, architects, designers, and producers, prospective/
leaders of modern Russian culture.
2. Voloshin’s House: A Prototype Creative Cluster
Voloshin’s house was, in effect, a creative cluster in its own right: today’s concepts of ‘workshops’, ‘co-working’, and ‘residence’ etc. were introduced and successfully implemented by Voloshin, his friends and successors. Voloshin’s experience is preserved in his House-museum and partially reproduced in its scientific and creative programs. However, the museum alone is not enough able to underpin a true creative cluster: it takes relevant infrastructure to refine past experience into modern creative practices.
3. The Writers’ Creative House: A Prototype Festival Center
Shortly before his death in 1930, Maximilian Voloshin left his house to Soviet writers, laying the foundations for the Writers’ Creative House, a big territory where Koktebel Park will be located. The Writers’ Creative House (or Litfond, Literary Fund) quickly became a phenomenon of Soviet literature, associated with a host of internationally renowned names. It hosted writers and poets such as Alexander Tvardovsky, Mikhail Zoshchenko, Yury Nagibin, Andrei Platonov, Evgeny Shvarz, Fazil Iskander, Vasily Aksyonov, Mikhail Shukshin, Nikolai Aseev, Nikolai Zabolotsky, Yulian Semyonov, Arseny Tarkovsky, Bella Akhmadullina, Evgeny Yevtushenko, Bulat Okudzhava, Vladimir Vysotsky and many others who came to rest and created their works here.
Litfond, with its cafés, summer cinema, unique library with writers` autographs and winter cinema, became the cultural center of the town. The 6th World Youth and Student Festival and the first World Book Fair in Moscow were the conceptual ‘contemporaries’ of the Writers’ Creative House.
We are convinced that the next logical step in developing this site should be an inter-disciplinary cluster on a national scale, devoted to art in all its forms. This is the only appropriate successor of Voloshin’s traditions, and can rescue the park from its abandonment into commercial chaos in the 1990s. More recent initiatives, such as the Koktebel Jazz Party, would find a natural home in this unified cultural environment.
4. ‘Arkadiya’: a Residence-town
Arkadiya is a mythical image of a happy country. Alla Basargina, a prominent pianist who worked with Mstislav Rostropovich and Galina Vishnevskaya, recalled her summer residencies in Koktebel as a spell in a ‘territory of happiness’ for the Russian intelligentsia. Creative estates quickly sprang up around Voloshin’s house: Konstantin Trenev, Vikenty Veresayev, Nataliya Manaseina became his neighbors. Visitors to these summer dachas continually contributed to Koktebel’s literary and creative world. For example, musicians Henrikh Neygauz and Svyatoslav Richter and structural engineers Oleg Antonov and Sergey Korolyov all visited Voloshin’s house.
The tradition is already more than a century old. The Shervinskys, the Moiseevs, the Shaginyans, the Tsygals, the Arendts, the Radzinskys added to the long line of summer residents here. Upon retirement, many of them settled permanently in Koktebel.
Modern Koktebel’s creative highlights include the Kiselyovka art-squat, which positions itself as the natural successor to Voloshin’s house, and the local Center of Culture, with its traditions of educational outreach. The artistic community, creative summer residents and cultural professionals form the bedrock of the local creative industry.
Koktebel is poised to assume the mantle of Russia’s creative capital. Neighboring cities have different associations – Yalta with imperial Livadiya, Sevastopol with its naval heritage and the Black Sea fleet, Evpatoria with its health-giving spas – so Koktebel can become a year-round creative residence, with a comfortable welcome for all the arts.
5. The Koktebel Bay: Landscape as Art Object
Koktebel is phenomenal due to its combination of natural anomalies, native wildlife, unique landscape and their aesthetic impact.
Here the Kara-Dag ridge ascends from the sea, forming a border between the Crimean plain and its mountains. The climate encourages astronomy, and creates unique conditions for aerostatics (Klementyev mountain). Voloshin’s house is located at the fulcrum between the two visual poles of Koktebel bay: the basalt cliffs of the Golden Gates and the Chameleon clay cape. In the western part of the bay, in the contours of Kara-Dag, Voloshin discerned his own profile - and here, to the East, on Kuchuk-Yanishar mountain, he asked to be buried. The poet was convinced that the entire history of the Earth and the Universe is reflected in human psychophysics. This explains Voloshin`s legendary walks around the surroundings and his daily water color painting from memory, with geological precision and philosophical meaning.
Kara-Dag has become a place of inspiration for whole generations of Russian literary figures. Pushkin drew the Golden Gates in the margins of his Eugene Onegin manuscript. Here Voloshin took Tsvetaeva to the ‘roaring cave’ – the Acheron, where Orpheus went in search of Eurydice. At the foothills of the mountain, Yulian Semyonov created his story about Shtirlitz, an intelligence officer, and Vasily Aksyonov composed his Crimea Isle novel.
The creative exploration of the landscape should be a regular art-practice for residents of Koktebel Park.
6. Surroundings: Eurasian Approach
Historically, Crimea has been a point where East and West meet, a place of trade and exchange of ideas and technologies. Cimmerians and Scythians, Greeks and Armenians, Pechenegs and Polovets, Khazars and Venetians, Tatars and Bulgarians, Russians and Germans all inhabited the area at different times.
Maximilian Voloshin paid special attention to his ‘Cimmerian triangle’ of Koktebel, Fedosiya and Old Crimea: the founders of the Cimmerian school of painting, Aivazovsky and Bogaevsky lived in Feodosiya, Alexander Grin, the leading romantic writer of early 20th-century Russia, settled in Old Crimea in the end of his life. The popular blockbuster ‘Scarlet Sails’, based on his novel, was filmed here in Koktebel Bay.
Voloshin used to say that he had two nationalities: a resident of Paris and a resident of Koktebel. When he went to study in Europe, Voloshin said he was going to assess it ‘from the height of the Asian highlands’ which he had visited during his journey across the Central Asia. His interest in German philosophy and mysticism as well as his close acquaintance with Nikolai Gumilyov, a symbolist poet and father of the leading Euro-Asian scientist, Lev Gumilyov, played their role in shaping his Eurasian worldview. The poet’s house was decorated with antique style portrait sculptures and Turkmen carpets, gypsum masks and Japanese engravings.
Voloshin’s Eurasian ideas led him to become a great peacemaker. During the civil war, he sheltered activists from both the Tsarist and Communist forces in the attic of his house. Osip Mandelshtam was among the poets he protected.
Voloshin also pioneered the protection of Crimea’s cultural heritage in Soviet times. In 1981, he saved a number of landmarks from destruction, including Eduard Yunge’s Koktebel estate, the gallery of Ivan Aivazovsky and Konstantin Bogaevsky’s house.
Voloshin’s idea of ‘blooming complexity’ was associated with the theme of a Muslim oasis, a prototype of Eden - the poet was a great admirer of the traditional landscaped gardens of the Crimean Tatars. After the poet’s death, the Literary Fund Park turned into a heavenly oasis. In the 1960s and 70s, the talented gardener Stepan Klimenko grew cypresses, cacti, and hundreds of types of flowers here, including twenty unique varieties of roses.
Koktebel Park will preserve and enrich the Eurasian spirit of multinational Crimea. The art cluster will help to strengthen relationships between the town’s residents and its existing attractions – the Memorial House and the House of Elena Ottobaldovna, Villa Kimmeria (Yunge’s estate), archaeological landmarks, memorials and monuments in Koktebel.
The principle of ‘blooming complexity’ can become a platform for a whole range of modern projects which develop the idea of a multi-polar world. New models of cultural development, opposing globalism and rooted in Russian traditions, require specialized laboratories; Koktebel Park is to become one of them - a kind of ‘creative Skolkovo’.
7. Christianity in Crimea: Sobornost (national spiritual unity) and creative personality
Historically, Crimea has been a place of Christian missionary activity. According to the legend, Saint Andrew the Apostle preached in Taurida. There is serious research to suggest that the Tepsen plateau might have been the site of the ancient city of Foully, one of the Christian dioceses of the Byzantine Empire. In the mid-9th century, the city’s main relic was a grand basilica. The size of the foundations (37.5 х 21.0 m) suggest that this was the most monumental temple of early medieval Crimea. The archeological findings of ‘the Kherson level’, according to V.V. Miko, Director at Crimea’s Institute of Archeology, show the depth of the locals’ Christian faith. Here, in around 861-862, St. Cyril (one of the inventors of the Cyrillic alphabet), preached among the ‘Foully people’. The conversion of Eastern Crimea was a major diplomatic victory for Byzantium in its struggle with the Khazar Khanate. The foundations of the basilica and other archeological monuments on the Tepsen plateau have been conserved by archaeologists and can be re-opened for visitors.
The history of Christianity, the evidence of St Cyril’s presence in Koktebel, and the unique archeological monuments have yet to be fully incorporated into the development of this region. The resources speak for themselves: what place could be better as a host of large-scale festivals dedicated to Cyril and Methodius, the traditions of Slavic literacy and the Cyrillic alphabet.
Koktebel’s symbolism reflects Voloshin’s personal quest for God. During the Revolution and Civil War, the poet became an active pacifist. He prayed passionately for both sides, seeking mediation and the containment of conflict. His religious quest led him, by the end of his life, to faith, as reflected in his art and his verses dedicated to the Mother of Christ and to Archpriest Avvacum and friar Epifany, Slavic writing and Cyrillic alphabet.
Koktebel’s creative matrix should be based on Christian values, a combination of tradition and spiritual search, Christian duty and individual freedom. The concepts of Faith, Russia, Patriotism and Art do not require any opposition. However, pragmatism is also important for the project, so we need to look at and fix the key oppositions. We see them as follows:
1. Isolation – openness
The intimacy of creative activities and the need to share with others
Workshops and spaces for festivals.
‘Corners’ and squares.
Solitary walks and places for quiet contemplation.
2. Created and natural
Art and nature
Word and action
Conditionality, conceptualism and man-made objects, the artisan’s craft.
Digital environment and immediate contact with soil, air, sun and water
3. Specialized – Interdisciplinary
Professionalism and Universality
Result and process, the environment
4. Elitism – Mass nature
Aristocracy and Ethnicity
Complexity and simplicity
Expensiveness and Accessibility
5. Tradition – innovation
Deeply rooted practices and new search
Canon and development
Map of the Project’s symbolic field