Photo: Tatiana Kormilitsina
The majestic trees in the forest of Zélénogorsk. The air is sweet, the small dirt roads are lined with tall trees, spruce trees, pines especially, the trunks in red; it looks like a series painted by the hand of an artist, a minimalist.
The forest has always produced in humans a mysterious attraction effect, both enchanting and frightening, the carrier of a symbolic charge powerful. Our staff member went to smell the forests, here and elsewhere, imbued with meaning and dreams. Fourth of eight articles.
Take Russia by its forest, the largest in the world, equivalent in area to the United States. Try, through this tree, to approach a country of civilization and culture as complex as huge, the Russia of which we can only speak of a sudden curves. “Hubris is shown throughout the work, writing the specialist Myriam Desert, in the territory as in the passions of individual and collective history. “
I had prepared myself. This was before the COVID. I had seen the paris exhibition of the Russian sculptor Ossip Zadkine, The dreamer of the forest, who has made the massive tree trunks the matter of his art. I had read volume 1 of War and peace from Tolstoy, 982 pages of battles against Napoleon on a tray moravian, and crates of champagne drunk at the court of the tsars in Saint-Petersburg. We understand better that the October revolution in 1917, which would change the course of history, has been able to start on the forecourt of the winter palace of this city of 5.3 million inhabitants, the second largest after Moscow, which was called Petrograd, then Leningrad, before returning to its original name of St. Petersburg by referendum in 1991. And then I listened to a loop of pianist Daniil Trifonov interpret Tchaikovsky, two geniuses of Russian face-to-face. “He has the world at his feet,” wrote one critic. Excess, always.
“You want to see the Russian forests ? I’ll take them. “Surprised of my desire, rather, to reverse the usual greeting of visitors, Olga Kouzmenko me meet you at the train station Udel’naya, to the north of Saint-Petersburg. Olga was born in Omsk, in western Siberia, during the time of communism. After studies in French language, she became a professor at the University Herzen Leningrad.
A train to the trees
A train gleaming, brand new, called Swallow, we see the rise of his board. Direction : the small town of Zélénogorsk, 15 000 inhabitants, 50 km north-west of St. Petersburg, located along the gulf of Finland. Tatiana Kormilitsina, who trained as a psychologist, a friend, Olga, was waiting for us at his dacha, in the middle of the woods.
We leave the belly of St. Petersburg, and then the outlying districts. Place to a campaign of long and stout evergreens, and the sun was white in February. We are moving soon, which was the Finnish border and progress in a country formerly Finnish which was annexed by the USSR in 1940. “I feel a little usurpatrice here “, is Olga, with the feeling of being on an earth fly-by. Short train ride to a long pan of history. So many trees here have seen the bayonets and the blood and breathed in the powder of the guns.
Olga has spent half of his life under the communist regime of the soviet Union, into a system of planned economy. And spent the other half under the scheme since the collapse of the USSR in 1991 became the Russian Federation, in State capitalism and a cash economy based on oil.
Ce text is part of our “Outlook” section.
“I first lived in an old barn that had been converted into a home of workers, with 40 rooms and the herds of rats. This is where I did my doctorate in French studies. Then, we got a space in an apartment community where I spent six years with my husband and my boy. “Lack of privacy, proximity of residents not having anything in common, violence caused by overcrowding and alcohol were often his lot.
“It was not that bad in this mode of housing in the soviet union, recognizes it. “I’ve taken a good lesson of life : solidarity and mutual help. “But she’ll swear to the great gods that she would not. “The nostalgia of the communism, as it seems to tempt some of my fellow countrymen ? Far be it for me ! “” For three years, she says, I live in an apartment in a building nine, a little off-centre in the heart of Petersburg. Happiness ! “The st. petersburg residents have cropped out the “Saint” to Petersburg or Piter, in the language of the people.
The forest tormented of the human psyche
The beautiful train Swallow drops us off at the destination. We arrive at our host where the wood fire is crackling. Salmon Caviar, meat-pies, candied cranberries and tea on the table. It smells good. Tatiana has left the city for his refugio in the forest of Zélénogorsk. In fact, she left her husband, took its distances with the family and is away from the frenzy of urban. The freedom she has found in the middle of the trees. “I stopped being afraid,” she said. Afraid of everything, of love, of sexuality, of relationships with others. “The more it is calm outside of the self, the more the activity is intense in in. “The forest was listening to herself. “It is the outside world that enters into the inner universe,” writes the French Noëlle Chabert, the forest of trees upside down in ” the forest tormented of the human psyche “.
Tatiana takes us up to the lake Krasavitsa, his daily walk. Krasavitsa, or ” pretty woman “, it can not be invented ! I mice. The air is sweet, we are moving on dirt roads bordered by tall trees, spruce trees, pines especially, the trunks in red; it looks like a series painted by the hand of an artist, a minimalist. “These places make me nostalgic of my forest of childhood in Omsk,” says Olga. “It was made of blocks of birch thinning. Here, the woods are dense, dark and makes me anxious. I feel foreign. “
Photo: Tatiana Kormilitsina
On his arrival in Petersburg, she was 17 years old, Olga felt as foreign, because coming from his Omsk distant. And because many st. petersburg residents, even today, have the impression to be viewed with a distance down by Moscow, the center of the country, the Holy of Holies, with its 13 million inhabitants. “We are seen as provincial “, quips she.
Moscow became the capital of the country in 1918 with the bolshevik revolution, stealing its title in Petersburg. The bolsheviks have always distrusted the city of the tsars, too european, not quite Russian, whose architecture is inspired by Italy and the education system, France. Rivalry between Moscow and Petersburg ? No doubt about it. “We didn’t like it much “, said Leonid, taxi driver.
But let’s get back to the lake Beautiful Woman. The magpies are pushing their jigs and twirl around the small pyramids are formed by conifers. His freedom, Olga was found in the trees become books. Books are his life, and the forests, of the pages which turn with the wind. She speaks as a close friend of the poet Pushkin, revered here, at the monument always flowery red carnations. “Pushkin is our everything “, claimed she. All students of russia, yesterday and today have learned this sentence.
In the soviet era, the books led to Olga in addition that were otherwise inaccessible. Today, it can travel. She was returning home to Italy, before the pandemic. She had decorated her small French style kitchen and living room at the african. Perched on the 7th floor, she sees the sun shine between two buildings and the vast world to knock at her window.
For the time being, we leave the lake, Pretty Woman, let the forest Zélénogorsk its red trees. Greetings moved to Tatiana. “Come back ! “We go to st. Petersburg in the dim light. Just to stay a little in the tone of the day, I will go to eat near my hotel, district of the Admiralty, at the restaurant Prof Freud.
This report has been funded with support from the Funds of international journalism Transat-Duty.
Next week : See the oaks bloom